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Capt. Sage's Review of
J. J. Abram's Star Trek

"Star Trek" is easily comprehensible to non-Trekkies and carries forward the best strengths of the original series. It is acted well, written well, paced well, and ended well. The special effects were the best possible in the best way - you didn't notice "Oh, that's a special effect" - they was awesome to look at, didn't look fake, and advanced the drama. I felt good about the movie after I left the theater, and it is definitely one of the most well-crafted films I've ever seen.

Sadly, nothing is ever perfect in our world. I was still able to come up with minor gripes, two major annoyances, and a question about the future of our culture. Still, the solid work done in the artistry of this film was good to see, and it was inspiring to see yet more evidence that it is possible for good ideas, like the Star Trek franchise, to be created, and then creatively improved across the generations.

The characters were all excellently cast. They all looked very much like the originals, and had similar character traits, but they didn't try to robotically imitate the actors who previously comprised their roles, which I appreciated. Instead, they made us feel like we were once again seeing the characters, only in different situations earlier in their lives.

The dialogue helped with introducing the world to non-Trekkies in an understandable and realistic fashion, and sounded real while also being true to Star Trek.

So, I think I've covered all of the good things about the movie that I can. Now it's time to get to those regrettable other parts.

The first of which is the question about the future of our culture that I mentioned before. I think this movie pushed past the envelope for a PG-13 rated film, but not in an inspiring way. How did this movie end up with this rating? Perhaps the big studios have learned the wrong lessons from family movies making the most money, and have applied pressure to rating boards to make everything fit in the family-sorta-friendly PG-13 bracket. The more disturbing but more likely possibility is that our culture has lowered its standards yet again. What is it going to take, making a new PG-7 rating? How long will it hold out?

Now for the major annoyances. First, I ended up being very confused by the beginning of the movie, especially by Capt. Kirk's childhood, when he went joyriding. Probably I was expecting a more complicated battle of wills with his stepfather than the movie meant to portray. In any case, I think that perhaps we could've used a few more clues before being tossed into that scene.

The other major annoyance is that Capt. Kirk seemed too mean and despicable for most of the film. I think they overplayed the anger and arrogant attitude slightly. It made you lose respect for his office once he finally did achieve it, because he still seemed like an out-of-control, selfish, angry man once he finally became captain. I describe in the spoiler section1 what I think his best scene in the movie was, but I think there weren't enough moments like that. The ideal would've been to see Capt. Kirk change even more - to see him at least try to rein in his temper and use persuasion rather than shouting to get his way. I'm overexaggerating a little, because at the very end we do see his admirable tough compassion, carried through very well from the original series. Still, I wanted to like him more than I could because he was too often unwilling to meet people halfway.

The minor annoyance I had was that the bad guys looked far too much alike to me. They all were completely bald, they all had similar designs painted on their faces, they all wore black trenchcoats, and they were nearly always shown in their ship's dingy interior in either long shots or very brief extreme closeups. Many, many times, I thought that one of the two main guys had been suddenly and unexpectedly killed, only to realize that it was some of their similar-looking followers who had actually just died. The antagonists were sadly more recognizable by their characterizations rather than by any visual cues, so I had to wait until they started to talk to figure out whether any given villain was one of the two archenemies, and which one. This is really too bad, as the two archenemies performed well.

So there we have it - a movie that respected the series that have come before by building on the series' strengths, and respecting newcomers by making it all comprehensible. It was well-paced, well-acted - overall, it was well-done. For better or for worse, this "Star Trek" film's main flaws were mostly those of the culture that gave it birth.

SPOILERS

The best Kirk scene was when he was talking with the Spock from the original world, and realized that he had to rub salt in the wound of Spock's misery over his world. Chris Pine did an excellent job of showing that no matter how much Kirk disliked Spock, this was something he thought was still extremely harsh to do.

The original Spock made the movie feel a bit weird, but I greatly enjoyed his performance, so I didn't mind so much. The question did still nag at me, though: What do they plan to do with Spock? So far, it's open ended, with two options strongly suggested. One is that Spock will work on the colony he mentioned, and interact little, if at all, with the alternate Enterprise's crew. The other option, not really hinted at in this movie, but a logical one, is that the next movie will be about getting Spock back to his original reality. Having actually written it out, I can see that this would basically be a retread of the original Star Trek movies 3 and 4, so I hope that this route won't be taken. One reason, at least, is that it means a lot more for Spock's friends to bring him back (as they did in movies 3 and 4) than it would for complete strangers, as the alternate Kirk and company are, to bring him back (as they would in this hypothetical sequel). Probably that reality will be seen and heeded, so no need to worry.