J. & C.'s Movie Reviews

Our Notes on Movies Made Public

Archive for November, 2009

Star Trek (2009)

Posted by J on November 24, 2009

Here’s a Star Trek for the whippersnappers.  As expected, given its intended audience, this Star Trek is all glitz and cool. You don’t need five seconds of an attention span to enjoy this movie, nor do you need a brain.  In fact, what is the difference between this movie and the Fast and Furious series, except that this one takes place in outer space?  James T. Kirk gets to mouth off to tough guys, Spock gets to brood about his interracial family, and Uhuru gets to take her shirt off to reveal her brazier, while lots of things blow up.

Occasionally the Star Trek franchise attempts to be thoughtful, but we shouldn’t expect that from this new movie series.  Consider an episode from the original 1960s series.  Captain Kirk and his merry band land on a pastoral paradise of a planet where some of the crew get sprayed by a chemical from trees.  This chemical gives a person never-ending feelings of pleasure, such that the person cares to do nothing but sit around and laugh and think the world’s a utopia.  Eventually the entire crew, even Mr. Spock, gets sprayed by this chemical, and so you think that they’re all going to be stuck on this planet yucking it up on a kind of marijuana high for eternity.  But no, Captain Kirk somehow realizes internally that he has drive and ambition — a will, if you will — to explore the universe and to not sit around taking drugs all day as a hippie would.  He then proceeds to rescue the crew from its drug-enduced state, and the moral of the story is, don’t be an irresponsible hippie. Surprisingly, in this case, Star Trek could be fairly conservative.

But here, in this new Star Trek movie, we have explosions and lots of deux ex machinas and that’s about all. The moviemakers even expect us to accept the idea that a single star’s supernova explosion can “destroy an entire galaxy.”  If that’s really the case, we suggest that you pack your bags and take that dream vacation you’ve always been wanting to take, right now.

The bad guys are laughably bad.  Supposedly they have waited around twenty-five years to enact revenge on Spock, and their revenge seemingly never subsides, not even when they tell jokes or go to the bathroom.  Here is an example of where the creators of this movie took a piece of Star Trek lore — the bad guy Khan, combined with other bad guys — dumbed it down (if such a thing is possible) and regurgitated it in this movie.  If you’ve watched much Star Trek you’ve already seen the torture bug, an insect they insert into the body of a captured victim, and you’re going to see it again in this movie.

The multicultural angle doesn’t work in this movie.  There’s no point to having a Scot and a Japanese male, let alone a Russian (we’re not in the Cold War anymore so who cares about that?).  Obviously if all of these ethnicities persist into the 23rd century, then nationalism and a relatively strong taboo on interracial marriage are still in vogue on Earth, which is the opposite of what Star Trek says we should aspire too. More bizarrely, after the planet Vulcan is destroyed and only 10,000 Vulcans are left, we are supposed to genuinely care for Spock’s “people.”  It’s at this point that the movie practically screams, “Hey, Spock needs a Vulcan wife and he needs to get busy making Vulcan babies so that the Vulcan race can survive.”  But no.  Spock and Uhuru have the hots for each other.  This movie has a number of similar unresolved contradictions, which you are not supposed to think about (because you are not supposed to think, duh!).

The Federation remains a multicultural empire which dominates its territory by peace through strength, desires to expand its dominion, and competes with other single-ethnicity empires (Klingons, Romulans, etc.).    The militarism of Star Fleet goes hand in hand with the diversity of its male and female warriors.  In the middle of it all is the hero, Captain Kirk. He gets in bar fights, cheats on his school exams, drives fast cars off cliffs (in Iowa, where there are no cliffs at all), and gets promoted to the highest levels of the multicultural empire at a young age. You’d think that Starfleet would be in serious trouble with leaders like this.  In real life, it would be.

Entertainment: 7 (if you get your buddies together and make fun of the movie’s absurdities, it’s definitely a 10)

Intelligence: 1

Morality: 1

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