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[personal profile] mschatelaine
I saw the new JJ Abrams Star Trek in the IMAX cinema this afternoon.

Simon Pegg totally stole the show. I think he was the only character there who wasn’t either a caricature or a stereotype. He served as the comic relief very lightly, except for one forgivable scene (in the tubes), and just fit in brilliantly. Given that they went with movie tradition of hiring a non-Scot to play a Scotsman, I’m impressed with his portrayal and also with his accent. There have been many much worse, including James Doohan.

The next most noticeable character was Bones, who was set up well and played well according to the expected type of the old character in the original series, and he delivered his irascible Vulcan-bashing lines according to formula. (Southern States racist? You tell me.)

Kirk? Bad-boy bluffs his way on to a ship and then saves everyone when it hits the fan … if that’s not a stereotype or even a straight-out cliche then I’m Robert Heinlein and I’ve written the same story several times already.

And I’m afraid that my reaction to the rest of it has to be … meh.

I have seen the story several times before. Alien menace threatens Earth, check. Old enemy confronts Kirk, check. Time-travel shenanigans, check. Confronting Spock’s emotionality, check. Spaceships and planets blowing up because of a vengeful madman, check. The movie was nowhere near as original as Encounter at Farpoint, which was deliberately drawing on old Trek tropes to make the new generation feel acceptable to the old fans.

There is this whole ’seek out new life and new civilisations’ thing that has been dropped in favour of blowing the crap out of stuff in wide-screen. And that is fun as far as it goes. Extreme skydiving down an orbital cable is exciting stuff. Fight scenes. Marvellous. Everything was very pretty in the CGI world. But there was no substance.

Once upon a time Star Trek was a thoughtful and ground-breaking show that dared to have a multicultural cast with - gasp! - a black woman in a senior professional position. (And just how that character has been cheapened by being Spock’s fancy woman, it is difficult to adequately describe. Apparently no woman, let alone a black woman, should be a person independent of a white or at least alpha male, in the world according to Hollywood.) The stories involved ethical conundrums and while a lot of the time they might have been resolved by either blasting or beating the problem out of existence, the ethical problem was still the major driver of the story.

In this case, not so much. Eye kicks, yes. Petty personal revenge, yes. Petty personal revenge leading to universal-scale genocide is going a bit far, especially for J Random mining ship captain, but hey, it worked for Hitler. The number of such genocidal maniacs in the Trek universe seems rather high. Or maybe the screenwriters might want to look at some other avenues of motivation for their adversarial characters? Like being politically motivated to look after their own constituents’ interests at the expense of the Federation, thus leading to conflict? And then the conflict might be resolved by diplomacy to end the fighting rather than execution? Not the American way, I know, but last I heard, the Federation wasn’t America.

Also I was less than convinced by the interior of the various starship engineering spaces, with the steel I-beams and other evidence that they had been shot in a factory without much set-dressing. I feel that Starfleet corps of engineering should look at the quality control of the fit-out of their ships.

Re-boot, yes, fair enough, in the sense of start again with everything being the same, but no re-imagining. In fact less imagination than first time round.

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mschatelaine

August 2016

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