Once More, with Spoilers (and Nitpicking): ‘Star Trek’

Let me gush a second: I pretty much loved Star Trek. It did a lot of things right, and it looked gorgeous, especially to eyes disappointed by the terrible effects in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I loved Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy the best of all, but John Cho is a respectable Sulu, Sylar Zachary Quinto a perfect Spock (I really only thought of Sylar once, when he glares at the council) and Zoë Saldana a whip-smart Uhura. The bad guy was a little stock, but the time-split really thing works for me.

That said, I’ve got some nits to pick. So if you’ve seen the film, well hey, shall we discuss? Let’s!

Hey, That Was One Timely Distress Signal!
Isn’t it nice for Kirk how his hearing gets interrupted by an event that lets him go on to prove himself fit to be the bestest most awesomest captain ever?

Hey, I Forgot About What That Drill Does…
It is a MAJOR point of the planet-eating drill that, somehow, it doubles as a transmission jammer. Why, then, do our heroes forget this when they make their saving-Earth plan, which relies in large part on transmissions and the ability to beam people hither and yon? (The abridged Star Trek also considers why the good guys didn’t just torpedo the damn thing, but I think maybe they were going for the sneak attack…)

Hey, There Are a Lot of Dudes Here
Space: The final frontier for the endless sausage fest. I’m not asking that Scotty suddenly change genders, or that Kirk not try to pick up every lovely lady he sees. I’d just like to see a few more women in roles that don’t involve getting hit on (or bedded) by Kirk. As for Uhura, I love her: I love, love, love how her intelligence is emphasized, and how key her talents are. But I also sympathize with her for that damn tiny skirt she’s stuck in (this is one point on which I completely agree with Roger Ebert, whose review I otherwise find a bit codgery). Worse than the skirt, though, is her relationship with Spock, which feels shoehorned into the film like someone’s flawed idea of What Will Bring In Female Viewers. It’s unnecessary and awkward and reduces the lone woman in the main cast to doing little (after, I must acknowledge, her totally vital transmission reception — which, I must also note, happens offscreen) but trying to comfort poor sad Spock (whose sadness I didn’t get to touch on in tomorrow’s review, unfortunately — but then again, the movie doesn’t do much with the reality of the destroyed Vulcan homeworld either). I’m hoping that J.J. Abrams — who has a pretty good track record when it comes to female roles in his TV shows (Felicity, Alias, Lost, Fringe) — was just sticking safely with this part of Trek canon for movie one, and will improve on it for future films (which I really do hope he’s making).
(See also: Dawn Taylor at Cinematical; Melissa Silverstein at Women in Hollywood; Jennifer Weiner at The Huffington Post; Sady Doyle at The Guardian.)

Hey, That Looks Like It Came From Galaxy Quest!
Oh, Scotty. I love Scotty, even though he’s been saddled with what someone quite aptly referred to as a granite Wookie sidekick (my viewing companion described Scotty’s wee friend as “just on the R2D2 side of Jar Jar Binks”). But when Scotty slightly flubs it when he beams himself and Kirk onto the Enterprise, the script totally flubs it by sending him down a water pipe … on the way to what looks like a giant fishbowl full of spinning razorblades — with a convenient and clearly labeled emergency hatch just before it!

If this isn’t an actual conscious shoutout to Galaxy Quest, then frankly I have no idea what the writers were smoking.

Hey, Let’s Not Guard Future!Spock’s Shiny Spaceship!
There’s kind of an explanation for this one: In this timeline, Scotty only just learned the equation for transporting at warp speed, so you might think Nero assumes there’s no reason to guard the totally functional ship carrying all his red matter: No one can get to it unless they’re fairly close to his ship in the first place. But wait! Nero comes from the future. In the future/alternate timeline, it’s safe to assume people know how to transport at warp speed, because the Spock from the future gives this information to Scotty (I kind of have a problem with this, too, but whatever). So wouldn’t he think that maybe someone could just beam onto his ship and run off with Spock’s pretty spinny ship — just like Spock does?

Hey, Let’s Hang Out By This Pretty Black Hole!
All that said, the dumbest moment by far was when smarty-pants Captain Kirk apparently thinks it’s a grand idea to hang out and watch Nero’s ship get consumed by what we have to assume is a black hole the size of several galaxies. It took a tiny dot of the mysterious, hey-science-is-complicated “red matter” to suck up an entire planet; what’s that giant ball of the stuff going to do? I know: Let’s wait around and see!

I actually thought for a minute that the Enterprise was going to get sucked through the hole and wind up back in the canon timeline. Honestly.

But despite all those complaints, I still loved the movie. I may also love picking at it like this. A love fed by nitpicks? I guess anything is possible.

For another kind of nitpicking, might I suggest Discovery‘s Bad Astronomy blog, which cheerfully takes on the science of the film? I’m particularly fond of:

But who knows what happens if you make a [cue creeeeeepy music] RED MATTER black hole. Maybe in those all kinds of weird things can happen, like Firefly was never canceled and the finale of Battlestar made sense. Crazy!

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