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Star Trek Movie Rewatch: Star Trek (2009)

Sunday, January 10th, 2016 | Posted by William I. Lengeman III

star-trek-2009-enterprise-warp

Fans of Eighties new wave music might remember a song by Timbuk 3 called “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades.” Which should have been the theme song for the J.J. Abrams “reboot” of Star Trek. I’d heard about the much maligned lens flares favored by Abrams but until I actually watched the movie I truly had no idea. It’s such an extreme exercise in cinematic brightness that I found myself fighting off a headache at a few points.

But enough of that. Let’s have a few words about reboots. I don’t care much for them. Nor do I care much for the concept, in general. Which can only come about when lawyers and accountants make decisions that should be made by “creative” types. Yes, I understand that the making of TV shows and movies is not a charitable endeavor but when a pretense of creativity isn’t present then what’s the point?

Which is the whiner’s way of saying that even though I was a fairly avid fan of the original Star Trek series I had no interest in watching the reboots. I might have never watched them if it hadn’t been for this movie rewatch project. But after tackling the first two “real” Star Trek movies I found myself getting curious about how the reboots had played out. So I skipped ahead in the chronology.

Star Trek 2009 Spock-small

The premise here, if you’re not in the loop, is that we get to see the principals of the TOS crew when they was just fresh faced young’uns. Which, especially in the early stages of the game, plays out about like you’d expect. McCoy is a crabby young version of his crabby old self. Spock’s already wrapped up in that struggle between his human and Vulcan halves. And least but certainly not least, there’s rebel without a cause Jim Kirk, who’s a badass ne’er do well with a quick temper, loose fists, an eye for the ladies and no real objectives in life. Who’d have guessed?

There’s a plot here — more or less. But I won’t go into it. It doesn’t matter much. This is Star Trek filtered through the (constantly flaring) lens of the big budget summer blockbuster movie with lots and lots (and lots) of action, three to four cuts per second (only a slight exaggeration) and not that much too think about. It’s strictly white hats vs. black hats. At one point we actually see Sulu engaging in a swordfight while Kirk hangs by his fingertips over a precipice. Take that, Flash Gordon.

Star Trek 2009 Enterprise-small

Random Observations

I find myself liking Kirk less and less over the years (and McCoy more). So seeing the young arrogant James Tiberius Kirk whack his head on a beam was one of the high point of the movie for me.

Just once, wouldn’t you like to see a menacing, scary, super-not-so-nice villain speak in a really high squeaky voice instead of those low menacing tones that make you lean forward in your seat?

Star Trek 2009

Those nasty Vulcan kids who taunt Spock on the playground — is this really proper behavior for people who are logical and in control of their emotions?

The Enterprise is the only ship in the fleet in position to take action. Am I sensing a pattern running through all of the movies?

Favorite characters — Captain Pike, old guy Spock, McCoy and Scotty.

Star Trek 2009 Bad guys-small

Would young Kirk really drive a muscle car from three hundred-some years ago? And listen to the Beastie Boys?

Of course the Enterprise was going to get a reboot along with everything else. But did the interiors have to be so cluttered and busy?

The previous articles in this series are:

Star Trek Movie Rewatch: Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
Star Trek Movie Rewatch: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)


William I. Lengeman III’s last article for us was Poetic Witchery and the Strangeness in Ordinary Things: Algernon Blackwood’s The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories. He holds forth at www.wileng3.com.

8 Comments »

  1. I had mixed feelings about this reboot. I think the worst was the meteoric rise of Kirk from civilian to captain in the blink of an eye. Can you imagine serving in such a military where advancement made this way? Kirk is an angry thug, then he cheats on a major exam, then he is flippantly rude to his superiors, then his captain puts him in charge because he was friends with Kirk’s father. Compare that with the old school Kirk who paid his dues, showed consistant good leadership which brought him above his peers despite his churlish mistakes at the academy. Old school Kirk learned from his mistakes. I’d have to say that hands down I would have served with the old Kirk and probably would have led a mutiny against the new one.

    Still, it is good to watch Star Trek.

    Comment by Wild Ape - January 10, 2016 4:04 pm

  2. The fact that they had the Enterprise being built on the surface of Earth (and then had it flying around in an atmosphere, and even underwater in the second film): Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrongity wrong. So much wrongness.

    Comment by Joe H. - January 10, 2016 5:02 pm

  3. The only way to enjoy the Abramsverse Trek movies is to pretend they have nothing to do with the Trek we know and love. If you think of them as exciting summer-blockbuster popcorn movies they become kind of entertaining.

    My biggest problem with the movie is that although it used the time travel/alternate universe to explain why things are so different, it made major changes to the events immediately before the time travel first occurred. Originally, James T. Kirk had a brother named George Samuel Kirk, whom everyone called Sam. Since his brother was named after their father, that almost certainly makes Sam older than Jim. Also, although James T. Kirk did travel in space as a child (including an unfortunate visit to Tarsus III), he apparently was actually born in Iowa. In fact, the notion of Starfleet allowing families on starships was a controversial new idea 100 years after James T. Kirk was born. Therefore, in all likelihood, if Kirk had been born in space, it would have been on a civilian ship, not the USS Kelvin.

    Your points about his rapid ascent within the Starfleet ranks is also spot-on. It is totally unrealistic for someone to be a cadet in danger of expulsion one day and a Captain the next.

    Comment by Amy Bisson - January 10, 2016 6:49 pm

  4. And listen to the Beastie Boys?

    Would Kirk even know who the Beastie Boys were? If you take prominent classical musicians from the 1700s, only the true masters are well known today (Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Bach). If we’re sticking to rock music, that would be the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and maybe David Bowie.

    Of course, those four have been soundtrack-ed to death, although it would have been nice to hear John Lennon snarling it up in the background.

    Comment by redheadedfemme - January 10, 2016 6:57 pm

  5. These two movies work a lot better if you view them as more of a soft reboot.

    They technically did tie it into the main timeline of star trek. Only in this alternate dimension Kirk’s dad died and without his guidance he’s an asshole who has very little respect for authority.

    Comment by Glenn - January 11, 2016 9:04 am

  6. Old Trek bored me to tears. Way too cerebral for a 12 year old boy who loved Tarzan and Conan. Then came Star Wars; that’s how sci-fi is done says 12 year old me! Star Trek 2009 was pretty fun, a bit too flashy at times, and the pace was frantic, but I liked it. Maybe it was made for people who really don’t like old school Trek …

    Comment by thedarkman - January 11, 2016 9:41 am

  7. “Those nasty Vulcan kids who taunt Spock on the playground — is this really proper behavior for people who are logical and in control of their emotions?”

    This scene is actually rather closely based on a scene from an early episode of the animated series.

    I think the movie is entertaining but the writing is all over the place, which makes a certain amount of sense because this movie was rushed into production around the writer’s strike back then. It’s based on a faulty premise that Star Trek needs a superhero movie origin story and that these characters are all somehow destined to be together in their particular niches, as if the Force from Star Wars has become a thing in the new timeline.

    Comment by andy - January 11, 2016 11:08 am

  8. Andy said: “It’s based on a faulty premise that Star Trek needs a superhero movie origin story and that these characters are all somehow destined to be together in their particular niches, as if the Force from Star Wars has become a thing in the new timeline.”

    Spot on there, Andy — the Abrams-era Stark Trek is Trek with Star Wars DNA introduced to its genetic make-up: a hybrid that would inevitably engender disappointment among loyal Trekkers.

    That transfusion of Star Wars DNA was just recently applied much more appropriately: back into Star Wars itself, awakening that franchise from its long coma.

    Comment by Nick Ozment - January 11, 2016 5:47 pm


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