More than two years have passed since I went to see a movie at a theatre. Oh, I have watched films, of course, but Netflix and Amazon Prime are my usual ways to see movies these days. For the new Trek flick, I made an exception.
Mostly, I enjoyed this new entry into the universe of Star Trek. While I am old enough to have seen Shatner and Nimoy doing the original series first on its first run, I fully understand that if Trek is to reach current audiences, then it had to go through the reboot process. That, of course, means that many of the characters and/or situations will be revisited, but they will be “different” in some manner. And so it is with this yarn.
Here is the usual spoiler alert.
The opening is entertaining, but it trivializes Kirk’s decision to save Spock, while it presents a spectacle for the eyes. Almost immediately, Kirk is busted from Captain to cadet, which is hardly how the military works. After a crisis that is really not all that major, Kirk is promoted to first officer, and after his mentor is slain, he’s back to captain. This is in the space of a few minutes of screen time, and not a lot longer than that in real time.
There is a scene on Kronos, the Klingon home world, but these fierce warriors have little to do, which is a disappointment. In the Star Trek universe, Klingons are awesome, but not in this film. After capturing the evil Mr. Harrison, Kirk assaults him with his fists. Yeah, he is the commander of the gi-normous star ship in the opening scene, but he resorts to fisticuffs.
I could go on, but I think I have given sufficient evidence for my complaint about this film. Do understand that it is well-cast, exciting, and a visual feast. It pays homage to TOS, which is pleasing to older fans, and I count myself among them.
Over a decade back, I read Donald Maass’ How to Write the Breakout Novel. In this highly instructive book, Literary agent Maass lets aspiring novelists in on several techniques for success, but one of the most important is to make every crisis a bigger threat, to make every hero larger than life. For a novel to “breakout” it must raise the stakes.
Kirk and company seem to have lowered them in this film. Before it was released, there was some discussion of using terrorism as a plot device, as it seems to be an over arching theme for our world. Since entertainment is one of the chief exports of our country, it is important that movies, even Trek, sell tickets worldwide and not just stateside. But, by blowing up a Star Fleet “Archive” and shooting up a meeting of Star Fleet brass, rather than threatening a planet, a star system, or a galaxy, this film does the opposite of what Maass advises aspiring novelists. It certainly does not raise the stakes.
Worse, the movie shifts away from an important premise that comes straight from Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, who was oft quoted as “looking for intelligence on the other side of the television screen.” Trek fans will have plenty of lines and situations to revisit in this tale, but little to stimulate their brains. That is unfortunate, because this film succeeds in many areas. Writing is just not one of them.