Star Trek (this post full of spoilers)

I am sure that I don’t need to introduce this summer’s first big special effects action adventure film, Star Trek directed by J.J. Abrams. I went into this movie expecting to enjoy it. Wil Wheaton and LeVar Burton were singing its praises on Twitter.  Reviews were overwhelmingly positive. I even enjoyed the only other movie that Abrams has directed (Mission Impossible III).  I talked myself into thinking that it might not be what I liked about Star Trek, but it would be a fun science-fiction movie.  I was wrong. It was bad.  Let me explain.  WARNING: Do not let me explain if you do not want to read a post full of spoilers.

Basically, the idea of the film is that a Romulan ship from the future gets thrown back in time hoping to destroy Vulcan to take revenge on Spock who failed to stop Romulus from being destroyed by a supernova.  In the opening scene, he kills Kirk’s father (who was in command of the USS Kelvin) and creates an alternate universe in which no one has the same lives that they would have had in the original universe.  He then manages to destroy Vulcan and almost destroys earth before Spock’s ship from the future (I think it was called the USS Deus ex Machina) is able to blow him to smithereens.

There are too many things wrong with this movie for me to go into depth, so I will try to be concise on the ten biggest ones that I can think of right now.

Gripe #1: Idiotic science

J.J. Abrams does not know or does not care about science. Black holes are not literally holes.  They are massive objects that suck in all matter and energy in their reach. You cannot escape one by detonating antimatter inside it. You cannot travel through time just by falling into one. (See also: #2 and #7)

Gripe #2: Internal inconsistencies

When the Romulans attack Vulcan, it takes the Enterprise 3 minutes to reach Vulcan from earth at maximum warp.  Since Vulcan is 16 lightyears from Earth, this means that they were traveling at nearly 3 million times the speed of light (1500x faster than the Enterprise-D).  On the return trip, they have time to dick around and drop Kirk off on Delta Vega (a planet on the edge of the galaxy, by the way) and then pick him up again quite some time later and they still show up at Earth before the ship from the future with a much more sophisticated warp drive has time to do anything.

Gripe #3: Goofy character introductions

Sulu leaves the parking brake on.  Scotty is crazy.  Chekov has a monologue peppered with as many “V” sounds that he can turn into “W”s as possible (example: “ewacuate”).  The computer fails to recognize an access code because he can’t pronounce his “V”s.

Gripe #4: Sexism

This movie has been updated out the wazoo, but the women are still wearing miniskirts.  Uhura has a very thin excuse for being involved in the movie, but mostly she’s just there to take off her clothes and make out with Spock every once in a while.  She wasn’t treated that badly in the ’60s and that’s saying something.

Gripe #5: Unnecessary monsters

J.J. Abrams seems to have some kind of monster fetish.  Keep your Cloverfield out of my Star Trek!


All in all, there isn’t a whole lot of action that takes place in this movie.  There are a couple of little space battles and a fist fight or three, but mostly it’s just a bunch of talking.  Abrams tries to distract you with the blinding lens flare so that you think that something is happening.  It’s also possible that John Carpenter was hiding just off camera.

Gripe #7: Did I mention Delta Vega?

So Delta Vega is on the outskirts of the Milky Way galaxy and Vulcan is about 16 lightyears from Earth (orbiting 40 Eridani-A).  This puts Delta Vega about 75,000 lightyears away from Vulcan.  When Vulcan is being destroyed, however, Spock is standing on the Delta Vega surface, watching the event.  Vulcan appears to be hundreds of times larger in the sky than the moon is in our sky.

Gripe #8: Madea’s Starfleet Academy.

Who let Tyler Perry into this movie?

Gripe #9: Man-sized blender

Who designed the ship’s plumbing? Why was it the only futuristic thing in the factory floor of an engineering deck? Why was it designed to puree anyone who got stuck inside?  Why did J.J. Abrams make us watch that scene?

Gripe #10: Sabotage

I’m sorry, but in the enlightened utopia that Gene Rodenberry imagined, there is no chance that they would still be listening to The Beasty Boys.

A bonus nitpick

When Kirk jumps to a lower platform in the Romulan ship, you can see a disruptor pistol on the ground.  After a Romulan picks him up and begins strangling him, he pulls out the guard’s gun and shoots him, dropping it as he falls to the edge again.  This is the gun we saw on the floor before and it is now in the exact same position it was before the tussle.

UPDATE: Gripe #11: Spock’s hot mom

Julie pointed out in her comment below that I forgot to mention Winona Ryder as Spock’s mom.  It was actually quite distracting, because the whole time, I kept thinking, “why the hell did they cast Winona and then put old makeup on her?”

A little praise

Overall, the acting was pretty good.  I think that most of the problems with the characters were thanks to the writing and directing.  I really don’t mind that cast as the new interpretations of the classic Star Trek characters, though they really need to get George Takei to record Sulu’s voice in ADR.


  • Julie Coulter says:

    You forgot one thing – Winona Ryder as Spock’s mom. J.J. Abrams liked her so much in old makeup in Edward Scissorhands that he put her in this movie. She’s 37. Zachary Quinto is 30. Seriously – they couldn’t find a beautiful, maternal actress of the correct age? After consulting IMDB, I discovered that there was a single actress (with lines) over the age of 40. J.J. Abrams only works with hotties. Well, there was Majel Barrett Roddenberry. But that was kind of an obligation. Plus it doesn’t count because she’s dead. (sorry – had to go there)

  • Josh Paddock says:

    The black hole thing bothered me a lot too. But what really got to me was the Trekkie shibboleths throughout the movie…when Bones says “Damn it man, I’m a doctor” and Shaun of the Dead saying “I’m givin’ a all she’s got, cap’n”. There were a few others in there. They seemed a little too shoehorned in. I also was REALLY turned off by the Uhura/Spock romance. Probably my most WTF? moment of the movie. I think there could have been a much better way of demonstrating Spock’s conflict between his dual heritage. Hell, having him wear a sandwich board that said “I’m emotionally conflicted about having emotions” the whole movie would have been better than seeing him and Uhura make out on the transporter pad like two high school kids in the hallway.

  • Julie Coulter says:

    I concur. I hated the Uhura/Spock romance so much. #1 – she was his student, and Spock would have probably thought the idea of becoming romantically involved with her would be very inappropriate. #2 – it totally blindsided me. All I could think was “Why?” I seriously don’t know what purpose the romance had other than to let Uhura have lines. And that’s pretty sad. #3 – Star Trek Enterprise had a better understanding of how Vulcans approach romantic relationships with humans. And it took a long time for T’Pol and Trip to get together. If Spock was more conscious on suppressing his emotions than other Vulcans because of his human heritage, you’d think that he’d think twice before making out with his girlfriend in public.

  • Jen Pierce says:

    So… ok. I saw Star Trek last night too, and totally loved it! And I actually walked out of the theater thinking, “Man, the only thing that would make this better is if I had a chance to go argue about it on the Internet! I wonder if any of my friends will want to discuss this movie?” I don’t know why I was worried. 🙂

    I have to admit, actually, that all of these claims are solid… they just didn’t ruin the movie for me. I think it depends how much you’re willing to include in the Superman principle. The black holes were this movie’s Superman. Yes, JJ Abrams doesn’t really understand what they are. (Why would you need to drill a hole to the center of the planet first and then start the black hole at the core? Does Nero just really like the symmetry of the planet collapsing in on itself?)
    They did make a thin attempt to explain the time travel when Spock is deducing the situation and says that a singularity could create a tunnel through space-time. Who knows. Dark sorcery. I think you’re just supposed to decide that that’s a bitchin’ lightning storm, and not worry about it too much.

    As for #2, I don’t know why they didn’t expect that the fans were all going to go look up Delta Vega and the distances in light years. Poor planning on Abrams’ part. Maybe there are two Delta Vegas? I didn’t even catch the name of the planet during the movie; I’m sure he assumed that nobody else would either.

    Regarding sexism… it would have been a huge cop-out not to include the short-skirted uniforms. Since the timeline had only diverged 25 years earlier, and not in a way that would have particularly affected the fashion of the time, I feel it was correct to stay loyal to the look of the original series. They were even careful t o include the 60’s-inspired look in the clothes of the random women at the bar where Kirk meets Uhura, which was a nice touch. And I thought that Uhura’s presence was justified at least as much as in the original series. They drew lots of attention to her above-par ability, to the extent of having her oust a lieutenant because she’s better at the job. They clearly indicated that she wasn’t there because of her relationship with the commanding officer (which could have been totally shady)… in fact, that relationship almost hindered her assignment.

    The monsters were unnecessary, but hilarious. I also disliked some of the random slapstickery (like Scotty’s journey through the plumbing system)… and his little sidekick was dangerously close to becoming JarJar, for me. And, yeah… Winona Ryder was the worst choice ever. She was super distracting.

    I thought one of the movie’s biggest strengths was showing the realistic consequences of minor actions. If you materialize three feet from where you’re supposed to, it can be a problem. If you get too daredevil when you’re skydiving, you die. (I liked the nod to the red-shirt meme a lot.) And, this isn’t so much a consequence as a minor detail, but I liked that in space, you couldn’t hear explosions… during the space dive scene, for example, initially all we heard was the breathing of the men inside their helmets; then when the atmosphere kicked in, things got louder.

    I could make this a lot longer, but I’ll take it over to my own blog so I don’t crowd yours any more than I already have. But seriously! I’m sorry the movie didn’t do it for you. With Sylar, Kumar, Eomer, *and* Shaun of the Dead, I was pretty sure it couldn’t go wrong. 😉

    • Dan says:

      My guess is that they chose “Delta Vega” because that’s where Kirk tried to maroon Gary Mitchell and it had a remote outpost. It was irony, you see. Why Scotty never got supplies at a base that’s within a stone’s throw (or in the case of this movie, a Spock’s throw) of one of the most important worlds in the Federation, I do not know.

    • Aaron says:

      Overall, I enjoyed it. I did disliked the way they created such a joke of a Chekov that they had to give all the jobs that he did that required dialog to Sulu to keep every other scene from turning into a “wessels” gag. They goofed on picking the name of the planet for sure (I didn’t look it up, but I’m with Jen, they should have anticipated nerds doing so). Otherwise, I thought it was fun and at least tried to explain the alterations to the story. I am concerned that by opening the “alternate timeline” plot can we can expect increasingly worse follow-ups.

  • I liked it. 😀

    Gripe 4 I can agree with, Uhura’s character was the only one I deeply disappointed in. The rest of the characters were wonderful!

    The rest of your gripes are so nit picky even if I agreed with them I think I’d still like the movie. Tyler Perry? Man-sized plumbing? Dude, lighten up. Have you seen the other Star Trek movies? They’re not exactly without their problems.

    Really I was just excited to see the characters I know and love at the beginning of their story together. With the exception of Uhura, I loved it!

    • Dan says:

      The Tyler Perry gripe is not something that ruined the movie. It was more of a joke than anything.

      The problem with the man sized plumbing is that it’s a stupid, contrived, pointless scene. It belonged in Galaxy Quest (maybe right before the chompers), not a hip new Star Trek action movie.

      • Josh Paddock says:

        At least Tyler Perry’s character wasn’t a sassy old black lady Starfleet officer.

    • Dan says:

      Also, you may have seen this on Twitter, but I didn’t think this was the dumbest Star Trek movie. I will happily point out stupidity in any of the movies (and shows) in the franchise. I even used to have copies of the Nitpicker’s Guide to Star Trek books. I nitpick because I love.

      I don’t think that a lot of these things are nitpicking though, especially ignoring the way that black holes really work and showing Vulcan in the sky of Delta Vega. What universe works like that?

  • Travis says:

    Dan your comments are right on, with that I would like to add one more problem. The Federations history is replete with Vulcan involvement to destroy Vulcan to me is akin to someone going back in time in the DC universe and saving Batman’s parents Bruce Wayne would not be the same just as the Federations would not be the same without Vulcan. It was great that they saved the elders but what about all of the scientific discoveries lost sure there is 10,000 Vulcan left out of 6.1 billion no people can recover from such a devastation. The destruction of Vulcan was done without any thought of the Federations future …useless in the next movie they correct this problem by going back in time again.

  • Rick says:

    Let’s not forget – It took that drill thingie quite a while to drill to the center of Vulcan – one of the most advanced societies in the cosmos. Why couldn’t they just blow away the drill head like the back-woods earthies did? How could they possibly have no idea what was going on?!? Idiocy.

  • guy lafleur says:

    Gripe #1: Idiotic science

    J.J. Abrams does not know or does not care about science. Black holes are not literally holes. They are massive objects that suck in all matter and energy in their reach. You cannot escape one by detonating antimatter inside it. You cannot travel through time just by falling into one. (See also: #2 and #7)

    THANK YOU !!

    They confused wormhole a la DS9 with Black Hole, its beyond idiotic. Seriously, this is the worse use of a Black Hole ever in a scifi.

    And great use of the lazeu writer’s “What a great and time saving coincidence!” prerogative, conveniently having young Spock leave young Kirk on the same planet as old Spock and even just a few km aways from each other.

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