Monday, May 18, 2009

Star Trek: Flashier, Trashier, Dumber

It's good to be the curmudgeon. You get to sit over in your corner and throw rocks at the very shiny, very thinly built New and Improved Thing, such as JJ Abram's re-versioning of Star Trek.

I saw this movie for the first and last time over a week ago on Friday night, May 8th, for the princely sum of $9.50. I'm a cheapskate, preferring to wait until early Saturday morning to pay $4.50 for the matinee, but the hype was so high on this Trek film that I succumbed and paid a premium to sit in a sparsely filled theater (less than 1/4 full). No lines, no waiting. Few people. When I look at local reactions to films I have to wonder how new releases can break box office records; they sure aren't doing it around my neck of the woods.

When I walked out that Friday evening I decided to wait a week before writing a review. Part of it was out of deference to then-future viewers who wanted to see the movie without spoilers. Part of it was to allow the shock to wear off a bit. What I discovered in that film are so many instances of bad science fiction (mixed with bad decision making and bad general story writing) in this film that picking them out is akin to shooting into a barrel packed with fish.

One of the first scenes you're treated to is the appearance of the Romulan mining ship in the general vicinity of the USS Kelvin, which just so happens to contain Kirk's daddy and mommy, who as it turns out is in the throes of giving birth to James Tiberius himself. Call me paranoid, but if I were captain of a ship out in the middle of nowhere and something weird dropped into my area of space close enough to sense but far enough away not to be a direct threat, I would send in easily-replaceable unmanned probes long before I'd send my expensive capital ship and equally expensive and highly trained crew of specialists into harms way. I'd stand back and assess the situation rather than charging into the middle of an unknown situation. And if any of those unmanned probes were destroyed, I'd high-tail it out of there and get backup before I'd go stick my nose back in there again, making a best guess as to possible course and speed of the unknown, sowing the possible areas it might traverse with more unmanned probes to send back more intelligence. But no. JJ wants to entertain us with a fairy story, so we go in with guns a-blazing and special effects a-flyin'.

Which brings up the next problem with the opening: what happened to point defense systems? For example, most of today's ships have a number of Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWS) such as Raytheon's Phalanx, available since 1973. The basis of the system is a 20 mm M61 Vulcan Gatling autocannon linked to a radar system for acquiring and tracking targets. The cannon fires at a rate of 3,000/4,500 tungsten armor-piercing rounds per minute depending on the version of the system. It is mounted in a self-contained turret along with an automated fire control system. It is Bad News. You would think that after 200 years of combat in space with Klingons and Romulans that the Federation might come up with something far more lethal, but I guess not. Which, all things considered, is yet another reason to not go looking for trouble all by yourself.

What would I have done? Plot an immediate and fast course away from the disturbance, sending out one or more unmanned probes (drones) towards the disturbance, and drop countermeasures between me and the disturbance if it appears to be hostile. In a forward position such as that, where my supply lines and support are far to my rear, my goal in that situation is to stay alive while gathering intelligence and relaying that intelligence up the chain of command.

The next atrocious scenes involve the destruction of Vulcan and the means of its destruction. JJ and Company would have us believe that destroying Vulcan would somehow push the Vulcan race to the edge of extinction. One. Single. Planet. This is the Vulcan race that 'discovered' our first warp drive experiment. Why would a space-faring species, especially one with faster-than-light capability, limit themselves to a single planet? What about the other bodies in their own solar system?

And then there's the problem with how Nero essentially sashayed into the Vulcan home system (hypothetically 40 Eridani) and did the deed. Where were defensive ships, the surface defenses. Hell, where were the ships that should have been streaming evacuees from the planet?

None of what happened to Vulcan in this movie had any basis in logic what-so-ever. It was simply a pure contrivance to artificially advance the story.

I could rant on and on about plot holes and the fact that Kirk is miraculously promoted from cadet to captain so fast it makes everybody's head spin (including mine). But I've said enough. I'd foolishly hoped I'd get to see the re-birth of Star Trek. I should have known better. This is a stinker that ranks right down at the bottom with Star Trek V. There is no real future for Trek. At least not for me.

1 comment:

  1. Speaking of point defenses, Star Trek has "shields". Of course the only time you actually see said shields actually deflect anything is in ST:TNG onward.

    The only SciFi in which I've seen more conventional-style point defenses is the new Battlestar Galatica, and that ship is practically loaded to the gills with them.


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