Sunday, May 10, 2009

Star Trek

"Your father was captain of a starship for 12 minutes. He saved 800 lives. Including yours. I dare you to do better."


I can claim geekdom in several areas of my life, but being a trekkie is not one of them. I've actually never seem a full episode of the show, nor have I seen any of the films. That little detail out of the way, I still enjoyed J.J. Abrams' revitalization of Star Trek immensely. It wasn't perfect, but it did a lot right - namely making an engaging, accessible, action-adventure that succeeded in drawing in first-timers like myself.
If I had any inkling that this blog was read by more than a handful of people I would be hesitant to write anything about Star Trek for fear of messing up a factoid or misspelling a character's name. Even so I'll do my best to keep things simple as to avoid any negligent flamebait.
In a nut shell Star Trek follows the exploits, adventures and general tomfoolery of the original crew during their early days in the Starfleet Academy and on the U.S.S. Enterprise's maiden voyage. Things go awry when the young cadets run into an unruly Romulan from the future whose thirst for revenge and planet-cracking starship places the universe in peril. The plot is thickened with protagonist James T. Kirk's past connection with the evil Nero.
That's the basic plot, and it works well even if you didn't know beforehand (like me) that Romulans are sort of expected to be evil and tend not to get along with Vulcans. I'm pretty sure most of the shear joy trekkies will be getting out of this film will stem less from the conflict of the film and more from the introduction and development of characters like Kirk, Spock and Scotty.

My only real gripes with the film are with the occasionally awkward comedic moments and a fairly one-dimensional bad guy. Otherwise the film is a riot - it's gorgeous (just the right amount of bloom-lighting and vast, future cityscapes), the score and soundtrack are spot-on, and the heightened level of action made the film that much more exciting, even if it felt a little more like a... dare I say it? ... Star Wars film... (I mean come on, the whole ice-planet thing didn't remind anyone else of Hoth?)

When I was sitting in the theatre, trying to ignore the 8 year old narrator behind me, I thought to myself, "now what would this movie look like through a pair of feminist goggles?" The first knee-jerk reaction was to the obvious attention-bait underwear make-out scene at the beginning of the film. Now I don't have anything against the idea of sex in films - it's just how sex is handled and what purposes it serves that oftentimes undermines a movie and gives cinema in general a misogynistic rep. If you're going to use sex in a movie make it complex, make it honest, make it something more than a tool. In Star Trek any sexual tension is obviously used to frame the character Kirk, which makes sense for the plot/character development. The scene just feels a bit obvious, especially when it's throw out there within the first 15 minutes - Hollywood knows that if there isn't an explosion or a boob in the first 17 minutes of a film half the audience is going to fall asleep or walk out.
Beyond being centerpieces for said sexual tension, there really aren't many roles for women in this film. There is a brief segment that deals with the mother/child (dis)connection, but that only comes up a couple of times in the movie. Overall it would have been interesting to see the film try something new with incorporating women into this typically heroic-male oriented story. You would think that gender roles would have changed at least a little bit after however many centuries in the future the story is supposed to take place.
It is hard to be critical though because this is a remake of sorts - and from what I've heard from friends, it sounds like the original Star Trek series was pretty progressive in regards to social issues.
Even if you're not a die-hard fan you should definitely drop the dough on this one - it's a great summer adventure film, and unless space really isn't your thing you'll be having a blast with Star Trek.


  1. I would be interest to hear your thoughts about the relationship between spock and the woman (don't remember her name) on the ship. She in some ways seemed to fulfill the traditional gender roles, but was definitely more than just eye candy. Any thoughts?

  2. I too was watching the film from a feminist lens. I agree with your assessmnet of the makeout/underwear scene, that it develops Kirk's character (which, according to my trekkie friends i went with, is a big part of his character in the original series). I appreciated the storyline of the woman he kept seeking (i forget the name too) being the love of Spock...

    What bothered this female the most was the token short skirts and tall boots on every female cadet/crewmember. The crowd scenes of cadets walking between buildings or running from the drill on earth really bothered me. I saw myself and my fellow women as only accepted when showing leg - showing meat. When dolled up for the men.

    Is it really progress if we have "equal opportunity" in the job place but have sexist uniform requirements?

    Yeah yeah, went with the era back then, and fit with the original show. But that doesnt mean I have to accept it.

    (but i did really like the movie)


  3. re: skirts

    I think it's pretty wack that in some courtrooms, female lawyers still *must* wear skirts or dresses.

  4. Interesting review^^. I'm not a fan of space so I won't see it.
    Is is really true what you said about the explosion or sex/love scene in the first 17 minutes of a hollywood movie?!

    I can advise you to see Millenium, a danish film if I remember correctly, from a Sweedish best selling book. The 1st female character is a great mix of strengh/weakness, and the movie is very dark.(In France the subtitle of the movie is "millenium: the men who didn't like women").

    Also, if you're really bored and want to have a good laugh at a terrible movie, watch The Room (written, played, directed, produced) by Tommy Wiseau. The female character is so evil and whinny it's not even realistic (the rest of the movie isn't either anyway...).