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May 07, 2009


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Matthias Galvin

C: All of the above

I kid, I kid. But seriously, where's all the interstellar diplomacy?

Dave McDougall

actually, Matthias, I think you're on to something. As far I can tell, those two are inextricably linked.

Karina Longworth

If it wasn't part of my job description to pay attention to things like STAR TREK, I probably wouldn't. But I'm kind of glad that it is, because the forced exposure to things I don't care about forces me to figure out how to have fun with them. I mean, I probably am morally and aesthetically inferior to you, but not because I'm doing my job.

Glenn Kenny

@Karina: Well, of course your professional obligation is a given, and I didn't intend a slam when I grouped you with White and Poland. Actually I thought your take was among the more interesting. And yet on the topic as a whole, I am still...meh.

Tony Dayoub

The serious cinephile in me would say the answer is A) Evidence of your moral and aesthetic superiority. But the truth is that I'm a lifelong Star Trek fan. It is, in fact, the portal through which I entered into the world of cinema appreciation. So it holds a special place in my heart, as evidenced by the Star Trek celebration I am conducting at my blog this week.

95% of that love of Trekdom is due to the easy camraderie displayed by the central troika of Bill Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and De Kelley. So I'm a bit wary of the reboot because my inclination is to say that this chemistry will be difficult to duplicate.

But I'm encouraged that, thus far, this seems to be the best reviewed film of the year (disclaimer: it has not been a great year so far).


"B: A token of my increasing irrelevance in a bold new media landscape?"

So you're saying at some point you had relevance in a bold new media landscape? When was this again?

John Keefer

It may be due to a) but in a wholly negative light. We cannot forsake the popcorn films to simply be soulless exercises in spectacle because it puts the critic at immediate opposition to a film not yet seen. We can and should be indifferent to advertising, to explosions of media extravaganza, because that is the true demon to slay, to hold up to the light of discourse, and say 'no more shall I be led out of my ownself by bread and circuses.' Advertising is not a film, hearing the concept for a new film, or a new approach to an old franchise, is not a film. A film is a film and should be regarded as such. Anything in the periphery of the actual experience of watching the film should be treated with utter and complete indifference. I feel like this post may be more a reaction to the spoiler-drenched fan boy obsessed culture that seeks to make mountains of mole-hills, or great transcendent art of passing entertainments. I'm not a fan of Star Trek, not a fan of sci-fi in general. I am a child of the 80's however and will forever blame Spielberg for my attraction to big-budget spectacle, coming more from a place of nostalgia than regard for Spielberg because...well Renoir he ain't. There can be something truly magical in absolute spectacle but it's less rewarding these days as endless fan speculation, fans who will read scripts before a film comes out or drool and comment over pictures from the set, removes a more interesting element of the spectacle, its litmus test for the day and age in which its produced. When something like this is endlessly poured over by, um, nerds it sours any idea of what a film's impact is. It's disguised not only by the geeky and obsessive but also by news agencies reporting on weekend box office as, I guess, a determining factor of a films quality. I mean...who the hell cares how much money a movie makes if you are not listed in the above the line credits of said film? The summer of E.T. has long since passed into fall but there is still a part of me that wishes the best for spectacle, for every film really. I'd say don't let the bastards get you down. Also, if you find solace in the transcendent cinema of Godard than it might just be that this ain't your cup of tea.


How about the fact that the movie looks like more of the same?

What annoys me about this movie, as both a Trekkie and a film nerd, is that everything is obviously dictated by marketing. "OK, our last TV series tanked. That can't be because of what the fans have been saying on the Internet, that the writing was terrible. We picked those writers. It has to be because people want Kirk and Spock. Hey, you know what's hot? Reboots! Let's reboot it! And we'll make it different!"

Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't note that time travel and cameos by an original series actor are almost painfully clear markers of bad Star Trek. If they feel the need to bring out a "valentine to the fans", that usually means the movie/show blows goats (Exception: the actually quite good "Relics", which finally gave James Doohan a chance to show he had acting chops.)


I see Armond White is in his "I-am-the-only-mature-filmgoer" mode, which will certainly end when Eddie Murphy does another fat suit movie. Then he'll go into his "I-am-the-only-irreverant-and-funloving-moviegoer" mode.

As for the Star Trek flick...sorry, I forgot what I was going to say.


I've been avoiding reading reviews, but I've been surreptitiously peeking at Metacritic and waiting with (mastur)bated breath for your fellow "Synecdoche" roundtable interblagger Walter Chaw to chime in...

it's currently 84 @ Metacritic, and Chaw gave it 3.5 stars.

That gives me a lot of hope; Chaw, along with Hoberman, are my two go to critics.

Have you seen it yet, Glenn, or are you just "meh" on the whole reboot? I'm no J.J. stanboy or anything, as I don't think he's come anywhere near a homerun yet (of the projects he's directed/produced, "Lost" comes closest, and "Fringe" has some potential, "Alias" had a good 2 seasons, but I loathed "Cloverfield" and "M.I. 3"), but the man always comes through with great looking trailers. Which is damning him with faint praise, sure, but since I was a kid who used to doodle the rebel attack on the Death Star in classes, anything with purty space explosions generally gets my $$.

Since the couple sentences of Metacritic reviews I've come across all have some weaksauce "Warp Factor" analogy, you should subtitle this post "Warp Factor Fuck You!".

Earthworm Jim

Since when does the Star Trek franchise have a damn thing to do with our bold new media landscape? Star Trek's been part of the culture for what, 50 years or some shit. Your indifference is evidence of nothing other than your indifference--except, possibly, of your inability to differentiate between a shitty Star Trek movie like "Nemesis" and a potentially good one like this.

Glenn Kenny

I'm beginning to think I need to telegraph my jokes a little better, or come up with better jokes, or something. I was being at least moderately facetious when I posited those two conditions my indifference to "Star Trek" might have been indicative of. Rhetorical flourishes aside, I really don't harbor some sort of superiority complex (my therapist will tell you it's just the inverse—actually, she won't tell you, as long as I'm still paying her). And I really don't lose a lot of sleep over "relevance" of any sort. Truth to tell, as someone who got a fair amount of enjoyment out of certain Star Trek product over the years, I'm genuinely befuddled at my feeling of utter limpness when contemplating this one.

I'll probably see the damn thing anyway.

Boy, Earthworm Jim, I bet you really know how to hold a grudge. I myself barely remember seeing "Nemesis," let alone reviewing it.

Tom Russell

I'm also mostly indifferent to the new Trek but cautiously optimistic. But I tend to be indifferent towards most blockbusters, as I don't get to see them until they hit the dollar show. Which can sometimes take a while; "Dark Knight" didn't arrive until a week after it had come out on DVD.

I had forgotten that "Nemesis" existed until Earthworm Jim mentioned it. (shudder)

On the plus side, I had forgotten Earthworm Jim until then, too. And now I've got the theme song stuck in my head. "Cruising through the universe/having lots of fun..."

Which pretty much makes up for reminding me of "Nemesis". So, all is forgiven.

Steven Santos

I'm not getting this whole need for movies to basically fill in backstory these days.

Wolverine: Backstory. Star Trek: Backstory. Terminator: Beating a dead horse for a story that ended definitively in 1991.

This may actually be George Lucas' true legacy in film. Although other movies did it before the Star Wars prequels, they really started this trend. Movies that do little more than explain and set up the interesting stuff we already saw. (As if movies don't spend enough time these days over-explaining things.)

Personally, I haven't been convinced that there's a whole lot of dramatic content to mine in this approach. These movies seemed to be geared towards those with a fetish for useless minutiae. Am I supposed to get excited that we see Capt. Kirk and Spock coming out of the womb? Will the next movie be about how their parents conceived them?

Earthworm Jim

I knew you were joking, I just didn't think the reference to our bold new media etc made sense in the context of the joke. Unless it was playing off "boldly go" etc but then it still doesn't really make sense.

I actually never even saw Nemesis, and I don't even care about Star Trek that much. But it is a pet peeve of mine when people can't see the difference between pop-bad and pop-good. Of course you're smarter than that; I was just venting.

Glenn Kenny

Earthworm Jim: I guess the "new media" reference was spurred by the fact that EVERY movie blog I've visited in the past few weeks is all but consumed by "Trek" stuff. Except maybe for Dave Kehr's. And Girish Sambu's. And probably a few others too. But you get the idea.

Feel free to vent. It's good to let things out. Then we can talk it out, and everybody can feel better.

Earthworm Jim

And hey, if nothing else, the new Star Trek resulted in this hilarious Onion News Network video: http://www.theonion.com/content/video/trekkies_bash_new_star_trek_film

James Rocchi


I have distinct memories of reading Lopate's Totally, Tenderly, Tragically, where he notes that he's "not really a professional movie critic," because "I have never held a regular post, one that would offer the opportunity to comment on every major release, but also oblige me to review movies for which I had no feeling (such as E.T. or Star Wars)."

And I recall putting the book down and thinking "I'm not reading a book of reviews; I'm reading a book of things Phillip Lopate likes." And there are worse reads, to be sure; the prose is fine, the eye sharp, etc, etc.

But there are, it seems to me, two ways to go in this racket: One is the Ebert model, where you're a slugger, a slogger, a plugger: If it comes out (and someone will pay you to see it) you see it. And write about it. And yes, now and then you get down in the muck on the factory floor.

The other model is increasingly popular -- or, rather, increasingly followed, as I can't call it "popular": one where the writer retreats into an insular shell where they write about what they like in dense, pseudo-academic terms and write about what they dislike in (to quote The Philadelphia Story) "That snide, horrible corkscrew English." Yes, much of criticism is being damaged by drooling enthusiasm and publicity masquerading as coverage. (I'm pointing a finger in part at myself, here; I'm well aware of Kael's edict that there are two kinds of writing about film -- a good, honest review and everything else, which is just publicity." When I do interviews, Lists, etc. I know full well they aren't a review, and mea culpa, but they pay, and I don't talk to people where I can't think of something civil to say to them. You know -- Canadian.)

So if we have to choose between getting down in the muck or shooting up into the rarefied aether, I choose the former. But I do think the field is also in danger of becoming too oracular, too insular, too dominated by writers who set course for "smart" and "clever" and go around the horn to clangingly banal pseudo-intellectual "insights," and self-satisfied smugness. (There are plenty of people I know in this business where I read them and think "Wow, they're really over-thinking it." Which, to be sure, suggests I'm underthinking it, but I don't think that's the case -- and no, no names -- not because I want to snipe from secret, but because the writers-writing-about-writers, fangs-at-throat blogfeud echo chamber of narcissism infecting the field right now is the only thing more tedious to me than writing about, say, Next Day Air. And again, mea culpa: I've done all that stuff, and I try to not do it, because it's, at best, ungentlemanly.)

Is there a need for you to write about Star Trek, Glenn? I can't say; I wouldn't recommend it unless someone's paying you to do so. But clear, direct prose about movies is hard to come by, and it's why I admired your work before I even got to meet you, and if smart people -- smart enough to know they don't have to prove how smart they are with every sentence -- give up writing about big films, then a huge portion of the pop-culture landscape is being given over to eager self-promoter SEO experts armed with ardent untrained enthusiasm or hairshirt-wearing misanthropes like the hunched gargoyle at a college radio station who only plays 7' inches and gets something close to a curdled satisfaction from playing what they know to be a bad song solely because the droning masses have never heard of.

Put me down for C): "I don' know why Glen Kenny isn't writing about Star Trek, but if he did, I'd like to read it because I know I'd get something out of it."


Account Deleted

Well I saw it yesterday and thought it was terrible. JJ Abrams has no cinematic style, his TV roots are splashed across the screen for all to see. Why use scope if you're not going to do anything with it? The art of cinemascope is all but dead in mainstream Hollywood these days.

The script is dire, particularly Kirk being jettisoned from the Enterprise for having an argument, being stranded on an ice planet, being chased into a cave and happening upon Leonard Nimoy IN THE SAME CAVE ON A RANDOM PLANET (what are the odds?)

I seem to be in the minority though.


What's starting to annoy the FUCK out of me is people saying this is the "only good Star Trek movie."

While I would definitely agree that most of them are aimed more at the fans (and some of them are painful), there is still "The Wrath of Khan". Admittedly, it suffers because everybody still views the "KHHHHAAAAN!" scene as a joke (and, yes, I admit it's cheesy). But it's still got, you know, things like theme and mood and ideas, and they're well-executed into the bargain. If I were Nicholas Meyer, I would be greatly annoyed right now.


Also, on this whole high/low culture debate we seem to be getting into:

My feeling has always been a movie has to be taken on its own terms. What is it trying to accomplish? And how well does it pull it off, if it pulls it off?

That's why I'm always so hard on Oscar and indie movies, because they all want to be thought-provoking but they're so damn shy of offending anyone, or so beholden to some hedge fund, that they wind up being facile and one-sided. It's why foreign films do better in this respect; the government just gives them a lump of money and they run with it (not that that can't end badly either, but still).

Dan Coyle

I remember Star Trek Nemesis.

I remember without even being asked.

I remember every time it rains.

Scott Nye

I saw it. I waited in line even. I am not proud. I liked MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III (whatever fate that damns me to), but I hated this thing. Abrams' form is a mess, right down to the fact that he felt the need to put flashing lights, from blinking control panels to lasers to lens flares if he had to (and many, many times when he didn't), in damn near every shot. The script, as even the most positive reviews will note, is an absolute mess.

I kept wondering if I was just growing weary of the predictable three-act structure and the inherent knowledge that all of these people will live through this, no matter what, and will come out victorious, but then I remembered that people have made, and continue to make, it work (I'm a big fan of SPEED RACER, but more universally loved, you can point to something like THE INCREDIBLES, as it's able to create genuine tension and thrills in a "safe" environment).

No, it's just that STAR TREK is bad. Chris Pine's a movie star, though, that's for damn sure. And he earns it.

Damon Houx

Have you liked the original cast before? Do you want to see how they got together (albeit in an alternate universe so it's not really how they would have all met)? Do you feel Star Trek is lame for having ideas and goals (that said, often those morality plays are surface), and the one big thing missing from the world is Cambellian/Lucasian architecture? "There should be more DESTINY, so coincidence seems less like bad writing!"

There's an irony in Paramount spending untold millions getting TV talents to "reboot" a franchise with a film that is both prequel and pilot. Your ambivalence serves you well, as it's not much of a movie. Cast is mostly great, though.


As a non-Trekker, but one who enjoyed the chemistry between the actors, I loved the first two films (I think the first is flawed but fascinating, the last real 70's sci-fi movie of the era) and THE WRATH OF KHAN worked for audiences the same way this new version probably does: it's a movie first. The difference being Nicholas Meyer is a better writer/director and for all its space sturm und drung, ST:WOK is about something real. And even Kael was enamored of Montalban's towering performance. I walked out of the film pleasantly buzzed. Course, I was a kid and it was the Summer of '82.

What I'm trying to say is that I'm seeing THE ROAD WARRIOR in 70mm tonite at the Egyptian instead of the new STAR TREK.

Account Deleted

Mr Glenn Kenny,

You are now my personal hero for mentioning that nobody since Cameron and McTiernan has mastered the action movie. I've beeen banging on about this to deaf ears since 1995. TRUE LIES and DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE were the last great action movies for me (and even the last 20 minutes of VENGEANCE lets the side down).

Thank you.

Christian: Enjoy THE ROAD WARRIOR you lucky sod. I wish I lived stateside so I could see James Cameron's personal 70mm print of THE ABYSS SPECIAL EDITION (with a PA by Cameron himself) at the Egyptian later this month.

Account Deleted

Christian: Nice to see some STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE love. I watched it endlessly as a child, and it's like an intellectual masterpiece compared to the shambles from JJ Abrams.


THE ROAD WARRIOR was amazing in 70mm, an almost perfect movie. And LIFEFORCE in 70mm was a treat too, it's spectacular goofy fun.

ST:TMP is sorta transcendent if you're in the right frame of mind (or chemical state). I love the never-ending journey into V'ger...


Thank the lord. I was beginning to think I was almost alone in seeing through this badly written, badly directed, moronic drivel. Thank you Glenn, i'm glad there's still some intelligent critics left.

Bruce Reid

Tangentially: "Who else directing action blockbusters these days has anything like a cinematic sense anyway?"

John Moore strikes me as a not-terribly-deep thinker who is nevertheless quite skillful at crafting over the top images that manage to carry emotional weight. (E.g., Hugh Laurie's murder in Flight of the Phoenix or Max Payne returning to his home, the only one on the block bare of Christmas lights.)

And maybe action blockbuster isn't exactly what they're going for, but Francis Lawrence's two features and his work on NBC's Kings, while all flawed, are striking and idiosyncratic enough that I think he could become something very special.

Whereas Star Trek was an ugly, boring mess.

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