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Old May 18 2009, 04:15 PM   #60
Ptrope
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Re: Could we Trekkers have saved the Trek XI script? [SPOILERS]

Great post, as always, DFScott, and no arguments with any of your points. My own suggestions for what to do with/about the script would be pointless, not because of any issues with the film's 'canonicity' (I don't care, frankly, as long as it's a well-crafted, interesting story that is true to the concept, the characters, and itself), but because I'm of the school that believes if you have to contrive your story through implausibility in order to achieve your desired 'beats,' and the story won't work otherwise, then you should be telling a different story altogether. And it doesn't take a Trekker to tell a good story called "Star Trek" - it only takes a good storyteller, and let a Trekker find the ways to fit it into the Trek universe; this was essentially what the Genes did with the scripts they received for TOS, and overall, they had a pretty good average - a few clunkers, a few plotholes the size of starships, but over 79 hours, they clearly created something strong enough and self-consistent enough that we would still be passionately discussing it 40 years later. I don't honestly see that being the case with the new film.

From the start, the Red McGuffin was a weak point - even if it could be adequately explained without brain-numbing technobabble, its effects are so radically inconsistent with intuition that every influence it has on the story just creates more problems. Is it so powerful that it can swallow a supernova - not just the star, but its energized mass approaching light speeds and large enough to destroy a planetary system - or is it so specific that it can ingest only a single planet without destroying the entire system? Does it create a black hole based solely on the gravity of its surroundings (an oft-seen excuse on this board) - it's unlikely that the mass of Vulcan had sufficient gravity to implode itself, or it would've done so without the Red McGuffin. Is it a bread spread, a meat, a vegetable, or a furniture cleaner? Or is it all of the above? Is it, in fact, Spacom?

Did Nero coming back in time somehow affect Spock's parents' choice to have a child much later in life? Or McCoy to join Starfleet much later in life, or perhaps be born much later than before? In that same vein, there are certain things that are understandable about how the timeline might change given the circumstances of Nero's journey into the past, and I can buy that maybe those might include the famous crew coming together at one time, but I just can't buy that characters as chronologically diverse as Kirk and McCoy would be classmates at the academy, and somehow in the classes after those which Chekov and Sulu attended. And all of this feeds into the incredibly unlikely scenario of Kirk leapfrogging each and every experienced officer on board Enterprise to become its captain. I really liked Pike, but that put a real chink in his armor, showing him to be just as irresponsible as Kirk in some ways, despite being portrayed as the wise mentor who could somehow temper Kirk's extremes and forge him into an officer. On the whole, in fact, whether it's a civilian organization or not, Starfleet seems to have almost no discipline, given Kirk's history and Spock's indiscretions, as well as Uhura's flouting of common sense - doesn't she have duties, or is she simply Spock's beard? How does either of them justify the make-out scene on the transporter when the situation seemed to call for everyone to be at their posts and doing their jobs? At the very least, their tearful farewell should've been in their favorite turbolift, even if Kirk were there, too, but not on the pad when time is supposedly of the essence. It made the story even more like 90210 than it already was with the CW-inspired cast.

Finally, there is Nero's blindness to his newfound capability to save Romulus, to go from lost survivor to the savior of his race. From his unlikely 25-year absence from the universal stage, leading up to his pinpoint-accurate capture of Spock, Nero was in a position to change the universe, and change it he did, but how he did it makes no sense whatsoever. Okay, he witnessed the destruction of his species; okay, he somehow blames Spock for it. The first problem is that in order to get the necessary background to his story, you must read the Countdown comic, although this is something that only Trek fans will likely do or even know about, and Trek fans are the stated non-target audience - what about the millions that Abrams & Crew were tasked to drive to the party? So after their unlikely survival via time travel through a black hole, Nero also somehow has the knowledge that Spock also survived, and where, exactly, he will re-emerge with the Red McGuffin, which, according to the comic, Nero not only knew about but championed in the face of resistance from the Romulan Senate as the means to save their race. Yet knowing he has over a century before the catastrophe, and knowing he has the means to prevent it, he'd rather waste the Red McGuffin on destroying the Federation one planet at a time, increasing the risks to himself and his ship, rather than simply enlisting Spock's aid in preventing the catastrophe with plenty of time for drinks afterward; he could have even done it without Spock's willing assistance. Many fans claim that, well, Nero was mad from grief so he wasn't thinking clearly - and apparently so were all of his crew - and yet they were thinking clearly enough to stay off the radar for a quarter century while they waited for Spock's train to arrive! How many games of Minesweeper did they get to play in that time to get their minds off their supposed grief? Maybe even, in Nero's defense, he intended to save Romulus in the end, after he had gotten the Red McGuffin and destroyed the Empire's 'enemies,' but that was not only not addressed, his entire reason for existence was conveniently papered over as anything other than simply a reason to be pissed at the universe and the Federation. And Spock. And puppies. The puppies, most of all - esp. Archer's beagle, no doubt. Hah! He probably would've chosen to spare Scotty's life just for that had he known. (And while we're at it, if the Red McGuffin results in ships traveling through time to specifically-calculable destinations, is it actually destroying the spatial artifacts, such as supernovae and planets, or are they, too, actually being shifted through time to other locations?)

Nero's blindness and rage, unfortunately, prevented him from being a real antagonist and made him simply another cardboard villain - evidence even the numerous professional reviewers who cite him as the film's weakest link, a two-dimensional caricature, only one mustachio away from being a mustachio-twirling Snidely Warplash. In a good story, the villain is the thing that makes the hero a hero - if Nero had to be insane, then the sanity of Kirk's response should've been what defined him. Instead, the 'hero of the Federation' that we should all come to know and love was defined, ultimately, as a trickster who only wants to cover his ass as he tries to get some ass; had he seriously intended to offer assistance to Nero, he wouldn't have so easily decided to fire all guns at a foe who was already trapped in a vortex from which he couldn't escape! Kirk literally took to shooting a fish in a barrel - and we're supposed to admire him as a result?

It's not just the gaping holes in the plot - it's the gaping holes in the souls of the characters. Rather than making them human by contrasting their heroism with their flaws, they were more like their Original Series mirror universe counterparts, who succeeded mostly through opportunism, deceit and not a little luck. J.J. turned Star Trek into a cynical, me-first, winning-is-everything turnabout of the values that made it such an influence on our culture and even our dreams.

And to top it off, the lens flares were a pain in the ass. And I'm one of the few who thought that Karl Urban's McCoy was almost unwatchable for his slapstick delivery of each and every clichéd line; why the hell couldn't they have just cast Gary Sinise?

(Sorry this, too, is just too long to read, The Wormhole )
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