Could we Trekkers have saved the Trek XI script? [SPOILERS]

Discussion in 'Star Trek Movies: Kelvin Universe' started by DFScott, May 17, 2009.

  1. DFScott

    DFScott Captain Captain

    May 16, 2001
    Indianapolis, IN
    I'll start with the requisite warning that I'm opening this thread for folks who have already seen the Star Trek XI movie, so my lead-in and others' follow-ups will be full of SPOILERS.

    A lot of the feedback I'm hearing from folks who have apparently seen the film and liked it thoroughly, directed toward long-time Trek fans who have raised some complaints, is that they should all take Shatner's advice and get a life. Stardates aren't always going to mean the same thing, planet Vulcan doesn't have to exist in order for the show to be interesting, and Scotty doesn't have to be as tall as James Doohan -- essentially, I'm hearing, "Get over it."

    As someone who has been a Trek fan since the Original Series first entered syndication in the early '70s, I can say that I'm very pleased that this film is fulfilling its primary mission of introducing a new audience to this long-running work of global folklore. On the whole, it's the requisite summer blockbuster, this year's "Iron Man" (oooh!). Yet I've had to restrain myself a thousand times from trying to take a paper towel to the camera lens; and while folks were looking for the rumored R2-D2 "Easter egg" (or the roll of duct tape that appeared on Chekov's panel during a few frames of the trailer), my wife and I were looking all over the new Enterprise for the little rotating siren that signals the Blue Light Special. And while there's no way I could ever match the musical feat of Jerry Goldsmith, who during the first film built a classical-quality score to accompany a bunch of guys in pajamas staring at an outdoor laser show for an hour and a half, I could hum a better musical score to Trek XI while pedaling up a Category 1 hill in the Tour de France.

    So yes, I nitpick, and this is despite Trek XI's fabulous casting, with mostly superb choices (Karl Urban especially). And it's despite the fact that the movie did address one of my perennial pet peeves, which has been that characters during the Rick Berman era tended to morph into "Next Generation People," who even when they're threatening to kill each other or making love to one another, converse like an automated bank-by-phone menu. ("It would be appropriate to become better acquainted with you." "That is also my sentiment." "Then we are in agreement. Press 2 to continue.")

    But I have a big problem with this film, and it's not that it "violates canon" and therefore "ruins Star Trek for me for all time" -- it doesn't. Nothing can. It's much simpler, actually: I don't think this movie tells its story well.

    The movie follows a sort of "tunnel logic," where it doesn't always matter how we get to the next scene as long as we get there. If it can shortcut from point A to point T without passing through B or C or S, then let's do it. Hopefully the pace of the film is brisk enough, and the score sounds enough like riding over grocery store speed bumps in the trailer bed of a U-Haul, that the viewers won't have time to notice. And that's a shame because Star Trek, of all things, should be about telling a good story, and if it's not doing that, then it may as well not be Star Trek.

    Last week, I was reading Phil "Bad Astronomy" Plait's excellent review of the science of the film, including what was both right and wrong with it and how in some cases, what was wrong could have been corrected with something that was right...without jeopardizing the fun and excitement of the film. That got me to thinking in this direction: If the film truly is good enough, then it should have been able to tell a better story and still hold on to the audience who enjoyed it because it was fun and exciting. Put another way, why couldn't the same good film have told a good story?

    So let me see if I have this straight (again, folks, SPOILERS): We learn that Uhura has been listening to some transmissions and, golly gee, Sgt. Carter, that Vulcan discussion channel sure sounds like Romulan to her. Never mind that this cadet is listening in on private conversations anyway (I guess Federation intelligence is pretty bad off these days, it's outsourcing its operations to cadets). And like the guy stationed in Hawaii who thought he heard Japanese voice traffic that December day, Uhura rushes to tell...her Orion roommate during a gratuitous clothes-changing scene.

    Where young cadet Kirk just happens to be hiding under the bed. For history's sake, in later years, Admiral Kirk will be able to tell the kiddies that Earth was saved because he happened to be under the right girl's bed at the right time -- a lesson we should all take to heart. And armed with that knowledge, Kirk takes a cue from Uhura and does...nothing important with it, at least not now. Until after being sneaked into sickbay, Kirk happens to hear the message from Chekov (who, incidentally, outranks Kirk at this moment in time), puts two and two together, and rushes to the bridge where he remembers to tell Capt. Pike the bad news, albeit looking partly like the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Finally, someone in authority has been given the information, and Uhura validates Kirk's story. For their negligence, they both get promoted, which sets a pattern that the film will repeat in later moments.

    Later, Kirk gets kicked off the ship, in a tribute to Wile E. Coyote falling off a cliff. Though unconscious, he lands his escape pod just 500 yards or so from Old Spock. Luckily, an octopusasaurus is on hand to direct Kirk to Spock, and it's nice that there's such a handy welcoming committee on hand. Once in the cave, Old Spock "tells" Kirk the story of how he screwed up by allowing Nero and his crew to spend the last quarter century waiting patiently to fall through a wormhole, then to capture him without a fight, and to deposit him on a planet with a natural Imax theater for an atmosphere, where he can watch Vulcan be blown to smithereens. Conceivably he could also have watched Vulcan be decimated from the comfort of a prison cell on the Romulan ship, but that wouldn't have been convenient for the story, would it? And apparently Spock's quite comfortable on Delta Vega too, because there's a Starfleet outpost within a few kilometers of the drop zone. Yet it wasn't worth Spock heading in that general direction in the first place to see if there's someone there who could beam him up (which there was), or whether it had a guy on hand who in the future is capable of transporting folks between distant objects moving at warp speed (which it did). No, this was far more convenient for the sake of the film, because you can't have a plot complication if you pay too much attention to how you can resolve it.

    And this pattern keeps going on and on, where we keep finding new and even more convenient ways to escape to the next scene. Young Spock discovers that he can make a dent in the Romulan ship using this newfangled technique called firing at it, which not even Old Spock figured out. Young Kirk follows along behind and does some more of this firing at it, which is a brilliant discovery that's pretty effective, but you have to admit Kirk was just doing a me-too act at this point. But when it comes time to promote someone, do they promote Young Spock? No, they promote Young Kirk, because well, how else is he going to be Captain for the next film?

    People who left the theater after having been on the roller-coaster ride they expected may have had a lot of fun, but after it's all done, did they actually see a Star Trek story? I would argue, perhaps not. Because one of the principal elements of Star Trek is the value of friendship and loyalty and honor. And while this film presented itself as showing us how the friendship of Kirk and Spock came about, it didn't. Toward the very end, it had Old Spock come up to New Spock and say, "You really should be friends with this guy," and that was it. Three decades of tried-by-fire comradery proven worthless in the face of a suggestion by a guy from the future who couldn't even shoot straight. Why? Because there appeared to be only three minutes of film in which to wrap this up, and it had to be done quickly and conveniently.

    Never mind that this movie may not have been true to the established Trek storyline; as far as telling a good story goes, it wasn't true to itself.

    Now, you have to commend Paramount for successfully keeping much of the script under wraps for as long as it did. Perhaps the studio accomplished this feat by leaking enough of the story details through explicit trailers and sneak previews that the street value of the script was lowered to a buck ninety-five. But given that, how much would it have hurt the studio to have gotten a hold of a dozen or so regular Trek fans, taken them out for pizza, and listened to them for an hour -- folks like us who know a good story and who understand the value of continuity (for some reason the name "Okuda" pops to mind)? We could have shown these guys how to get from point A to point T by zipping through all the spots along the way, keeping an airtight story, and the director could still have maintained the same frenetic pace, the same dime-store decor, and the same junior high school marching band.

    At least that's what I think. The question is, to paraphrase Ben Cross, which path do we choose? If ordinary Trekkers could tell a better story, shouldn't we demonstrate how it's done? Because let's face it, there are going to be sequels. And although we're being promised that now Trek is capable of going where it's never gone before, the scriptwriters are already talking about Khan, and perhaps making him the owner of an Iowa delicatessen that Kirk frequented as a 10-year-old stock-car racer.

    So I'd like to open the floor and see if, by putting what's left of our heads together, we could demonstrate a synopsis of essentially the same story as Star Trek XI, told with at least the level of attention to detail as the campiest third-season 1968 TV episode.

    DF "Let's See, I've Got a Killer Spaceship, I Know the Time Travel Formula, I Can Go Back And Tell Myself What Not to Do to Save Romulus...I Wonder If Nero Will Let Me Borrow His Bathroom" Scott
  2. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Admiral Admiral

    Jul 23, 2001
    Your long-ass essay doesn't interest me. I'll just read your one-sentence title and answer "yes" to that. I offer no explanation.
  3. Middle Earther

    Middle Earther Commodore Commodore

    Mar 28, 2005
    BC, Canada
    Excellent points, but I have no suggestions. I think part of the problem was the overcrowding of characters, so there's no real opportunity for proper development. The movie is a typical Hollywood thrill ride - a popcorn pic with little depth. This movie is an action thriller, a space opera and that's not really what Star Trek was about. I think the idea of a complete alternate timeline is a copout - throw out everything and starting over seems like too easy a way to solve the problem.
  4. Middle Earther

    Middle Earther Commodore Commodore

    Mar 28, 2005
    BC, Canada
    It's a shame the idea of a forum for discussion is lost on you.
  5. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Mar 8, 2001
    I doubt that any of the fans nitpicking the movie are aware of any issues with the story that the writers and at least some of the producers were not. They simply made certain choices. So "could we have saved" what is really in most respects quite a good script? No, no we could not.

    The movie showed quite a bit of how Kirk and Spock became friends. Old Spock's "I could not deprive you..." speech wasn't instruction to Young Spock, it was offered after the fact by way of explanation for his staying out of the way during much of the story.
  6. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Admiral Admiral

    Jul 23, 2001
    This is a forum for discussion? I jsut thought we posted smart-ass comments and pretended we were people who mattered.
  7. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Mar 8, 2001
    No, it's a forum where some of us post smart-ass comments and others pretend that we're people who matter. It's a hazy gray line, but there is some division of labor.
  8. Middle Earther

    Middle Earther Commodore Commodore

    Mar 28, 2005
    BC, Canada
  9. erebus

    erebus Commander

    Aug 25, 2007
    profile pending deletion request 28/5/2009
    no, because wasn't considering what trekkers liked forced undue influence on the development and content of the previous films that were subsequently deemed to have failed dismally on a variety of fronts? (correct me if i'm wrong).
  10. KennyB

    KennyB Rear Admiral Premium Member

    Jul 19, 2001
    The Fens
    You could have made yourself happy with it but it would not have made any money......I'll take JJ at the helm.
  11. amaninspired

    amaninspired Cadet Newbie

    May 17, 2009
    Greetings all, this is my first post here. I originally posted the following on another website where everyone was gushing about the new film:-

    I finally saw the film tonight and I thought that it was a completely hopeless mishmash of ideas drawn from a variety of sources in sci-fi. In no small way, it reminded me of the Lost in Space film.

    There were various points when I began to expect Hayden Christensen to pop up, pull out his lightsaber and utter a toe-curlingly awful line. Appointing Kirk captain straight from Starfleet Academy is a plot device that might even shame George Lucas.

    The concept of a "used" tomorrow is hardly new in sci-fi, but it is new in Star Trek. I don't think that it fits. The resources available to the Federation in Star Trek are such that everything is shiny and new...even when it's old. It's a bright tomorrow, an optimistic future. This does not mean that you cannot have darkness and conflict...they managed it in Deep Space Nine, which has a million times more depth than this film will ever aspire to.

    I really don't want everything that happened in the Trek that I have known to be written off or set into an alternate timeline. If you want to start again, just do that. Pick a new crew, pick a new timeframe and go for it.

    Another poster who suggested that Leonard Nimoy owned the scenes that he appeared in was completely correct. Zachary Quinto donned the wig, plucked his eyebrows and put on the ears, but he was playing Sylar.

    What was going on with banishing Kirk from the ship? That made no sense at all. It was inhuman. It was invulcan!

    Something needed to be done to Star Trek, but this was not it. Short-term, the masses might enjoy it, but long-term there is no substance upon which to build. Trek might rightly be criticised on many occasions for being slow or pompous, but this is another perfect example of everything that is wrong with the modern blockbuster.

    Cameras that move, close shots that deny the viewer a chance to gawp at the scale of what they are watching and the effort that has been taken to ensure that the visual details all hang together. These have been features of many recent blockbusters. These are the traps that were, largely, avoided by Batman Begins and Casino Royale, but they were traps that were fallen into to an extent by Quantum of Solace and spectacularly by The Dark Knight. Will film historians be debating the brilliance of these films in 40 years, or will they still be talking about 2001: A Space Odyssey?

    There is nothing wrong with action, but there has to be meaning there, or what's the point? The Dark Knight in particular rushed its action from one plot hole to another in a valiant effort to cover its still failed. Whilst the reviews were generally rave, I agreed with Mark Kermode [film critic for BBC radio and TV in the UK] was nothing special. A disappointing sequel to Batman Begins, which had more substance, better cinematography and a much more coherent plot and characters.

    Casino Royale was a roaring success and deserved every rave review it received because it avoided every trap that the previous Bond film, the awful Die Another Day, had fallen into. The pace was slower than many modern films, but would anyone suggest that it is not one of the best movies of recent years? Quantum of Solace crams in more action at a faster pace without taking steps to develop a complex plot properly. Its cinematography of the extreme close-up is painful in comparison to the time taken to ensure wide angle shots set the scene in Casino.

    Star Trek was always thought of as concentrating too hard on meaning and taking everything too seriously at the expense of tension and action, but this wasn't the answer. Somehow the attempt to reboot skipped Casino Royale or Batman Begins and landed slap bang in the middle of the worst excesses of The Dark Knight.

    Justin Lee Collins just tried to bring back Star Trek, [a programme recently on Channel 4 in the UK] I now hope that someone else follows suit.

    The flim lost me in the endless action. What I really can't understand is that when Lucas took Star Wars down the same road, he was rightly slated by the critics. There is no story and regardless of the pointless time-travel alternate timeline backstory for the reboot, there are far too many inconsistencies with classic Star Trek to be explained away.

    My whole argument is that it is possible to have action and a story...the best example being Casino Royale. It is possible to have characters that have depth. It is possible to keep a modern audience's attention without 17 jump cuts in 14 seconds and 4 explosions!

    Paying a lot more attention to Deep Space Nine might have helped, particularly as there didn't seem to be a single idea in the film that wasn't "borrowed" from another science fiction franchise. Some ideas might have been new to Star Trek, but they were not new ideas. If you're going to borrow on that sort of scale, why not borrow from your own past?
  12. Search4

    Search4 Captain Captain

    Mar 15, 2008
    New York City
    Back to the original thought: you are correct. The movie moves nicely along, but is badly in need of a plot. And more coherence.

    AND i for one would like to see if the 23rd century could invent the TRIPOD, related to the TRICORDER, which is used to hold a camera STRAIGHT AND STEADY. I really can't understand why they would pay $mm for effects and then make them almost unrecognizable by shaking the non-existant camera.
  13. shakov

    shakov Lieutenant

    Dec 27, 2007
    Washington DC
    There was nothing to save. All the trek movies have plot issues when you stop to think about it. This movie was a fun, exciting, and worthy of star trek. In the end it is a movie, not real. Enjoy it.
  14. Amaris

    Amaris Abiding Eos Premium Member

    Dec 25, 2002
    United States
    Save it from what? Success?
    We already did that with Nemesis.

  15. RoJoHen

    RoJoHen Awesome Premium Member

    Apr 14, 2000
    QC, IL, USA
    I loved the movie, but I will say that script probably could have used some revising. I don't think Trekkers need to have anything to do with it; we certainly weren't necessary to "save" it, but I agree that a lot of things happen because the story requires them to happen, not necessarily because it was the natural or logical course for events to take.

    Kirk hiding under the bed, for example, is absurdly convenient. But you know what? The scene was funny, so it didn't really matter.

    I definitely think the script was far from perfect, and the actual progression of the storyline was kind of choppy in places, but I don't think it was enough to take away from the enjoyment of it. The movie was so fun and exciting most of the time that it was easy to overlook the bad parts.

    And yeah, some of the music was kinda lame. Especially the very beginning when the Narada shows up. It was like they were sitting around going, "Okay, we need some really generic bad guy music."
  16. Tuxedo Dragon

    Tuxedo Dragon Ensign Red Shirt

    May 4, 2009
    You lost me here. Dark Knight has been heavily praised by critics. And almost made Begins an afterthought. Not to mention that it grossed tons of money. Any attempt to call it a dissapointment seems far fetched.

    Dark Knight had a great story and was far from just an action flick.. It was a multi layered crime drama. And will be considered one of the best movies of this decade, at the very least. Its arguably the best comic book movie ever. And diffinitly the best Batman movie.
  17. Anticitizen

    Anticitizen Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Nov 16, 2008
    Black Mesa Research Facility
    DFScott, do you write professionally? You have a good wit and quite a way with words.

    I agree with everything you said. I think the film's weaknesses could have been resolved fairly easily without gutting its strengths.

    The first thing I'd change is Kirk's ridiculously convenient run-in with Old Spock. Have Kirk find the outpost first, and Spock's already there. That would at least make a LITTLE sense.
  18. Joker

    Joker Vice Admiral Admiral

    Dec 28, 2005
    The North
    "Trekkers" should not be allowed near any Star Trek production, ever, unless it's to watch it.
  19. Sky

    Sky Captain Captain

    Feb 9, 2009
    I think the original poster has excellent points. Of course he will be ridiculed here (anything critical of the film will), but I do hope there is room for discussion in the midst of all the eyerolling and jeering.
  20. urbandk

    urbandk Commodore Commodore

    Aug 20, 2008
    DFW, Texas
    Yes, we fans of the new movie are all mindless sheep following holy JJ.