I did it. I boldly went where I haven’t gone before. Yes, I went to Star Trek last night. I am not going to write some kind of thorough analysis of the movie because there are plenty of people way better equipped than me to do that. When I say boldly went to the movie, I do mean boldly because I have to tell you right now that I have never been interested in Star Trek, cared about Star Trek, or thought about Star Trek. It’s not my kind of scene, not my kind of movie, but I figured it would at least look cool and have some killer explosions so I’d see it.
Indeed, the movie does have incredibly awesome special effects. Visually, the movie is a stunner, color smeared graphics, amazingly gorgeous explosions, and neat looking technology. I particularly loved the way Vulcan looks with its architecture that seems to grow straight out of the rocks and be part of the planet itself. Vulcan looks particularly spectacular when it implodes into a black hole. Wow, it’s like an anti-orgasm in space. I adore the Evil Cephalopod Romulan spaceship. It’s like a big black monstrous alien squid terrorizing space. The Alien Cephalopod also looks particularly spectacular when it gets sucked into a black hole and then blown to bits. Nothing like a giant evil cephlapod spaceship blowing the fuck up for a little eye candy. In fact, it could be determined from this movie that everything and anything that gets sucked into a black hole looks spectacular. Let it be noted.
The curious thing for me is how a movie that looks so spectacular still managed to bore the daylights out of me for large portions of it. I mean, shit blows up, and there is no shortage of action sequences so why was I bored? In thinking about it, I realize that the action sequences aren’t really action sequences. They’re more like “let’s execute strategies with technology” sequences. It’s not flat out action, but action with a purpose and structure, and that bores me. My interest in the movie was dampened by the frenetic yet purposeful actions of the crew and their constant proclamations to “shoot this” and “activate that” and “deploy this” and “initiate that” and “decipher this” and “analyze that.” And let’s not forget the “go full thrusters ahead.” (Let’s pause for a moment and laugh at the giant phallic Enterprise which it’s shaft and head going full thrust through space.) In other words, action sequences with a purpose bore me. I’m much more of the anarchistic cinephile who prefers blowing shit the fuck up without logic. Logical action is dull. I guess I wouldn’t make a very good Spock.
Speaking of Spock, the thing that saved this movie for me and enabled me to sit through the entire 126 minutes even though I often was bored out of my mind were the characters. I will admit that the casting is great and that the characters are a lot of fun to watch. Even though most of the characters are guys in tight little suits running around on a spaceship dealing with their issues, they are all characters who are exceptionally likable. Oddly and totally unexpectedly, I enjoyed spending time with them. This is a funny for me to say since, as a general rule, I don’t like movies with likable characters. I tend to prefer movies with unlikable characters (or at least characters that wear their humanity like an ugly badge) or movies where characters resist identification. So it’s kind of ironic that the likable characters are what saved this movie for me. And getting back to Spock, let me tell you what. I LOVE HIM. He is so darn cute in this movie. And I was a total sucker for the scenes when he let’s his emotions leak out of his cold Vulcan exterior. I literally cried in the scenes when his mother died and when Uhura comforts him. And how about him and Uhura kissing? How sexy is that? I want Spock to love me!
Also tangentially related to Spock, can I tell you how tedious those space-time-continuum narratives are? How many times does that old trick have to be used in outerspace movies? But I guess Star Trek had to rely on that old gimmick so that Old Spock could meet the Young Spock. There is no way Old Spock could meet the Young Spock without one of those tired old space-time-continuum dealies. And Old Spock has to meet Young Spock so we can all get excited about seeing Leonard Nimoy on screen . . . as Spock! Of course, all I saw when I saw Leonard Nimoy were his nekid women photographs.
Oh and speaking of things that are overdone in the movie, let’s talk about the scene when Kirk is banished to the acrtic neverland (where he meets Old Spock!), and he is terrorized by that yucky monster. That scene is really scary! You want to know why it’s so scary? Because the vicious monster’s mouth looks like a big evil horrific vagina with its bright red labia trying to gobble up poor Kirk. Dear script writers and special-effects designers: Why is it that so many monsters in the movies (especially space narratives) look like scary vaginas? Wait. I have the answer. VAGINAS ARE SCARY. It must be that Penises Are From Earth and Vaginas Are From Outerspace. (Isn’t that a book?)
Regarding the movie’s final utopian note, with the peaceful happy community of the Enterprise heading into space for their next mission, I didn’t enjoy that at all. The candy-coated space Utopia In Space ending totally made me cringe. That whole Enterprise as utopian community with a mission thing is bullshit. I am way too much of an anarchist to buy that line of crap. I was like, “Oh please don’t lock me on a spaceship with the likable Enterprise crew all working together to accomplish their little save the universe missions.” Frankly, I don’t understand the Enterprise or Star Fleet or the Federation or any of that. I don’t understand how it relates to American imperialism (I mean, spreading democracy). It seems to me that earth always is somehow America in the Star Trek and that the Enterprise is America on its mission to spread democracy through space (which is probably why I resist the show on some gut level because it seems to idealize military intervention). I don’t understand Star Trek’s connection to the military or if it’s about the United Nations or really what it is about structurally. And I’m not invested in it enough to find out on my own, so if anyone would like to enlighten me, please do!
On a final note, I have to say that my primary experience of Star Trek was observing it while my Mom watched it when I was a kid. My mom loved the show, and every night it was on, she’d pop her “pain pill,” light up a Salem and kick back with Captain James T. Kirk. I guess it should be no surprise that my mom’s favorite character was Bones, the doctor. After all, the doctors prescribe the pills! Even though I only experienced the show from my peripheral vision, I apparently absorbed enough of the atmosphere to recognize the similarity in some of the scenes between the original TV show and the movie. For example, when Spock lands on Vulcan to try to save his family and the Elders, the movie totally had that strange feel of the original show when the characters would be transported (beamed) to strange planets that always seemed to be covered with a lot of dirt and rocks. The movie conveyed that surreal sense of being all alone in an alien dreamlike environment. I remember that sensation really tripping me out when I was it kid. It seems like there was always some character alone on a strange planet, holding his gun at his side, running through dirt and rocks, or hiding behind bizarre trees (e.g. just like in the Mojave desert outside Los Angeles). Same thing in the scene when Kirk and Spock are beamed onto the Bad Guy Romulan spaceship. That also totally had the feel of the original show when the crew members would land on the ship of the bad guys. Those scenes always conveyed a great feel of actually being in the Evil Lair of the Evil Fuckers who want to blow up the Enterprise. Not so surprisingly, I always thought the bad guys were way more interesting than the Enterprise crew. But oddly, that doesn’t work so well in the movie. Though the bad guys look kind of cool (tattooed skin heads in space), they are actually kind of boring, but maybe that’s because the Enterprise crew members are cast so well and so damn animated.
Anyway, I’m proud of myself for sitting through the whole movie and not walking out even though at times I was excruciatingly bored. I will admit that there are many fun moments in between the long drawn out action (e.g. strategic intervention) sequences. And I will also admit that for a movie like this, Star Trek is done really well. It’s an excellent production with great characters. The audience sure loved it. They gobbled it up and applauded loudly and enthusiastically at the end. Go figure.
KIM NICOLINI is an artist, poet and cultural critic. She lives in Tucson, Arizona with her daughter and a menagerie of beasts. She works a day job to support her art and culture habits. She is currently finishing a book-length essayistic memoir about being a teenage runaway in 1970s San Francisco. She can be reached at: email@example.com.