Saturday, June 20, 2009

I Approve of Vulcan Bullies

The recent film reboot of the Star Trek franchise includes credits for three characters described as "Vulcan Bullies". This single fact captures why the movie is so much more enjoyable than any of the previous installments (film or television) in the series.

I've never really been much of a Star Trek fan. The posited future in which the stories take place has always been, to a greater or lesser extent, too antiseptic, too optimistic, too sexless, and too humorless to be believable or even enjoyable. Okay, so the ultimate goodness, generosity, and wisdom of the human race has finally created an egalitarian society in which war is nonexistent and money is unnecessary, because everyone learned to stop being greedy, too. First of, that sounds like an environment just ripe with interesting conflicts that can be leveraged for producing exciting stories, doesn't it? Second of all...HA! Tell me another one! Until now, Trek has taken place in a universe in which everyone finishes first in their class at Starfleet Academy, in which no one is a ditch digger, and which is apparently devoid of nasty things like slums, slaughterhouses, and Vulcan bullies. It's been more of a vehicle for tedious moralizing about the potential of humankind than something...well, fun and watchable.

That's not to say that J.J. Abrams' new version is as gritty a space story as, say, Alien, but at least the environment looks a bit lived-in. The movie is often funny, occasionally even sexy, and almost uniformly enjoyable. Some of the casting decisions seem a little odd at first, but I would say they pretty much all work. Simon Pegg (of Shaun of the Dead fame) is fun as Scotty, although every time I saw John Cho as Sulu I wondered where the helmsman keeps his weed. Special props to Zachary Quinto as Spock and Chris Pine as Kirk. The latter tackles the old swaggering-young-hotshot chestnut and manages to keep it fresh, a non-trivial accomplishment.

I'm continually frustrated by the prevailing studio business model of producing so many sequels and remakes of existing properties, but I'm not dogmatic about it and even I will admit that occasionally there is a franchise that can use a reboot. I think Dawn of the Dead warranted being remade with modern production values, just because in my opinion George Romero's ambitious reach tended to exceeded his frankly rather limited grasp (both in terms of budget and simple filmmaking ability). Similarly, I think that Star Trek has definitely been improved by being revisited. Let's hope they manage to get a few good movies out with this cast and setting before it gets lame.


  1. Oh - I assure you it will get very lame very fast. At warp speed, if you will.

    As a fan of previous Trek efforts (though few of the films)I agree that this Star Trek film was a lot of fun, and I feel that Abrams and the writers generally were right on target.

    If you haven't seen the Deep Space Nine series, it's worth checking out. Certainly not as gritty as Alien, but at least not all the characters graduated top of their class from the Academy. :)

  2. BTW, update yer profile. :)