We recently rewatched all the Prime-continuity Star Trek movies. Since there’s a lot of them, rather than doing a full write-up on each one, we sat down afterwards just to have a conversation about what we noticed from going through all of them at a go. Here’s the highlights from our discussion:
Erik: I think my biggest takeaway from watching all the Star Trek movies again is mow much I dislike Kirk.
Eppu: Oh god, yes.
Erik: I was never a big Kirk fan. Spock was always my guy, but I could tolerate him back when I was watching the original series as a kid. Now I can’t stand him.
Eppu: I think they actually wrote Kirk in a way that’s less annoying for the movies than in the original series. That said, he annoys the living daylights out of me.
Erik: I also got the impression that they Kirked up Picard for the Next Generation movies. He was more of the action-take-charge guy.
Eppu: Well, he did throw punches around.
Erik: Which is not a very Picard thing to do.
Eppu: One thing that made Kirk more tolerable is that there was not all of that incessant womanizing that he did in the original series. God, that was annoying!
Erik: They did a little of that in Star Trek 4 with Gillian the whale scientist, but it was nowhere near as awful as in the original series.
Eppu: Yeah, and in the end, she decided, she was like: “Yeah, nope, no thanks.”
Erik: She Kirked out on him.
Eppu: She did. I have no idea whether the writing rooms had anything to do with that or just the changing times.
Erik: Speaking of changing times, it was interesting to go through movies that are mostly only a few years apart and see how the visuals, technology, special effects, costumes and so on changed.
Eppu: I was thinking the same thing. To begin with, The Motion Picture had a surprisingly good set of special effects.
Erik: For the time, yeah, it did.
Eppu: A combination of miniatures and matte painting and computerized effects. It worked.
Erik: Especially compared with other films of that era, it was impressive.
Eppu: Also, it made me appreciate how tv series get much more support today than twenty to thirty years ago, because Babylon 5‘s special effects are, shall we say…
Erik: They have not aged well.
Eppu: No, they have not, and they come from roughly the same period.
Erik: Something else I noticed on watching through is that most of the movies had villains, but there were a couple that didn’t. The Motion Picture and The Voyage Home had problems but not villains. I’ve always thought that Star Trek doesn’t really do villains very well. A few exceptions, but for the most part it’s not a villain show, it’s a problem show.
Eppu: Well, nowadays, and I’m just speaking of my impression, it seems that it is rare to have problem movies, they’re all villain movies. I wonder if this is a reflection of our time, since we seem to be living through a time where opposition is very prevalent and prominent. It also sort of ties into what I noticed about the movies with respect to the women they portrayed. It was not very common for the Bechdel-Wallace test to be passed.
Erik: No, it wasn’t.
Eppu: But the earlier movies did better than the later ones in that respect. There has been a shift. We might see more women on screen now or they might get more screen time, but they don’t talk to other women as much as they did thirty years ago, and I wonder if that shift goes along with the us vs. them, evil vs. good, bad guys vs. good guys, the oppositional attitude.
Erik: Maybe there is something more stark, more oppositional in the world today that doesn’t fit the old Star Trek mode of cooperation, problem-solving, and the ensemble.
Eppu: Right, which was one of the fabulous things about the old Star Trek. And now the reboots have been turned into modern action movies and it just doesn’t read quite right. They look pretty, but they don’t quite look like Star Trek.
Erik: Star Trek was always about ideas. That’s what made it work, whether it was good or bad, it was about ideas and the reboot Star Trek, there’s no ideas there, it’s just action and shooting things.
Eppu: Yeah, and don’t even let me start about that “red matter,” the most precious substance in the universe that you have a huge globe of and use a teeny bit of.
Erik: As much as Star Trek has always had imaginary nonsense radiation that does plot convenient things, it has also had at least a nodding relationship with science and logic.
Eppu: The reboot seems to be handwaving more things aside. And if even us humanities people can figure that out, I would like to hear from some scientists. Another thought, with regard to the “villain instead of a problem” in a movie: if we indeed are nowadays seeing villain movies and not problem movies, predominantly, what does that say about the current state of storytelling in the movie business? It’s incredibly limited.
Erik: I thought of a good recent problem movie.
Eppu: Do tell.
Erik: The Martian
Eppu: Yes! The Martian was brilliant.
Erik: The Martian does some of the things that Star Trek used to do so well.
Eppu: And yet it most clearly was not a Star Trek copy.
Erik: But it has that same focus on solving a problem, not fighting a villain, people pulling together, working together, everyone using their own strengths to achieve a goal.
Eppu: US movies especially seem to fall into this trap so often, if it’s a man and it’s an action movie, there has to be fisticuffs, and its so fricking tiresome. Haven’t you beaten that horse to death already?
Erik: With your bare hands!
Eppu: Indeed! So, another thing that The Martian did really well.
Erik: Yes, a movie free of fisticuffs.
So, on that note we look forward to Star Trek Beyond, opening tomorrow, with hope for more problems, more working together, and less fisticuffs. We’ll see if our hopes are satisfied.
In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.