Category Archives: JJ-Verse

“Star Trek Beyond”

Glad to see my "no more running in the hallways" general order is being followed.
Glad to see my “no more running in the hallways” general order is being followed.

It’s three years or so since we’ve seen the reboot crew. The Enterprise is in the middle of its 5-year mission, and Kirk feels somewhat lost, almost “episodic.” The young captain has quietly applied to be an admiral with a desk job and Spock is applying to be an ambassador to help his beleaguered people. The ship puts in at the new and quite impressive Starbase Yorktown, and is then called away to an uncharted planet obscured by a nebula. Once there, the ship is savagely attacked by a swarm of ships that first destroys the ship’s nacelles (!) and then, cuts the saucer from the star drive (!!). The saucer eventually crashes on the planet with most of the surviving crew captured — leaving only Kirk and Chekov (in one group), McCoy and Spock (in another) and Scotty free. The perpetrator is Krall (Idris Elba) a nasty-looking dude who seems to have strong opinions about the Federation’s ideals and expansion. Scotty meets Jaylah, (Sofia Boutella) a youngish woman in hiding on the planet after escaping from Krall’s forces. She takes Scotty to an old Federation ship, the U.S.S. Franklin, thought lost more than a century earlier, that’s apparently abandoned on the planet. Eventually, Kirk and Chekov and later McCoy and Spock meet up with Scotty, and the group uses the Franklin’s transporters and Kirk on a motorcycle (because, of course) to rescue the crew. Turns out Krall attacked the Enterprise to steal an artifact the ship was carrying — Krall was tapping into Starfleet’s computers for a while — that can unleash a nasty weapon native to the planet. Krall escapes during the rescue attempt and his swarm heads for Yorktown. The Enterprise crew is able to get the derelict Franklin to work (hmmm) and disrupts the swarm’s signal with a radio signal — playing “Sabotage” in a nice callback to the 2009 reboot — but Krall is able to get into Yorktown. Around this time, Kirk figures out that Krall is actually the former captain of the Franklin, Balthazar Edison, marooned on the planet and embittered by his lack of rescue. He apparently discovered some ancient secrets there to prolonging his life and then, set upon his plan. He gets into Yorktown’s air system, where Kirk eventually stops him — releasing him into space before he releases the ancient weapon. With Yorktown saved, the crew celebrates — and Kirk and Spock decide to stick around for construction of their new ship … the Enterprise-A.

We get it, it's a comment about the rise of drone warfare in the 21st century.
We get it, it’s a comment about the rise of drone warfare in the 21st century.

Why it’s important

Well, first and foremost, the Enterprise crew prevents a really nasty villain with an even nastier weapon from killing millions at Yorktown and then from (probably) going onto attack the rest of the Federation. It also indicates the growth of the Federation, by the fact that Krall is so enraged by its activities. Beyond that, one Enterprise is destroyed and another is being built, and Kirk and Spock decide to stick together — even though neither of them knew the other had plans to break up the band.

We also get a little more knowledge about the Federation’s early days. Apparently, more ships were launched after Archer’s Enterprise, and former MACOs (who featured prominently in Enterprise’s last two seasons) became part of Starfleet, with Edison rising to become a ship’s captain. It’s interesting that in dialog with Kirk, Edison mentions the Romulans and the Xindi — who had not been referenced in the other two reboot films or (of course) the Trek produced prior to the early 2000s. It was a good nod at continuity, that humanity’s apparent peace-making with the Xindi and (maybe?) the Romulans actually irked Balthazar and led, in part, to his becoming Krall.

And, of course, the film covers the death of Prime Spock to coincide with the 2015 death of Leonard Nimoy.

Explosions, jumping, motorcyles... and it's still a good Trek film?!
Explosions, jumping, motorcyles … and it’s still a good Trek film?!

What doesn’t hold up

Having seen the film just once (obviously, in the theater) it’s possible that we’ll miss something. The film’s biggest conceit is probably that the 100-year-old Franklin would be so easily repaired and space worthy to get Kirk and Co. to Yorktown in time. I guess you could argue that Jaylah and (briefly) Scotty had been repairing it, but that’s still a stretch. Also, just how close was the nebula that contained the planet to Yorktown? It must have been somewhat far away never to have been explored — but it appears that the Franklin gets there on impulse.

The business around the artifact is problematic, too. Keep in mind that it was the gift Kirk tried to give to the weird gremlin aliens at the beginning of the film. What if he had succeeded? Did Krall begin his plan only after he knew it failed and that the artifact was being stored in the Enterprise’s vault? Was he just lucky that the Enterprise was putting in at a nearby starbase? It seems like Krall’s efforts would have taken some time-consuming planning.

They seriously couldn't find a planet to build all this on?
They seriously couldn’t find a planet to build all this on?

Final thoughts

I really, really liked this movie. It might not stand up to subsequent viewings, but it seems like the TOS crew’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” or the TNG crew’s “Star Trek: First Contact”.

“Beyond” abandons a lot of the bad action-movie cliches from the previous two films (notably lens flares and unnecessary running through corridors — though the ridiculous number of costume changes continued). But I think I was most impressed by the way the film showed character’s growth and even their aging. “Into Darkness” portrayed the crew as still young and inexperienced, which worked in the first reboot but felt stale in the second. In “Beyond”, by starting the film with soul-searching by Kirk — an interesting choice, given Kirk in TOS didn’t soul-search unless his career was threatened — we see the an emotional undercurrent that ties the film together. Kirk in the reboots is more self-reflective at a younger age than prime Kirk was.

It also was nice to see the creators give everyone something to do this time around. “Into Darkness” largely ignored several characters, notably McCoy. Here, we see the trope of breaking characters into sub-groups to see how they’ll interact (Spock and McCoy, Kirk and Chekov, etc.). And while that is a trope, it works.

Last thought: I was sort of hoping that Edison, in his final scene with Kirk, would regain his humanity and help save Yorktown — rather than using a piece of glass to stab Kirk. That said, it wasn’t a horrible choice, and going the other way could have been overly schmaltzy.

We’ll see how “Beyond” ages upon subsequent viewings. But at this point, the creators should be given props for putting a really good movie that has the requisite action while also staying true to the spirit of TOS.


Coming … later?

“Star Trek: Discovery” is slated to debut in 2017. We might be back — but we haven’t really decided. Until then, thanks for reading — and peace and long life.

“Star Trek Into Darkness”

I want Harrison found. Even if we have to build some sort of half-man, half-robot cop to bring him in... dead or alive. We'll call it a Coporobot or a Robocop...
“I want Harrison found. Even if we have to build some sort of half-man, half-robot cop to bring him in … dead or alive. We’ll call it a Coporobot …”

Kirk’s being all Kirk and violating the Prime Directive (some things are constant, despite reboots). Starfleet gets pissed and demotes him to commander and gives the Enterprise back to Pike. At about the same time, a Starfleet installation in London is bombed, thanks to a shady-looking character who seems well-suited to solving 19th-century mysteries (Benedict Cumberbatch). Turns out the bombing was a ploy (or something) to get all of Starfleet’s top dogs in one place so the shady-looking character (identified as Commander John Harrison) can attack the meeting room. Pike and others are killed, Kirk eventually thwarts the attack but Harrison escapes. Harrison apparently used Scotty’s transwarp beaming technique (seen in the previous movie) to get to the Klingon homeworld. Kirk convinces Starfleet Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) to give him back the Enterprise to pursue Harrison, and Marcus gives Kirk some super-duper torpedoes to attack Harrison’s position on Kronos. Spock objects to the out-and-out assassination, and Kirk eventually decides to try to apprehend Harrison instead. After a short battle with some Klingons, in which Harrison kicks some major ass, he learns about the number of torpedoes the Enterprise is carrying and surrenders.

Soylent Torpedos... are people!!!
Soylent torpedoes … are people!!!

Turns out, Harrison is actually Khan Noonien Singh (shocking no one) and, after Marcus discovered him (presumably on his sleeper ship) he helped Marcus design the torpedoes and stashed his 72 genetically engineered buddies inside them. Meanwhile, the Enterprise is having engine problems and is unable to leave Klingon space. Marcus shows up in what amounts to a Starfleet warship — apparently, developed in secret by Marcus with Khan’s help — and demands Kirk turn over Khan. Kirk, realizing that Marcus is operating without authorization, refuses and sets course for Earth to put Khan on trial. Marcus attacks, pulling the Enterprise out of warp, and Kirk and Khan board Marcus’ ship (with stowaway Scotty’s help) to prevent further attacks.

Chekov told me that if you put a Tribble on the wall in the first act it must bring the captain back to life by the third act.
“Chekov told me that if you put a Tribble on the wall in the first act it must bring the captain back to life by the third act.”

They stop Marcus (Khan kills him) but Khan takes control of Marcus’ ship, demanding that Spock turn over the torpedoes. He does so, but arms them — after removing Khan’s people — and Marcus’ ship crash lands on Earth. Meanwhile, Kirk sacrifices himself to save the Enterprise from burning up in Earth’s atmosphere. An enraged Spock (hmmm) pursues Khan and eventually stops him with Uhura’s help — and McCoy uses a blood transfusion from Khan to save Kirk (hmmm, again). Khan is put into stasis with the rest of his people and Kirk and Co. embark on a 5-year mission … to explore strange new worlds.

Why it’s important

Well, Kirk and Co. stave off a Starfleet takeover by Marcus (one that stems from his paranoia following the destruction of Vulcan) and stop Khan from doing … whatever he would have done had he freed his genetically engineered posse. Of course, Kirk goes from goat to hero again — echoing a theme from the previous movie — and his heroism eventually leads to the Enterprise being sent on the first of Starfleet’s 5-year missions.

Tonight's movie... Godfather Part III
“Tonight’s movie … ‘Godfather Part III’.”

What doesn’t hold up

Get comfortable.

In our review of the previous film, we noted that its biggest flaws stemmed from bad logic and action-movie cliches. Still, the 2009 movie was a good one, in our eyes.

The opposite is true for this movie. The action-movie cliches and bad logic overwhelm the good.

The first quarter of the movie is mostly OK. The fact that a “cold fusion device” freezes a volcano in the movie’s opening scene is kinda dumb, but whatever. The stuff with Kirk and Pike — further establishing their relationship in one of the highlights of the reboot — was good. Chris Pine and Bruce Greenwood bring their A games (though Kirk is cavalier even for Kirk considering he falsified reports). The problems start around the time Kirk gets the Enterprise back to hunt for Harrison/Khan.

The first issue, and probably the film’s worst, is how the Enterprise is hanging in Klingon space for the better part of a day without any sort of response. True, the Klingons attack Kirk’s party on the planet, but the fact that the Enterprise (and, then, Marcus’ ship) are there and we see nothing from the Klingons is just, well, laughable. For all the talk of hostilities with the Klingons gearing up, this is just a ridiculous oversight. Even if the Enterprise and Marcus’ ship hid effectively — there’s no dialogue indicating that they took special measures — wouldn’t the fact that humans clearly attacked the Klingon homeworld get the Klingons to declare war?

“It’s going to take a few seconds to get the coordinates from Mr. Sulu. Going to warp isn’t like dusting crops, boy …”

There’s also the matter of how warp is different in the rebooted films. Throughout prime Star Trek, warp was something that allowed ships to move fast, but not cross vast distances in mere moments. This was sort of an issue in the previous movie, but it really seems off here, when getting from Kronos to Earth seemingly takes minutes. Of all the creative choices in the reboots, this is my least favorite. It makes Trek more like Star Wars, and it’s not a choice that strengthens the films.

There’s also the issue of Khan’s people being in the torpedoes Marcus gives Kirk to use on Khan. Simply put, this doesn’t make any sense — unless Marcus was unaware, and it seems like he knew. Why not provide the Enterprise with the heavy-duty torpedoes without Khan’s people inside them? Without their presence, Khan likely wouldn’t have (temporarily) helped Kirk and foiled Marcus’ plan.

The script writer failed the Bechdel test 3 times before he reprogrammed the simulators to get this character into her underwear... sigh.
The script writer failed the Bechdel test three times before he reprogrammed the simulators to get this character into her underwear … sigh.

There’s also the matter of Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) a Starfleet officer (breaking from the previous timeline) and the admiral’s daughter who boards the Enterprise to (I guess?) stop the use of the torpedoes before they leave Earth. But, how would she even know about them — or about what her father was doing at that particular time? And how easy is it for just anyone (even an extremely attractive anyone) to get onto Starfleet’s most advanced ship without orders? Frankly, Carol Marcus’ presence seems needless and an excuse to have a hot blond in Kirk’s orbit who is also a callback to the original movies. The underwear scene, really, was completely unnecessary.

There are also some weird lines of dialog between Kirk and McCoy about Kirk apparently having health problems. This happens right after Pike’s death, so it at first seems that McCoy is checking out how his friend is dealing with the tragedy. But McCoy says that Kirk’s “vitals are all over the place” right after they board the Enterprise. Was something cut from the film? Was that foreshadowing for the next movie?

Also, the whole matter with Spock beaming to Earth to stop Khan makes very little sense. Even putting aside Spock’s over-the-top emotions, why wouldn’t he bring a security squad along? The day is saved when Uhura beams down and helps bring Khan in … but why didn’t Spock take more people to begin with?

There’s also the ridiculous lack of security allowing Scotty to infiltrate Marcus’ ship. Even if we figure Scotty is an engineering genius, there’s just no way that a secure installation (in the Terran System) would not notice his shuttle. Hell, how did Scotty get a shuttle in the first place?

Oh, and where the hell is the rest of Starfleet as Marcus’ ship attacks the Enterprise? This is an ongoing problem in Star Trek (as we’ve discussed) but it really stands out here. Even if you figure that Marcus has fooled or is controlling Starfleet, two massive ships attacking each other couldn’t go unnoticed. Granted, this isn’t just a problem with the rebooted movies, but it’s still a problem that could have been solved if the battle occurred in a more remote location before the two ships raced to Earth.

Finally, the bit about Khan’s blood having magical healing powers was just dumb — and if the powers were the result of his genetic enhancements, why didn’t McCoy just take a transfusion from one of the 72 other genetically enhanced people on the Enterprise?

I could keep going, but you get the idea.

Well, one more thing. The first movie’s reboot takes care a lot of the inconsistencies. But Khan, who was in power about 250 years before Nero’s ship destroyed the Kelvin, was not a British dude. He was Indian and had a very different personality than what we see here. Of course, Carol Marcus has become British in the J.J. verse, too …

I haven't been, and never will be... your friend.
“I haven’t been, and never will be … your friend.”

Final thoughts

If you couldn’t tell, I didn’t care much for this movie. Looking past the logical/goofiness problems above the fan service is just too much. Spock yelling “Khaaaaan!” in a nod toward “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” is the best example, because a more subtle recreation of Spock’s death in that movie (with Kirk dying this time) could have been done well. Instead, it’s heavy-handed and dumb.

There are some overly obvious moments, too, like Kirk just happening to notice McCoy injecting Khan’s blood into a dead Tribble (as a way to set up what happens later).

And there are weird timing and editing issues. Kirk tells Chekov to “put on a red shirt” and take over for a relieved-of-duty Scotty — apparently there are no other engineers on board — and within a minute or two, Chekov is in engineering in a red shirt. There’s also an odd scene where Spock asks Kirk to accompany him to Kronos only to have Kirk TELL Spock he wants him along a few minutes later.

Granted, there’s a LOT of plot in this movie, so some things needed to be cut. Of course with all the unnecessary running by main characters — seriously, can’t someone grab a communicator instead of sprinting to the bridge? — the pacing already felt rushed. And with scenes created almost specifically to be used in video games (Kirk and Khan’s spacesuit trip to Marcus’ ship, Spock’s pursuit of Khan on floating thingys on Earth) the action-movie nature of “Into Darkness” supersedes it’s good parts.

Coming next time …

That dude from “The Wire” shows up as Trek returns to theaters.

“Star Trek” (2009)

Commander Spock, does Starfleet's vision plan cover repeated exposure to high intensity lens flare?
“Commander Spock, does Starfleet’s vision plan cover repeated exposure to high-intensity lens flares?”

A weird-looking Romulan vessel appears in what we learn later is the early 23rd century, looking for someone named “Ambassador Spock.” The ship attacks a Starfleet vessel and later destroys it while one of its officers stays behind and sacrifices himself to buy the survivors time to escape. That officer is George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth, Thor), and his wife Winona (Jennifer Morrison, that one doctor from “House”) escapes and gives birth to a child — James Tiberius — on a shuttle. Star Trek is, now, reset and rebooted.


Fast-forward 20-some years and James Kirk (Chris Pine) is a troubled dude getting in bar fights with Starfleet cadets. A Starfleet captain, Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), comes upon Kirk, figures out who his farther was and encourages Kirk to join Starfleet. Three years later, Kirk is about to graduate from Starfleet Academy and goes with the just-launched Enterprise, along with Pike, Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the rest of the gang from TOS, minus a certain Scottsman. Vulcan is under attack by the same weird-looking ship from earlier, and it destroys Vulcan(!) and all but a handful of its people. With Pike imprisoned on the Romulan ship and interrogated by Captain Nero (Eric Bana) Spock takes command and puts Kirk off the ship on a nearby planet, where he meets … original Spock (Leonard Nimoy), whom Nero put on the planet so he could watch Vulcan’s destruction. Turns out Nero is mad at Spock because Spock’s plan to save Romulus from a supernova in the prime reality failed. Nero then chased Spock back in time (or something). Prime Spock and Kirk head to a Starfleet outpost on the planet staffed by Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg) who’s able to beam himself and Kirk onto the Enterprise, despite the great distance. Kirk and Spock work together to stop Nero from doing to Earth what he did to Vulcan, destroying Nero’s ship after saving Pike. Kirk is then given the Enterprise and Spock becomes his first officer, and the Enterprise’s mission begins anew.

I would have words with thee.
“I would have words with thee.”

Why it’s important

Well, we learn a bit more about what happened in our prime reality — Romulus was destroyed, Spock was still around to help, etc. — possibly because of his involvement with the Romulans way back in TNG, though that’s never explained. But, really, this is a movie about resetting the Star Trek universe while maintaining much of what we know and love.

"A supernova threatened the universe." "A lie?" "An... embellishment."
“A supernova threatened the galaxy.” “A lie?” “An … embellishment.”

And, frankly, as a concept and as execution, it mostly works. If you’re going to reboot Star Trek, well, you’d better damn well reboot it. So, hats off to J.J. Abrams and his team for going all in and having a time-travel reset to address many of the inconsistencies that otherwise would have been called out by those darn Trek geeks. Bastards.

As a result, this was a good concept and a good film. What doesn’t work is more about bad logic on smaller points and some action-movie cliches — most of which were not necessitated by the reboot concept.

What doesn’t hold up

We’ll just say, right away, that the fact that Chris Pine looks different than William Shatner and Simon Pegg looks different than James Doohan, etc., etc., are conceits that we’ll shrug off. The technology stuff — particularly the Star Wars-esque/rough-around-the-edges inconsistencies we see, especially in the engineering section of the Enterprise — are harder to ignore. But we’ll do it, anyway. As we noted in our run through the prime reality, the fact that Archer’s Enterprise looked more advanced than Kirk’s was something that you just had to look past.


No, the worst parts about this movie and “Star Trek Into Darkness” stem from bad science, bad logic and too many runs down corridors filled with lens flares.

Somehow, going to warp in the rebooted movies is more like going to light speed in Star Wars, which is really strange, given that Star Trek always used journeys at warp as a way for the characters to take a beat. Beyond that, the idea that the supernova in the prime reality was going to “destroy the galaxy” — noted in a Nimoy voiceover — was just awful. A supernova might have affected a single solar system. The worst part about the line is that it didn’t need to be there, as the threat never materialized beyond Romulus.

Oh, and what’s the deal with Nero’s ship? It’s some sort of a drill, but it’s original purpose is never explained. He’s some sort of a miner … and the ship can destroy entire planets?

There are also some weird logical gaffes — the worst of which is the idea that Nero’s ship was apparently just sitting some place, waiting for Spock for 30 YEARS while Nero and his crew were in a Klingon prison. Even a line about how he and his men recovered the ship from its hiding place would have gone a long way. I know there were deleted scenes with Nero in the prison camp, but none I saw addressed this really major point. The ship should have been in Klingon control, right? And, if it was, why didn’t the Klingons tear it apart for its technology?

Genesis. Give it to me... Oops wrong choking scene.
“Genesis. Give it to me … Oops, wrong choking scene.”

And, of course, the sprints through the Enterprise corridors and the lens flares were over the top. I don’t mind the idea that Trek movies have to be more action packed than Trek TV shows (they almost always were, pre-J.J.). But the action-movie cliches and faulty logic aren’t necessary or helpful.

Finally,  the idea that Kirk would get promoted from cadet to captain at the end of the film — considering that he was nearly drummed out of Starfleet earlier — was a little too precious, even if it did set up the cool moment with Kirk taking command and Spock becoming first officer. This is sort of addressed in the next film when it’s clear Starfleet’s keeping a close eye on Kirk, but still. I’m not sure what would have made more sense, but I think the creators could have simply left it at Kirk being honored for his actions.

New Federation Times Bestseller -- From Cadet to Captain: How to climb the Starfleet Career Ladder by James T. Kirk
New Federation Times Bestseller — “From Cadet to Captain: How to Climb the Starfleet Career Ladder” by James T. Kirk

Final thoughts

Complaints aside, I really do like the reboot. Pine, Quinto, etc., were all well cast and the look and feel of the ship is pretty strong (though I don’t get the shipboard uniforms versus the uniforms on Earth). Occasionally, the characters and actors were too campy AND the film strays too much into back-story database territory, particularly for Spock. But … I suppose a reboot’s gotta be a reboot and the characters need to be explained to new audiences. Abrams did do well addressing continuity for the characters, even with the reboot.

Plus, bringing Nimoy back was a great bit of fan service. Now, someone is wondering why I’m not bringing up the time travel inconsistencies — i.e., how could prime Spock still even exist. Given that time travel went off the rails in second-generation Trek with effect predating cause, etc., I don’t think we have to hold J.J. and company to higher standards.

Coming next time …

The second rebooted movie. I guess in the J.J. Verse, the even-numbered films are the bad ones.