Saturday, June 15, 2013

Review Of Star Trek XI (2009)

I was pretty optimistic about this film for one reason only. Leonard Nimoy was in this movie and he approved the script. The writers stated that if Nimoy didn’t like it, they would have rewritten it so that Nimoy would end up liking that. The reviews came out only encourage my enthusiasm for some good trek which was rather missing throughout these years.

However I’m pretty disappointed about this movie and I’m not too sure why Nimoy endorsed it. I believe this script had potential to be a great movie but in the end I felt it was rushed.

I’m going to differ this review with other people by offering solutions to the problems, by pointing out how most of the problems of this movie can be easily solved by a little proof reading or embellishing establish themes in this movie and that it wouldn’t have require drastic changes to fix this movie.

Kirk sucks

I didn’t like Kirk’s character and thought he was a jerk. He destroyed a vintage car for no particular reason. He harasses Uhura for no reason. He gets into pointless fights with security guards for no reason.

However I do know that since this is a change history and Kirk shouldn’t behave like the Captain Kirk we knew from TOS. I would have accepted this if somewhere along the lines he realised that he is behaving like a jerk and grows up and become the Kirk we know and love. I also don’t mind him being showed a jerk if they showed him to be an intelligent person that shows some early signs why he has the potential to be a great Captain.

The problem is that Captain Kirk at the end of the movie was the same as the Kirk at the beginning.

This movie was about how Kirk became a 3rd year cadet to become the Captain of the Enterprise after a single incident. This movie relied on the fact that Kirk does something extraordinary that earns him the captaincy.

However at no point in the movie did we see Kirk do anything to deserve being Captain of the Enterprise. He never showed any sort of leadership ability at all.

The only few helpful things he done in this movie was to warn Pike about Vulcan being attacked and relieving Spock from command and decided to pursue Nero’s ship by himself and then offer Spock fire support at the end as Spock saved the day. That’s not much.

When Kirk decided to pursue Nero, I was thinking what great plan he has up his sleaves to take on Nero.

It turns out his plan was this:

Chekov: “Based on the Nerada’s course from Vulcan I have projected that Nero will travel pass Saturn. Like you said we need to stay invisible to Nero or he'll destroy us. If Mr. Scott can get us to warp factor 4 and if we drop out of warp behind one of Saturn's moons, say Titan. The magnetic distortion from the planet's rings... will make us invisible to Nero's sensors. From there, as long as the drill is not activated we can beam aboard the enemy ship.

Spock: Mr. Chekov is correct. I can confirm his telemetry. If Mr. Sulu is able to maneuver us into position I can beam aboard Nero's ship, steal back the black hole device and if possible bring back captain Pike.

This was the point IMO when the film became irredeemable because Kirk didn’t save the day. Spock and Chekov did.

It's not good leadership to suggest the Enterprise to attack head on against a ship with superior weapons. It's actually bad leadership as most of the time it is suicidal. It's only good leadership if you find a way to make it work.

In the end, the only thing the movie demonstrated was that Spock should have been captain. Yes he was emotionally compromised from the Vulcan getting destroyed but once he recovered from it, he ended up saving Earth. Now Kirk deserves some credit in forcing Spock to confront his emotional turmoil and being his side kick in fighting Nero but that doesn’t make you a good captain. The only thing that should be awarded for that is a pardon for academic misconduct.

Hence this film is completely broken because the basic narrative is flawed. A movie that tries to tell an origin story of how Kirk became Captain, failed to demonstrate why he should become captain. The mistake made by this movie is equivalent to seeing Han Solo destroy the Death Star in Star Wars and then Luke Skywalker being celebrated as a hero at the end. I could end this review just here because this is the only mistake needed to completely wreck the film but my own obsessive compulsion means I have to continue on for a few more thousand words :).

Wouldn't it been great if Kirk suggested the plan to take out Nero ship and save Earth? That while the rest of his ship thought it was suicide, that Kirk created a great elaborate plan utilizing the strength of each of his crew that saves the day as he outwits Nero. Essentially that is what happens in TOS in most episodes and some movies. We like James T Kirk because he is a clever, intuitive and creative leader which enables him to escape death with overwhelming odds. If we saw Kirk outwitting the villain with a clever plan similar to Kirk outwitting Khan in “Wrath of Khan” or the Romulan Commander in “Balance Of Terror”, the promotion from 3rd year cadet to captain could have been far less jarring. In this movie we don't see that at all and Kirk never demonstrated he had either the character or the intelligence to be captain.

I’m not going to go and create an elaborate plan on how Kirk destroys Nero’s ship. However even just minor changes to the script would have improved the scene greatly.

Instead of Chekov informing Kirk about how to hide from Nero’s sensor imagine this conversation took place:

Kirk asked Chekov "Is there a location in our solar system where we can hide from Nero's sensor?"
Then Chekov responding "Yes, we can hide at the rings of titan sir. The gravitational pull should be strong enough to escape from Nero’s sensor" etc

See the difference?
The movie had Chekov saving Kirk's arse.

This idea would have Kirk having a plan but recognizes the individual crews specialty to help implement it. eg. managing the resource of his crew like a good captain suppose to do. Of course that’s not enough to show ingenuity capable of promoting a 3rd year cadet into captain but if the movie had more of those type of dialogue then perhaps they could have pulled it off.

Even as an action hero, Kirk failed in this movie. He gets his arse kick by random Romulans, he gets his arse kick by Nero, he gets his arse kick by Spock and he gets his arse kick by Red shirts. Yes red shirts – the cannon fodder of TOS. Oh Kirk how far have you fallen? Perhaps if he was replace by Zapp Brannigan this movie could have worked?

Nero sucks

 My 2nd problem with the movie was the villain. He was awful and probably the worst Star Trek Villain in movie history. Let’s imagine that there was an accident and your wife is hurt. A doctor tried to save your wife’s life but couldn’t get there in time. By some miracle you went back in time and instead of trying to change history and prevent the accident, you end up kidnapping the doctor and force him to watch as you slaughter his family. That is absolutely retarded. He believes the Federation and Vulcan deliberately let Romulus died without justifying it. He didn’t give us any legitimate reasons why he believed they were responsible.

 Now some people have defended the villain by saying that he is insane and irrational. My response is that I don’t want to see a villain acting stupid and irrational if all the other characters in the film don't recognise that the villain is acting stupid and irrational. What I want to see in a villain is an intelligent villain. A good villain should be someone you can empathise with even if you find his action repulsive. Saying the villain is irrational and not thinking straight as an excuse for idiotic behaviour that no one in the film calls out is a cop out.
Even in somehow Nero believes that the Federation and Vulcan deliberately allowed Romulus to die (which that motivation was never mention in the film). It doesn’t explain the line when Pike accused Nero of genocide and Nero responded “No, I prevented genocide”. How did he prevent genocide by destroying Vulcan? How would destroying the Federation will  prevent the sun going supernova and destroying Romulus. So how did he prevent genocide by destroying Vulcan?

What the movie needed was a scene where Nero captured the old Spock and then Nero blaming his people for letting Romulus die and most importantly explained WHY he believed Vulcan and Federation let Romulus die while Spock defended himself. Remember that this is the feud between Spock and Nero and you never seen them talking to each other throughout the movie which is absolutely bizarre. They should mention what happen in the comic and make it that Vulcan were the only race that had developed red matter and only they were capable of saving Romulus but they refuse to give Romulus help because they believe that by helping the Romulans, they may learn about red matter and turn it into a weapon to be used against Vulcans as the Vulcan still distrust Romulans.

Maybe following that add the scenario that although Federation officially disapprove of Vulcan decision to refuse help and sympathises with the Romulan government they only gave the Vulcan government a slap in the wrist. As red matter is a Vulcan technology and as an autonomous state of the Federation, they decided that this was an internal policy of the Vulcan government to refuse assistant of Romulus and due to the prime directive the Federation can’t interfere and force the Vulcan government to help. The only thing the Federation done was to send ships to help evacuate Romulus but they got there too late to evacuate everyone. It was only Spock that unilaterally tried to save Romulus by stealing the ship containing red matter from the Vulcan government.

I believe they should make it that Nero recognised that Spock tried to help and spared his life and then mentions they were friends before hand (like they were in the comics) and also mention that he was part of Spock’s underground group. He should tell Spock, that he spent a lot of his life in Romulus preaching reunification with Vulcan when perhaps he should have stayed on Vulcan preaching that same message as they are the ones that needed persuading. Nero then says that you deserve to live but your people and the Federation must pay for their sins. Spock recognise that his people were wrong and too distrustful but beg for mercy and forgiveness and that destroying Vulcan is not going to bring his family back to life. Nero says that he will use the red matter to destroy Vulcan and the Federation and then uses the remaining red matter to stop the supernova from occurring when that time arises. He will save Romulus and get his revenge.

This would tie in the theme of revenge and dealing with loss of love ones I will eventually go through. It would give Nero a bit of humanity and sympathy and make him more then a one dimensional character for him to recognise that Spock deserve mercy. As an added bonus we could have finally have a movie that critiques aspects of the prime directive. I could imagine Spock telling young Kirk that he learnt from the main Kirk that you shouldn't let the prime directive interfere on what was right.

No Theme

Mainly due to stuffing up Kirks and Nero's character, one of the biggest problems about this movie is that it doesn’t really have an overall theme or message. It’s basically Nero wanting to destroy the federation and the crew of the Enterprise must stop them. That’s it.

The sad thing is that it had the potential to be so much more. This movie had a perfect theme staring at its face. This movie could have been about losing a love one and how we deal with it and we could have seen 3 contrasting ways in how the characters dealt with this issue.

Nero lost his family and was driven by revenge. He never moved on from it. According to the comics “Countdown” the Romulans drew pictures to represent loves one on their skin. When the pictures faded out, it showed that the grieving process is over and it’s time to move on. However Nero and his crew tattoo the pictures on the skin and said that their lost will define us and that they’ll never move on from their deaths.

Spock dealt with the lost of loves one by suppressing his emotions and withdrawing further away from his human side as the lost of his human mother also reflects the lost of humanity inside himself. However later on in the movie after the emotional outburst and his chat with his dad, he then realize that he has to accept his human side and accept the emotions. This tragedy helps him accept his human side far earlier then in the other universe where only in Star Trek: The Motion Picture did Spock ever embrace his human side. To be fair, this was the only theme this Star Trek movie touch upon.

The final character would be Kirk who lost his father and in response became a juvenile delinquent and a rebel without a cause. He was very bright, creative and intelligent but he wasted life away being a bum and a criminal and he became a waste of potential. Instead of him destroying the car for no reason, maybe have him being an arsehole whilst at the same time shows he is a gifted intelligent person at the beginning so there is a glimpse that he had potential to be a great captain. Eventually he meets up with Captain Pike. Pike sees the potential in him and become the father figure he never had and straighten Kirk out. Through conversation with Pike, Kirk realise that his father sacrifice his life to save his life for him to live a long and meaningful life and not to waste his potential. He realise that if he continued to live life this way he would make his father sacrifice to be in vain. He then decided to join Starfleet.

However his character growth wouldn’t have been fulfilled yet. In Starfleet, Kirk turns out to be incredibly gifted, creative and intelligence. However his weakness is his arrogance and that he is not a team player. With Kirk, it’s either his way or the highway and because of that by the time he gets on the Enterprise he manages to brush up the entire crew in the wrong way. So by the time Kirk had the argument with Spock about whether to pursue Nero’s ship or not, the rest of the crew may have secretly agreed with him but no one is willing to stand up to him because he is an arsehole whilst they actually like Spock.

When Kirk meets up with Nimoy’s Spock, he finds out that Nimoy’s Spock was best friend with Kirk in his universe. He finds out that Kirk right now would have been the Captain of the Enterprise.  Kirk then asks how come they are friends as they hate each other in this universe. Nimoy’s Spock then explains the qualities of Captain Kirk in why he is such a great man and such a great Captain, he tells him that he is a leader of men, he naturally get along well with the crew, understands the personality of other people and then able to get the best out of the crew and lead by examples etc. Also he was the person who could balance his passions, intuition with logical thinking and the ability to control his emotions. This will be a role reversal of TOS where normally Kirk and co will lecture Spock about the importance of emotions but in this situation Nimoy will counsel Kirk about controlling his passions. Kirk when listening to Nimoy’s Spock talking about Kirk from the other universe then realize that he stuffed up. That the reason why he failed because he never had the maturity of the Kirk in the other universe and then he learned from it.

When he returns on the Enterprise and regain the captaincy, he apologise to Uhura and think of the plan to take down Nero’s ship whilst cleverly using the expertise of the entire crew instead of being so individualistic.

This movie could also be about Kirk growing up and fulfilling his potential as the great man we know from TOS and would have shown character development. So when the scene where Kirk faces off with Nero could have been the climactic moment in the film where Nero said to him “James T Kirk was considered to be a great man, when on to captain the USS Enterprise but that was another life. A life I will deprive you of.”

It could have been a great scene because Nero through his time travel intervention changed history, in this time period Kirk didn’t become a great man and didn’t fulfill his potential however with Nimoy's Spock intervening and putting him back on track, for Kirk to reach his potential and become a great man he has to defeat Nero who was responsible for depriving it in the beginning.

You see this movie set up throughout the movie that Kirk is an immature person and the movie was waiting for the character growth moment where Kirk grows up but it never happen. The themes in the movie that were staring at the face of the writers were mostly unexplored and if they did touch on the scenes, it was only superficially.

Plot Holes

Now contrary to most people who hated this movie. This is a relatively minor problem of the film. If they have done the first three points well I would have liked the movie and have forgiven these following flaws. However since the hero was unlikeable, the villain was idiotic and this movie has a broken story, plot holes become more noticeable.

However I will give a concession. This movie was film during the stage of the writers strike. It turns out that JJ Abrams was frustrated that they couldn’t make revision to the script without breaking the strike. I guess that it was quite possible that some of these plot holes were here and they notice it but it was too late for them to change it.

The first major problem was the issue that if the Red Matter ended up extinguishing the supernova explosion, well Romulus is still doomed. I mean no planet can support life without a sun. So the whole plan to save Romulus would have been ineffective.

The opening scene had George Kirk sacrificing his life to save his family and buy time for the escape pods to escape Nero’s ship was problematic due to the way the scene was shot. “Autopilot” was destroyed and Kirk typed in a few coordinates and just sat there speaking to his wife as the ship collided into Nero’s mining vessel. There was no need for George Kirk to sacrifice his life if the only thing he needed to do is type in coordinates. Let’s remember that in space in the vacuum with the law of motion, “An object in motion remains in motion, and at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by a force” so it is realistic that’s the only thing Kirk needed to do for a collision course and it doesn’t make logical sense that autopilot would fail as all it needs is to set a collision course and let inertia do the rest. What needed to be done was George Kirk taking control of the vessel and trying to evade the shots from Nero’s ship to prevent the ship being destroyed before collision and to fire back at Nero’s ship to make it more believable that his self-sacrifice is necessary to save his family and crew.

I like the idea of having red shirt getting killed off as homage to TOS, but don’t make him a complete idiot. Why didn’t he pull his parachute despite being ordered to by Kirk and Sulu? This reminds me of Joe Tormolen idiotically infecting himself and the rest of the crew because he took off his protective gloves to scratch his nose in “The Naked Time”. Having crewmember behaving like imbeciles didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now. Just make him killed off during a fight with the Romulans would have done the job. If they wanted to be more of a homage to TOS then they should have McCoy monitoring his life signs from aboard the Enterprise and when the red shirt was killed, he say “He's dead Jim” over the radio to Kirk. Ok that would be unrealistic and a bit of a forced catch phrase but it would have been a funny moment in the movie.

Now let’s look at Kirk’s battle with the Romulans on the drill.  Kirk didn’t pull out the phaser and shoot him. Instead he ran up to the Romulans and wrestled them to the ground. Only when they were struggling did he then tried pulling out a phaser which was knocked out of his hands and off the drill. So we discover from that scene that Kirk is an idiot. Also it turns out that Sulu wasn’t arm with a phaser and only had a sword to protect him. Looks like Federation can’t afford to equip all away team members with weapons. They should have just pulled out phasers and started shooting. If they really wanted hand to hand combat. They should have just set up a situation where someone pops up behind them when they are both shooting and then knocked the phaser out of the hand instead of having Kirk behaving idiotically and having Federation look incompetent.

The other thing I notice is where Sulu was knocked off the platform and Kirk dived down to “rescue” Sulu. I’m curious, how does Kirk jumping off and holding on to Sulu make it easier for the crew of Enterprise to beam Sulu up. Couldn’t the crew beamed up Kirk on the platform and then Chekov runs down to transporter bay and beam up Sulu during free fall. What difference does it make if Sulu was at free fall by himself then if Kirk was free fall with Sulu. There is no difference. This scene should have been cut as it was unnecessary. Simply beam both Kirk and Sulu off the platform after they sabotage the drill and leave it at that. The movie doesn’t need pointless actions scenes that are unrelated to the plot when the character development was underdone in this movie. This is a point I’ll expand later on.

Later on in the film during the argument with Kirk and Spock. Kirk decided to fight the crew for no good reasons after his idea was rejected by Spock. If he won that fight with the Red Shirt what would he achieved? Absolutely nothing because Kirk is an idiot again. Then Spock decides to banish Kirk to Delta Vega. Why? Isn’t there a brig for insubordinate crew member? Marooning Kirk to the planet where there are dangerous life forms was absolutely extreme. It seems to me that the writers needed Kirk to meet up with Spock on the planet. They couldn’t think of a reason so they got both of them to act stupid and illogical for the scenario to occur. In fact Captain Kirk actually says in his log when he was on the planet that his maroon on this planet was a violation of Starfleet code in treatment of prisoners (Kirk said security protocol 49409. Yes I'm a nerd). Therefore the movie actually pointed out that the logical Spock broke Starfleet protocol for petty reasons.

Also some people say that Kirk got himself in danger from getting outside the escape pods. Well, I think by the looks of the big monster who manage to jump out through a thick sheet of ice, I don't think they will have any problems destroying a little escape pod. The escape pod could have easily have landed in an area where the monster was hiding. Also it just takes one monster to fall into the ditch and Kirk would have been stuffed. Either way it was incredibly reckless and illegal behaviour for Spock to maroon Kirk on that planet.

Some people have defended Spock decision to banish Kirk because Spock was emotionally compromised. Again I don’t buy that. It would have made more sense if after his mother died, Spock reacted to the event by retreating to his Vulcan side and becoming more emotionally suppressive and more cold and logical and he should only becomes emotional and illogical when Kirks tips him over the edge later on in the movie where he learns that he can not and should not suppress his humanity and emotion but accept it.

How to resolve this issue? Vulcan who escaped the destruction ended up travelling to the nearest Federation outpost and the outpost which was the one in Delta Vega and it is overwhelm with refugees. Delta Vega needed supplies and therefore Spock sends Kirk in a shuttlecraft carrying various food and medical supplies to Delta Vega as punishment for Kirk’s insubordination. Spock wanted Kirk off the ship as he knows that Kirk if he stays on the Enterprise, he will continue to question his orders and will destabilise his command. Kirk refuses and argues some more but Spock says you either going there willingly or you will spend the rest of the trip on the brig and be court martial and his career in Starfleet is over.

Kirk arrives on Delta Vega and meets up with Scotty. The scene in Delta Vega would serve the point of showing the consequences of Vulcan’s destruction and it would be far more emotional to the audience seeing some impact it had instead of simply being used for shock value. Nimoy’s Spock later on arrived and apparently he was banished on the planet by Nero and he tried to walk hundreds of kilometres to the Federation outpost to warn them of Nero’s plan to destroy Vulcan but just like he was too late to save Romulus, he was also too late to save Vulcan. Spock reveals the plot to Kirk and then transwarp beam Kirk and Scotty back to the Enterprise while Old Spock remains looking after the refugees.

The last of the plot holes that I’ll mention is at the end where Spock’s ship collided to Nero vessel and the red matter created a black hole INSIDE Nero’s ship. Kirk then came and offered to rescue Nero. Nero refused and then Kirk decided to fire at Nero ship. Now the writers had stated that this was because Nero’s vessel was designed to survive black holes. Although that wasn’t mention in this movie to its detriment, even accepting that argument, the black hole was created inside the vessel from a collision with Spock’s ship. I was thinking, Kirk shouldn’t you be escaping this black hole instead of firing at Nero’s ship. After I was thinking that, the Enterprise was in jeopardy and was getting sucked in the black hole as well and only Scotty last ditch ejection of warp core saved the Enterprise from destruction showing how stupid Kirk’s decision was.

There are many more plot holes and character mismanagement such as mining ship with powerful weapons and how villains don’t care about occupational health and safety and the underwhelming Kobayashi Maru scene but I find all of those to be relatively minor and this would make my analysis too long if it isn’t already too long. I just pointed out the ones that stood out for me.

Superfluous Scenes

This movie had too many pointless action scenes for the sake of creating tension or excitement but is completely unrelated to the plot. Now don’t get me wrong, I like action scenes as well as some action movies and I accept that this new Star Trek movie must have a fair amount of action scenes for it to be successful but I like actions scenes to be integrated with the plot, I like the scenes to be part of the storytelling and not be there for the sake of it. We had the car scene in the beginning where Kirk wrecked a car that was pointless. We had Sulu falling off the platform with Kirk chasing him which was pointless. We had Kirk arriving on Delta Vega and being chased by wild animals which was pointless. We had Scotty being sucked up in the ship’s water system and nearly died which was pointless. We had the ship having to escape the black hole which was also pointless. I made a lot of suggestion that could only be solve by extra dialogue. People may wonder how they can fit it the movie without making the movie too long. Well there are plenty of pointless scenes that could have been removed without the detriment to the movie and be replaced with character development or plot explanation scenes.

Undeveloped Romance

The last flaw I will comment on is the romance between Spock and Uhura. Now I’ll state that I didn’t have a problem with the idea of Spock and Uhura getting together. There was a flirtatious relationship that was established in “Charlie X” and “The Man Trap” between Uhura and Spock and this was before Spock ever met Christine Chapel (however noticeably the writers admitted to not remembering the flirtation in TOS when they wrote the romance scene. Perhaps that’s how they botch the romance up). Therefore not having Nurse Chapel would comply with continuity and a potential relationship between Uhura and Spock would still be faithful to TOS. The problem wasn’t the idea but the execution. When Uhura first kissed Spock straight after Spock failed rescue attempts of his mother. They only spoke to each other once before in the entire movie. That was the scene where Uhura complained that Spock assigned her to the Farragut. That scene had a more mentor and protégé relationship and there was no indication of a potential romance. When Uhura kissed Spock, it was completely out of the blue.

Now if they mimic the flirtation that Uhura done to Spock in TOS. Have a few scenes where Uhura flirts with Spock and create some sexual tension earlier on and have Spock rejects it. Then after Spock planet was destroyed. Uhura kissed him and tries to comfort him but Spock rejects it quite cruelly which upsets her. This is because he reacts to the death of his mother and planet Vulcan by suppressing his emotions and withdrawing himself even further. However, after the scene where Spock lost control and had his heartfelt conversation with his father. Spock learnt to accept his emotions and his human side. He then goes up to Uhura and kisses her and pursues the relationship. This relationship could have tied in perfectly with the story about Spock and his emotions but the movie botch it up and it made me felt like they just stuck a romance for the sake of having a romance.

Ok, it wasn't completely horrible

Now that I bashed the movie I will talk about the few things I like about the movie.

I agree with many people who say that the opening scene with the USS Kelvin was fairly good (with the exception of some of the specifics of George Kirk’s sacrifice) It was tension pack and kudos for JJ Abrams in the way he shot it. I love the way we see the damage to the ship and see the way the crew died. It adds to the tension and intensity of the movie. The set design was well done and I do like the multicultural elements on the ship and the aliens onboard and I do find them more interesting then some of the face mask aliens we saw throughout the Trek series.

It was a greatly crafted action scene that was also important to the plot and the story. This is what good action scene should be.

The other thing I like about the movie was I like the way they portrayed Spock with exception to the botch romance with Uhura and the kicking Kirk out of the ship. I do enjoy the childhood scenes. It was documented that he was bullied when he was young due to his emotions. I enjoyed his conversations with his mother which the movie could have more of. I do like the racism showed by the Vulcans towards the human and how Spock reacted to it with a “live long and prosper” that was like an f-you to the Vulcans. It made me realised that despite the different personalities and different upbringing that Spock had with Kirk. One thing they related with each other is that they are both rebels of their own society.

He was also the only character that underwent any development throughout this movie. His reaction to his mother dying and the resultant conversation with his father about him struggling to suppress his emotions and then realise that he doesn’t have to was dare I say beautiful and I was moved by it. Not only did Spock accept his own humanity but Sarek accepted Spock’s humanity. Remember that “so human” statement from The Final Frontier? It could have been improved by making the relationship between Sarek and Spock tense at the beginning such as after Spock rejected joining the Vulcan science academy causing a big argument between those two and then have Sarek accepting his decision at the end of the movie showing growth of the two characters. Nevertheless despite the room for improvement, it was still well done.

Overall the Spock character was well done. It could have been improved by some of the suggestion I mention before, but credit where credit is due, the Spock character development was well done.

The others things I like about the movie were I love the look of the Enterprise and the bridge and the uniforms. I like the way the action sequence was shot. I like the colourfulness of the film. It was a different look but it gave an atmosphere that this is Trek. It was well film.

I also like to say is that the rest of the crew with the exception of Kirk was rather likeable. They weren’t particularly well developed characters and they didn’t need to be because the movie wasn’t about them but was about Kirk and Spock. Although they didn’t have too important roles, I found all of the characters and the few scenes to have to be likeable and give you good first impression that you want to know more about them in future movies. They were also well casted. Karl Urban’s Bones was exceptionally well done (I just wish he did more then just continually injecting Kirk as that was not funny. He also is not afraid of flying, he is afraid of transporters)

Although some people didn’t like Scotty, I quite like him simply for the fact that he killed Porthos and pissed off Admiral Archer. Come on, it is impossible not to dislike him simply due to that. It also reveals the stupidity of Archer hasn’t left him when he became Admiral as well. Scotty wanted to test out a brand new concept called transwarp beaming that would be potentially dangerous to whom ever was tested on. Instead of testing on a plant or a rat or an animal that has no sentimental value to him, Archer decided to use his personal pet that apparently he loves. What an idiot. It also showed his cruelty of banishing Scotty to a remote outpost. All new inventions will have initial failures in test; it was his own fault for using his dog not Scotty. 


The movie despites its flaws set things up for the sequels fairly well. The journey from the beginnings to Captain Kirk was botched up. I believe it was because they were trying to achieve too many things in a short period time (characters background, conflict, interesting villain, introducing all the characters, introducing Pike etc). However at the end you can see that a movies series about them could be interesting because you have a crew of mostly likeable characters that I want to know more about with the exception of Kirk.

I can't do a review of this movie without mentioning the whole changing of timelines and erasing the history of all our TV series controversy that has caused an outcry amongst Star Trek fans. My take on that is this. if you time travel using conventional manners (eg. transporters, sling shot effect, time ship) then you go back in time (ala Voyage Home or First Contact etc). If you time travel using red matter to create a black hole, you go to alternative dimension creating a parallel universe. Therefore no break in continuity and your universe is still in tact. No need to write hate mails to JJ Abrams about how the universe you grown up with and love has disappeared.

Overall I will give this movie 2/10. I went through lengthy periods pointing out the flaws of the movie and offering solution. The reason I did that is to show that this movie could have been a great film if these flaws were fix. This movie had all the ingredient of a great film but it was just poorly put together. It had mostly good characters, good casting, good sets, great special effects, good action scenes and good underlying idea of a story line but it was botch by writers who decided that story line, character development should be secondary to pointless action scenes. All the problems I listed out do not require drastic rewrites but just minor alteration to the movie. The script just needed some proof reading to iron out major plot holes and to embellish character detail and this 2/10 could have became 10/10. This is why this is such a frustrating movie for me. I look at this movie and I think of it as wasted potential. In fact if they just integrated some parts from the Countdown comic that the writers had already written, it would have solve some of the major plot holes and added character development to Nero and it would have saved this movie but for some bizarre reason they decided to cut it out for no good reasons.

I don’t agree with people who say this is the death of the franchise because the franchised died with Enterprise. Unlike other people, I'm not particularly angry about this movie. Let's face it, Star Trek movies in general are incredibly inconsistent and if you want to watch good Trek, the movies series isn't the first place to look for despite some good film in the saga. Star Trek XI is just as bad as any other odd number Trek movies and I don't agree with people saying it raped the franchise when there are far worst things that bare the Trek name and logo that exist. I mainly written this out of confusion due to the positive reviews from critics and amongst Star Trek fans and I just don't get the positive reactions.

This movie failed to resurrect the franchise for me but I do see a light at the end of the tunnel where a good writer could use the same material and the same characters and do something great with it. However I shouldn’t get too optimistic because this movie had received rave reviews and made a lot of money. If the writers are complacent and revel in the success and believe they did a good job and they follow the same formula then the next movie will be a failure as well. If they realise they have written a deeply flawed film and work to improve it for the sequels then I could see that a resurrection is not impossible and maybe this movie is just the victim of the bad odd number film phenomenon.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Ethical Analysis of “The Maquis” in Star Trek The Next Generation

The background is that after the peace treaty between Cardassia and the Federation. They end up exchanging a few planets and a few Federation colonies became part of Cardassia and vice versa.

As establish in “Journey's End”, the colonist refused to evacuate and therefore they decided to leave the Federation and agree to live under Cardassian rule.

In terms of the treaty with Cardassia, I actually believe that although it is unfortunate and understandable that the colonist would be outrage by them having to give up their lands. I think the decision is defendable. Even in modern democracies today, if the government wants to create a nation building project such as an airport etc. They can compulsory acquire property out of private owners, although they have to compensated by market value that is determined by an independent evaluator. Unfortunately since the Federation abandoned market economics, the colonist don't get compensated at all in terms of monetary compensation. I believe it's within the Federation right to compulsory acquire the planets and kick out the tenants then decide to give it up to the Cardassians to ensure that there is peace.

The complaints by the colonist seems a little bit of NIMBY (not in my backyard), they agree that peace is important as long as they are the ones that don't lose out due to it.

Personally if I was in Picard situation, I would have no moral qualms in forcibly evicting the colonist and the whole marquis issue would have died out there.

In any case, Picard decided to compromised and allow them to leave the Federation and live under Cardassian rules and the Cardassian agrees to not persecute them and to accept them as permanent resident.

Now that may be good compromise in theory if the Cardassians lived up to their bargain. Since the Cardassians are a racist totalitarian state that are known to commit genocide. I believe that the colonist were downright naive to think this could work.

Unfortunately the Cardassian didn't live up to the bargain and they treat them like second class citizens and try to pressure them to leave the colonies which caused the ex-Federation members to take up arms and start up conflict again and formed the marquis. Soon sympathetic Starfleet officers decide to leave the Federation and join the Marquis and the conflict escalate.

So what are the options for the Federation?

1) The Prime Directive
Those colonist are no longer Federation citizen. In fact they are permanent residence of Cardassia who decided to take up arms against the government. So either this is a civil war or an independent state combating the Cardassian and hence is a purely an internal affair.

So just stay out of the conflict and let them fight each out. The Colonist knew when they accepted the agreement that the Federation are not going to help them out and will not protect them. There is no legal obligation for the Federation to intervene.

Now a few things could result from this
a) The Cardassians could wipe out the marquis and Federation would be guilty of standing by as innocent people get wiped out (like what eventually happen with the dominion)
b) War could result as Cardassian will not make the same distinction between Federation and the Maquis
c) The maquis manage to successfully fight a war of attrition and manage to negotiate a peace with the Cardassians after the Cardassian realised it would be less expensive that way (similarly with the withdrawal from bajor).

Whatever the result, the federation will be bystanders in this conflict until the Cardassian or the Maquis decides to involve them.

2) War

One of things I hate about TNG was how there was a shift in message from TOS.

In TOS, freedom was the main message of the show. That even a benevolent dictator who supplies all the needs to the population is not enough and that Kirk and the crew were willing to fight for freedom for other sentient life form.

In TNG, the message changed from freedom to peace. That peace was the ultimate goal and if that means murderous regime continue oppressing people (Cardassian/Bajor/Maquis) or continue to spy on your citizens (Romulans with their cloaking device) then so be it.

As Ivanova from B5 said "Because sometimes peace is another word for surrender".  In this case surrender of values that you hold dear.

Now I understand the need to be pragmatic, that you can't save everyone and that you can't change political regime with every nation you meet and that sometimes it too costly to involve yourself in a war especially if that side is stronger or evenly match to you. Sometimes you just got to let the villains get away with the crime.

However, what sort of annoyed me was that the issue wasn't even discussed. That war wasn't even an option.

Here we are Cardassian who are killing and murdering the ex-Federation colonist and there wasn't the option that this peace treaty isn't working and that we should go in and fight the Cardassians who are not living up to their end of the bargain in allowing them settling on the planet.

I would think that it would be a just war even if it wasn't that practical at that time.

3) Proxy war

Essentially the Federation secretly armed the colonist similar to Kirk's action in "A Private Little War". This could easily escalated to full-scale war if they get caught but if they are clever and disguised the weaponry given to them as from a non-Federation source they could "helped" out the colonist without actually actively fighting the Cardassian. This probably be an ideal situation as the Cardassians themselves are secretly arming the colonist as well (geez, the Federation are letting the Cardassians just walk over them) so even if they are caught, the Cardassians can hardly get the moral high ground.

However the Federation didn't take any of the above options. Instead they decide to help the Cardassians apprehend the Marquis.

This is an independent state fighting a just war against the Cardassian and the Federation are aiding the Cardassian. This is shear political bastardry and an absolute betrayal of the "spirit of Star Trek" and it shows that the Federation completely sold out. The "Preemptive Strike" episode is the best example of TNG replacing "freedom" which was what TOS was advocating with "peace at all cost" when we see the Federation actively trying to suppress the Marquis movement.

Now I understand why the Federation did this. The Cardassian would not discriminate the difference between the ex-Federation colonist and the Federation and if the colonists make too much trouble and the Federation doesn't help the Cardassian out they may decide to go to war with the Federation.

Hence this is an act of pragmatic/selfish political self-preservation to avoid getting in the war. Instead of doing the right thing, they are doing the pragmatic thing and therefore the colonist loses out and they will let the Cardassians mistreat the colonist.

This is essentially a policy of appeasement of letting aggressive dictators commit atrocities to avoid conflict. It all reminiscent of "I believe it is peace for our time" from Neville Chamberlain. However we saw that the Federation eventually went into war with Cardassia on DS9 so the only thing this peace done was delayed the inevitable.

To put this in perspective of science fiction, if we look at Babylon 5 when Earth started a non-aggressive pact with the aggressive Centauri who just subjugated the Narns. Sheridan commented that he felt dirty wearing the uniform and felt that the uniform was just a piece of cloth rather than something special as he believed that Earth just sold out the Narn for self-preservation.

However this was even worst then that as not only are they innocent bystanders, the Federation are actively helping disarming the Maquis population. Out of all the ruthless pragmatic decision in Star Trek history, this one takes the cake. I feel this is even more ruthless then Sisko involvement in "In The Pale Moonlight as Sisko was doing all those criminal things to preserve freedom and win a war against an oppressive regime who committed mass genocide. Whilst in "Preemptive Strike" and then "The Maquis" they were actively oppressing people and supporting genocidal regime to preserve peace. One ruthless decision was based out of "idealism" the other one was based on selfish preservation.

Now there may be people out there who would still agree with the decision and may feel I'm being too idealistic about the issue and that is completely fine. However I do wish that the story actually acknowledge that this was a purely selfish decision.

I guess people will then have to admit that the whole "idealistic Trek" where humans behaved 'evolved' is all a myth. For people who complained about DS9 betraying the idealism of Trek, well I think that TNG betrayed it far more often and the episode "Preemptive Strike" was an example of that.

I believe that the Federation should have just evacuated the colonies but once they allowed the colonist to stay there under Cardassian jurisdiction. They should have stayed neutral in the conflict or if they had the resources, actively help the marquis.


A Curious note
Picard explicitly told them the colonist they are no longer Federation citizen after “Journey's End” and that they will receive no protection from the Federation and yet In “Pre-Emptive Strike”, he suddenly refer to them as Federation citizen and somehow bound to Federation treaty.

So hence these people are "Federation citizen" and bound to Federation laws and treaty despite the fact that the Federation refuse to protect them like they do to other citizens.

What If The Beatles Never Broke Up? - My Beatles Solo Mixtapes

Apparently there was a book called “Still the Greatest: The Essential Songs of The Beatles' Solo Careers” that went and presented a parallel universe where The Beatles didn’t break up and used their solo material to construct post-Abbey Road Beatles album.

Well I decided to join in the fun and create my own fan fiction of the alternate history where they decided to release The Beatles album out of my favourite songs from their solo career. Of course someone may argue this is a pointless task as lot of these songs were written under the context of being independent from The Beatles and would have never been written if The Beatles didn’t break up but that would just be taking this too seriously. This is simply elaborately creating a mixtapes of my favourite solo songs.

So in this history, The Beatles did temporary break up (this will have some relevance in some of the songs being released) but they manage to resolve some of their differences and reform. They operating under the same principle as The White Album where they just record songs separately but collate the song together and release it as a Beatles album. Also I have a rule where there must be equal Lennon and McCartney songs in all of these hypothetical albums. I also kept in mind that this is the vinyl era and I had to organized tracklisting so there is a maximum of 25 minutes per side.

1970 – All Things Must Pass
So The Beatles reformed and release All Things Must Pass in 1970. This is the first Beatles album where George Harrison has an equal share in songwriting with Lennon and McCartney. The singles to promote this album were My Sweet Lord/God, Instant Karma/Apple Scruff, Maybe I’m Amazed/Cold Turkey and Give Peace A Chance/Man We Was Lonely.

There are four songs from Lennon, McCartney and Harrison and 1 Ringo song.

This would be The Beatles most introspective album mostly in the singer-songwriter genre of music. This album seems to have the general theme of loss and grief and learning to accept it. Hell I could even construct a concept around it although I admit it does bring up some Oedipus/incestual tones as I’m reinterpreting conventional love songs to be about motherly love.

Side A: 23:46
The concept starts with the protagonist feeling remorse and grief due to the death of his mother.
Continues on that theme - "what is life without your love, by my side",

This requires a bit of re-interpreation of the song. Instead of a love song, it's now the protagonist fantasising about his relationship with his mother (bit of Oedipus complex here) being amazed by the way his mother loves him like he wish she would if she was still alive. "Maybe Im amazed at the way I really need you" that finish the song could mean that he is surprised by how much he needs her presence.

4. Every Night by Paul McCartney
"Every Night' is about wanting to lay in bed in depression and it even reference mother again "Believe Me Mama ooh".
The reason why he is lying in bed in depression is because the protagonist regretting the arguments and fighting he has with her mother in the past. 

Side B: 23:18
1. Isolation by John Lennon
The song in the context of the album is about the feeling of loneliness and isolation due to the grief of losing a love one.

2. That Would Be Something by Paul McCartney
"That Would Be Something To meet you in the falling rain, momma" The isolation and loneliest in the previous song led the protagonist imagining seeing her mother  alive even though he know she is dead.
The protagonist is trying to hold on to his sanity (reflecting on him hallucinating his mother) and not slip too far in despair.
I re-interpret the song about going through the stuff (junk) that his mother own and reflecting on her life.

The protagonist is singing about love in the most simple term reflecting on the bond between mother and son.
This is about the protagonist reflecting about how life isn’t easy. However the lyrics also reflects recovery and hope for the future that things will get better. 
"Forget about the past and all your sorrows,
The future won't last,
It will soon be over tomorrow."

George Harrison discussing "The Art Of Dying" and speculate that she is reincarnated.

8. All Things Must Pass by George Harrison
Recognizing the impermanence of life and that everything must eventually pass away and finally accepting her death

I think you will have a pretty great album there and it would be pretty distinctive to any Beatles album as it is the most solemn and most introspective album of their career. This will continue the trend of moving to different directions that The Beatles were famous for.

1972 – Gimme The Truth
The Beatles 2nd post Abbey Road album containing songs from 1970-1972 is called Gimme The Truth.

During this time The Beatles made a live comeback for fundraising for cyclones victim in Bangladesh.

The first half is more of a collection of songs but the Side B is the miniconcept album about how the band members are sick of each other and hate each other and was an off shoot of how the band temporary broke up.

In my reimagining, Ringo is telling the band members to Back Off (legends was that song was about telling Paul McCartney for suing the rest of The Beatles although Ringo denied it), George Harrison’s Wah-Wah complains about McCartney whinging, McCartney singing about how Lennon destroyed something good in Too Many People and Lennon is asking McCartney “How Do You Sleep?”

Afterwards ‘Ram On’ symbolising the idea that the members of the band are ramming on each other and we should ‘give your heart to somebody soon right away” as the band realise the destructiveness of the feud and kiss and make up.

Then Lennon finishes off the album with an ironic “Imagine” about imagining the world in peace without conflict

Side A 24:27
Side B 24:30

1973 – Living In A Material World
The 3rd post Abbey Road Beatles album containing songs from 1973 is called Living In A Material World.

This album I choose to divide equally between every member of The Beatles. Every member sings 3 songs sung this album.

The single of this album would be one of the more bizarre moments in music history in the Irish themed Give Ireland Back to the Irish/Sunday Bloody Sunday, Mind Games/You’re Sixteen, Give Me Love/Get On The Right Thing, Live And Let Die/Intuition

I have to say this would probably by the weakest collective point of The Beatles career so far and the fact that the 3 Ringo song probably improved the album says something. I think Red Rose Speedway is a very good album and Living In A Material World is a decent album. Mind Games is mediocre and Ringo is surprisingly fun to listen to but none of those are great albums. However combining the best of the three albums make it a pretty excellent album to listen to but it’s still isn’t up there to their regular high standard and it’s their weakest album of their career since Please Please Me.

Side A: 24:39
Side B :24:18

1975 – Band On The Run
The 4th post Abbey Road Beatles album was their last album before the parental break by Lennon.

So this album will be call “Band On The Run” and it’s a double album containing solo material from 1973-1975.

This album will be a pseudo concept album where there is a band within a band theme (similar to Sgt. Peppers). There is a very loose themes of the band on tour (Band On The Run) the weariness of the busy tour (Whatever Gets You Through The Night), the stress of fame on relationship (Bye Bye Love),  the downside of fame (Nobody Loves You When You Are Down And Out) and the solace and strength you receive from your love ones to cope with the situation (Stand By Me). Although not every song follows the concept.

 I tried to make the covers that Lennon did on “Rock And Roll” suited the album because the “Band on the Run” are playing “Rock Shows” so of course they would be playing some classic rock and rolls song (that’s the reason why Be Bop A Lula is following Rock Show in the tracklisting)

This is back to the return to dominance of Lennon/McCartney partnership as Harrison only gets a few songs in the album. The in story reason is because George Harrison had laryngitis  which limited his input in the album but the out of universe reason is that I’m just not a fan of this era Harrison’s work (I think Extra Texture is a decent album but I’m not fond of Dark Horses). I have 4 Harrison songs and 2 Ringo songs which is the same amount of songs they had in their previous double album “The White Album” and the rest with equal Lennon and McCartney songs.

I ended the album with Goodnight Vienna (reprise) because I think it would jell on with the Band On The Run theme with The Beatles saying Goodnight to Vienna with the audience is applauding suggesting that the Beatles will leave and be a Band on the Run to their next destination and you can hear Ringo say “Don’t forget the band will be back on in 15 minute ready to do it to you one more time”. This brings out the idea that the band will come back for the hinted encore.

After this album Lennon goes on a parental break and The Beatles enters a five year hiatus before the tragic comeback.

Vinyl 1
Side A: 23:58
1. Band On The Run by Paul McCartney 

1982 – Real Love
The last of the post Abbey Road album from the Double Fantasy era and this will continue my obsession of turning unrelated Beatles solo songs into a concept album and this album is called “Real Love”. In fact this album is two concept in one album (with one concept for Side A and one concept for Side B and hence contains two short story).

So after John Lennon went on a parental break (although this wasn’t an amicable break with McCartney being against it causing friction), The Beatles went on a hiatus for 5 years with the other members releasing solo albums but saving the best songs (just so happen songs I think are the best) for The Beatles album when they will eventually reunited. So hence the song I chose songs from the selection of McCartney/Ringo/Harrison songs from 1976 to 1982 plus Double Fantasy/Milk And Honey by John Lennon. However during the recording of the album, tragedy stuck as John Lennon was shot dead and not all the songs were finished recording. Paul McCartney then wrote Here Today and that was released in the Hear Today/All Those Years Ago single. That’s the reason why I chosen 1982 as the cutoff point as that was the first album after Lennon death and therefore I wanted songs from that album to be included. They also finished recording Real Love (although in this universe Lennon intended those two songs to be Beatles songs and therefore McCartney and Harrison and Ringo were just finishing the job they intended to do) was released in the Real Love/Free As A Bird single.

This album had Lennon coming back from his break with “silly love songs” about marital bliss and McCartney decided he had to compensate by writing a) hard rock songs (Old Siam Sir), b) serious songs about conflict (Tug Of War) and c) Writing Jealous songs where McCartney does a bit of screaming reminiscent to Lennon earlier work (Beware My Love). Essentially most of the album is a reversal of the “serious” Lennon and “sappy’ McCartney reputation.

The concept of Side A is basically similar to the “A Quick One” rock opera. A guy love this girl and then find out there was an affair but eventually forgives her although this is from the guy perspective. Side B is about the relationship between Lennon and McCartney.

The singles promoting this album is Coming Up/Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy), Not Guilty/Nobody Told Me, Real Love/Free As A Bird, Here Today/All Those Years Ago, Woman/Silly Love Songs, Watching The Wheels/Wanderlust

Side A: 23:57
1. Old Siam Sir by Paul McCartney – This song sets up the scene of a lady from the village in Old Siam who found herself in the UK in an effort to find her man.

2. Cafe On The Left Bank by Paul McCartney - It’s about the protagonist in the cafe on the left bank “touching all the girls with your eyes” where he dance their after midnight and there’s an implication that he met the girl from Old Siam there.

3. Woman by John Lennon – Lennon sings about the protagonist in love with the couple

4. Beware My Love by Paul McCartney – McCartney cynical songwriting decided to disrupt the bliss of ‘Woman’ where the protagonist found out that the girl from Old Siam is cheating on him and put on the facade that he is accepting it (although McCartney anger throughout the song shows that he isn’t accepting it) and just leaves her a warning that he’s not the one.

5. Not Guilty by George Harrison – Harrison plays the character of the person she is cheating and claiming that he’s not guilty and that he’s not trying to steal your vest. That he only wanted what he can get. There is an implication that he didn’t know that she had another boyfriend. In the end he just say “I won’t upset the apple cart’ to imply that he is not going ot pursue the relationship any further (proving McCartney right that he’s not the one as he isn’t willing to fight for her).

6. I’ll Still Love You by Ringo Starr – So Ringo sings about how the protagonist still loves her despite of it all.

Side B: 23:11
1. (Just Like) Starting Over by John Lennon – So this song serves a dual purpose, it concludes the first concept of the album whilst simultaneously introduce the second concept. The first concept is concluded that the relationship has stabilised and that they feel like they are just starting over. The second concept is introduced with the implication of Lennon returning to The Beatles and with the confidence that it’ll just like starting over without all the bitterness that their previous problems and conflicts.

2. Tug Of War by Paul McCartney – However McCartney isn’t convince (yep McCartney is playing the cynic for this album) because he believes that those two are naturally competitive. That perhaps in another world “we could stand on top of the mountain with our flags unfurled” but in a time to come “we will be dancing to the beat played on a different drum” with the implication that those Lennon and McCartney are two very different people.

3. Watching The Wheels by John Lennon – Lennon insist that he is ‘just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round” and not competitive and realised that “I just had to let it go”

4. Borrowed Time by John Lennon – Lennon is then elaborating that he feels that life is short “living on borrowed time” and that he no longer has the illusion of freedom and power and that he is willing to live for the moment “without a thought for tomorrow”. This songs signify Lennon and McCartney happily working together.

5. Here Today by Paul McCartney – Of course this peaceful Lennon really was living in borrowed time and didn’t last as he was shot and killed. Here McCartney grieves about his death and also with a bit of regret that perhaps they didn’t work together longer and the previous Tug Of War relationship.

6. Real Love by John Lennon – Of course that would be a terrible sad way to end The Beatles career so the album had to end in an upbeat note. This is one of my favourite Lennon songs and I get a teary eye whenever I hear this song as I always imagine this song to be Lennon as a ghostly figure (the demo sounding voice in contrast to the clear instruments by the rest of the band adds to this illusion) telling people who were left behind that he is ok as he experienced “Real Love” either for his wife, for the rest of the surviving Beatles and for humanity. In the concept of this album it sounds like Lennon is telling the grieving McCartney from Here Today “no need to be afraid” as “it’s real love”. Also this song contributes to the overall love and peace message from The Beatles as the idea that people will feel just feel as peaceful and content about life if they embrace “Real Love” as well. That’s why I named this parallel album “Real Love” as it summarised this album and the career of The Beatles

So that’s the conclusion of The Beatles career. What would you choose for the hypothetical Beatles