The annoying lesson the Star Trek reboot got all wrong

JJ Abrams at Comic Con

“I think we need a few more lens flares.” (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Recently I explained to a friend what was wrong with the new Star Trek movie, and over the course of the discussion, I listed issues such as massive explosions all over the place, fast scenes, frequent cuts, shouted dialogue, rather explicit exposition, loud crescendoes, and lack of tense build up, replaced with one action sequence after another.

“So he’s like Michael Bay?”

Yes. Yes he is. Slightly better, perhaps, but really…what’s the difference? Star Trek Into Darkness was essentially just another version of Armageddon. There, I said it.

But the worst transgression of all was due to a character development problem that I found not just dumb or overly simplistic, or “wrong,” (although it was wrong) but somewhat insulting, and the wrong lesson to learn.

Specifically, the performance of Spock, and his relationship with Kirk.

In the original show, the duality of these characters was mutually beneficial; Kirk would often make decisions based on emotion, sure, but Spock was often able to challenge him and win, since logic is usually the logical thing to do. That’s why they call it logic.

But in the reboots, that relationship completely changes. This was particularly true in the first, in which Kirk knows exactly what to do and Spock is standing in the way. Spock is really the antagonist of the film, thwarting Kirk’s plan at every turn. And it’s not really logic that’s doing it, it’s just plain stubbornness. Logical people aren’t “stubborn” in the way people intend to use that word; logical people simply follow whatever the facts of the matter tell them. That’s not “stubborn” so much as realistic. But Spock was stubborn, to the point of illogic.

It’s not just the fact that Kirk was right; it’s fine for Kirk to be right sometimes, and for Spock to need to learn a lesson on random human emotions and how they can sometimes be correct. But the thing is, wild and crazy human emotion is usually the wrong way to go. It’s all fine and dandy to teach Spock or Data a lesson, but they should usually be right. Logical people won’t say anything wrong, unless they have inadequate facts. Emotion is what corrupts the process, and Spock and Data are supposed to remove that from the process.

In the Star Trek reboot, Spock’s logic is a liability. A huge one. It threatens everything, and forces Kirk to go against orders to save the day. It’s not only unrealistic, but it’s also a terrible lesson to learn. Going on a hunch instead of relying on the facts will result in miserable failure maybe 95% of the time. But the lesson learned in the Star Trek reboot was ignore the logic and just do what your intestines tell you. This is a shitty lesson to learn, and it’s irritating to see it played out in movies over and over.

Star Trek 2009 reboot Spock and Kirk

I mean seriously, the YOUNG version of Kirk is going to outsmart Spock? Bullshit. He’s a frat boy moron who can barely spell.

I think it’s mostly a cheap ploy for lousy writers to insert a life lesson into a movie, without thinking about the fact that it’s probably wrong. It’s like they have a logical friend who’s always proving them wrong, and they get really annoyed, so they write a whole movie about a logical person being totally wrong. Even though logical people are rarely wrong.

It would be fine if the films showed Spock rarely being wrong, but that’s just not the case. He’s totally wrong, and there are only 2 of these movies. The ratio of Spock being this wrong should be 1 in 10. But we won’t get that, because JJ Abrams has no idea what logic and subtlety are, and would rather make a fast-paced, ballsy movie than a smart one, so the smart characters end up looking stupid, while the ballsy action stars swoop in and save the day. It’s sort of a dumb jock fantasy porn with the quarterback kicking the nerd down a flight of stairs and saving the school.

So I actually can’t figure out why JJ Abrams is considered this godlike superstar, since his movies lack any sort of quality other than those exhibited by Michael Bay, yet somehow he skips out on the hatred that Michael Bay elicits from internet denizens. They’re really not that different, and I would argue that Abrams’ portrayal of Spock being wrong all the time is about as screwed up an understanding of the story and characters as Michael Bay’s decision to turn the Ninja Turtles into aliens. I mean seriously, Spock being wrong? That’s about as rare as Spock being emotional. It happens, yes, but it should be out of the ordinary.

So I expect his Star Wars entries to turn Han Solo into an adorable, loving father who likes to play Nintendo with his kids and then sing them bedtime lullabies, while Leia gets drunk and goes to the strip club. Makes sense, right?

Sigh.



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