Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Star Trek (2009) - The Characters

The characters, as I've said in the overview, are very weak in this film. I keep hearing these names and since I'm unfamiliar with most characters in Star Trek I simply sit there with the feeling I'm supposed to be smiling and giddy, but I'm not. So instead I'm just ready to start chugging a container of paper clips if it will stop that obnoxious kid from talking with a horribly exaggerated accent about how to beam people while they're moving or give news to the Enterprise. And although I was extremely giddy to see Simon Pegg for what ultimately felt like no reason at all, I didn't even get that he was Scotty until the end, which I guess is more sad on my part than the film, but this almost seemed unnecessary. He could have been anyone, it didn't really matter. He's just some funny guy there who knew a lot about technology. And just like most of these characters, I didn't know anything about them aside from there usefulness to the plot. Was I supposed to assume I knew them based on what I saw of them in the future version of Star Trek? Then why am I not expected to do the same thing for Spock and Kirk who we actually spend time developing?

The film starts with the birth of Kirk. We follow his father and mother who are on a ship being attacked by Nero. Daddy Kirk is Commander and thus made Captain when the Captain leaves the ship. He decides to stay behind and manually control the ship (since autopilot has failed) and he wants to have as many people survive as possible. He dies. The next time we see Kirk we see him driving a Corvette at twelve, maybe, and then jumping out of it just in time as it goes off the cliff. ...I'm not really sure why we have this scene or even what this scene is supposed to establish other than that Kirk is a rebel and a fucking magician at age twelve. Watch this scene, it's ludicrous, especially Kirk skidding across the sand and grabbing the ledge and pulling himself up. Here I rolled my eyes at forced action. It also just wasn't really a powerful way to show him being a rebel. Rather, it was a cheesy, cheap way to try and show how cool he was but ended up just making him look like he had super powers and was an incredible idiot. We then flash forward to him at some nondescript 20-something-type age where he decides for funzies he's going to get into a bar fight, which, quite frankly, does what the stupid Corvette scene wanted to do but much more concisely and accurately: show's that he's an intelligent, headstrong ass. Then this older character decides he's going to come in and tell Kirk he should be a man. And then for some reason Kirk takes him up on it. We don't really see the internalization here, and because of that we are already going to miss out on a great character arc. Instead, Kirk, who has really great motivations for why he does what he does, makes bold moves and does awesome things and we never really see the motivation behind him, what drives him. Instead we see him make sarcastic quips and comically drugged. Without going on a rant too early allow me to say this is what's wrong with muddying up your plot with ten different tones: a sloppy, incoherent, unfocused mess. You drop the ball in every court rather than just do a damned good job in two or three. Stupid dumbass with your nonsensical basketball analogy. WRITE A GOOD SCREENPLAY. So we never see Kirk really grow as the plot progresses. Instead we see him continually be a headstrong ass until it works out for him, which of course as I'll discuss in the next part is sheer luck and bad writing that does it for him. At the end of the film Kirk has an opportunity to come face to face with the man who killed his father, the man behind all this plot: Nero. And just like Spock, he doesn't really face off with him and doesn't really have a decent conversation with him and doesn't really hit the character arc peak that was set up for him. Instead he gets choked for a little bit until Nero runs off to cry about something else, and he has a showdown with some random-no-one-cares guy. How dreadfully anti-climactic. And still, to the end, Kirk doesn't learn anything other than that continually being a headstrong ass who happens to be really smart should just keep thrashing about until shit goes his way, and we never see what drives him and his rebelliousness. We never get to spend time exploring his lacking a father figure, his father complex, or struggle in coming to terms with death and fear.

We start with Spock as a child as well, further emphasizing that we have two main characters. Unlike Kirk, however, Spock's scene as a child is wonderful. Being half Vulcan half Human, he actually has the ability to respond emotionally, unlike the other Vulcan children. They attempt to get a rise out of him to reveal their superiority as extremely logical. What finally does him in is when they insult his mother. It's wonderful, genius. Spock with a mother complex, Kirk with a father complex. Spock beats the crap out of this one kid and then has a discussion with his father, who tells him to control his emotions. Spock intelligently responds that his father wishes by this command for him to be Vulcan, and yet he married a human, pointing out a sort of contradiction. The next wonderful scene with Spock is seeing him possibly being accepted into some sort of Vulcan scientific school. He has doubts, talking with his mother, but she expresses her pride in him regardless. At the hearing with the board, they accept him, and express their surprise with his impressive record despite his "weakness," which at further inquiry is his human mother. Spock declines acceptance after this remark, deciding to instead go into Star Fleet. We see a driving force within him and why he goes to Star Fleet, unlike Kirk. We can attach Spock at this point, understand him, and we like him and feel for him. Later, when Plot Device would have it his mother dies in a massive Nero attack, we feel his pain and understand his conflict despite his outward presentation. And when Kirk presses to get a rise out of him, we see him as we did as a small child, being picked on, and when Kirk moves in on his mother, we see Spock respond just as he did as a child, and we feel for him, understand him, and we find this scene moving. We actually stir with emotion. There is something real here. At this juncture, we get to see Spock converse with his father once more, and this time he is more honest, and expresses to Spock that he did not marry his mother because of logic, but because of love. This brings Spock back to usefulness, and we see him step up, now, against the external conflict. Unfortunately, the movie here gets too distracted by its action-movie tone and we are left to forget about everything else from here on. Spock and Kirk go off to fight the man who killed their mother and father respectively, the man who inadvertently shaped them into who they are with their parental complexes, and then they never truly deal with him face to face, never really talk to him for more than a few seconds, never really deal with their inner demons that this man represents (as he's the cause). Spock is left with a dull character arc, culminating instead of here, at the climax of the external conflict, coming face to face with the man who committed genocide against his people, where he truly would have to face logic vs. emotion when in dealing with him, we have it afterwards, with his future self: Leonard Nimoy. Son of a fanservice! And all we really get is a line, "For once Spock, do what you feel is right, rather than what is logical." That's it? That's all we get as the end of his internal conflict? ...And you started off so promising...

I feel the need to put Nero in this breakdown for one reason: he's the villain. Quite frankly he's flatter than Paris Hilton's chest, but at least he's not a whore. A friend of mine chalked up his character in basically one long word: BAAAAWWWWWWW. Yes, he's just a big whiner. He cries the entire movie about his home world, and he's basically on an irrational revenge kick. That being said: he would be a wonderful character for that theme...which one was it...OH RITE EMOTION VS. LOGIC. Instead he just cries the whole movie. And his death scene was extremely anti-climactic. This whole movie is, really.

The only reason I feel the need to put in Uhura here as well is because she's the only female character. That being said, she is intelligent and doesn't take shit, as we see in her dealing with Kirk in the beginning. Of course Red Shirts come into defend her, but I do enjoy the fact that she does say, "Nothing I can't handle." She can take care of herself, and we are consistently reminded of her genius (specifically in different languages). We also get to see a strong-woman moment as she tells Spock to give her the spot she deserves on the Enterprise rather than move her just because he's afraid to seem like he's playing favorites. After she gets her position on the Enterprise in the state of emergency, she becomes a background character who is simply there to be a Spock-love-interest and to make a few intelligent remarks for the sake of plot or comedy. We never learn much about her aside from the surface, which is unfortunate, but not surprising as she is about as explored as all the other characters that aren't Kirk or Spock.

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