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I have two very opinionated friends who love to argue about everything. Their latest bone of contention? The new STAR TREK movie.

I’ll call friend one WIGGLES. Friend two is WAMBAT. Here is a sample of their email arguments. Which I always find endearing and entertaining…

WIGGLES’ original email:

OK, just saw the new Star Trek. First 40 minutes are very enjoyable, then the movie just falls off a cliff. I had the impression that the script only went up to page forty and the improved the rest. What follows is not terrible, it’s just not good. Overall a mediocre movie, there are certainly several better Star Trek movies already out there. The fact that it’s getting such good reviews is a sad reflection of how much expectations for B movies have plummeted since the 1980s, a script is apparently optional now and the world is ok with that. When effects were hard and expensive,  Indiana Jones had to entertain in the in-between bits with jokes and some plot cleverness, CGI has been the death of the B movie.

The fact that the first 40 minutes are so good is especially dispiriting. You can picture the writers slaving over the script, trying for the first time in their lives to write something decent, and then the producers walk  in and say “guys, why are you dragging out this writing process? Don’t worry, the script is immaterial to our box office performance, so just add another 3.5 action sequences, star wipe and we’re out before lunch!”

Those who haven’t seen it shouldn’t read any further, because I’m going to give away details now.





  1. I like the Kirk actor a lot, fantastic casting. Sulu is also good.
  2. However, Spock and McCoy are weird camp impersonations of the original  characters. That terrible actor from Heroes is still terrible.
  3. The movie is basically very entertaining up to the punch-up on the drill platform. rather like the first Spiderman movie actually, the academy/youth/school setting has an enjoyable feel and character and plot(!), but once our protagonists master their powers/get on a spaceship, the plot becomes terribly terribly perfunctory.
  4. Nero as a character doesn’t exist. He has almost zero screen time, and is a very generic vaguely arab-looking lone bad guy trying to exact his revenge on the western Federation for inadvertently killing his family despite their best of high-tech intentions. I don’t think the screenwriters (who wrote Transformers, ha!) are aware of this subtext, since at no moment does the script betray any indications of intelligent life, they’ve just absorbed Hollywood’s current stock characters/plot devices unquestioningly.
  5. The bad main guy not really existing means that the plot doesn’t really exist. It’s all very painting-by-numbers after they first battle him. He flies to Earth, they magically catch up with him, they decide to only beam two people aboard his ship to fight it out, even though his ship is supposed to be way more advanced than theirs, and if you have a way of sneaking people on board, surely that is the best way to take him out? Why don’t we beam 50 lads with ray guns over and kill the guy?
  6. Spock and Kirk’s ingenious plan to defeat this powerful foe is to get in a ship and shoot everything in an insipid boomfest. Yup, it’s Transformers all the way for the last half hour.
  7. The whole ice planet segue was an affront to my eyes. Generic
 alien-monster chase that you know only exists to meet their 4.5 action sequence requirement demanded by the studio. Oh, and here’s the old Spock in this little cave! And here’s Scotty just over the hill! WTF.
  8. Scotty’s accent is just awful.
  9. 8.5 Scotty’s execrable Willy Wonka moment in the water pipes is the best example of how the film loses any kind of coherent tone in its second half, the ‘comedy’ is much too camp, the action loses any urgency or significance.
  10. Why the fuck are the kids in charge of the asylum anyway? Does Starfleet have no chain of command below the captain level?
  11. The whole time-travel concept was dumb, hackneyed and pointless. Why even bother with it? What is Nero in his big ship supposed to be doing for 25 years? Why do we even want the old Spock.
  12. The ending is pure Armageddon/Independence Day/Michael Bay non-consensual brain-sodomy. The big evil drill is putting a big hole in Earth of the whatever century, and everyone stands about being all “oh the
 horror”. then Spock saves the planet by ***SHOOTING THE DRILL WITH A RAY GUN***. Wow, what a shame nobody else on the planet Earth or in Starfleet had a ray gun they could have shot the drill with.

Here is Wambat’s refute…

i generally think this is a perfect example of WIGGLES thinking a movie is just ok but going off the deep end about it because he can’t bear to not be the guy with extreme feelings about it.

the criticism of spock is just wrong – obviously there’s no “just wrong,” but i thought spock was just about the best thing about the movie, creating a sadness in the character that was not present in the nimoy versions.  even if others can’t explain what they like about spock that precisely, the consensus is definitely that quinto was pretty great.

and i am not having a serious “i couldn’t suspend disbelief” conversation about star trek.  yes, scotty was marooned on the same planet as spock, and kirk.  fine.  they have to find a way to
introduce all the main characters, and at some point they’ve got to have some event where they meet that seems improbable.  it’s a function of the prequal structure.

i move to disqualify WIGGLES from future movie discussion until he can get a handle on his “best movie ever/worst movie ever” habit.

Oh no you didn’t! Wiggles must have his refute…

First off, WAMBAT, mediocre doesn’t mean want you seem to think it means.

Secondly, Quinto didn’t work for me, deal with it.  To be fair to him, perhaps the main reason I found his depiction of Spock to be so inconsistent is the script he was dealing with.  On the one hand, his character is profoundly unemotional, at least on the surface, but on the other hand, the wonky plot demanded that his character act like the biggest emotional basket case on the ship.  The key scene being when Kirk proves that Spock is too emotionally involved by the destruction of his planet to remain captain, yet apparently it’s ok for Kirk to be captain, an ungraduated trainee who flouts regulations, snuck aboard the ship not once but twice, just insulted the captain’s mother, and most stupidly of all, ***wants contravene direct orders in order to chase after the very same bad guy who is intent on destroying HIS plant***.  Yeah we can expect that guy to have no emotional concerns at all.

In sum, the script demands that not Spock not act like the product of an alien culture with an unfathomable ability for emotional disengagement, but a raving nut job who loses he shit every time you mention his mother.  And it does this to awkwardly place Kirk into the captain’s chair on a pretext that makes no sense at all on its own terms in any case.  So no, I didn’t find Quinto’s interpretation of Spock to be compelling; like most everything else in this movie after they left Starfleet Academy (up to which point the film was good), his character became another contrivance in the service of a slack lazy plot.

As for the ice planet, it is the REAL black hole of the movie with its staggering craptaculous suckitude:

1) It seems obvious to me that the whole time travel plot was grafted crudely on at a late stage in the scriptwriting process, presumably because the producers decided for business reasons to include a member of the original cast to help drag in the core franchise fan base who might otherwise be turned off by rumours of “Star Trek 90210”.

2) The ice planet is where the ugly seams of this dubious plot patch-job are most apparent.  If Kirk had landed and met Scotty alone, that would have worked.  The fact that this random uninhabited planet seems to have a vital character living in every cave is a bit ugly.

3) Not nearly as ugly, however, as the “mind meld”, which proves to be the ugliest kind of storytelling, essentially turning into a “previously on star trek” warp-speed account of the awkward and nonsensical time travel plot.  [[if you care about the details: Spock fails ***by just seconds*** to save Romulus from a star going supernova — quite possible the slowest possible astronomical phenomenon except for the expansion and contraction of the universe itself, which our own scientists already can predict hundreds of thousands of years in advance.  Now that is genocidal procrastination.]]

4) The ice planet lark necessitates one of the worst deus ex machina-help-writing-a-plot-is-just-too-hard-and-I-want-to-going-outside-and-play moments: Scotty now has “transwarp beaming” that allows them to jump into a ship moving at maximum warp, which has been moving away from them for several hours.  In other words, the characters now have a technology that allows them to appear instantly in any part of the universe, making all subsequently plot developments nonsense.  I don’t care about the credibility of the science — it’s all nonsense after all — but when operating in a fantastical genre the filmmakers have an even greater obligation to create a sense of rules of the game and practical limitations in order to preserve suspension of disbelief.

Eh, there is a bunch of other stuff, but who has the time.  Basically the whole catch up with the bad guy and save Earth segment feels like a cursory afterthought:

1) bad guy lives in cliched bad-guy-lair of a spaceship consisting entirely of perilous catwalks lacking guard rails that lead to…other catwalks

2) bad guy insists on laborious drilling to planet’s core, even though he has a big lump of “red matter” (antimatter that goes all the way to 11), and he could simply fuck a few drops out the window and it would wipe earth out anyway

3) his laborious cackling drill to the core scheme is foiled by Spock shooting the drill with a ray gun, which apparently nobody else in Earth of 23 century or Starfleet had to hand

4) …. I give up

Not the worst film ever, but the last half or so aspires to be.

And this is where I jump into the ring. I ask them if I can post their argument on this blog. To which WAMBAT asks…

only if you feature WIGGLES’ rant about the drill.why are you so bent out of shape about this.

Now this is getting personal…

[Wiggles] Because I care about dialogue and story, and it makes me sad that a film that can be so lauded when, its many accomplishments notwithstanding, it falls very short in that regard. Dude, everyone knows your taste in cinema took a big dive when you moved back to Houston, and hasn’t really recovered since.  You’ve become a bit of a multiplex-roaming schlub.

The gloves are off! I expect cyber punches…

[Wambat] i don’t care about this.

And then the discussion moved on to HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL. Though I seriously doubt either Wiggles or Wambat have seen these movies.

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