In the comments of the Star Trek waffles post, Rich asked me why I described the recent movie as "nightmarishly-bad". I responded in the comments, but I think that the issue is post-worthy. Although I've briefly noted the problems in the movie in a review at the time of its release, I can't find that post in my archives, so I shall address the subject again.
Re-inventing the series was fine. The old paradigms were stale and had been played out, and a franchise needs to take a fresh approach now and then. Stargate: Universe, for example, is written and shot very differently from Stargate: SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis. Not only are the characters new, but the structure and tone of the story are radically different.
The recent Star Trek movie went beyond this, changing who people were, how they related to each other, and even how technology worked. This, too, was just fine. In fact, such complete re-imaginings were necessary to give new life to the franchise.
But they made critical mistakes. It was clear that the producers decided to make an action film, and came up with some fine action scenes to dazzle audiences who are prone to be attracted to random, shiny objects that come into view.
I approve of good action scenes and special effects. But I disapprove of coming up the action scenes first and then designing a plot around them. The story must always come first.
And the story was pretty confusing. It was unclear to me who this Nero was. I was able to discern his plan, but not how he was going to carry it out. It would be a stretch to describe Nero as a one-dimensional character. He might as well have been wearing a sign around his neck that said "NPC".
More importantly, it was not explained how Starfleet was able to figure out what the plan was. Somehow, they simply knew. And they had a solution, although this solution was never explained, and it was really never explained how Kirk was the only person capable of carrying it out.
Now, yes, I did actually understand what was happening. But I would prefer that Trek movies have a plot at least as sophisticated as an episode of Voltron, and this one didn't make it. And just as the dialog in that cartoon was just a vehicle to get to the point of Voltron slicing a robot in two with his Blazing Sword in every episode, the script to the Star Trek movie was just a means to get eyeballs on explosions.
I want a plot; I want a story in my Trek. Special effects are good, but they are secondary to the story.
The second issue bothered me for two reasons. And this is the issue: they promoted a 19-year old boy to Captain and gave him command of a starship.
This was wildly, impossibly unrealistic.
There's a trend in modern entertainment to worship youth. It's like Hollywood is living in the domed cities of Logan's Run -- once you're thirty, it's time to die.
A generation ago, it was possible to be a leading man and be 40. A generation before that, it was even possible to be a leading man at 50. But the recent Trek movie decided that a man is ready for retirement at 25. It declared, implicitly, that what is good in a man is that he is a sultry, moody teenager.
I disapprove of this youth-worship, which reduced Star Trek to Muppet Babies in Space.
That's the first reason that it bothered me. Here's the second: there is a central principle to speculative fiction. It is that although situations and technologies may change, people are the same. They have to behave like human beings; they have to follow an internal logic.
And it is simply not reasonable for a 19-year old punk to be plucked off the Iowa plains, given a prized appointment to Starfleet Academy, immediately promoted above all of his upper classmates, and then immediately commissioned as not only a junior officer, but a captain -- and then given command of a major vessel. This is stupid and asinine, and was only written because it makes 14-year old girls swoon.
Star Trek might attract 14-year old girls, but it should not be written with that as its primary goal.
The very first episode of Star Trek, called "The Cage", was rejected by NBC as "too cerebral." If the people behind this movie were desperately trying to avoid a similar critique on the re-launch of the franchise, they succeeded brilliantly. If they wanted to tell a good story, they failed spectacularly.