movie review: up (aka up vs star trek)


What happens when you make a movie within a studio system that’s not run by accountants or marketing people, but run by film makers?  You get “Up,” the latest CGI-animated feature from 3D juggernaut Pixar.  “Up” isn’t simply the best Pixar film to date – it’s a great movie, period.  I don’t care if you think “cartoons” aren’t for you or if you tend to steer clear of “kids movies,” this is something everyone who likes movies will love.

One thing I’d like to do is take everyone who loves the new Star Trek  movie, show them “Up” and see if they’ll still cling to their belief that Trek  is a “great” movie.  And I’m tired of hearing people say “oh well it’s not fair to compare them, they’re totally different movies, blah blah blah.”  Look, either a movie is great or it isn’t.  Star Trek  is a mindless action movie that succeeds in being fun but fails to be a truly great movie.  “Up,” on the other hand, is not only fun, it’s an inventive, clever, emotionally satisfying journey with multi-dimensi0nal characters that literally has you laughing out loud one moment and crying the next (and yes, I’m man enough to admit that “Up” had me fighting back tears a few times).

You just can’t do better than that in a movie.  Oh wait, yes you can, you can make it in 3D and completely have your senses blown away!  And speaking of 3D, you should definitely see “Up” while wearing those funny little glasses, even if it means driving a few extra miles.  Here, we finally have a 3D movie that understands the whole point of stereoscopic film making is to simply draw you into the story even further with an extra dose of reality.  Not once does “Up” resort to cheap gimmicks that say hey, look, you’re watching a 3D movie!  There are no spears poking out at you, no rocks flying into the audience and no butterflies that make you want to reach out and grab them – the 3D simply makes everything seem more real and, ultimately, deepen your involvement with the story.

And what a story it is.  “Up” is a 3D film in every sense – the plot, characters and imagery is as multi-dimensional as it gets and, while there is no doubt that “Up” will be a hit with younger viewers, it doesn’t feel like a “kids movie.”  There are several plot points and a whole slew of jokes that only adults will appreciate, making “Up” feel like a trans-generational film – it simply tells a young-at-heart story aimed at no specific age group.  I guarantee the twelve-year-olds who see and love this movie now will appreciate it on a whole new level when they see it again in years to come.

That’s one of the charms of the original Star Trek series; sure, when I was ten years old I got into Trek  for the spaceships and phasers, but when I revisited the series again as an adult there was so much more to explore.  I doubt anyone is going to discover new dimensionality to the 2009 Star Trek  upon repeat viewing, but if you’re hungry for a movie that explores strange new worlds, new life, and new civilizations, go see “Up” – it will remind you what it’s like to have a movie take you on a truly awesome adventure.

UPDATE:  I’ve taken some heat for “dissing” the new Trek  movie in this review.  Read my comments below for further clarification…

37 Responses to “movie review: up (aka up vs star trek)”

  1. 1 Michael Llaneza
    June 2, 2009 at 12:18 am

    Star Trek was wildly entertaining, Up doesn’t take away from that. But Up is a significantly better film, probably Pixar’s best, and one of the better movies for the last few years. It’s almost too artfully sentimental in spots, but anyone will tear up a bit in this movie and anyone with relevant personal history could be devastated. In WallE Pixar opened the film with about 20 minutes of a tone poem about and set in a wasted Earth. In Up the first ten minutes packs in two lifetimes.

    Toy Story 3 will probably be fantastic, but what’s their next original project ? I think they’re done with the films from the famous creative lunch, what’s next ?

  2. 2 Jon S.
    June 2, 2009 at 3:08 am

    This review would have been better without all the Trek bashing.

    I find myself constantly amazed by Pixar’s ability to take concepts that sound totally ridiculous on paper and make them into motion picture masterpieces. Upon hearing Up’s premise, I was skeptical, but the overwhelmingly positive reviews have convinced me to see it.

  3. 3 Greg
    June 2, 2009 at 5:35 am

    Man, I find myself tearing up when I explain the synopsis by describing the opening montage of the film.

    Loved it.

  4. June 2, 2009 at 7:57 am

    Moar NuTrek bashing! Let them off the hook and they won’t take the opportunity to make the next one a great film.

    Also, good review of Up. I usually eschew the 3D versions, but now I’ll try to check it out.

  5. 5 Matt Wright
    June 2, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Thanks for the review Mojo, I’ve heard nothing but good things about UP, and I love Pixar films (except for Cars), so it was already going to be on my “to see” list, and this confirms it :)

  6. 6 James
    June 2, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Loved this one as well. Goofy birds and all!

  7. June 2, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Sorry, but if your listening Pixar, it’s time for a female lead!

  8. 8 darthmojo
    June 2, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    I’m not bashing the new TREK movie per se, but I *am* questioning the universal high praise it’s gotten. The critic-roundup site Rotten Tomatoes has TREK at a 95% positive ratings and UP at 98%. Both films have gotten unmittigatingly good reviews. Does this mean that the two films are essentially just as good?

    Not even close. “Up” is ten times the film “Star Trek” is. That’s not bashing TREK, that’s just calling it like it is. Yes, “Star Trek” was fun, but it was full of problems. “Up” was just as much fun but *wasn’t* full of problems and was far more satisfying.

    I think most people who see both would agree, yet most people are unreservingly giving both films a huge thumbs up. Personally, I think it does a diservice to the really good movies when they are bunched up with the lackluster ones and heralded as being “just as good.”

    I’d like to see more people – fans and critics – be able to resist the manipulation of “ride films” and stop falling prey to the onslaughgt of action and visual effects. I don’t think any intelligent film goer would agree that all it takes is good action to make a great movie, but we’re seeing a lot of movies that ONLY offer us action getting lofted with high praise (“Transformers” and “Star Trek” being prime examples).

    Until we start demanding more from our movies, Hollywood will have no reason to strive to be better. When ride films like “Trek” receive the same critical praise and box office as “Up,” what reason do the studios have to work harder?

    Wouldn’t you love to see a STAR TREK movie achieve the same level of character and emotional depth as a Pixar movie? Wouldn’t that just rock your world?

    It can happen. You just have to demand it.

    Vote with your dollars AND your opinions.



    Longtime reader “Jeyl” also had some thoughts on this subject and said it better than I ever could:

    Well, I am happy that someone is taking a stand against STAR TREK in some form or another. We don’t get any Nokia brand names, cell phone chimes or Budweiser classics in “Up”, and we don’t get any characters we’re supposed to like even if they’re arrogant, rude and *shock* unlikable.

    The writers of UP certainly didn’t look at the characters and say “These characters are great simply because they exist. They can do anything, go anywhere and be the best at what they do because it’s their destiny!” UP’s characters are more three dimensional (forgive the pun) than any character in the new Star Trek movie. They have feelings that range from need and loss to hope and fulfillment. When a hero goes after the villain and, through great adversity, defeats him, you can cheer for the good guys – when a hero orders all weapons to be fired on the villain’s doomed ship, it’s not fun or triumphant.

    And everything in this movie fits! And I do mean everything. Some sequences in Star Trek are just throwaways. In UP, every scene matters. The one throwaway sequence I can think of at the top of my head from Star Trek is with young Kirk driving a car off a cliff for no reason given (JJ says he’s a rebel. So what?). All I could think about this scene was “Wow. Kid almost killed himself doing something incredibly stupid. What a way to introduce a character that I’m supposed to like for the next two hours.” UP’s version of our young hero is far more believable, interesting and sets up his character perfectly. There’s no attempt to throw in some cheap product placement or cliche to make the characters badass, just natural development of the characters. In fact, UP does this so well, you could even say that the first 15 minutes of UP is it’s own movie! It covers everything and it still has more to throw at us.

    So I agree with Mojo’s points in comparing this movie to Star Trek. UP is a refresher in story telling that tells a tale of one of the most unlikely ‘likable’ characters you can fathom. While I won’t call it Pixar’s best (Honor goes to Monster’s Inc.), this film truly touched me in a way I wasn’t expecting, and I had a darn good time experiencing it.

    And I’m going to be honest, Carl’s journey in “Up” has more Star Trek in it than the new Star Trek movie. Carl sets out on a mission, explores strange surroundings, encounters new forms of life and becomes a better person because of his journey. My kind of movie!

  9. June 2, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    I certainly liked UP more than Trek but to me it’s not the best Pixar film. I put it 4th behind The Incredibles, Wall-E and Nemo. I love the direction that Pixar is taking lately making more mature films and not feeling they need to make characters just to make a toy out of them.

    It’s clear to me that with Wall-E and UP Hayao Miyazaki is a major influence on John Lassiter and all the others at Pixar these days and you can’t have a better way to look to for guidance. (BTW, Miyazaki’s next film “Ponyo” will be in theaters in August.)

  10. 10 Frag
    June 2, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Huh, I saw Up, I enjoyed it overall, but I certainly wouldn’t consider it Pixar’s best film. And while I suppose there’s room to argue that its a superior film to Star Trek, I wouldn’t actually agree with that. For the big time summer popcorn type of film, Trek delivers fantastically. For a Pixar film (are they their own genre yet?) I think Up has some faults. I think it was absolutely an grown-ups’ film with things in it to appeal to children, unlike the tact on all previous Pixar efforts. And while that is admirable and interesting in its own way, I think it kind of hurts the movie in the long run. It isn’t anywhere near as re-watchable as their others have been.

    I love Pixar films, but this one wasn’t one their best, and I don’t expect its final box office to suggest otherwise. Trek I’ll watch again and again on DVD… Toy Story and the Incredibles too for that matter, but in the case of Up, once was enough.

  11. June 3, 2009 at 4:09 am

    @Frag: “For the big time summer popcorn type of film, Trek delivers fantastically.”

    Here’s the thing though. The new Star Trek movie was originally supposed to be released in December. So even during the holidays it still would have been the same kind of movie. The previous Star Trek movies never really tried to be ‘summer popcorn’ flicks.

    Even Nemesis, with all it’s problems at least had some form of cadence, meaning it actually took some time off the action to see the characters interact with each other in ways that didn’t involve arguing or fighting. And when the main action of the movie came to an end, there were scenes showing the crew we know come together, remembering those that they have lost and moving on with their lives. This new Trek movie didn’t even have a mourning for Vulcan! Six billions lives murdered, a founding nation of the Fedeation gone, and we leave with a “Buckle up!”? The book is even worse. At the end, Spock asks Kirk how he managed to reprogram the Kobayashi Maru test, and Kirk replies “Orion girls talk in their sleep”. That’d be funny if it wasn’t for the fact that the said Orion girl is DEAD!

  12. 12 zoidbert
    June 3, 2009 at 7:37 am

    Some news re/Pixar (blog):

    I think Pixar’s going to enter the mixed fray next via A WARLORD OF MARS:

  13. June 3, 2009 at 8:50 am

    I’m seeing Up tonight and I fully expect to enjoy the heck out of it. I, too, was disappointed by Star Trek, which I review at my LiveJournal and I agree with much of what Mojo says. I’ve seen it once, I don’t expect to buy the DVD, though I may get it from Netflix just to see what the “Director’s Cut” adds. I’m voting with my dollars and to get my dollars you need to tell me a good story. And on that regard, Pixar never lets me down. (But perhaps I’m biased, I worked a Pixar and I still have friends there.)

    And yes, they need to make a movie with a female lead.

  14. 14 Snafu
    June 4, 2009 at 7:26 am

    “Wouldn’t you love to see a STAR TREK movie achieve the same level of character and emotional depth as a Pixar movie? Wouldn’t that just rock your world?
    It can happen. You just have to demand it.
    Vote with your dollars AND your opinions.”

    The only time Star Trek managed to get us truly emotional about anything was when they killed Spock, and then being a Trekkie was a required prerequisite for your tearducts to have anything to do with those photons thrown to your retinae. Comparing a superexpensive selfcontained 3D movie with a middle-cost derivative of a cardboard archetypes-populated series of series tasked with a series of impossible objectives which it actually manages to reach… well, yes: it is unfair.

    Let’s be real here: the TNG movies were the last nail in the coffin, and the TV series aren’t that special anymore. Things were that abysmal that a properly done popcorn approach was a blast to most of us. We really wanted a Trek movie with a pulse, and after the equivalent of a Schumacher period we got our “Star Trek Returns”. So we voted it cool for them to keep trying. Now, “The Dark Kirk” will make or break the contract, but at least we have something other than a cadaver.

    So give the film and US some slack. Yes, we DO know it’s no Citizen Kane. We are not stupid: sometimes you can enjoy things that are far from perfect, and be perfectly aware of that, thank you.

    (I haven’t failed to notice how all of you are carefully avoiding Cars :D)

  15. June 4, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    I haven’t seen up, so I’m just going to chime in on the Star Trek discussion here.

    You’re right. Star Trek was a thrillride and nothing else. I don’t like that fact any more than I liked the fact that Transformers was much the same. Terminator: Salvation falls into this category too. It makes me sad. I liked the action, but I really wanted some great characters in there too.

  16. 16 Ulysses
    June 4, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    I’ve yet to see “Up”. I don’t think I will even when it comes out; it’s pretty embarrassing when you’re the only late-twenties guy sitting in a theatre full of snot-nosed whining kids and their parents, constantly getting up to go to the bathroom, asking stupid questions out loud and crunching on their snacks.

    This is partially the problem I have with Pixar. I’m sure “Up” is a decent story, very polished visually and “fun for all the family”. Again. Pixar has been resting on its laurels for so many years now I don’t know what to think. Pixar are going where everyone has already gone before; they paved the way for charming, visually attractive 3D movies for children and they keep on milking the same niche for all it’s worth. They have some of the best artists around, but they don’t seem to push the envelope into new territory. Perhaps that will change in the coming years but in the mean-time there’s no hint of their creating something a little more cerebral for adults. In the Far-East animation has long been seen as just another medium for story-telling that is aimed at all demographics, but we in the West still can’t seem to shake off the legacy of Mickey Mouse and his brethren; that animation is cute and cuddly and mainly for children.

    If I ever were to see “Up” i’m pretty sure i’d enjoy it, but it’s like candy. I like candy but if I had to eat it day in and day out for the rest of my life, i’d end up shooting myself. As wonderful as Pixar is, they just… bore me. They should take a step in another direction, like Studio Ghibli did with Ponyo.

    As for Trek, I tried very hard to enjoy it. There were certain aspects I really liked, particularly the visuals and action-packed scenes. I thought the use of glare, lens-flare and harsh lighting was somewhat reminiscent of the real flaring i’d seen on “2001: A Space Odyssey” – well, it gave me a good feeling because of that. The destruction of Vulcan however and numerous plot holes left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. I was actually looking at my watch towards the end wondering when they’d get around to somehow going back in time and saving Vulcan. Of course they never did, but then that is what this paper-thin ruse of an alternate time-line is all about, isn’t it? Despite being one of the worst cliches in writing, I actually think that if they’d woken up and realised the whole movie was “just a dream” it might have made for a better ending.

    On the whole, as with Transformers (which had the most appalling timing i’ve ever seen in a movie) it was an over-hyped production where the hard work put in by the SFX guys was marred by poor writing and direction. I really feel sorry for these guys because the more I learn about the process the more I realise just how much effort is required to achieve some of the things they do. I also get annoyed at reviewers who seem to think that vapid entertainment is OK, that we shouldn’t have expected anything more than a “pop-corn flick”. Gene Roddenberry didn’t spend decades of his life overseeing the creation of a whole fictional universe for it to be reduced to a pop-corn flick.

    I’m not a Trekkie by any definition of the word, but I do expect more than just my reptilian mid-brain to be excited when watching a movie.

  17. 17 danthelawyer
    June 4, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    I saw Up this weekend and loved it — although it just about had me sobbing in a couple of spots. But there is a very serious continuity issue, which even my 10-year-old spotted.


    When Carl first sees the newsreel of Muntz, Carl is about 9 or 10, and Muntz looks to be in his late 20s. Then, when they meet, Carl seems about 70, but Muntz seems maybe late 50s. Hunh?

  18. 18 Jon S.
    June 4, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    You’re assuming a false dichotomy by claiming that ‘thrill ride’ movies cannot be as good as ‘more intelligent’ movies. Both Up and Star Trek filled their respective roles well; however, claiming that one genre is superior to another is simply bias.

    I’m not upset that you criticized Star Trek; I readily admit that the film had its flaws. However, you said that you “think it does a diservice (sic) to the really good movies when they are bunched up with the lackluster ones and heralded as being “just as good.” Despite this complaint, you structured your Up review around comparisons to Star Trek, even though the films occupy entirely different genres. You should have reviewed the film based on it’s own merits, and compared it to other media in its own genre (such as Pixar’s previous projects). Just because Star Trek and Up were released in the same month does not mean it is appropriate to juxtapose them in a critical review.

    Additionally, the prevailing viewpoint here seems to be that Star Trek is a ‘mindless action movie’. I encourage anyone who holds that opinion to take a closer look at the film’s plot; issues such as ambition vs. mediocrity, no-win scenarios, impartiality and adhering to values even in the face of adversity make Star Trek far more intellectual that other recent sci-fi action films like Iron Man and Transformers. Granted, the writing was not quite as thoughtful as previous Star Trek stories, but it was still a refreshing change from the typical ‘blow ’em all up’ plot we see in your typical action movie.

  19. June 5, 2009 at 4:04 am

    Jon S.: “claiming that one genre is superior to another is simply bias.”

    I don’t think Mojo is claiming that one genre is superior to another. He’s just saying that UP handles all the elements involving it’s story line in a much more mature, intelligent and preferable manner. Both of these movies, regardless of genre follow the same set of principles in order to tell a story. And previous Star Trek stories have been told a lot better than this new Star Trek movie, if not as good as UP. These elements all stem from the reasoning behind the story, the characters and their goals they try to attain at the end.

    Take Carl’s character. He’s alone, sad and has almost nothing to live for at his age. But after one incident that threatens to take away everything he and his wife Ellie made together when they were happy, he makes a choice to do something drastic that he’s been putting off ever since he met Ellie. As a character, his motivation for his actions are crystal clear. Now when you look at Kirk and his rebellious nature, he’s pretty much the kind of guy who just goes around bars, trying to hook up with the ladies and doesn’t have a care in the world for anything. After some supposedly inspirational chat with Pike about how his Dad intentionally sacrificed his life to save 800 people including his, Pike dares him to do better by enlisting in Starfleet. Now, since Kirk is supposed to be smart, don’t you think that he would have already known what his Dad did for him, his mother and everyone on board the Kelvin? Why does Pike become the figure of inspiration when Kirk’s own Dad didn’t fit into the equation? And don’t you just love how the mother never ever becomes a part of his inspiration even when she’s a Starfleet officer herself? You can practically feel the script saying that the mother’s role ends at his birth. In UP, even after dying, Ellie’s role for Carl never ceased and she was still the prime influence on his motivation and purpose.

    As for the character development, there’s nothing really here. Kirk is still the same arrogant person he was when the film started out, but what about Spock? Well, he certainly had some development that meant something, but let’s take another look at him. In the original series, Spock’s logic was always trying to keep things in place and looking at the big picture. In the original series episode “The Arena”, Kirk is obsessed with chasing an alien spacecraft that was responsible for the deaths of an entire Federation Colony. Spock maintains that destroying the ship isn’t necessary and when Kirk says that those who killed the colonists need to be punished, Spock replies that just destroying the space craft will not bring the colonist back nor make anything any better. And in the end, Spock was right! There is nothing bad about using logic in this situation. In this new Star Trek movie, Spock’s character does a complete 180º. When Nero’s ship is being engulfed by the black hole, Kirk offers assistance to get them out of their predicament. Spock however asks Kirk why he’s doing this and Kirk replies that if they help Nero, this might somehow earn peace with Romulas. Let’s take a moment and look at Kirk’s proposal here. He says that helping Nero and his crew might earn peace with Romulas. That surely won’t be the only thing. Spock Prime didn’t tell Kirk which Star was going to go Super Nova, but Nero and his crew does. So not only would they be taking a step closer to earning peace with Romulas, they’ll also be helping them avert disaster that will one day come. Spock however doesn’t like this and prefers just to kill Nero and his crew. Why? Because he’s learned to not use logic and instead just go with his emotions to avange Vulcan and his mother. Screw saving the galaxy, screw earning peace with Romulas and screw any bit of characteristics that made Spock a terrific character to begin with. Let’s kill Nero! Oh, in the book it’s even worse. Spock actually says “Sir, he destroyed Vulcan. To hell with logic!”. So the moral of the story is that revenge is good and compassion is totally optional.

    What do you think the Moral of UP was?

  20. 20 Snafu
    June 5, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Who says that’s “the moral of the story”? (what’s this, an Eighties Saturday morning cartoon?) That’s just Spock’s current state of mind, and it is an intriguing reversal to watch, because we know this will have to evolve, so there’s a journey ahead for him.

    And Kirk actually offers the olive branch to Nero in spite of everything: he’s the one who has learned to see a bigger picture (Nero refuses, so he’s destroyed).

    Kirk’s decision to go Starfleet is not predicated on Pike’s actually passing any pearl of wisdom or new knowledge or his parents this or that, but him being at some kind of tipping point fed up with being what he is, and deciding just to give it a try, discovering that he can be good at it and actually liking it more than he actually thinks he does. And then being tested by this crisis.

    (Also, I think it is quite logical and interesting to discover that non-fully educated Vulcan kids can be vicious. Vulcans repress aggression, Romulans codify it and channel it. An untrained Vulcan could be the most dangerous creature)

    Again, no Citizen Kane, but come on…

  21. 21 gammara
    June 5, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    Good comments, Mojo. I also thought Star Trek was fun, but not a “good movie.” Chuff and I are interested in seeing “Up.” And your comments about how important passion and vision are, well — they’re right on. Passion is what Gene Roddenberry had and perhaps what JJ Abrams lacked. (Although, hell a part of me is glad we don’t have competing canon to worry about any more.)

  22. June 6, 2009 at 5:18 am

    Snafu- what’s this, an Eighties Saturday morning cartoon?

    Well, the ‘Seventies’ Saturday morning cartoon show of Star Trek I consider to be a lot more entertaining than this one. It had Robert April, M’Ress and Arex! And my favorite part? They actually got Uhura to do something crucial like taking command of the Enterprise! The new Trek movie doesn’t even give her anything to do.

  23. 23 james Rye
    June 7, 2009 at 12:52 pm


    ‘The new Trek movie doesn’t even give her (Uhura) anything to do.’

    Aside from taking over from a male officer to translate Romulan and aside from putting Spock in his place to take her position on the Enterprise and aside from intercepting the Klingon transmission to aid Kirk in understanding the threat to Vulcan I agree with your comment.

    The emotional support that she gave to Spock is I take it a bit to girly and feminine.

    I enjoyed UP, but Star Trek was more fun.


  24. 24 Snafu
    June 7, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    I think she did more in this movie than in all the others put together.

  25. 25 neal_with_an_"a"
    June 7, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    One thing worth noting regarding Rotten Tomatoes. Yes, both films got extraordinarily high “Tomatometer” ratings (95% ST, 98% Up) but that is really just the “thumbs-up” vs. “thumbs-down” rating and both films definitely earned the “thumbs-up” from the vast majority of reviewers.

    There is also a second rating that attempts to translates the actual reviews on a 1-10 scale. In that system, ST rates a solid 8.1 while Up is a very strong 8.9. I would have to say that seems about right to me, and definitely shows that overall, the reviewers ranked Up significantly higher than Star Trek.

  26. 26 Neumann
    June 7, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    The question that begs to be asked is… where did you get that enterprise render?

  27. 27 Snafu
    June 8, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Could that Enterprise be not a render but one of those photos of a self-illuminated scale model that were being shown around some weeks or months before the movie premiered? All that reflected blue reminds me of them.

  28. 28 Tom N.
    June 9, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    One thing I would like you to consider is time, Pixar has 4 years (You can probably add a couple more for early development) to beat on this story and get every moment right. Also the nature of it being a story told visually and much more emphasis is put on acting out beats visually by at times a team of 10-15 storyboard artists results in a much tighter final product. A luxury JJ didn’t come close to having on what was no doubt a much tighter schedule.

  29. June 10, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with you Mojo and I don’t think you were bashing Star Trek. Please keep on being open with your refreshing reviews.

  30. 30 The Thorn
    June 10, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    Pixar may have 4 years to make a movie, but it doesn’t cost money to write well. The root of any great story is the script. And that only requires imagination and smarts – not money. Give me a low-budget film with a great story over a ginormous-budget film with a total absence of logic (i.e. any Michael bay film)

    Personally, I’m hoping that the new Trek movie is just a way to get the new trilogy (yes, they’re signed on for three films!) started but that the rest of the set will be more substantial. If not, it will have been a squandered opportunity and it’s going to be a total write off. Um… except to the accountants at Paramount.

    Economics aside, there was no reason to turn Star Trek into Star Wars (urgh… even the score was more SW than ST!). There already is a ‘Star Wars’. We don’t need two of them. What made Star Trek appealing were its unique qualities – qualities that have been mostly stripped away in this “reboot”.

    Having said that, ‘Star Trek’, despite its many MANY shortcomings, was better (overall) than any of the new Star Wars movies. Thank goodness for THAT!

  31. 31 Tom N.
    June 10, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    No it doesn’t cost money to write well, It costs a LOT of money to get a good script. If you were to take a look at Up’s storyreel in the first 2-3 years it wouldn’t be close to the movie it was (None of these animated movies are) and in point of fact was most likely pretty terrible but you missed the point, My point was Pixar had the time and they used it well to beat the story into shape whereas Abrams had maybe less then a year to get a script that was ready to shoot and maybe 60 days to shoot it which would be a luxury in live action terms.

    Good stories are hard to come by, a low budget movie with a great story was great before it ever got greenlit. we are talking about movies with 100+ million dollar budgets, Up had a production budget of $175 million, Star Trek was probably less then that and was done in a much shorter amount of time. The fact that they are being compared is almost lunacy they couldn’t be more different in every spectrum!

  32. 32 darthmojo
    June 11, 2009 at 1:21 am

    HEY: I agree, it’s nice to see Pixar explore more adult territory. You mentioned Miyazaki – I’d put money on Pixar creating a truly adult animated movie within the next ten years and essentially re-introducing the concept of mature animated content to this country. What a pleasure that would be.

    FRAG: If you consider STAR TREK to be something you’ll watch again and again but UP doesn’t cut it, then you’re simply saying you prefer to turn your brain off and enjoy a good ride movie. That’s fine, everyone has their tastes. Personally, I don’t think a movie’s repeat viewing quotient is equal to how good it is. 2001 and Lawrence of Arabia are classics but not really meant to be watched over and over again.

    SNAFU: Sure, the death of Spock is great, but WRATH OF KHAN isn’t the only TREK movie to deliver depth. The scenes in GENERATIONS where Picard is dealing with the loss of his nephew are some of the most emotionally gripping moments in any TREK movie – well written, well acted and well shot (the stark, golden light pouring into the ship was awesome). But guess what? That was Ron Moore’s writing, and he GETS IT.

    ULYSSES: Wow, you really wrote a full-on essay! Unfortunately, your first sentance destroyed any possible credibility you might have had so I didn’t bother reading the rest. I don’t think anyone can take you seriously when you start off by saying how you refuse to see a movie and then go on and on about it. Report back after you’ve gotten off your high horse.

    JON S: No, I am not going to review movies on their own merits or simply compare them to others in their genre. A GOOD MOVIE IS A GOOD MOVIE, period. An action movie is not excused from having a clever plot and good characters simply because of the genre. Fuck, last year’s “Trek” was IRON MAN and that was a far superior film. IRON MAN had a more interesting (and coherent) plot, not to mention depth of character that made TREK look like a Bazooka Joe comic. AND lots of action! OOooops, there I go comparing TREK to movies in it’s own genre when I just said I wasn’t going to. And it STILL fails.

    NEUMANN: Snafu’s comment after yours answers your question.

    TOM: Sorry, playing the “they didn’t have enough time” card is a load of dingo’s kidneys. They had at least six months to write this script, and that’s plenty of time. Especially considering that many of the biggest issues are things that could have been fixed in MINUTES, had someone decided they were issues that needed to be fixed. Having Kirk just happen to run into Spock’s cave is simply sloppy writing, and everyone – especially JJ – should be called to the mat for never saying “hey guys, let’s see if we can get these two together in a more believable and clever way.” Give me and some of my pals half an hour and we’ll give you at least five ways to establish Kirk’s character that are better than a bar fight.

    No, the problem is that they entrusted this movie to the guys who wrote TRANSFORMERS and MI:3. They got what they paid for and, apparently, it was exactly what people wanted.

    UP was written by people who had a higher standard, and they answered to people who DID challenge them to be better and who were most likely far more demanding.

  33. 33 Snafu
    June 11, 2009 at 6:27 am

    Wasn’t Abrams unable to modify the script due to the writers’ strike? He said he found himself in the position of not being able to change things because of that.

    Having four years to nurture a script helps lots: the Pixar guys have explained quite often how they have got to restart story development for some movies after arriving to a creative cul-de-sac.

    In the end, it’s about money: money gives you time and other resources, and talented people. This is a business, after all. And I know what it’s going to be said about the romantics of higher standards and so on, but were Pixar unable to pay for the needed resources, its movies wouldn’t be that good (having Disney behind you finantially and marketing-wise helps tremendously).

  34. 34 The Thorn
    June 11, 2009 at 8:15 am

    I’m sorry to break this to you, darthmojo, but the meeting between Kirk and Spock Prime (or whatever) was clearly explained. Maybe you missed it:

    It was fate. Fate makes things happen for inexplicable reasons and makes everything perfect and bubbly and the sun shines just when you’d think it gonna rain. Bwahahahahahaha!!!

    Fate! ROFL!

    I think that “fate” also explains most of ‘The Island’ and half of ‘Transformers’ – bad movies written by bad writers :(

    All jokes aside, I have to disagree with you on one point: ‘Iron Man’ was only okay. It was a cookie-cutter action film that held NO surprises. Not a bad action film (if you ignore totally retched moments like Pepper Pots doing surgery in Tony Stark’s chest cavity with her bare hands and eyes averted, I mean), but only average.

    I would say that (for me, anyway) a good, solid superhero movie is ‘Unbreakable’ or ‘The Crow’. Sometimes, simpler is better. And there’s something to be said for character development.

    Mind you, that is assuming you actually want to think and feel – as opposed to setting your brain on stun and going for a ride (which is also fun, as was the case for ‘Star Trek’. It’s just not usually a substantial, multi-dimensiaonal experience and we shouldn’t pretend that it is)

    The ‘Spider-Man’ movies were good. ‘The Dark Knight’ was quite a ride, but also not without its glaring script issues. Mostly, superhero movies are a mixed bag – even if they can do more now thanks to CGI.

    …and I’m really not condescending of the genre – I’m a big comic book/graphic novel buff. I just think that they could do better is all.

  35. 35 Tom N.
    June 11, 2009 at 9:40 am

    Not saying they didn’t have enough time to make a good script, I think they made a decent script. Just saying you are holding them to exacting standards that don’t compare. Your point about the spock prime/kirk cave meeting is moot since they even explain that in an interview you linked to. Was it sufficient enough explanation? maybe not but its there and JJ bought it (Spock prime even alludes to it in the scene!).

    Not much else to say except while not perfect they did a pretty good job with what they had. some of the character and subtext is actually there only its much more subtle and implied, Its easy to see how so much goes unseen. Up is designed to extract emotion with every beat (Especially the first 20 minutes) and in some ways feels more manufactured to me. I actually prefer a little bit of stumbling that leaves us some interpretation, some of the best moments in film come from those stumbles.

  36. 36 Ulysses
    June 11, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Managing to only get as far as one line into my comment and still misinterpreting it – bravo. First of all, “Up” isn’t out yet here, hence my not being able to pass final judgement on it. Having seen plenty of other Pixar movies I reckon I have a fair idea of what this one will be like; from your description it doesn’t sound like a huge departure from their previous works – hence the ongoing debate in my mind as to whether or not I should go and see it. You yourself speculate on movies and your expectations of them on this blog; like most people i’m sure you don’t just randomly select what you’re going to watch, but use your own discretion and choose movies based on your personal taste and what you expect them to be like. What an awful man I must be, having also assumed the “Hannah Montana” movie would not be to my taste without even watching it!

    My second sentence would’ve made it clear that I have nothing against “Up” itself but rather the viewing experience I am likely to encounter if I go to watch what is essentially marketed as a “kids” movie.

    Now, you’re basically complaining about how i’m judging a movie I haven’t yet seen. Actually, if you read what I wrote you’d have realised I was speaking of Pixar movies in general (i.e. ones i’d already seen – there have been more than a few from which to form an opinion).

    You didn’t get that far though, and instead chose to insult me. In keeping with idiotic horse analogies, you didn’t exactly give me a fair crack of the whip. I think that says more about you than it does about me.

  37. June 15, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Mojo, just wanted to throw a “Hells, yeah!” in your direction for the sentiments of this post.

    I, too, have taken flack for saying “Wow, ‘Trek’ was dumb.” I get that most people dug the roller coaster ride pacing, but I was sitting there thinking “Am I not supposed to notice how ridiculous this story is because they’re hurrying me along?”

    By contrast, “Up” moved me. I can’t remember the last time I said that about a movie.

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June 2009

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