Review of the New Star Trek Movie:

I recently saw the new Star Trek movie, which has garnered mostly positive reviews from critics and science fiction fans (e.g. here, here, and here). My own view is less favorable. I think that the movie was generally well-acted and fun to watch. But I also thought that the plot was weak, for much the same reasons as those discussed by this reviewer. In addition, the movie lacked any meaningful moral, philosophical, or political point; nor did it have much in the way of memorable and interesting characters. Science fiction can be enjoyable without these elements. But it can’t be great.

Finally, the movie didn’t address a key question I hoped it would take up: how and why the Federation turned socialist. Early in the story, we do see a Nokia cell phone clearly labeled as such. This suggests that there are still large private firms at the time the movie starts (roughly in the mid-23rd century). However, it’s also possible that Nokia had already been nationalized, with the Federation government retaining the brand name for its own use. The fact that the Nokia phone in the movie (set 250 years in the future) seems only slightly more advanced than the Nokia phones of today suggests that the firm had been stagnant for a long time – as government-owned enterprises often tend to be. There are historic precedents for nationalizations that retain famous brand names. For example, the communist government of Czechoslovakia nationalized the famous Skoda Works, but continued to use the name. In any event, it looks like we will have to wait to get more insight into the political and economic history of the Federation. Perhaps the next movie in the series will boldly go deeper into this issue than any Star Trek film has gone before.

UPDATE: I suppose I should say, for the benefit of commenters who take things a bit too literally, that I don’t actually think producers were trying to make a deep statement about socialism in the Federation with the Nokia scene. To the contrary, the movie seems to ignore the whole question of socialism entirely – just as it mostly ignores the other moral and political issues on which the original Star Trek sought to make a statement (even if sometimes ineptly). I was just trying to have a little fun with that scene. I do think that the failure to grapple with any important issues is a defect of the new Star Trek movie, not a virtue.

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