Friday, May 17, 2013

Star Trek: Into Darkness

OK, I tend to keep this blog about wargames, figures, and models, but today I am going to step away from all that and vent. Today I went out and saw Star Trek: Into Darkness, the second film in the rebooted Trek franchise. This is going to be filled with spoilers and rage, spoilers and indignation, and, well, spoilers. So you have been warned, I will hold nothing back. Really. So..


So don’t say I didn’t tell you...

Let’s start at the beginning and a little about me

There seems to be this pervading theme that you are either a Trek fan or a Star Wars fan. Yes, Star Trek was my first love (well, to be honest, Thunderbirds probably qualifies as my first love). I was born in the 50’s and was about 9 years old when the original Star Trek premiered. I saw it few time during the actual run, there were a handful of times when my mother let me stay up late and see it. I got to know it when it went into syndication. I did build a few of the original plastic kits. Star Wars came along while I was in college. The summer of ’77, my friends and I went to a theater almost an hour away so we could see it on a really big screen. Numerous times. I built some of the Star Wars kits. I've read two or three of the follow on novels in each universe as well.

Many “analysts” have called Star trek and Star Wars two sides of the same coin. This, IMHO, is not true. I think Star Trek (TOS) was science fiction; it was about ideas, it was about an optimistic future for humanity, it was about intelligence and heart solving the world’s problems. Star Wars is space opera; it’s about action and myth making in an interstellar setting. I like both, but I do think they are distinctly different. Sure they both have space ships, aliens, and other worlds, but that’s just similar window dressing. If they are of the same stuff, then you may as well say they are the same as the NCIS – it’s all just story telling. They are different but I still love them both.
"When we were young and our heart was an open book..."
And we dreamed of making the Kessel run with Han
So that’s my assessment of their respective geneses. Things got muddy later on with Trek having four further series and a succession of films, Star Wars had the prequel trilogy, but let’s set those aside for now. A potential future rant may be my views on where later Trek series strayed, what made good and bad Trek movies, and why the world would be a better place if Star Wars Chapters 1 thru 3 never existed. Let's turn to...

2009 Trek

In some ways 2009 is like 2012. Just as the world was to end with the Mayan 2012 apocalypse and that didn't happen, so too were their predictions of the end of Trek with the 2009 reboot by J.J.Abrams (a self-designated child of Star Wars) and that didn't happen either.
New blood
I understood Star Trek (2009) (I’ll just refer to it as ST:A for Star Trek: Abrams from here on out) and the need for a reboot. I think throwing new actors into the roles and continuing like nothing was different wouldn't have worked. And we all were saved from the oft floated “Star Fleet Academy” concept. What ST:A did right was get actors with a similar feel; try and re-establish the emotional bonds of the crew which helped to drive the original. Did I have quibbles? Yes. Did I see value in the Spock/Uhura thing? No – this was a big shift in the essential character of Spock. Did I like the ship so pristine white inside and the bridge looking, as one reviewer claimed, like an Apple store? No. But overall I thought it captured some of the emotional spirit of the original. Sure, it was shallow as a tea saucer, but what can you expect from big movies these days. The much feared Star Wars-ification of Star Trek did not happen. I had hoped future voyages could maintain the feel and get back to a little sf.

Star Trek: Into Darkness: The Suckage

Not only does ST:ID violate the essential nature of many of the characters, it minimizes the great Trek moments it allegedly pays homage to. I’m just going to list the things that bug me:
  • The major baddie is Khan – yeah, that Khan. Not that this should surprise anyone since IMDB lists Cumberbatch as Khan and not Harrison, the name he works under for the first half of the movie. Cumberbatch is a fine actor but lacks all the charm mixed with menace that made the role so great. 
  • Kirk gets to sit through Spock and Uhura bickering while on an away mission. Really.
  • Khan transports from Earth to a planet in Klingon space. Lots of trans-warp hand waving. Ugh!
  • You can apparently warp from the Klingon frontier to the sol system in under a minute.
  • The main Admiral of Star Fleet (played by Pete Weller) has been working with Khan to make the Federation safe from future threats. It’s a huge black dreadnought. SOOO many interior scenes reminded me of the Deathstar. Once when the Dreadnought was going to shoot at the enterprise, the Dreadnought was all dark inside, a colored outline of the Enterprise on the console, and little lights twinkling in the background. If the crew had had helmets it would have looked just like the first firing of the Deathstar.

Huge black dreadnought. That's the E on the left (the then flagship of the Federation)
  •   Carol Marcus shows up (originally introduced as an old love interest of Kirk in ST:WoK) as the science officer for the enterprise and turns out the be the daughter of Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller). Never explained why she has a British accent while the Admiral sounds like, well, Peter Weller. She does make a gratuitous reference to a friend Nurse Chapel. It’s intimated Chapel was an old Kirk conquest. Yeech. At the end of the movie she is going to stay on board (as science officer?).

  • OK, visually the new film may be on to something...
  • In ST:WoK Spock fixes the damaged anti-matter core, saves the ship, and dies. This is completely reversed in ST:ID. Kirk sacrifices himself to fixes the reactor (by kicking it into place – can I have an eye roll please?), has an emotional conversation with Spock through a piece of glass while he dies and the dialogue paraphrases the Spock death scene just reversing who says the lines. I kid you not. Spock CRIES! Last movie Spock didn’t cry when his home planet was destroyed, his mother along with it, but he cries when Kirk dies, someone he has only known for a couple years. Then to add insult to injury, Spock cries out “KHAAAN!” when Kirk passes.
    One of the finest moments in Trek history
    Pretty boy Pine doesn't even get a blister.
  • Khaaan! Way to keep those emotions buttoned up, Mr.Spock!
  • Khan crashes the dreadnought into San Fran, Spock beams down to chase Kahn. Spock battles Khan in a rage that would make the old Pon Farr Spock appear merely irritated. He is beating the snot out of Khan. Uhura pops up and stuns Khan, explaining that Khan’s blood may bring back Kirk back to life. This was foreshadowed earlier in the movie when McCoy injects a dead tribble with Khan’s blood to test “it’s amazing restorative properties”. Hours/days later AFTER Kirk is already dead the tribble comes back to life and deus ex machina’s your uncle, Khan is the key.
  • Do I need to go into how tribbles seem a bit premature in this timeline.
  • For a universe Roddenberry based on a bright world with equality, this film spits at the Bechdel test.
  • Sooo many of the uniforms looked straight of the Imperial Cruiser in “A New Hope”. When have Federation personnel ever worn little beanie caps with a Star Fleet symbol on the front? Star Fleet officers where a hat that looks like a cops. This was Abrams application to do Star Wars. Disney must have gotten an early screening.

  • Blurry I know, but this is Star Fleet? More like a Starship Troopers extra.
    There are no hats in Star Trek!
  • Did I mention that Khan was only cooperating because the Admiral had the rest of Khan’s crew in suspended animation inside “special photon torpedoes”?
    Yup! There's a super human Popsicle in there.
    Why? Your guess is as good as mine.
So fie, fie on you J.J.Abrams! This travesty tried to cram in every beloved ST:TOS reference, twist them, and rob them of their heart and soul just to “appeal” to the fans. It altered how we expect the characters to behave which should not have been that altered by the new timeline. Screwed the pooch on that one, Dude! I know he is a Star Wars fan, but I’m getting nervous what he will do there. What butchery will he do to the personalities of Leia, Luke, and Han?  After Abrams gets done with the Star Wars films, I may be thinking “Yah know, that Phantom Menace wasn't so bad…”

Gawd, I'm pissed! It was like watching Sonnenfeld screw up The Wild, Wild West all over again! I hope this review was not completely incoherent. I'm sure I'll have to edit this once I have a cooler head...


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