Star Trek Into Darkness 11

I have some very complicated feelings about this movie. There will shortly be SPOILERS, which I will put under a cut.

First, things I loved, non-spoiler version:

  • Zachary Quinto is the sassiest Vulcan ever. I loved it.
  • While I have many complaints about the script, the banter was excellent and everyone got a good moment.
  • Simon Pegg stole every scene he was in.
  • Zoe Saldana was reasonably badass. (I’ve seen a lot of complaints about Uhura’s role in this movie, and I… didn’t really see where they’re coming from for the most part.)
  • Sulu (John Cho) had some great if understated moments.
  • Kirk did manage to have some good character development so he was less of a frat boy THANK GOODNESS.

Okay. Now on to what I have complicated feelings about. SPOILERS. (Also, technically a spoiler for Iron Man 3 is now included so beware.)

For fuck’s sake, JJ Abrams. Wasn’t the entire goddamn point of the first movie, of blowing up the entire planet of Vulcan, to give this new franchise permission to go in an entirely different direction from the original series? It was supposed to be a chance for old school fans to lay the old Trek to rest and embrace the new.

Why the fuck, then, did you dig up the lovingly embalmed corpse of the old Trek movies and make it dance? Why? WHY SHIT ALL OVER THE ENTIRE POINT OF YOUR ENTIRE FUCKING FIRST MOVIE?

Argh.

But Rachael, you say, assuming you have seen the movie and aren’t (like me) just someone that gives no shits about spoilers. But this is different from Wrath of Khan. Sure, Khan is in there, and there are all sorts of callbacks to the movie, but the plot of this is totally different.

You are right, person I’ve totally made up. Except not. What really drives me batty about the entire plot of this movie is that they could have changed like seven fucking details and renamed Khan, and it would have been an entirely new story. But instead, by continually tying it to what is quite possibly the best Trek movie of all time and trying to make the same points about revenge without its elegance, it kept the new movie from ever feeling like anything but a pastiche, and added nothing.

And frankly, the “clever” twists put on the old plot points were distracting. Maybe they worked fine for new fans, at least I sure hope so. But for someone that grew up regularly re-watching Wrath of Khan, I knew the scream of “KHAAAAAAAN!” was coming, and while Zachary Quinto tried (bless him) the reaction it should not have drawn from me was a facepalm. First off, you can’t beat William Shatner at his own game. Secondly, you shouldn’t even fucking try. Be your own person, your own franchise. Be free.

So that, I found very disappointing.

And then Benedict Cumberbatch. He was excellent. He would have been even more excellent if Abrams had stopped trying to be cute and clever and had the sack to just name him something else. By keeping him as Khan, there’s a whole ghastly row of racial issues it brings up – Racebending explains it all very nicely. (Though I would argue Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan is a bit different from Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin; if nothing else, the point of the Mandarin in IM3 was that he was a manipulative mockery, as opposed to Khan being a very serious villain in STID.) Moreso, the movie lacked the extra emotional punch Wrath of Khan had because is didn’t have a television series backing it up.

I also admit I couldn’t help but squirm in my seat at the requisite “march the villain down the hallway surrounded by armed guards followed by shot of him in a glass cage.” It was a much better shot in Avengers.

Which just brings me back to my original point. Somehow, Star Trek Into Darkness never felt like its own movie. It felt like it was continuously clinging to other movies, leaning on them, and the tragedy of it all is that it didn’t have to. There were some good building blocks there. The away mission stuff was fun. There were excellent action sequences. The plot thread focusing on rules versus morality could have gone ever better places. Trying to cling to Khan served none of that.

And then the entire idea of Star Fleet being”militarized.” I get where they were trying to go with it, but it was clumsy and honestly needed more development than they gave it. The only reason I even know that there was supposed to be commentary on militarization of a peaceful force in the movie is that we were baldly informed about two thirds of the way through. There’s no real sense of that major sea change in Star Fleet before then, or even after. It also felt like they were shyly tapping at a point about the idea of manufactured consent with the Admiral’s plot. Sorry, but Iron Man 3 did it a lot better and gave us a lot more meat on which to chew.

Ultimately, Star Trek Into Darkness couldn’t decide what it wanted to be as a movie, and that makes me intensely sad. The cast is excellent. The screen contained so much good chemistry at all times I’m shocked it didn’t spontaneously ignite. And maybe all of the problems of the movie can be best summed up by the last ten minutes, which became completely incoherent. First we see Khan in a stasis tube being locked away somewhere. Then suddenly it’s a year later and Kirk is giving a speech and mentions the Captain’s oath and says he’ll repeat it. But then he launches into the “Space, the final frontier…” speech, which is definitely not the oath and we jump to the newly recommissioned enterprise, where the crew is about to start on their five year mission. They prepare to warp out and fail to hit what would have been the best, most wonderful callback for that entire movie – where are we going, Captain? “Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning.”

It’s a symphony of missed opportunities and unnecessary grace notes. And realize, I’m not even touching on the more technical things that made me want to shout, “REALLY?” at the screen. (Example: The Enterprise is close enough to Earth to fall into its gravity well that fast, so how the fuck does the Admiral attack it with the giant evil super secret ship AND NO ONE NOTICES?)

I didn’t totally hate it. There was a lot I actively loved about it, mostly the character to character interactions when I could ignore the way the plot made me want to chew on my beer glass. The cast was, as expected, excellent; they were just ill-served by the entire plot of the script. But I will say this. If the third movie (and I have little doubt there will be a third one) is somehow a muddled not-quite-rehash of The Search For Spock or any other of the Trek movies, I’m officially divorcing this new franchise.

There is a wide universe of ideas that hasn’t yet been tapped for Star Trek, JJ Abrams. Explore some strange new worlds already.

11 thoughts on “Star Trek Into Darkness

  1. Reply Matix May 18,2013 23:10

    Ugh. Yes, all this. And I haven’t even seen the original in years. (no wonder I was expecting ‘second star to the right and straight on ’till morning. And I didn’t even know why!)

    Especially the physics! I mean I honestly had no effing clue they were THAT close to Earth because it seemed to be set out in an abandoned area, not, y’know, right smack dab in the busiest space-traffic area in the entire solar system! And the gravity thing, just. Really? REALLY? If you’re in a free-fall in an enclosed space, you should be in ZERO-GRAVITY CONDITIONS. Unless you have artificial gravity(LIKE YOU DO) in which case wtf even? orz

    And the gratuitous nudity, ugh. And no, I’m not referring to the tailed twins, I mean the general’s daughter, what the heck was up with that?? It served no purpose, none! At least the twins were commenting on Kirk’s libido/character, the general’s daughter stripping was just flat out gratuitous, unnecessary, and rage-inducing.

  2. Reply Miranda May 18,2013 23:28

    I didn’t think it was as good as the first, for the plot reasons you sited, but I still loved it. The characters are just so great. I really hope they decide to break out in the third movie, because I feel like they are scared of the Star Trek fan base they don’t want to “change” too much.

    I wish that Benedict Cumberbatch had not been so evil, because he was distractedly hot in the film and it disturbs me how hot I found him. Especially after he killed SO MANY PEOPLE.

    • Reply Rachael May 19,2013 13:33

      I don’t know if I quite buy fear of the fanbase. If nothing else, all of the old school Trek fans I’ve seen talking about it so far have been pretty unhappy about Khan being the villain when he could have just as easily been someone else. Though then that does leave why the hell they’d do this as an open question.

      I don’t know. I find Tom Hiddleston hot as Loki and he kills even more people. Just roll with it. XD

  3. Reply Lou May 19,2013 00:23

    Yah. What you said.

  4. Reply Miranda May 19,2013 00:29

    On a technical disappointment note, did they not budget any money for Klingon make-up? Leather face helmets? Really?

  5. Reply Emily May 20,2013 12:22

    i watched wrath and khan and search for spock (YOU SON, YOU KILLED MY BASTARD!) this weekend. maybe when i’m really drunk, like fall-down, pissing on yourself drunk, i’ll watch STD.

    i hated the reboot, btw. was beyond stupid. abrams is a science retard.

    BTW: i can accept ben kingsley as the mandarin. sure, he’s not mongolian, but he is, actually, asian. his real name is Krishna Pandit Bhanji. hence why he was cast as gandhi. so, while not far east, he’s at least in the vicinity.

    • Reply Rachael May 20,2013 21:26

      The only saving grace of the reboot is the cast. I have not really liked anything else about it, but Simon Pegg, can’t help myself.

      I think the Mandarin versus Khan issue for me isn’t really about Kingsley’s race, though that is a very valid point. I think it’s because in IM3 the Mandarin is supposed to be this exploitative schtick though up by a dicky, power mad white guy, so it actually almost follows along that he wouldn’t put an actual Chinese person in this role he’s ade up. Whereas Khan is still an actual, very real villain and that makes it feel very different to me. If that makes sense?

  6. Reply David Merriam May 24,2013 03:31

    Having now seen STID (Sexually Transmitted Infection/Disease?) I have to agree with you on pretty much every point, but I was willing to forgive it all until the tribble. The goddamn tribble. Had they just done the KHAAAAAAAN! scene and ended it on a similar note to Wrath of Khan, I would’ve been ok with the movie, but they had to have magic Khan blood.

    Speaking of, magic Khan blood now means everyone is nigh immortal, right? And why did they need it from Khan and not the 72 OTHER eugenic soldiers they had on the ship?

    So much bad, it makes my brain hurt. I dislike this movie more and more the more I think about it..

    • Reply Rachael May 24,2013 06:03

      I had a feeling that was going to be the setup from the beginning when some of Khan’s blood miraculously healed the little girl. Ugh that was so stupid. Way to transform death in Star Trek into something completely meaningless. At least for Spock it took an entire whole other movie to get him back. I think it shows some serious cowardice on the part of Abrams and his writers.

  7. Pingback: [Movie] Star Trek: Beyond ← Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery

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