Down the Ballot

Thursday, May 30, 2013

GSY: Star Trek Into Darkness

 Boldly going where we've been before! 

There is nothing quite like seeing a Star Trek movie in theaters. I can still recall going to see Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country in theaters as a child and being amazed at the story unfolding out before me. Good stories have the ability to make us forget we are watching something that isn't 'real' and draw us into the world created by the writers. Great stories put us right there in the midst of the action. Reviewing Star Trek into Darkness,  I so want to give this film 6/6 on my Star Trek enjoyment scale...yet I just can't. Don't get me wrong the story was good. When I start to ask why the story was so good, that's where my rosy colored Star Trek glasses fail to hide the problems associated movie.

First, let's look at some of the highlights of the movie. Was it fun? Indeed. At many points in the movie I felt I was sitting on the bridge of the ship or in a conference room with the characters. Lot's of great action and  twists that came quickly if you weren't paying attention.

My favorite TOS character, McCoy got more action in this film than the last one, and his tongue got a little sharper too. I just wish he was treated on the same level as the Kirk and Spock characters. If the biggest action he got all film was getting his hand stuck in a torpedo. He is being under utilized. Karl Urban is a decent enough actor that he should be used a bit more.

Elevating characters like Sulu and Chekov was fun and the Spock/Uhura things was further developed. Simon Pegg's Scotty seemed like he was sidelined early on in the film but makes a decent contribution towards the end. Still most of these characters served their purpose of making Kirk and Spock seem important. The acting was on par with the last film. Shout out to Chris Doohan who makes a return as the Transporter guru.

The special effects are fantastic and I especially liked the dust trail the Enterprise left whenever it warped someplace. The opening sequence on the planet fantastic. I'm sure some have already pointed out the plot problem associated with the scroll. For me, the real problem was how could we have just left this situation be? It reminded me of what Star Trek could be again. I never understood for sure why the Enterprise needed to be under water. I certainly don't recall Picard needing to order the Enterprise underwater to avoid less advanced cultures. The transporters have gotten crew members out of tougher things than a volcano. I mean, 15 minutes later in the film a transporter is used to beam someone light years across the Alpha Quadrant from Earth to 'Kronos'! (Have these jokers never visited Memory Alpha).

Soundtrack and Score was the typical excellence one would expect from a Trek production.

Now comes the moment where you go, ok so what was wrong with this movie? Answer: Depends.

Why does it depend? If you are the studio and looking to create something that will sell a lot of tickets and get people to watch your adverts for future projects than this movie was a slam dunk. If all you cared about was Star Trek being back in the center of the entertainment world then this movie was a rousing success. People who didn't care all that much for Star Trek are flocking to it in new waves and generations of fans. If the point of this exercise was to tell a story, then this is where I don't think they were as successful as they could have been.

For someone new to Trek, they probably thought this was really cool. As a veteran of Trekkie, and someone who appreciates the power of the story and the originality stories, this movie could have been way better. It seemed like the writiers sat down and watched Nicholas Meyer's Wrath of Khan and then took the last 30 minutes of that film and reworked it to be the last 30 minutes of their film. Nick Meyer ought to be given a writers credit on this film.

So instead of Spock dying, Kirk dies. It is Kirk who makes the ultimate sacrifice for his ship. Since there was little to no character growth from the last film he was still learning what it meant to be a captain. Spock then utters the famous KHHHHHAAAAAANNNNN! scream, which just had me going "meh". So you've switched them. How creative.

Several scenes stand out to me that just left me shaking me head. Young Spock having a visibly public conversation with his older self seemed like a big no-no. It is one thing for Old Spock to have private conversations with Kirk and young Spock, but to flat out say he was from the future and then to have to explain for the crew that Khan will be the most dangerous enemy of the Enterprise was robbing the film of drama. It was great to see Nimoy on screen again, but his scene wasn't needed. It detracted more than it added to the story. ( forgive me older woman who squealed with joy when he was seen on the movie screen). If you're going to use him; use him like a real character. Perhaps he could have died again saving the Enterprise from Khan, only without the whole coming back from the dead thing.

Most online outlets have focused on the Alice Eve scene. I don't have such a problem with the idea of a supporting cast member in their underwear but I do have a problem with the idea of no one on the ship being able to figure out she wasn't suppose to be on there! That Spock, the anal retentive rule machine that the writers have made him out to be would neglect to inform anyone once he figured out her true identity seems bizarre. 

The Enterprise vs the Bigger Enterprise. How creative. They only know one basic ship design? For gosh sakes how lazy. For a ship so advanced and with so little crew, it was certainly a little on the plus size. What are they keeping in all that extra space?

 Section 31 was made less cool by this film. The idea that the head of Starfleet was so visibly involved with a secret organization doesn't lend itself to secrecy. Also, secret starbases ought to be somewhere more secret. Not where a short range shuttle can just fly up and not have to give a clearance code and enter the facility.

The visit to the Klingon homeworld seemed forced and unneeded. It seemed to just be so that we could say, 'hey, there are Klingons in this film!" Apparently you can beam from one planet to another light years apart, but you can't beam someone from a volcano?  How is it the Klingons didn't have a mass of ships in their home space? I could go on...but I won't. Let others nitpick anymore if they care to.

Wrath of Khan was so much better than Star Trek into Darkness for many reasons. For less money they put out an original film that blew the water out of expectations. So far, from what I have been reading online, Into Darkness is doing ok, but no where near the expectations they had for it. After the studio over spent for Motion Picture, the studio cut back on WOK. To date, it is the least expensive of all the Star Trek films as far as costs go for the studio..the least expensive. Usually, a low budget dooms a film, but WOK worked.

Khan was reduced in this film to just an ordinary bad buy. He shouldn't be just an ordinary bad guy, especially if you have a Vulcan to Vulcan chat with yourself about him being the greatest villain you'll ever face. I can only hope this means that new Trek films will find a even greater villain now that they so easily handled Khan.

The story of Khan might be that, like Mr. Scott said in Relics, "it's like the first time you fall in love.You don't ever love a woman quite like that again. To the Enterprise and the Stargazer, old girlfriends we'll never meet again." It may be like that for some, but I'm an optimist that believes in love and J.J. and company can make our hearts beat again for the box office. Take us where we haven't gone before Bad Robot folks. There are plenty of undiscovered countries out there off the beaten path of Trekkdom. If you come back for number 3 and Christopher Lloyd or a big space whale is the main antagonist I'm going to be very upset.

Final Scene of Star Trek 2009
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