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Friday, June 14, 2013

Movie Review - Star Trek Into Darkness

 It's been a while! I've been busy getting ready for graduation and this poor little blog sort of...fell off the world a little. I thought I had more posts cued up. Oh well. I'll have to fix that this weekend.

Last week, I got to see Star Trek Into Darkness for the second time. I should have reviewed this a month ago when I saw it the first time, but, again, busy. In case you don't follow me on Twitter, or were being reasonable and sleeping between 11pm and 3am that night, here's the recap I posted, meaning to turn it into a post and never did:

I loved the movie. I mean, there were issues, so I'll get them out of the way here, but I loved it.

  • Why the heck was the Klingon homeworld so close to the very edge of the Neutral Zone that they could just, like, jaunt over there?
  • That city-destroying mega-crash at the end? It was the middle of the afternoon at Starfleet Headquarters. There were thousands of people there, in their offices, getting squashed, and no one really seems to mind much.
  • I can see where people are coming from when they say it's derivative.
  • I'm pretty sure Kirk has a personality disorder of some sort; he swings wildly between charming and violent, though he generally maintains his honorable-but-cheeky core.
But I don't feel like any of those things are big enough drawbacks to keep the movie from being exciting and winning me over. John Harrison, though the Worst Kept Secret In Hollywood, was fantastically done. The lines as they were written could have been flat and extremely one-dimensional, but My Future Husband Benedict Cumberbatch sold them with so much emotion and ferocity and real aching pain that you can see that, combined with the fact that he was literally created and bred to be Best, it makes sense that he'd be a crazy mass-murdering loon. He stole the show. Everyone else was acting their asses off, and he was just standing there being intense, and he stole it. I feel a little bad for them.

I love the design in the movie, too. This is probably the first time in any Star Trek movie where I actually feel like the Warp Core is an actual thing--it looks like a machine, it looks complicated, it looks solid and real, and futuristic, but not so futuristic that it doesn't look like something we might, as a people, one day build. The scale of all the parts of the ship was amazing. I've come to the conclusion that dilithium causes lensflares, but that's part of the look of these movies now, and I'd miss them if they weren't around. I loved the contrast with the Vengance, too--there was a little weakness in these two movies over hammering home that Starfleet is supposed to be, primarily, about science and exploration, but when you look at the two movies as a whole, you see that the timeline change also changed that: they had a massive, world-altering battle much earlier on than the Original Timeline ever had to deal with. Admiral Marcus is a nutjob, and he went about it all wrong, but when you see the Enterprise facing off against the Vengance, you see the change writ large--Kirk's ship is how it's supposed to be, and the one Harrison steals is how it could be, if they don't correct the path Starfleet might go down and make a point. 

Of course, they make the point through massive destruction and loss of life, so maybe it's moot, there, but they do defeat Harrison, and do it in the name of good and honor and saving Kirk's life and all. It gets a little problematic there. But damn was it exciting to watch.

The plot was interesting. It's basically a condensation of "Space Seed" and "The Wrath of Khan", and it's doing some interesting things. By shortening the timeline in this matter, the moment Kirk meets Khan*, everything happens. There's no twenty years of exile for him to blame on Kirk, there's no loss of all his people to weather and supernovas and those creepy ear-beetles, there's no revenge on Kirk specifically. The fault of all that Harrison does is removed from Kirk and placed on Marcus, who is conveniently not a main character and therefore can be offed without trouble. In some ways it plays out like the Original Movie, but because of the "It's what you would have done" twist at the end, there's no reason to Search For Spock now, and there isn't even a reason to Search For Kirk. We have Carol Marcus, but she's just started her career, so she hasn't invented the Genesis Project yet, there's no David, and there's no Savik--she's not needed because her sort-of-love-interest doesn't exist and Spock isn't old or wise enough to take an apprentice, and there's no need of someone who knows how to raise a Vulcan to put him back together. We did, however, piss off the Klingons, and they look like they've been effectively re-bad-ass-ified; their new design looks more alien than they've ever looked, and nicely Russian-military, too.

So we're given this plot that brings in a lot of the things that were important to the Original Movies, but does them at the wrong / different times, and therefore changes their contexts. It teases apart the threads of the Original Movies and lays them out so that we can look at them and wonder which ones, if any, will come back to make the next movie, or the next, or the next.

And at the end, we realize something that's almost as important, I think, as the realization in the first movie that they weren't going to fix the Timeline: we're only just now getting to the Five Year Mission. All this is prologue. All this is set-up. It builds us a crew that likes and trusts each other, but it's been built in a different way than the original incarnations reached that stage. And it's built in a world that's different because of what happened in the first movie. It hammers home the fact that I think a lot of people online keep missing--this is a totally different world. There are the same people in it, but from the moment that needlessly evil Romulan mining platform came through and squashed Kirk's dad, it's all different and because it's different, it's creating different people from the basic core of the ones we know.

So yes, this plot is arguably derivative. But I think that's missing the point, and is an unproductive place to argue about things. The point here is that even when the same events happen, different reactions and different outcomes result, because it's different. It's a separate entity. It's not a threat to the old shows, it's not a replacement--it's a totally separate string of stories predicated on that new event in the first movie.

And now, I can't wait to see what'll happen in those Five Years, can you? I don't know. But I want to know.

Bonus stuff:
- I like Uhura, though I think maybe she was a big capricious and overly emotional in this movie. I love that she and Spock are still together, though, and working through the incredibly wide gap between them--and that it doesn't damage or get in the way of the very important relationship between Kirk and Spock (whether you see it in shippy terms or not, it's important).

- I feel like the part with the Klingons was incredibly important to her character and her role. She's a skinny slip of a female, but she stood up to aliens they don't know much about other than their violence, and she tried to convince them to help her, using only her boldness and her command of their language. That's hardcore.

- Scotty was amazing, and I sort of wish he'd had more to do with the main crew. Same with Chekov, who was stuck running around with goggles through most of the movie. Sulu getting to captain the ship for a bit was totally badass, though, and John Cho did wonderfully in that scene.

- Scotty's crazy 70s shirt at the bar, and drinking with the oyster-faced dude; I feel like he just has to be on the Enterprise; he's a bit hopeless. Where else would he go?

- I love the look of the aliens, and I love that there were aliens onboard, because being a human-centric crew is annoying in a multi-species federation, but I really wish there were more of the pre-existing aliens. We've seen one Orion girl (two if you count the outtakes of the last movie), and they made her smart and equal and not a slave, which is great, but what about the Orion traders, of which she's the same race? What about the Andorians? What about the Gorn, which are mentioned but not shown? What about the Talosian, the Tellarites, the expanded-universe guys like the Lemnorians? What about any of the ones that showed up in later series that they said have always been around, but we never saw? As we go into the Five Year Mission to actually go out and Seek Out New Civilizations, I hope we come across some of them!

- I hope Kirk and Carol have a thing. And if they do, I'm looking forward to seeing it happen. In the original timeline, that's all past--it happened between the episodes and the movies, I think, or way in the unseen past before the episodes. We never saw how she managed to keep Kirk from womanizing and win his heart, or whether it's the womanizing that drove them apart. And that would be great drama for Kirk. Some personal drama, instead of Captain Drama.

- I miss Nurse Chapel. Her love of Spock was tragic in the old series, and hardly mentioned. It'd be even more tragic if he was involved with Uhura and she still loved him! Also, we need some more girls in this sausage fest.

- Gifs from here, not mine, but beloved: http://badbenedict.tumblr.com/post/52894921322


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