Saturday, May 18, 2013

Star Trek: Into Darkness

 I'm going to start this review off by listing my STAR TREK credentials: I grew up watching TREK reruns on Channel 11 in The Bronx. I was never much of a fan until the movies started coming out. I think it all really gelled for me in 1982, with STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN. That's when I went back and actually started to watch the show, not just gawk at the cheesy effects. I grew to appreciate the rapport between the Enterprise crew, and I'll always have a soft spot for Kirk, Spock, Bones, Uhura, Scotty, Sulu, and Chekov. I've tried, oh how I've tried, to get into STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION (My Wife loves Picard and his crew....), and never succeeded. They bore me. Needless to say, I've never sampled any of the post-TNG shows. And while Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelly will always be STAR TREK to me, I did greatly enjoy J.J. Abrams' 2009 reboot.

 So I have no ax to grind here. I'm a casual fan, at best.

 (There is no way to talk about this film without getting into spoilers, so be warned......)


 The film starts off with an amusing pre-credits adventure, a la James Bond. After that initial burst of action, we hit our first roadblock: The "Fake Jeopardy" cinematic crutch, which is used to pad movies and create unnecessary, and often unneeded, dramatic tension. Kirk is demoted from Captain, and The Enterprise is given back to Pike. This is all well and good, save for the fact that, within ten minutes, Kirk is stripped of his rank and demoted to serve under Pike, Pike is killed, and Kirk is reinstated as Captain. As soon as he is demoted, you know that there is no way that Abrams and his Writers will have the balls to keep Kirk as a First Officer, and have Spock serving on an entirely different ship, for the rest of the movie. So this whole contrivance is a waste of time.

 For the second time this Spring, London is destroyed by terrorism (For the first, see G.I. Joe: Retaliation), this time thanks to a rogue Starfleet agent named John Harrison. Like an Interstellar Osama Bin Laden, Harrison goes to ground on the Klingon homeworld, leading to another totally unnecessary scene, as Kirk and company lead an incursion into Klingon territory, a mission that could spark a war with the aggressive Klingons. After a battle that should, in all honesty, be the start of a huge war between Starfleet and The Klingon Empire, Harrison is taken into custody, leading to the "Prisoner Under Glass" scene. (Don't worry about that war with The Klingon Empire, though....the film ends with a "One Year Later" scene, and there's nary a mention of Klingons or war, so they must have gotten over the wholesale slaughter of a slew of their men fairly quickly.)

Yes, since it worked in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, THE DARK KNIGHT, THE AVENGERS, and SKYFALL, we have another scene where the villain, behind a glass wall, is interrogated by the hero.
And here is the momentous scene where the nearly albino Benedict Cumberbatch
reveals that he is really........
KHAN!!!! Or....
 Yes, Khan Noonien Singh is now, with no explanation at all, a white guy. I'm all for colorblind casting, hell, I'd love to see Denzel Washington or Idris Elba take a crack a Batman, but making one of the few legendary ethnic bad guys into a white guy....? Really? Did we need to go there?

 This revelation carries all of the dramatic weight of someone asking "What's for lunch?" In the new timeline, Kirk has never MET Khan, never HEARD of Khan, doesn't give a SHIT about Khan......It reminded me of the old Lee/Ditko SPIDER-MAN where someone finally knocks Spidey out and unmasks him, only to realize "He's just some kid." They don't know him, so his identity is meaningless to them. The beauty of the Kirk/Khan rivalry in WRATH was that it had the weight of years behind it. Kirk and Khan had already clashed. Kirk thought Khan was a distant memory, and Khan had spent decades nursing a near-obsessive hatred for Kirk. We had seen them clash before, and we know how lucky Kirk was to prevail could he beat Khan twice? INTO DARKNESS trades on our memories of the original rivalry in order to give this new one weight, and it doesn't work. But in case you see this scene and wonder "Who the fuck is Khan....?", Leonard Nimoy pops in for what must surely be the most gratuitous info-dump in cinematic history. He literally appears as a floating head to say, in not so many words "HOLY FUCK, DON'T MESS WITH KHAN!!!! HE'LL KILL YOU ALL!! SWEET JEEBUS, RUN!!!!!" (This after Nimoy and Abrams both said four years ago how cheap it would be to keep using old Spock as a cheat to give information from his timeline to the new crew.)

 Anyway, Khan is pissed at Starfleet Admiral Marcus for stealing his frozen buddies from The Botany Bay, Marcus has been secretly trying to start a war with The Klingons, Scotty has resigned (But comes back, or course, just in the nick of time, in exactly the right place...), blah blah blah....then it starts to get downright offensive. The film becomes, for a brief time, a twisted remake of THE WRATH OF KHAN, with Kirk taking Spock's place in the reactor core, complete with touching speech and death by radiation. In a shocking twist, it's SPOCK who screams Khan's name this time around,

leading to a Spock/Khan chase/fistfight, where, considering the fact that Khan has been built up as Star Trek's version of Superman, Spock beats the fuck out of him. Further offensiveness is added by the shameless way that Abrams evokes 9/11 imagery, as a massive Starfleet ship is flown into buildings in San Francisco.
 I thought it was a tad distasteful to see such blatant 9/11 imagery used in the context of such a dopey piece of cinema. Your mileage may vary. I found it cheap and tasteless.

 The film ends on an up note, as the crew finally embark on their "Five Year Mission", but the unanswered questions have lingered in my mind....

 Weren't The Klingons a little upset that a Federation ship invaded their homeworld, and, as far as they knew, slaughtered three ships worth of Klingons?

 Why does Kirk listen to The Beastie Boys? That would be like a random, modern 25 year old listening to music from 1640 in his free time...It could happen, but probably not.

 Why does Carol Marcus have a British accent when her Father does not?

 Why is Bones so frantic to get Khan's blood, when they have 72 other frozen people that are JUST LIKE KHAN....?

 Why Does Bones just happen to have a dead Tribble?

Why must Abrams constantly use those fucking lens flares? It was VERY annoying this time out.....Please refrain from using them in your STAR WARS pic, ok? Please?

 STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS isn't a terrible film, but it is a sloppy, lazy film. I enjoyed the actors, especially Karl Urban, who seems to be the reincarnation of DeForest Kelly. Their chemistry carried the film for me, and I hope they'll be back for a third go-round. Maybe they'll bring better writers next time.

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