Star Trek: Into Darkness

Well, I tried so hard to avoid reviews before and after seeing Star Trek: Into Darkness.  I failed. But only a little bit, and since it inspired the format for this review…. well, I guess it is okay.

When the first Abrams’s Star Trek was released, I went to see it as a last minute decision, I think. I’m not a Trekkie (I’ve watched ST on and off through the years, but casually not obsessively),  and therefore didn’t have an entire set of expectations for what the movie was SUPPOSED to be.

I loved it.  From start to finish.  From Pine to Quinto. My only real complaint was that Shatner didn’t get to make a cameo. (Still!  Couldn’t they let him walk by the camera in a red shirt or something?! Come on!)

For this new ST, I once again tried my best to avoid all the hype about the film until now, when I can take a moment to process and review the film on my own.  I wouldn’t even talk to Joey or Brad about it in any depth because I didn’t want their opinions to unduly influence my own.  Plus, they’re both smarter than me, so I didn’t want to feel inadequate.

Then, BLAM! Facebook got me.  A friend posted this as a review of the new movie: “The only thing wrong with Abram’s Star Trek is that it misses the point of Star Trek.”

Now, I feel like I have to figure out what the POINT of Star Trek is.  I don’t know what other folks think the point of the show/movie/book/series/franchise/enterprise (yes! another bad pun. I’ll be here all week, folks.  Don’t forget to tip your bartender) is.

I’ll start with why I like Star Trek: because it’s fun.  Yes, it’s fun.  It presents a series of ideas, situations, and characters that are full of possibilities, and it almost always does so with a sense of joie de vivre and, while being serious in imagining an idyllic future world, there’s always been a bit of a tongue in cheek presentation.

Don’t agree?  Well, explain this:

Okay, so costumes were a little iffy back in the day.  This was before computer graphics.

So, how about this:

There’s no way they had Picard deliberately ordering Earl Grey, hot over and over again as a signifier of the long-lasting influence of the monarchy in England.  Nope, it was just fun.

This new film may not get to whatever other folks think the “point” of Star Trek is, but I thought it was amazing. Literally, “causing great surprise or sudden wonder.” 

From the moment the film started to almost the last minute (the credits at the end made me feel dizzy and headachy, not amazed… and there wasn’t even a sneak peak of more Klingons!), I was continually surprised and in wonder.

What else is the point of Star Trek, according to me, the expert-non-Trekkie?  Characters that are utterly memorable.  I can tell you that from this point forward, Zachary Quinto will always be “that guy who played Spock,” just like Leonard Nimoy (although when he was on screen this time, I thought, WILLIAM BELL!).  And, woah,  Benedict Cumberbatch as Kahn (more later.  And, that guy’s name does not fit his ability to be so so deliciously ruthless.  His name makes me think of the kindly uncle in a Jane Austen book, who always has scones and tea and crumpets).  Chris Pine once again embraced and redefined the role of Kirk, making him a much more nuanced character, without overtelling.

I haven’t read the reviews, but I imagine that what folks don’t like is Kahn.  In the original series, Kahn was a barbarian genius (love that paradox), who was only allowed to live because Kirk was so far advanced that he could admire even Kahn and see how Kahn and his people deserved a chance to live, despite our much less advanced notions that Kahn should be executed. Okay, let me make this simpler:  Kahn = bad, but Kirk = good because he thinks even Kahn=bad should get to live.

In this new Abrams version, Kahn is the one who is more advanced and is maybe even more advanced than Kirk (we don’t know for sure, since Kirk gets put out of commission and it’s Spock who goes after Kahn).  It’s the rogue members of Star Fleet, those who believe in weapons and war, represented by Marcus (Peter Weller!  Robocop!), who is the bad one (okay, Abrams, we get it. Preemptive strikes are bad.  Is this the metaphor for everything in Hollywood now? ) because he (Marcus) manipulates Kahn by holding the people he loves hostage and makes him (Kahn) build weapons so he can kill the Klingons before the Klingons kill the Star Fleet. Kirk recognizes Kahn’s essential goodness, despite his appearance of evil and violence, because Kirk himself knows that he could be pushed to be evil in order to save or avenge his friends.  In this version, we’re not quite sure if Spock is right to almost kill Kahn at the end, but Spock realizes that he too has the human urge to kill.  Wait, human urge to kill?  Is that right?  Yes, the urge to kill is linked with the human urge to love.  We love so much that we’re willing to kill.

So, again, let’s simplify:  Marcus = bad, because he’s killing BEFORE something bad happens and has no regard for innocent lives and chooses war over any sense of empahty.  Got it.  Kahn = good or bad?, but with definite bad tendencies because he’s willing to kill, even innocent people, in order to get back his loved ones, which Kirk realizes is a strong motivator and can drive people to do unthinkable things.  Kirk and Spock = good because they both wait for bad things to happen first, then try to kill.  Okay, that’s a little confusing.

I’m guessing the true Trekkies, who get what Star Trek is really about, don’t like this convoluted message.  It’s much simpler and maybe more admirable in the original versions.  I do like this though, but I think it’s because I’ve always been interested in what makes people evil and how we define that line, that thin, thin line between what is good and what is evil.  Spock’s absolute certainty at the beginning of the film is undermined by the end, when he is willing to kill Kahn until Uhura (Zoe Saldana, who had some really great moments) stops him.  That line, that understanding, is one that we all come to, provided we’re thoughtful people who are willing to question and grow.  A strongly held belief should come under question.  A “what-if” is much different than a “what-is,” and until we’re in that moment, we don’t really know what we’ll do, do we? That’s what Spock learns.

Now, hurry up Abrams. I’m ready for Kahn to come back to life in the next movie!

Random favorite moments:

  • The creatures on the red-tree planet drawing the spaceship.  I totally took that as a nod to Ancient Aliens, the best thing to ever happen to Sci-Fi geeks, who want to pretend aliens are chilling out, waiting on us to smarten up so we can travel around with Ford Prefect.  Thanks, NatGeo!  (This ignores the crazy folks who take the show a little too seriously…)
  • The nods to the original film, like Spock yelling “KAAAAAHHHHHHNNNNN!” and the dialogue between Kirk and Spock as Kirk dies
  • Everything to do with Scotty
  • Dammit, Spock, I’m a doctor, not a torpedo technician
  • Kahn’s complete silence for the first 10 or so minutes he’s on screen
  • Sulu in the captain’s chair (hey, how about George Takei’s cameo!?)
  • People in the theater clapping and talking when certain things happened on screen, like when Kahn was revealed as Kahn (though I had figured that out about 1 minute before the movie made it clear)

Not favorite moment:

The random shot of Carol, the admiral’s daughter (Alice Eve), without her clothes on. I mean, I get it. She’s gorgeous.  But, we know that already.  I mean, she’s the girl who played the girl who is out of the Geek’s league.   The original Star Trek had scantily clad women all over the place.  But, they often made SENSE, in terms of story.  The 5 second shot of her hot bod felt pretty stupid, like they HAD to have a naked girl and Uhura wasn’t having it.  Abrams, tsk, tsk.  Next time, you can at least make having her half naked make sense… since she is going to hook up with Kirk and have his secret baby!

Now, I’m off to read some reviews, finally.  Maybe they’ll tell me what the point of Star Trek really is.


5 thoughts on “Star Trek: Into Darkness

  1. I get the idea that Abrams’s star trek misses the point of ST, but I don’t wholly agree with it. For about half the movie, I was pissed off at the militarization of Starfleet, but the overall point of the movie was that that very militarization was a bad thing, so in the end it’s still in the spirit of Trek. I did cringe at the more super hero-y moments (Spock beating the shit out of Khan atop the runaway shuttle thing,etc.) and the newly designed Klingons were lame and their inclusion pointless, but overall I think those who bemoan that this isn’t “their” Star Trek are missing the point. Here’s a reviewer that would definitely think I was full of shit, though:

    As a longtime Trek fan (I don’t like the term “Trekkie”) and one whose completionist approach to the series even led me to sit through the animated series in its entirety, I understand James’ point but I still like the new reboots. My review will be forthcoming, I think I want to see it again before reviewing it, though.

    PS> The bit with the no-pupil-having humanoids drawing the Enterprise is a nod to the Prime Directive and Kirk’s constant disregard for it. That’s just one more reason why Picard was a superior captain. For what it’s worth, my rundown of the captains in order:
    1) Picard
    2) Sisko
    3) Janeway
    4) Kirk
    (a distant) 5) Archer.

  2. Oh, and about Ancient Aliens…. I think it’s a lot of fun, but it’s the same kind of pseudoscience that conspiracy theories and other such half-baked bullshit are based on, so it also sometimes pisses me off. If we were visited by aliens early on, it’s too bad they didn’t have a Prime Directive. Maybe we wouldn’t have cooked up half the cockamamie crap we have over the centuries like those humanoids on the red-tree planet no doubt did following the Enterprise incident.

  3. Pingback: Parade’s End and On Being Cumberbatched | Melissa Goes to the Movies

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