I just got around to watching the new J.J. Abrams' Star Trek: Into Darkness. I know it was the blockbuster, must-see movie of our now past summer, but, hey, I was on a road trip when it came out.
Let me first say that
1. I take my TV and movies seriously
2. I'm a bit of a nerd.
Remember hearing about those ridiculous fans that got Firefly turned into a movie? Yeah, I wrote some postcards, haunted some message boards, and had access to the early screenings. On the nerd front, I have owned, through middle school, high school, and still own to this day, books with the titles Star Trek: Chronology and Star Trek: Encyclopedia. I may have once owned a technical manual and schematics to the ships of the Federation. It's possible there was even a Klingon to English Dictionary in there at some point.
What I'm saying is that I'm a little invested in my viewing choices and Star Trek is definitely no exception.
I actually enjoy, as a bit of a Star Trek nerd, some of what they've done with the new franchise.
They've taken characters we love and are giving them new, never expected adventures and are doing so while maintaining continuity with the rest of the Trek mythology. I love my universes unified and, thanks to Eric Bana traveling to the past and spawning an alternate timeline, I don't have to see new Trek tales and yell at the screen "There's no historical context! That never happened!"
Because I would. I'm looking at you, Scott Bakula.
I've heard some complaints of the new movie regarding the very heavy revisiting of Trek-lore past (this might be the moment to mention "SPOILERS!"), but I really don't see the problem. Easter Egg goodness and references to my favorite stories past? Sure, it may not be terribly original, but it's damn fun. And again, continuity. Did they do that? Yes. Then I'm happy.
I did like the movie...generally. It was a fun ride and as long as you didn't think too much...oh wait, no, wait. Yeah. That's where it fell apart for me. Now, there's a lot of snark and negative critiquing on the Web and I really aim to not be a part of that on AtND, but I do have some genuine questions about and troubles with Into Darkness.
This is Star Trek. I have a hard time with the "it's just a fun movie if you don't think too much about it" justification when it's just a Michael Bay flick. Plenty of movies have shown that you can have fun, be action-y and still maintain a solid plot. It's not necessary to dumb things down, certainly not in Star Trek, so with Into Darkness, you're not getting that one by me.
If ever there were a franchise that you "think too much" about, it's Star Trek. Did you see the part about ship technical manuals and language translators up there? Yeah. So a smart plot is a reasonable expectation.
Can we talk about the torpedoes? It's a genuine curiosity for me as to whether I missed some major plot point that explained the torpedoes. Because when I, after going to crio-sleep three-hundred years prior in a technologically primitive time, get unfrozen to help a vastly superior society develop new weapons (this is the actual plot) and get betrayed, my first idea for keeping my friends safe is not going to be "I'll put them in giant, explosive, space-bullets!"
And even if I would (Note To My Potentially Frozen Friends: I wouldn't, not ever. Never.), what are the chances that Robocop is going to give those exact space bullets, at the odd number of 72, to the movie's protagonist so they just happen to wander back into the movie?
OK, two other things. This is Hollywood and this is an action-blockbuster, so I'm sad to say that I'm not really surprised when I see a movie fall into questionable behavior regarding the roles of women or putting white dudes on a pedestal. But again, Star Trek.
Star Trek is about the best of ourselves, a near utopia that led us to the stars. The television series and the movies have not always been perfect, but they've led the way a few times and have always represented an ideal of who we could become as human beings if we just learn to be better to each other. Into Darkness dropped the ball a few times in that regard.
I'm speaking, of course, about the "oddly English even though her father isn't" Carol Marcus in her underwear shot. I hear Abrams later apologized for the completely gratuitous scene, so I guess that's something. But really, are we still doing this? There's a long discussion on feminism and the role of sexuality that I won't get into here, but in a movie that doesn't even come close to passing the Bechdel test, you don't get a pass for the pretty girl in her underwear shot.
And then there's the casting of Khan. Now, don't get me wrong...Benedict Cumberbatch owned the screen. He is brilliant and dreamy and I'd very much like to sit with him on a blanket in a field drinking wine talking about the clouds. But they picked the whitest dude ever to play a guy named Khan Noonien Singh. He didn't have to be Khan. As much as I liked the fun references to Trek-past, they could have had the same basic plot with the villain instead being "some random white guy played by Benedict Cumberbatch".
So, Star Trek, be better at being Star Trek. Tone down the naked ladies and white privilege.
The rest I could probably let slide, but, we're here, so let's list off a few of the other minor sins that bothered me as I watched:
1. Spock's complete inconsistency regarding the Prime Directive: He's perfectly willing to die inside a volcano so as not to reveal the Enterprise to the Primitive Jungle Folk, thereby upholding the Prime Directive. But he's inside the volcano to stop it from killing the Primitive Jungle Folk, a blatant violation of the Prime Directive.
2. Parking the Enterprise underwater. Um, why?
3. "Hey, here's some technology more amazing than they had in The Next Generation! Don't think about it, it's for the plot. Also, it will disappear in twenty minutes when we need to hinder the characters. Shhh...plot. Sshhhhhhh."
4. Although I enjoy the referencing to The Wrath of Khan, new Spock and new Kirk don't have nearly the friendship established by original Spock and original Kirk, making Spock's reaction to Kirk's "death" kind of, well, weird.
5. Also, they fixed death. Like, fixed it forever. And no one seemed to care. Or will likely remember in the next movie. Also, Bones is an idiot because he had an entire sick bay full of "magic death stopping blood" and didn't need Khan at all. I guess he really wanted to see that action scene with Spock on the flying garbage thingie.
Think I'm being too harsh? You should read this:
Star Trek Into Darkness: The Spoiler FAQ
And watch this:
Everything Wrong With Star Trek Into Darkness In 7 Minutes Or Less
No, really, both are hilarious.
And, if you disagree with me or can explain the damn torpedoes, comment below.