Robot 6

The Fifth Color | ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ between two worlds

star-trek-into-darkness-teaser-poster1This time I think I’m going to be less biased. That’s not to say I wasn’t fair to the first J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie; in fact, I thought it was a pretty ingenious way to honor the past while divorcing it from your present. There’s something to be said for discovering that balance between old and new, continuity and change, that’s so hard to find when adapting something as well-chronicled as Star Trek. We’re looking at years of television history, hours of movies, and shelves and shelves of novels to work into the mix, and 2009’s Star Trek managed to juggle all of that to an extent I wouldn’t have expected to work. Of course, it wasn’t perfect, but it tried, and it got the heart of this new universe centered into its own final frontier.

Also, I was in that movie, so like I said, this time I’m going to be less biased.

I have seen Star Trek Into Darkness (no colons needed!) in the finest format I could think of: true IMAX and in real 3D. It was vivid and full of life; as the closing credits rolled and I watched the names of countless CGI artists and editing staff go by, I was once again thinking of that balance between the old and the new. The 2009 Trek brought in boatloads of new fans, a whole new generation to enjoy the adventures of the Starship Enterprise. Die-hard Trekkies and Trekkers had a breath of fresh air and something of their favorite television show back in the public eye, giving us new life and new civilizations to explore. While I’m sure there are plenty of opinionated people on the Internet that prefer one or the other, there’s been a resurgence in the Star Trek community that has benefited from Abrams’ new vision. And as I can wax rhapsodical about what the new movie means and how it will effects fans and the stories to come, it’s really important to take a moment and talk about Star Trek Into Darkness for what it is right here and now. Is this a good movie? Regardless of impact on science fiction or as a litmus test for what the Star Wars franchise is in for now that Abrams is tapped to work in a galaxy far, far away, join me as I look at what we see on screen and if it works just as well the second time around.

WARNING: SPOILERS for Star Trek Into Darkness ahead! Lots and lots of SPOILERS!! We’re talking plot, major scenes and character arcs, so for those who haven’t gotten to see the movie yet, please be warned. Everyone else? Let’s boldly go …

Dividing up the movie into pros and Khans (I couldn’t help myself!), the lists are nearly even in length, although certainly more weighted when it comes to Khan himself. There are some improvements from the first movie: Aesthetically, the Enterprise has lost a little of that Apple Store plastic, and the engine room looks a lot less like the the Budweiser brewery. We continue the trope of “All Starfleet admirals are crazy” in our chief antagonist, so we’re not so removed from our roots. There are some very clear Star Trek-ian principles at work through the narrative, in that we talk about humility, the darker side of humanity and what we do with the fears that haunt us. Star Trek is awesome as a way to look deep inside what makes us human and dress it up in alien garb so it’s a lot easier to talk about and there are thematic moments of that in the character arc of Captain Kirk and Spock. However, I’d say the best arc belongs to Mr. Scott, with Simon Pegg getting much more screen time to be brilliant in the role and add clear motivations to a movie that seemed to really need some.

stIItwok-posterYep, the Khans. Or in our case, Khan singular, as the series that blew up Vulcan and left its seven TV series and 10 movies behind in another universe had to reach back and grab one more thing from its past. Don’t get me wrong, Khan Noonien Singh is quite possibly the best Star Trek villain ever created; Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan was smart to draw from the original series to bring back not just the character, but Ricardo Montalban’s rich and passionate performance to enrich our silver screens. But even then, new material was brought to the movie going fans; I’ve talked to people who, like me, had never seen the TOS episode “Space Seed” before they laid eyes on Khan in Star Trek II. You didn’t need context because the narrative allowed for it, and the performance showed how much Khan hated Kirk and would indeed spit at him from Hell’s heart. It was a delicious battle of wills between two men who swore they knew best and would cheat death itself to become the victor. It was tensely driven, with not a single blow exchanged between them in person, but it still felt like these two men were at each other’s throats. Motives were clear, making Khan’s defeat tragic for the Enterprise and giving us a mixed feeling of victory by the closing credits.

futurama-actorsfeelingsStar Trek Into Darkness wants to be this movie, but it has no reason to. Despite that they would go so far as to lift Spock’s famous death scene from their predecessor as well as the famous enraged shout of “KHAAN!”, there’s simply no reason for those characters to make these choices other than for some blatant fan service. Kirk’s sacrifice to save the ship, I’ll give them that despite it being just another reckless act for a man chastised throughout the film for making reckless acts. However, Spock’s emotional breakdown and demands of vengeance seem out of place.

The Next Generation movies, from Star Trek: Generations to Star Trek: Nemesis, seem awkward as we move further away from the series that made these characters legendary. Red Letter Media (better known for their Star Wars prequel critiques) has gone over the TNG movies at length, and one of the notes they made that stuck with me was how out of place Captain Picard felt in his own movies. For a man of outstanding dignity and intellectual pursuit, Movie Picard is always crying or shouting or running or fighting his way through problems he would have more rationally governed over before. This was, in part, due to the studio’s ideas of what an action-adventure movie should be. Thoughtful sci-fi stories about the triumph of the human spirit simply won’t fly without enough bang and boom for your buck.

Abrams’ Trek is full of all the spectacle and action modern audiences crave, and that works because of the divergence from what’s been established. If they want to say the Klingons never had that smooth-headed phase the other series had to account for, it would be perfectly believable because it was a new universe to explore and create in. Khan Noonien Singh could be anyone, but he’s explained to us in terms of what the elder, alternate-universe Spock knows about him. We are forced back in time to understand that a war with the Klingons could be devastating to the Federation because of what we know about how Klingons acted in the previous series. All that fabulous forward momentum is lost because we reached back too far and are now bringing with us the weight of what had come before.

Creating an homage is more difficult than working with an original concept. As well as Ultimate Spider-Man did in refreshing Peter Parker’s image for a modern audience, there were some plot lines that simply were used to remind the audience of what it had read before. In the all-new tales of Miles Morales, we have a greater freedom to do new things and try new concepts while enjoying the safety net of experience. That’s what the 2009 Star Trek did; metaphorically, it was the kids moving out of their parents’ basement and forging a new life in their own place. Star Trek Into Darkness just feels like those kids keep coming home to do laundry and eat all the food. Now that the movie seems to have ended on the promise of a five-year deep-space mission — which … is incorporated into the Captain’s Oath? — maybe this means our kids will be getting a real job on their own and get back to being self-supportive. Star Trek can mean a lot of things to a lot of people but in the end, the best movies are made by exploring the unknown.

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12 Comments

This isn’t anything specific toward Carla but is it me or the “die hard” geeks, nerds, Trekkies and Sci-fi types being the hardest on this film? I’m not using those terms in a negative way btw.
When I head over to Rotten Tomatoes I would have expected that the movie would be down in the dumps but it gets a 87% rating. That’s even higher than Iron Man 3.
I haven’t seen it yet but plan on it tomorrow. Maybe I’ll agree with the die-hards but I hope I won’t.

Saw star trek today, very good action! The story line blew hard. Kahn and his crowd wasn’t found until into the 5 year mission. Has j.j Abrams ever watched star trek in his life?

I wouldn’t call myself a rampant Trekkie but I have all the films on Bluray, and DVD, as well as all the shows from the original series to Enterprise. I also have hundreds of comics ranging from DC, Marvel, and IDW current Star Trek adaptation. Finally I have about 200 books as well as a range of action figures and dolls from the OS to the reboot. I even have Shatner’s autobiographies on book, tape, and MP3. But I still wouldn’t classify myself as a Trekkie.

As for the reboot back in 2009 – I loved it.

As for Star Trek into Darkness – I absolutely adored it, have seen it twice, an am likely to see it again in 3D tonight.

I don’t understand the illogical hatred of this film and the previous one by supposed “Trekkies.” I don’t understand the illogical hatred directed towards J.J. Abrams either. Leonard Nimoy thought so highly of the first reboot that he agreed to star in it as well as the current one. Now, he doesn’t do things for a pay check otherwise he would have appeared in Star Trek: Generations. But he didn’t. He only participates in what he perceives are quality projects, and he’s not shy of criticising things he has starred in if it didn’t end up the way he thought it would. I find it fascinating that certain Internet “Trekkies” know more about Trek than Spock himself.

But apparently certain “Trekkies” know better, and rest of us who enjoy these two films, along with the rest, and all the series, books, and comics don’t “get Trek.” What an ARROGANT and CONDESCENDING statement to make that completely contradicts the very heart and soul of Star Trek.

And lurch – restricting storylines to adhere to a continuity from 40yrs ago is ridiculous. Why would a writer restrict their choices based on one episode from the original series? The old continuity has been removed. It’s a new timeline thus your criticism is illogical. The minute that Romulan ship entered the timeline all bets were off. Like the Butterfly Effect, everything has changed. This is obvious in the way the Federation has dramatically escalated it’s approach to militarising itself and increasing its technology in the new timeline. It makes sense as a response to Nero’s advanced technology. The thing I like about the new timeline is how it’s trying to realign with the previous one, something highlighted by the new film.thus we get mirror images of scenes from the original series. I’m loving the potential of this new timeline. I also appreciate the fact that the old one still exists and that perhaps Picard or Riker might make an appearance one day.

Darth Eradicus

May 17, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Haters gotta hate I guess (yes, it’s a cliché, but one that’s often true on the internet).

As someone who definitely would have preferred Star Trek XI as a post-TNG movie, I’ve nevertheless enjoyed both it and XII immensely. I had fun seeing this all-new take on TOS and loves it as it continues to diverge from the original timeline.

@lurch
That was addressed in the film. After Vulcan was destroyed Starfleet was understandably worried and went out looking for ‘weapons’ and they found Khan.
Vulcan’s destruction had a lasting effect on history. It did not jump back and unfold as it had before.

Andrew Collins

May 17, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Just saw this tonight and give it a thumbs up, but with some reservations. I liked the re-introduction of Khan, with the audience audibly gasping when Cumberbatch announced his name the first time. The in-jokes about redshirts were cute, Scotty and Bones were great, the new Carol Marcus is sexy as hell, and I adored the critical role a tribble played in the story. But I rolled my eyes at the juxtaposed death scene ripped off pretty wholesale from Wrath Of Khan, and the same audience that cheered and gasped through many of the movie’s other key scenes were instead laughing at loud at Spock’s “Khaaaaan!!” moment. I get that Abrams’ Spock is portrayed at being torn between being un-emotional and being overly emotional, but they played that one with a little too much cheese to it…

I quite liked it.

I didn’t mind Khan being found before he was “supposed” to be. It was very clearly explained in the film, just as it was explained in the previous film that the appearance of Nero and the destruction of the Kelvin changed EVERYTHING. That’s why technology has progressed differently, that’s why Vulcan was destroyed, that’s why Pike never went to Rigel VII. And, yes, that’s why Khan’s resurrection happened before the five year mission and initially wasn’t because of Kirk. I loved the implication that Kirk and Khan could have been–and briefly were–allies.

There were two things that bugged me; one was major and one was minor.

The major one was the “Khaaaan!!” moment. It was a laugh moment that undercut the seriousness of Kirk’s “death.” I don’t know if Abrams intended it to be one; if so he undermined his own storytelling, and if not he failed to take into account the cultural baggage of the original Shatner scene.

The minor one was Carol Marcus’ British accent. In ST:TWOK, Marcus was American (or Canadian). I understand that there was a scene that was filmed and then cut that explained why she was British, and that it was another result of the changed timeline, but that’s silly. Just hire an American actor or have the British actor use an American accent.

Beyond that, I loved the progression of Kirk’s relationships with Spock, Uhura and Scotty. I loved Scotty’s principled stand. I loved Cumberbatch as Khan, although I did wish they’d cast someone Latino (as Ricardo Montalban was) or Sikh (as the name Khan Noonien Singh suggests the character is), but that’s a minor quibble and ultimately I thought his performance was great.

I loved that, just like the original Star Trek and its spin-off series, this movie used science fiction as an allegory for political and social issues of our time. This is an element that all of the previous movies, ESPECIALLY ST09, lacked. It’s one of the best and most important things about all of the shows, even the abysmal Enterprise, so it was nice to FINALLY see that element on the big screen.

Ultimately, my ranking of Star Trek movies is as follows:

1. STII:TWOK
2. ST:FC
3. ST09
4. STID
5. STVI:TUC
6. STIV:TVH
7. ST:G
8. STIII:TSFS
9. ST:TMP
10: ST:I
11: ST:N
12: STV:TFF

If you own Enterprise on DVD, then you’re a fuckin’ Trekkie.

I saw it. I have been watching Star Trek just as long as most people. And I just think it is BEYOND hilarious when I see all the experts say what is and is not STAR TREK. If your name is not Eugene Wesley “Gene” Roddenberry, then you are not the expert you think you are on the subject matter. And if Majel Barrett-Roddenberry did not like JJ Abbrams work on the subject matter, I would think he could not have gotten her blessing nor her voice for the computer on the 1st movie. That being said, it was a good and fun movie.

“SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN IT!” I did like the way he brought a new twist to the Khan story. There are a few places in the movie I could tell, something hit the cutting room floor. So I expect to see those in the Deleted scenes. That Kurt death scene..Yeah, that scream by Spock..was my low point. I just felt that one scene with Spock yelling “KHAANNN!” was just a little too forced. But I Got over it real quick.
My other SUPER pissed with the “WRITERS” moment came with Pavel Andreievich Chekov. When he made that “He could not transport Spock and Khan back to the Enterprise while they were moving” comment to Uhura totally destroyed the fact that they made this one of his specialties that he could do such a thing in the 1st movie when he saved Hikaru Sulu and Kurt for going splat all over Vulcan a high point for him. I enjoyed the movie so I will probably see it again. This time in on a IMAX screen

Remember when Kirk got in trouble and was demoted, only for Captain Pike to make him first officer just in time for something bad to happen to him and make Kirk captain? I mean the first time it happened, in XI and not the second time in XII.

Yes, I remember tribbles and Khan and what happened in the second movie and all of that, movie, and I could do without the fan pandering.
And, damn, was that final battle ponderous. I’m referring to Spock fighting Khan on the roof of a hover truck, not any of those other potential endings they just refused to stop at.

Saw it and I liked it. My only major complaint was why they didn’t take the blood from one of the other “supermen” to use on Kirk? If they were all the products of the same eugenics programs…their blood should have been good enough as Khan’s blood.
I was glad they cut down the lens flares. They took a lot away from the first reboot.

Although before there was a war the journey had already begun, the first true conflict began in the wake of 1977; and two camps were created.

They had very different totems: pretending to swing a stick in the air and humming metallicly, and equally incompressible to the uninitiated – attempting an hand gesture with raised palm with middle and ring finger parted in a half representation of the Hebrew letter “Shin”.

One had visions of totalitarian empires, the other a united federation.

For many years I had a foot in both camps, leaning slightly towards the clashing of red and blue lights and the mixture of asthma attack and artificial lung.

For now at least, the battle has been won. A decisive victory for story narrative and the journey of the hero/heroine.

“Star Trek, Into the Darkness” is nothing short of a work of wondrous fiction, thick with meaning and an unabashed examination of our current times.

Please, do yourself a favour and see this spectacular film. If you are a pathetic wimp like me, you might consider not seeing it in 3D. I found the violence a bit too confrontational, as it appeared to be happening right in front of my eyes. But that’s just me. No doubt most of you out there are far braver and are able to separate reality form fantasy a bit more convincingly than I can. :P

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