Star Trek: Into Darkness   Leave a comment

So, last night I finally got around to watching the latest installment of the rebooted Star Trek franchise. It was, in a word, an insult to the franchise and another step forward in the long march of mediocrity the series has been stumbling with ever since the Next Generation movies heralded the age of thoughtless sci-fi and tepid action that has since become routine in the Trek franchise.

The movie starts with a ridiculous opener: Kirk and McCoy have stolen what appear to be the Holy writings of some nameless alien race and are being chased through the woods, Indiana Jones style, while Spock and Sulu fly a shuttle around the planet. There’s a volcano about to blow, and their object is to detonate some device which will prevent the volcano from completely destroying the planet and its native inhabitants. There’s some ensuing banter between various crew members about such trivial things as The Prime Directive and how they’re going to get out of their present predicament — by now there have been some complications to their plan. The shuttle carrying Spock has dropped him onto a lava flow to setup the volcano-killing bomb, and during their drop-off the shuttle itself was hit was a lava burst, forcing them to fly away so they don’t crash onto the planet…

At this point, one would simply think that the shuttle would go back to the Enterprise. Unfortunately, no. At this point we learn that the Starship Enterprise is, in fact, submerged beneath the waves of this planet’s ocean, because on a delicate mission like this, where the Prime Directive risks supreme violation, it’s important to place your ship in a place where maximum visibility is assured and the ship’s ultimate utility is minimized.

Needless to say, everyone survives the mission and the only downside is that, as the Enterprise emerges from the ocean to leave the planet, the natives quickly sketch the ship in the dirt and begin worshiping the icon.

That opening only takes about 10-15 minutes of the movie, but it perfectly sets the tone for what follows: lazy writing, hair-brained schemes, and insults to faithful Trek fans.

The next interlude sets up the main plot and sub-plot points for the movie to follow: Spock and U’hura are fighting, a nameless man makes a deal with the devil to save his sick daughter’s life, and Kirk has to deal with the fallout from the opening mission. In Kirk’s report, the mission to save the volcano planet essentially didn’t happen. In Spock’s report, it did, with minute detail to the particulars. Kirk finds out about Spock’s report, only during a sit-down with an admiral, at which point he finds out he’s being demoted and having his ship taken away from him.

Kirk’s sense of betrayal, however, seems completely ludicrous, as only an idiot would think that only the captain’s report is reviewed by Starfleet. Here we find one of the first major character betrayals in this movie: in both the classic and the reboot universe, Kirk is a brash risk-taker who doesn’t mind breaking the rules when it suits his purpose. However, he’s not so retarded as to be ignorant of the hierarchy he’s up against, and he’d certainly not be caught flat-footed by mere bureaucratic procedure of having a subordinate’s report damn him without practicing some form of futuristic CYA.

Anyways…

The movie’s plot starts moving in the aftermath of Kirk’s demotion. The nameless man, who earlier made a deal with a mysterious stranger to save his daughter, now fulfills his part of the bargain. He goes to work and sets off a bomb — completely destroying his workplace and killing many.

A meeting of local Starfleet commanders is called as soon as the dust settles. They’ve discovered that the bombing was caused by a rogue dissenter who has fled to the Klingon homeworld to avoid retaliation. The assembled captains at this meeting represent the main command of all the ships around Earth, and they’ve been given their orders to track down the dissenter before he gets to Klingon space.

In a turn that seems incoherent from a man who’s just been undercut by his subordinate’s routine filing of a report, Kirk is the first to question why the bombing happened at the place it happened. Why bomb a library if your aim is to cripple the Federation? Well, it turns out it wasn’t just a library. It was a cover for a Section 31 archive.

As a brief aside, I did like the brief continuity between this movie and Deep Space 9. On that later show, Section 31 has evolved into a seedy intelligence service which has been largely forgotten about, but still has the funding, connections, and operatives to run roughshod over the Federation charter to mete out and deal with the perceived enemies of the Federation. Here, in Section 31’s infancy, its mission is to procure whatever data it can in order to prepare the Federation for what it views as an inevitable war with the Klingon Empire.

So, forgiving my aside, it’s Kirk who asks the questions that gets the answer about Section 31. At this point, he uses his knowledge of Starfleet protocol to become suspicious of this current meeting. Protocol in this situation calls this meeting of the local captains together, in one place, to determine their course of action. Kirk immediately looks out the window, just in time to see that there’s a drone outside which begins shooting everyone in the meeting place.

The only notable casualty from the meeting is Admiral Pike. Kirk was demoted to his Pike’s first officer, so luckily he can have the Enterprise back!

What follows is complete absurdity. The villain in the story turns out to be KHAN, and he does succeed in fleeing to the Klingon homeworld. With most of the local Starfleet commanders sidelined by the drone shooting at Starfleet command, Kirk is given broad authority to go get Khan back. The admiral giving the orders is a military hard-liner, and he’s convinced that there’s a war coming with the Klingons one way or another, so he doesn’t care if Kirk starts a war by going after Khan.

In a completely ridiculous sequence, the Enterprise is sabotaged in mid-space, and Kirk and a few others take a shuttle to finish their journey to the Klingon homeworld. Khan is hiding in an “abandoned” part of the Klingon homeworld, where the shuttle goes to capture him. It turns out that this “abandoned” part of the Klingon homeworld is some supremely industrialized area, which is useful for making a chase scene between Kirk’s shuttle and a Klingon patrol in what looks to be the interior of The Death Star.

Kirk eventually dodges his pursuers, and brings the shuttle down long enough to try to capture Khan. He then gets quickly surrounded by Klingon ground forces, and a shoot-out ensues. Luckily for Kirk and friends, Khan basically single-handedly kills all the Klingons, and then surrenders himself to Kirk.

After more nonsense, Khan explains to Kirk that he’s a superhuman from a bygone age of genetic experimentation from Earth’s past. The same Admiral that gave Kirk his orders to go after Khan (Admiral Evil, henceforth) has been using Khan to build new weapons and defenses for what he’s convinced will be the soon-to-occur Klingon war. Furthermore, to learn more about Khan, McCoy has been studying Khan’s blood, which has almost miraculous regenerative properties…

Upon hearing that Kirk didn’t kill Khan as ordered, but instead captured him, Admiral Evil decides he has to take out the Enterprise before his secret gets out. He’s built a private warship with Khan’s weapons, and he now turns his full might against Kirk. By this point in the movie, Kirk had managed to get the Enterprise mostly functional again, and he high-tailed it to Earth. Admiral Evil overtook and attacked the ship at warp speed, and theEnterprise is left adrift just within Earth’s orbit… some 200,000 miles or so. (which makes it damn close to Earth)

So, here is where everything comes completely off the rails in my view. Admiral Evil’s ship continues beating the shit out of the Enterprise (within full view of Earth, mind you). Scottie had managed to sneak onto Admiral Evil’s ship with Khan’s help, and this ship which had been built exclusively for war cannot seem to locate a single man inside it… Kirk and Khan decide to take a space run from the crippled Enterprise to the Admiral’s ship, and they board it when Scottie opens a hatch for them. Khan quickly kicks a lot of ass and ends up taking control of the ship. Spock lands a ruse which ends up blowing up Admiral Evil’s ship. However, Khan survives the explosion and the ship’s onboard computer listens to his voice commands as he uses what’s left of the thrusters to plow his ship through San Francisco. Khan survives this too, and then Spock, in an illogical but thoroughly vindictive move, chases him through San Fran and fights him atop garbage drones flying through the city as if nothing crazy had happened.

Meanwhile, the Enterprise has a rapidly decaying orbit and is crashing to Earth because it doesn’t have the power to stop itself. Kirk does what Spock did back in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and sacrifices himself to radiation poisoning in order to fix the ship’s engines. Once the engines are back online, U’hura (of all people) beams to the Spock/Khan fight and shoots Khan until he can be subdued.

It’s a somber funeral for James T. Kirk, where Spock has to give the eulogy for his human mentor who has shown him the short-comings of logic and the value of “gut” instinct for making the best of impossible situations. However, none of that happens. Instead, McCoy gives the dying Kirk a shot of Khan’s vampiric blood, and Kirk survives his malady! All’s well that ends well, and we’ll see ya next time folks!

I liked J.J. Abrams work with Lost, although I’m not too sure how much direct involvement he had in that project once it got off the ground. But with every subsequent work he does, especially with something dear to my heart like Star Trek he’s just making me more and more certain that he was just a flash in the pan success story. I guess the box-office returns ensure that he’s a success, but he’s just killing something I love whilst people who don’t know any better cheer him on. It’s tough writing a sci-fi story, especially trying to do so without plot holes. Star Trek is often riddled with them, as it’s become something of a convention that the futuristic technology is always a slave to the whims of the writers.

Perhaps ironically, I have far less problem with that happening in the show versus a movie. The show has tight turnaround times, and they also need shit on the paper week in and week out. The movie, on the other hand, is a more singular entry, which should have more polish and attention to detail present therein. But, in this movie, there is neither attention to technical nor character details. Kirk gets waylaid by Spock’s report but intimately knows procedure regarding post-terrorist attack? Sink the Enterprise during a planet saving mission rather than keep it in orbit where it can function entirely as a starship is intended to do? Invent an admiral that’s hell-bent on causing a Klingon/Federation war, and then have a massive fight right outside Earth between a Federation starship and an unknown craft (where the Federation ship is clearly losing) AND NOT A SINGLE FEDERATION SHIP SHOWS UP OR OTHERWISE INTERFERES WITH THE FIGHT OUTSIDE THE HUMAN HOMEWORLD!?! This admiral’s character is pretty certain that the Federation is more than capable of winning the war with the Klingons, yet in this single-ship skirmish the Federation couldn’t muster ANY defense!

Even Spock, probably the easiest character to write for, gets betrayed in this movie. In the end, once Spock heard that Kirk is going to die and Khan is running lose through San Fran, he just quits logic and sense and chases after Khan, which even the movie telegraphs as a complete revenge seeking action by Spock. At no point is there any hint of what I would expect the aftermath of that decision to be — whether it take the form of superb rationalization after the fact or Spock succumbing to some form of shame for discarding the ways of his people. Nope! He simply acted emotionally and that’s that.

And if that isn’t enough, there’s the matter of Khan’s blood. In the original Wrath of Khan they at least had the courage to kill off a main character and let that moment happen and deal with it for what is was. Here, they try to do some fanciful shifting of roles (by making Kirk do the heroic deed) and then they rob the story of the aftermath. Going forward, it’ll be no wonder that Kirk acts like a baby, because there’s never a fucking consequence to his actions! It’s easy to be a hero when you don’t have to die for it! Do what you need to do, and then take a dollup of Dr. Bones’ Khanderful Blood Tonic!

It’s Indiana Jones all over again…

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Posted February 3, 2014 by fatmoron in Uncategorized

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