Monday, May 20, 2013

Star Trek: Into Darkness

Let me start with the positive:

The run time of 2 hrs and 3 minutes goes by with a quickness.  It was certainly action-packed.  As an action movie, I genuinely enjoyed it.  Usually I leave Star Trek movies slightly disappointed; I haven't enjoyed a Star Trek-themed movie this much, the first time I saw it, since the 80s, with Wrath of Khan and The Voyage Home.  Also, the campiness and silliness present in the last movie (and the original series) was thankfully missing from this outing.

But this wasn't a Star Trek movie.  It was a great action/adventure/sci-fi movie, but it wasn't Star Trek.

I've figured out what the problem is.  This wasn't Star Trek, it was an action movie with Star Trek characters in it.  (I'm not the only one to comment on this.)

Part of the problem is that I have no affection for the people on the screen.  Part of the allure of Star Trek is the relationship, if you will, the viewer has with the characters.  The first 6 movies relied on characters we'd seen for 3 years on tv and dozens of years in syndication.  We knew and loved them.  The same goes for The Next Generation characters; we knew them so well after 7 seasons on tv, we cared about them in their movies.  We could see them as our friends.

In the new movies you can say that's Captain Kirk up there, but it's not.  I know who Captain Kirk is, and it's Shatner.  You can't just say this person on the screen is Captain Kirk.  He's not.  Same goes for the other characters.  And for better or worse, the two newest movies are really Kirk movies, with the rest of the characters thrown in because they're supposed to be there.  The attempt at recreating the bond between Kirk and Spock is failing, and totally lacking is any development of the third leg of that triad, McCoy. Let's not forget that it was the three of them that made for such compelling stories--the brash Kirk, the stoic Spock, the emotional McCoy.  All we have in the current movies is their names, their characters are missing.  The others--Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov--they exist now only to move the story along, not because they're important to us.

You know what else is missing?  The biggest and most understated character of all, Enterprise herself.  Who among us didn't cry when Enterprise was destroyed in Search For Spock?  Who didn't cheer when we saw Enterprise-A?  We'd already seen an Enterprise destroyed by the time Generations came around so the loss of Enterprise-D in that movie wasn't as big a shock, but it was still a loss.  And didn't you ache when Enterprise-E rammed Scimitar, probably saving humanity by doing so?  Enterprise is a beautiful thing, her captains speak of her with reverence--or at least they used to.  In the new movies you don't get that sense.  She's a set, not a ship with a crew that's like family.  She's a method of transportation.  Into Darkness didn't have a single shot of Enterprise porn, those sweeping exterior views of the ship that make you long to be aboard.

In Star Trek you must have shots of Enterprise.  In battles you must see her flying by, firing phasers, maneuvering--you cheer for her not just because of her crew, but because you want that particular ship to win the fight.  In Into Darkness you see brief shots of Enterprise being hit and damaged, severely, what's missing is any attempt to make you feel affection for the ship itself.  As for "grand shots", we're treated with one of her rising out of an ocean (really?  freakin' seriously???) and one of her rising out of clouds (as if she's an atmospheric vessel--what's next, landing gear?).

Can you identify any specific place in the new Enterprise besides her bridge?  We don't know this new ship.  On the original Enterprise and Enterprise-D we knew what crew quarters looked like, we knew Main Engineering, we knew the transporter room, we knew the shuttle bay, we knew sick bay.  On Enterprise-D we also knew 10 Forward, the captain's ready room, and even the battle bridge (used what, only twice?).

We don't know this new Enterprise.  Enterprise herself isn't taken seriously in the reboot movies.  She exists only to take Pine/Kirk where he needs to go.

All those criticisms above relate to the Star Trek ethos; notice I haven't even addressed the storyline and plot problems in the current movie--and they are legion, if you're a Star Trek fan.

If you're not a fan, Into Darkness is a thrilling movie that keeps your attention almost non-stop from beginning to end.  It's a good movie, but definitely not a fanboy movie.  It's too bad these reboots have to be one or the other, and not both.


PeggyU said...

I was thinking, they should create a movie where their past selves meet their future selves in some sort of time twist. If they juxtaposed them, maybe the association between the old and new characters would "stick" better. Take this Audi commercial, for example.

Darren said...

I think they should introduce all new characters. Maybe start at the Academy, go from there....