Monday, May 20, 2013

Star Trek: Into Star Trek II

It is somewhat discouraging to note that Star Trek: Into Darkness is no better than the first two Star Wars prequels and that it features more obtrusive problems in its storyline. Since J.J. Abrams seems to make a point of mentioning in every interview that he didn't actually like Star Trek growing up--he says he only became a fan after he was hired to direct the first film, incidentally when he was paid a lot of money to like Star Trek--that he always preferred Star Wars, may mean the new Star Wars movie Disney has hired him to direct isn't doomed. If it's anything like Star Trek: Into Darkness, it'll feature some fun dialogue, some strong performances, nice action sequences, but will also feature thinly written versions of Luke, Han, Leia, and Vader re-enacting the plot of The Empire Strikes Back only in this version the Rebel Alliance will demote Luke for stealing something for no apparent reason, Darth Vader will display the ability to destroy the Rebel Alliance and for no reason never use it, and there will be a lot of dialogue about Lando Calrissian who will appear in only one scene. At the end of the movie, a barely acquainted Han and Leia become inexplicably tearful as Leia is frozen in carbonite after both of them have failed to acknowledge the deaths of thousands of people when Darth Vader crashed a Star Destroyer into Bespin. And a dead Ewok will come back to life after drinking Vader's blood.

Like the prequels, Star Trek: Into Darkness has its good points. Benedict Cumberbatch is the Darth Maul of this film, Chris Pine is the Ewan McGregor. I liked Pine a lot more than I did in Abrams' first Star Trek film. He's toned himself down a lot and no longer wildly projects stuff for the audience that other people on screen look stupid for not noticing. He actually seems closer to Shatner. Zachary Quinto is good, though he doesn't feel remotely like Spock. He feels like another, younger, more emotionally volatile Vulcan character. My favourite part of the movie is when he explains to Uhura that at the moment when he thought he was going to die he repressed his feelings not because he doesn't care about his life or his friends but because he cares too much. It was a nice way of explaining the fundamental Vulcan issue, actually, from a new angle.

If the makers of these new Star Trek movies were really bold, were really interested in shaking things up to the best advantage, they'd make Zoe Saldana the captain. She's the real standout among the crew, with Simon Pegg coming second. Tough and vulnerable, smart and sexy--she makes all these qualities seem new, exactly like a real star is supposed to.

And Cumberbatch fits the bill, too. No elaborate action sequence, beautifully scary bit of starship battles in a warp field, is as captivating as the close-ups of Cumberbatch delivering a speech about how he's the savage genius whose people were betrayed.

Peter Weller's in the film, too, and it's good to see him though his role is hampered by the bad plotting that's too big even for me to ignore. Carol Marcus is his daughter in this version (he's an admiral is Starfleet). She's a blonde--otherwise she bears no resemblance to the woman of the same name from Wrath of Khan, though I suspect her physical appearance and attractiveness were the only qualities the makers of the film thought pertinent, judging from screenwriter Damon Lindelof's surprise that many fans are upset by a gratuitous shot of the woman in underwear. I wasn't upset by it--it is lame that she's barely a character, and the scene doesn't make sense, but I don't think there's anything wrong with seeing a woman in her underwear.

As I hinted at in my first paragraph, this movie features a lot of re-treading of famous moments from Star Trek with reduced impact, but there are plenty of reviews complaining about that already--Nordling's spoiler filled review at AICN covers it adequately. I mainly concur.

It's pretty much impossible to talk at much length about the content of the film without spoilers if only because Abrams felt so strongly about keeping much of it secret (even though some of it has been pretty obvious for a long time). On The Howard Stern Show last week, I heard Abrams talk about how tired he was of trailers that gave away the whole plots of movies and since this is a point with which I happen to agree with him, I'm reluctant to provide spoilers here. I could put them behind a cut, I guess, but maybe it'll suffice simply to say I think a lot of people to-day ask for character development when what they really want is character orgasm. I don't think orgasm is a bad thing, but it's not the same thing, and it can be awkward in certain circumstances.

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