Friday, May 24, 2013

Pondering Star Trek: Into Darkness

I saw ST: ID yesterday as part of the TRIP workshop, as the planned outing to a lake for canoeing or a hike met the reality of one of the longest and most powerful downpours I can remember (aside from those I played ultimate through).  And I left ST: ID wondering if it was really good or really bad.  So, look beyond the break for my first attempt to think it through.

Well, given that it was an effort to re-do the first Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan, one way to think about the movie is to compare it with its predecessor: is ST: ID better or worse than the Trek that is most widely considered to be the best Trek movie?  The answer is ... no. 

To be clear, the acting was better in ST: ID, as Montablan's Khan and Shatner's Kirk ate much of the scenery.  But the plots of the two were dramatically different, with the new movie chock full of stupid.  In the original, there are reasons why Kirk is initially stupid with Kirstey Alley's Saavik (a far better character than Alice Eve's Carol Marcus, despite how much I like Alice Eve) telling him so at the first battle.*  In the new movie, there are so many stupid decisions/plot devices, I have to enumerate:
* Carol Marcus was the mother of Kirk's son in the old ST universe.  It looks like Kirk is really into her in this one, but given all of the US military stories about commanders behaving inappropriately towards subordinates, I could not but help to feel a bit uncomfortable with his flirting here.  Times do change--198x vs 2013 but not so much ST timelines where commander lechery is commonplace (either timeline).
  1. Technology must really suck in this new alternative version of the ST universe.  The Enterprise hangs out for hours right outside the Klingon homeland, and they are not noticed?  Only when they go to the planet, and then there is no follow up to the first waves of Klingon ships?  I mean, this is an attack on their home planet.
  2. Speaking of which, why would anyone expect that a ship showing up in a remote region would not get attention?  In the early 21st century, if a starship showed up in Alaska or the Northwest Territories or Siberia, it would probably be noticed by today's technology and provoke a reaction.
  3. Speaking of which, Jupiter is not that far from Earth, and with all of the space travel going on, a giant secret space dock would not be noticed by those coming and going through the solar system? 
    1. Special sets of dumb for the new ship: really such a small crew?  This is convenient for the plot but not realistic.  
    2. That Scottie could put it offline is in the grand tradition of ST having ships that can be easily taken over, so I cannot complain about that.  But who are guys on this ship?  ST SOF?   
    3. They are so willing to kill Federation personnel??  The movie did a nice job of showing people being sucked out into space.  
  4. In a crisis, the head of Starfleet would hold a meeting on a highly exposed floor of all of the local commanders and their number 2's?  Yes, there is a ST tendency to put the commanders and their number 2's on away missions together (something that Next Generation wisely addressed), but an attack happens, and the first reaction is to put all the eggs in one basket?  Really?   REALLY?  Reeealllly?  
  5. The obsessive Starfleet commander picks Kirk because he is upset and makes a useful pawn, but his record clearly shows that he is not only reckless but insubordinate.  He is going to follow orders?  
  6. The whole getting Scottie off the chip was dumb on a stick.  Hard to believe the exchange between him and Kirk would lead to what happened, but getting him off the ship was too necessary for the silly plot.
  7. While I actually liked the reversed ending from the original Khan movie, it lacked all of the drama.  The first time around, we had heard rumors of Leonard Nimoy wanting to get out of the franchise, so the death of Spock in the movie had significant weight.  We saw him dying, we saw Kirk reacting, we knew they had so much history, so we were moved.  But this time?  Not only do we know that there will be more ST movies with Pine as Kirk, but we saw the whole Khan's blood as the miracle drug way ahead of time (do love the Tribble reference).  We knew that Kirk would only be briefly dead (was Bones making a Princess Bride reference?).  So, I enjoyed the re-play of the scene with Kirk now dying and Spock on the outside, "you would have done the same", which Spock did in an alternative universe.  But it had much less meaning.  
  8. Khan is supposed to be so very smart but also very arrogant.  So, it is semi-believable that he did not scan the 72 torpedoes for his pals, but not so much.  I mean, Khan knew he is playing a one shot Prisoner's Dilemma with Spock, that he fully intended to cheat, so he bought the line that Vulcans do not lie?  Please.  
    1. Also, there is space in a torpedo to jam a person and their frozen sleep thingy?  Really?  REALLY?  Since the torpedoes still had all of their other technology (boom), it is utterly unrealistic to think that each has enough space for cargo. 
I apparently can go on and on about this.  It was entertaining, but so much of the plot was based not on logic or even emotion but the damned narrative forcing the action.  Yes, John Scalzi's Redshirts with its critique of badly written Sci-Fi movies is incredibly apt here. 

Of course, there is much to ponder when it comes to wars on terrorism, selling your country's (or federation's) soul when one is attacked, and all of that IR stuff that other folks are pondering (now that I have seen the movie, I need to catch up on the posts at  Again, the acting was good, the special effects (I saw it in 2D and it was fine) were very good, and all that.  But oy!

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