While I was home with my family, we decided to go see Star Trek: Into Darkness. Although I was glad to see a movie with my family, and the movie was very … shiny, I didn’t care for it much. I want to enumerate the reasons why! Lots of spoilers. TL;DR, Stargate Universe, which I’ve been watching lately, strikes me as more Star Treky than this movie. Ask me how. <rant>
I went into the movie with low expectations – so low that I hadn’t really planned to see it. I really objected to the last one (the first of the “reboot”) because of the cop-out they threw in of being in a parallel universe. What is the point of calling it Star Trek if you’re not going to build off of the established canon? Star Trek survived the reboot of Next Gen and prospered from it – this first movie could have done the same if they had hired a few Trekkies to canon-check their movie and left out the parallel universe stuff.
I also agree with one of my friends who said that JJ Abrams would do much better on new Star Wars because of his showy, lens-flare-happy style. It is an attractive movie, full of drama and energy and fight scenes. But the reason I like Star Trek above Star Wars (and plenty of other popular scifi) is the way that it constantly holds a magnifying glass to the human condition and our societal issues, and asks us if we’re happy with them (sometimes it highlights good aspects, so the answer often isn’t “no”). I can’t think of anything in Into Darkness that was examined – even the original basis for Khan in “Space Seed” and Wrath of Khan was to examine eugenics and possible outcomes, and that was left out completely. To the point that I have to wonder if the writers were treading a line between throwing Trekkies a bone (“look, it’s a premise you know!”) and trying to simultaneously veil that for non-Trekkies. In the end, Benedict Cumberbatch was basically a badass magic item running around causing trouble.
I felt like they missed an opportunity to put Pike in a wheelchair by simply killing him – again, why use the name Star Trek if you aren’t going to work on the canon? If it’s a parallel universe, give us some actual parallels of events! That’s something I find interesting in the otherwise-not-that-great Mirror universe episodes – what events stay the same in both Prime and Mirror universes, and what changes, and how much?
It struck me at some point during the movie that if you changed the art direction (costumes, ship design) and names, it would have been unrecognizable as Star Trek and would have become rather generic science fiction. I’m thinking of the new Total Recall, which I saw last summer – and that one at least had some interesting ideas and commentary! Writing for the whole movie was riddled with tropes as far as I was concerned – the only non-trope-based parts seemed to be the ones ripped wholeheartedly out of old Star Trek – but old Star Trek is so seminal that it defined those tropes in the first place.
Also, a minor point, but I am really not a fan of the Uhura/Spock relationship – I don’t feel like it has been given enough reason to exist, and this is Spock we’re talking about. There needs to be a reason. Maybe I am just part of the fan base who is not okay with women kissing Spock and breaking down his unreachable Vulcan mystique, but couldn’t McCoy or Scotty have been the one with a girlfriend? And Uhura has served as an inspiration for lots of women, especially African American women, over the decades – I don’t think diminishing her to Spock’s girlfriend waving her hands over him being in danger serves that history well.
From the time that it was revealed that Benedict Cumberbatch is indeed Khan (which had been rumored, but I had hoped would be wrong because that seems like such a cop-out by the writers), I spent the rest of the movie thinking “KHAAAAAN!” at every opportunity. It got completely ridiculous (though was not surprising) when Leonard Nimoy appears on the main screen, and they promptly reenact Spock’s death scene but with the roles reversed. Using KHAAAAN’s blood to revive Kirk was a good alternative but again, completely tropey.
I did appreciate the reference to Section 31 from DS9 since I thought those episodes were well done and Section 31 was well developed – but considering how it’s treated in DS9 I had to object to the way people were blabbing about it. If Section 31 is so secret, they can’t have gone around talking about it that much just a generation or two before. I admit that I have only watched about five episodes of Enterprise so I don’t know if they are equally blabby about it at that point in time, but from what I’ve gathered about the show I’m not sure if things it made up should count as canon.
The movie was pretty. But more than that I’m not sure I can commend.