Thursday, December 6, 2012

Star Trek Into Darkness of the Movie Theater Again

Well, this came out today.

Now, let's go back for a minute to 2009, to my reaction to the first movie in this new continuity: "The movie was amazing...but it wasn't Star Trek." I left the theater with the satisfaction of having seen stuff blow up real good IN SPAAAAAAAAACE, and with the disappointment of my favorite entertainment franchise heading off in a direction more appealing to hip, young Star Wars fans than curmudgeonly, fun-hating Star Trek fans like me.

Part of me is looking forward to this new movie—crashing the Enterprise into downtown San Francisco looks like it should be cool, and I'll finally be able to determine whether this new direction was worth four years of aggravatingly conflicting emotions.

The other part of me doesn't really care.

You know I've still only seen the previous movie once? On opening day, in the theater. That's it. I've seen Star Trek: Nemesis at least four times—willingly, no less. I think that says something about where my loyalties lie. I'd rather watch bad Star Trek than a good movie pretending to be Star Trek.

Though, really, I'm no longer sure the previous movie was all that good to begin with. And after more intense scrutiny, Nemesis doesn't seem as bad, either.

I read through all of "Star Trek by the Minute," a series of 117 blog posts analyzing the science, moviecraft, and faithfulness to the Trek name of every single minute of the 2009 Star Trek film. I watched Cowboys & Aliens, a film written by the same guys who wrote Star Trek. I continued my ongoing endeavor to watch every episode of every official Star Trek series with several seasons of Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. I chatted about the film with Morgan Gendel, writer of (among others) TNG's famous episode "The Inner Light."

I've had plenty of time to think about the 2009 film, and plenty of opportunities to pick it apart and compare it to other movies and other Trek. I've reached the conclusion that the action sequences, special effects, music, and novelty of having the original Star Trek back on the big screen have successfully masked some very serious flaws with the storytelling, and deflected attention off of the heart of the movie, which is so fundamentally different from what has traditionally made Star Trek...well, Star Trek.

There have been bad films and bad episodes that haven't really felt like Star Trek, or haven't lived up to the standard of quality established by the likes of Wrath of Khan and "The Best of Both Worlds." Even with the wrong director at the helm or a sub-par script to work with, someone involved in any given Star Trek production was trying to keep Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future alive. If this new movie trailer is any indication, it looks to me like J.J. Abrams wants to recreate Star Trek in his own image.

Time for spoilers, kiddos.

From the press release: "When the crew of the Enterprise is called back home, they find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization has detonated the fleet and everything it stands for, leaving our world in a state of crisis. With a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction. As our heroes are propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart, and sacrifices must be made for the only family Kirk has left: his crew."

So, let's think about that while we consider what was destroyed in the first film, and what will probably be destroyed in the second one: Spock's mother. Kirk's father. Vulcan. Starfleet. "Friendships," whatever those are. (I'm already blaming Uhura.) Possibly even the Enterprise itself. And that's not to mention the Prime timeline's Romulus, along with 40+ years of continuity.

Kinda looks like he's gunning for a totally blank slate where the characters are the only things identifiable as being from Star Trek. Who's the villain in this one? Not an iconic alien like a Klingon or imported-from-another-timeline Romulan. Though, that is not to say the villain might not be iconic—that is, i-Khan-ic.

What I'm hoping for: Those parasitic mind-control grubs from the TNG episode "Conspiracy" finally make their grand return, infiltrating Starfleet Command under the watchful eye of a lesser-known villain from the annals of Star Trek history.

What I'm expecting: KHAAAAAAAAAN!!!!

There can still be mind-control grubs, though.

We'll see how this one turns out—without the oppressive shackles of loosely observed continuity shaping the direction of the story, J.J. Abrams and Co. are free to do absolutely anything they want with this film.

Things We'll Probably See:
- Nurse Chapel, whose only function is to scream at scary things, and give McCoy somebody to talk to, 'cuz he really doesn't seem that tight with Kirk
- An impromptu Gorn battle that completely interrupts the flow of the story
- Vulcans behaving completely out of character
- A reference to a classic Trek scene or quote, which inadvertently devalues the scene or quote if you think about it too hard
- An incredibly important plot point that's barely explained and/or makes absolutely no sense if you think about it too hard
- Adults who are absolutely useless in crisis situations, leaving the young'uns to take matters into their own hands
- Petty bickering over a woman (I'm already blaming Uhura)
- Someone getting killed off for plot convenience and/or a cheap emotional response
- No Klingons, or worse yet, pointless Klingons
- Really awesome action sequences that make you forget about everything I just mentioned

Despite my cynicism, I'm open-minded enough to give Star Trek Into Darkness a chance. Skyfall was enough to rekindle my enthusiasm for the James Bond franchise after Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace took it in a direction I wasn't overly excited about; all it takes is one movie.

Though, given how downplayed the words "STAR TREK" are on the movie poster, I doubt Into Darkness will help me see the light.


Unknown said...

The main writer are the same duo from the first two Transformers movies. We saw how the magic wore thin on the public that time. I do not believe that trying to jump the shark to better waters will stick with moviegoers.

The villain might actually be from the series. "John Harrison" could be a redo of Gary Mitchell. The Gorn would be, umm, whatever. There is a funny youtube video where somebody subtitled the fight set to an Anne Murray song.

Interesting that you mention Skyfall. IT won my back to James Bond, too (and I am scholar of that franchise).

Flashman85 said...

Oh, jeez; I didn't realize they'd done Transformers, too. That makes so much sense.

You said Gary Mitchell, but that first made me think of Gary Seven instead—and *that* would have been an interesting storyline:

Immune to the Vulcan nerve pinch, trying to stop an armed conflict and by doing so putting Earth into graver peril, having Kirk get romantically involved with Isis only to discover she's a cat, even pull together some ties with the Eugenics Wars so that the likes of Khan, Rain Robinson, and Henry Starling can at least find a reference somewhere and tie the greater Star Trek universe together more...yeah, that could've been cool.

Gary Mitchell was never very interesting to me. Guy has super powers; threatens ship! I realize that was half the episodes of TOS' first season, and it would definitely make sense based on what I've seen in the trailer (and read outside of the trailer), but I can think of dozens of other characters I'd rather see.

In addition to being an overall great movie, Skyfall was courteous enough to acknowledge many of its predecessors in one way or another, and smart enough to distance itself a little from the last two movies (for the benefit of the old guard Bond fans who weren't digging the new direction) without disavowing knowledge of their existence. I think Casino Royale successfully put the Bond franchise on a new track that was good but different, and Skyfall worked to merge the old and the new to form a different new direction that, at least for the moment, seems to be a satisfactory blend of both directions; a fresh start for everyone, that still has this new continuity to draw from for the future.

As opposed to "Destroy everything! We'll figure out the details later!"