Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Would that constitute a "joke"?

So, the official synopsis for the forthcoming reboot sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, is out.

First, let me get this out of they way. I hate the title with the absence of colon. "Into Darkness" is obviously a subtitle, and grammatically should be treated as such. If it's not, it's just stupid. Read that phrase as a whole. It just doesn't make any sense. What does it mean to trek in a star-related manner, into darkness? Nothing. It can't just be going into space. It's already dark. If it's a reference to a metaphysical darkness, the subtitle becomes even more necessary. It's Star Trek, and the story is about going into some form of darkness. Title:subtitle. It's not hard. What it's really about is further trying separate this iteration of the franchise from it's predecessors. The "Star Trek n: Subtitle" where is the movie we're on is how the old Trek did it, so we have to do it a new way. It's the hipster version of a movie title. Why not just put some superfluous umlauts on some of the vowels. "Stär Trëk" looks pretty awesome, I have to say. Quite metal, really.

Moving on. Here's the synopsis:
In Summer 2013, pioneering director J.J. Abrams will deliver an explosive action thriller that takes Star Trek Into Darkness.
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 another action film then? I mean I assume the use of the words "explosive" and "detonated" are meant literally and not figuratively, so expect the first twenty minutes to be loud and full of explosions (and lens flares if history is any guide).

"Personal score," "manhunt," "war-zone," and "weapon of mass destruction" all in the same sentence give me pause. I have no reason to think this won't be, again, a monolithic, crazy-person villain with crudely drawn motivations.

Now, that's not to say that a single, monolithic bad guy can't work, TWOK is pretty good, and Khan and his pecs are nothing if not monolithic, but nothing in this blurb makes me think the story will be grounded in themes other than "explosions are cool" or "credible character motivations are boring." TWOK is anchored by a familiar, well-developed set of characters really questioning their futures and an interesting twist on the "weapon of mass destruction" in the Genesis device. The use of a nemesis to Kirk served to explore and expand on the personal problems he was having at the start of the film. Rather than serve in lieu of a plot, the action and the villain served to advance the plot.  I have (and will again) argued that movies do require a slightly more focused villain to work given the particular constraints of movies, but you still need to do the work to tell a good character and/or idea driven story. 

Ultimately, though, even if they make this a good movie, there's nothing here to make me think it will be a good Star Trek movie, and that, more than even lens flares, makes me really sad. I don't want to pre-judge the film (a lot), and I will go see it and give it a fair shake, but still...it would be nice to be excited rather than dreading what the film has in store.

Also...."pioneering director"... really? Did he invent complex set-ups that eventually over-rely on flashbacks and never resolve into a cohesive conclusion? cough....Alias...cough...Lost...cough...Heroes...cough 

Oh, maybe he did.


  1. Can I just ask how in hell this alt-Kirk would have a personal score to settle with anyone? Did someone take his seat at one of the few classes he attended during his incomplete tenure at the Academy? KAAAAAAHHHHNNNNNN!!!!! Get out of my SEEEAAAAATTTT!!!!!

  2. The point of Khan was that he was a recurring villain. He was someone we knew, someone Kirk knew. Someone to be reckoned with.

    Even with Benedict Cumberbatch (who I adore) playing Khan, I'm not sure he can save it. While I know that he can play super-smart, he's not built right for "genetically engineered perfect human". He's just too slender for that. He's lacking in that muscle tone that Ricardo Montalbán had.

    Not to mention that Khan is from before the point in time where the AU splits off from the primary universe. He shouldn't change. At all. He should be exactly as he was in Space Seed.

    Any bets on whether or not that will happen?

  3. I keep hearing conflicting reports on whether or not it will be Khan, but yeah...he should still be floating out on the Botany Bay somewhere, and without the Enterprise being sent on its original mission, they may never find it. Khan can spend eternity, safely cocooned away from the alternate universe.

    I envy him.

  4. You're applying way too much plot logic.

  5. I'm guessing Gary Mitchell. The "only family" angle makes Georde Kirk a small possibility as well. But as cool as that sounds, the rest of the synopsis fills me with dread. "Explosive action thriller" doesn't sound a whole hell of a lot like "science fiction" to me. WTF does "detonated the fleet" mean, anyway, and this just after the whole fleet was destroyed last movie? Why does this movie focus on Earth and the academy again?

    Basically, I'm expecting something at the level of "Fringe" at best, "Lost" at worst.

  6. First time commenter here, and I just wanted to say I really enjoy your reviews and podcasts. As far as the film, my guess is that it will be heavily Nolan-ized, partly based on this:


    If I had to guess who the villain would be, I would say Khan, for the simple reason that he's the guy most non-Star Trek fans have heard of, and that's pretty much the target audience for these films. I'd further guess that the filmmakers will try to reinvent Khan the way Heath Ledger and Christopher Nolan reinvented The Joker.

    How would they go about doing this? Well, in the Nolan films, the heroes and villains are as much stand-ins for ideas about order, chaos, anarchy, etc. as they are characters, so my utterly unsubstantiated conjecture is that they'll do the same with Khan or whoever the villain is: He'll embody some worldview diametrically opposed to Federation idealism, and that conflict will be the thematic undercurrent of the film. The good news, if I'm right, is that it means this time there will actually be a thematic undercurrent in the film. Again, this is all just guesswork at this point.

  7. If they were actually doing that, that would be interesting. Here's the problem, though. Khan doesn't stand for chaos. I would argue he stands for its opposite, order at any cost.

    And the villain, regardless of who he is, can't really stand for anything opposed the Federation since they've done no work to establish what the Federation stands for, beyond being a generic government entity in this sci-fi thriller we seem intent on making.

  8. JJ Abrams had nothing to do with Heroes.

  9. I stand corrected. I was just lumping poorly resolved interesting concepts. My apologies.