Monday, May 20, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

 Star Trek Into Darkness
Released May 16, 2013

Introduction

First things first. THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS AND ASSUMES YOU HAVE, IN FACT, SEEN THE MOVIE. There will no further audio warnings about the spoilers or the self-destruct device.

Kirk runs afoul of Starfleet regulations one time too many and is relieved of his command. He is brought back to the center seat, though, when a mysterious villain engages in acts of terrorism against the Federation.

McCoy discovers the cure for consequences.
Writing

Kevin: Okay...I don't even know where to start. When Star Trek 2009 came out, I was disappointed, but I was nowhere near as angry as Matt. Now... now I am angry. This movie was offensive to me as a movie-goer and as a Trekkie. I am going to try to control my rage long enough to be coherent. I'll start with the science in my science fiction. There was none. Well, that was fast. I know I have defended many a Trek outing with minimal science fiction, and when the story chooses instead to focus on good character development or political intrigue inside the Trek world, I am happy. Here there was no other good story, so the omission is more glaring. Also the little science they included was awful. If the Enterprise were that close to the Moon, if it lost power, it would stay right where it was for a good long time. And if the ship were falling that fast, it would have hit ground much sooner. Half the movie seemed to take place in a planet's atmosphere. These may be graceful ships, but they are not aerodynamic. They would sink like rocks and not fly around like airplanes, and except for one brief shot of the Enterprise at the end, there were never any evidence of atmospheric friction. This may sound like nerdy nitpicking, and yes I understand there's no such thing as warp drive either, but when they make the effort to include real science (Hi, Mr. Bormanis!), it increases my connection to the story and my immersion in the universe.

Matthew: If we're starting with science, I had some serious problems with the way microgravity was depicted. For one thing, if you're orbiting a planet, that means you're traveling right at the threshold of escape velocity. So if every ounce of power on your ship went out, you'd.... keep on going. For weeks. Maybe months or years. Not plummet like a rock "because you're caught in Earth's gravity field." For another, the way the ship-to-ship jetpack scene was portrayed was way too much like flying in an atmosphere with downward-pulling gravity. Anyway, I'm going to put the next objection in the science category because I can't think of a better place. A line of dialogue distinctly refers to something being located "behind the aft nacelle." First of all, what can be behind something that is aft? Second of all, there are two nacelles, one on each side of the ship. Umm... I'm pretty sure that means they are port and starboard nacelles.

Kevin: Now to analyze the movie as a movie before diving into what they did to Star Trek in particular. We suffer many of the same in-universe problems that the last one suffered. Scotty is out, so rather than make the assistant engineer or whoever it is that runs engineering when Scotty is asleep the engineer, we promote someone who was basically an intern, and all the attempts at comedy of Chekov seeming in over his head just makes the decision less credible. The movie attempts to address the issue of Kirk basically being a frat boy in the captain's chair, but even then, after getting demoted to cadet, he gets promoted to first officer and then captain in about ten minutes. And everything Pike said to him when dressing him down was fantastic, but given that Pike was the one who gave him the position in the first place, it still makes it seem like Starfleet is a crazy and or stupid place. Kirk spotting Harrison in the wreckage holo-photos and McCoy working with Marcus on the torpedo also smack again everyone there being the best at everything rather than the people whose job it is do that. Lastly, how many damn climaxes does this movie have? We had the torpedoes on the Vengeance, the crashing of the Vengeance, the fight on the moving platforms, and Kirk's 'death.' In actual Wrath of Khan, the fight ends in an explosion, Spock dies, there's a few low-key scenes of emotional resolution and that's it. I was actually allowed to come down from the climax and feel things, rather than be bombarded with things over and over and over again.

Matthew: Chekov replacing Scotty was the height of stupidity, and I think you're right, Kevin, it was played solely for laughs. It's stupid that Chekov is apparently a navigator, and the best transporter operator in the world (See previous crapfest), but also qualifies to run the largest proton accelerator ever, because he's "shadowed" Scotty for a while. What? Also, why would Kirk, who is apparently really mad at John Harrison, let someone without any real-world experience be at the controls of such a delicate piece of machinery, the critical piece for success of the mission? It seems like a really bad decision. But then, I suppose Kirk had no real-world experience, either, so what could we have expected? The characterization of Kirk was extremely problematic. I think Orci and Kurtzman aren't the fans they claim to be. If they had watched TOS, they'd see that Kirk is not the crass womanizer he's taken to be in the caricature of popular culture. In fact, he's thoughtful, even romantic, and generally only bangs an alien chick because she has information or power he needs to save the ship or complete a mission. Here, he's just kind of a creepy lech. Now, I suppose that could be where they want to take the character, but I think it's a bad place to go. And yes, I think the way the "Dressing down" of Kirk was handled was cheap. It's one thing to say "we made a mistake promoting you so quickly." That, I could appreciate, because it would address one of the most glaring flaws of the first film. But it's quite another thing to then DO THE SAME DAMNED THING in this movie.

Kevin: Harrison/Khan's plot makes no sense. He gets thawed and his 72 (Should I just be happy it wasn't 47?) compatriots are held hostage for his help. Okay, so far so good. But somehow he got clandestine access to them and hid them in super-weapons? It's not even like he removed the warheads. Why do that? I thought that they were going to be weapons capable of destroying Kronos entirely, thus tricking Kirk into genocide, and that would have been a far tighter plot. Why send Kirk on this mission and not one of Marcus' Vengeance toadies to precipitate war with the Klingons? Why should I care about the threat the Klingons present since they were on screen for ten minutes and were otherwise non-existent. How did the Klingons not detect the Enterprise sitting "twenty minutes away" for several hours? Khan was able to beam inside the Klingon empire, why not just beam a bomb after him? Once again, every single thing in the plot happens because the script said it should, rather than because it flows naturally from the characters or the situation. How was Scotty able to get to and inside the super secret base and the super secret ship undetected. Why did Spock sit on the information about Marcus given the first half of the movie was what a stickler Spock is for the rules? Why is it required all the brass meet in one room? Why is it a room with windows? Why did Dr. Marcus have access to all her father's secret files? Matt, am I missing any big ones?

Matthew: I thought it was bizarre to introduce an apparently topical reference to drone strikes against terrorists, but then to not do the obvious thing, exactly as you said, to use your intra-galactic transporter, which would be untraceable and indefensible, to do the damned strike. I would also think that, if you knew bad guy X had 72 compatriots that he wanted more than anything to free from cryogenic sleep, and then the bad guy helped you make 72 torpedoes for your super secret mission, that you might get just a little bit suspicious of the coincidence. But of course, these writers seem completely unable to detect undue coincidence, so it's not unusual that the characters they write would also be so unable. My absolute biggest problem with the movie qua movie is the Klingon thing. The super secret plot behind the story we think is occurring (Khan wants revenge or something) is that a rogue Starfleet admiral wants to start a pre-emptive war against a looming foe, the Klingons. The problem is, he is willing to destroy the Federation way of life in order to save it. The issue for a viewer is this: neither pole in this situation is developed at all. What do we learn about the Klingons? We get a half-hearted line of dialogue about how they've conquered two star systems. We're never shown how evil or menacing or violent they are. What do we learn about the Federation? I'll be damned if I know. There's a sick girl, some night clubs, and a bunch of unrealistically busy cities with samey-looking buildings. Nothing about this conflict is real in any way to a viewer who is not versed in actual Star Trek (as opposed to the last 2 movies). It reminds me of the Star Wars prequels. The conflict driving that story was apparently one between the Republic and separatists. But what were they separating from, and why? Who knows. So when the lizards started fighting the tinker-toys, no one in the audience could possibly give a damn. I think this is about on par with Star Wars Episode 1 as far as establishing on screen the motivations of the characters and the actions depicted. Speaking of Admiral Marcus' grand plot, how does thawing out a dictator from the past result in creating an armada that can defeat the (apparently intractable, but how would I know) Klingons? It would be like thawing out Hitler and asking him to help you with the Hubble Space Telescope. What the hell would he know? The Carol Marcus character was superfluous. Apparently, she gleaned information about her father's plot because he let her hang around and look at his secret files? Is she a member of Starfleet? This was unclear. So she stows away onto the Enterprise, and Spock finds out. But does nothing about it. Even though in-movie he is established as a stickler for rules. And she is an intruder on the ship tasked with finding the big bad terrorist. And is an expert in weapons of mass destruction. WTF?

Kevin: And now to analyze this as Star Trek. It's a perverse travesty of something I love dearly. There. Analysis done. Let's start with the teaser plot. It's basically Pen Pals + Who Watches the Watchers = a crappier story. If it's Starfleet's job to never interfere, why are they fixing the volcano at all? Isn't that already a violation of the Directive? And the fact that this primitive culture views the Enterprise as some kind of god image is treated as a joke and then abandoned. The potential teetering into religious war was taken seriously in Watchers and it should have here. What happens when these people achieve warp and run into starships that look like god? Those are real questions and the very reason the Prime Directive exists. I also hated Spock's answer to Uhura about choosing to feel nothing about his death as a result of his not wanting to feel pain. The better and correct answer is that Spock thinks protecting the internal integrity of the native people is worth the sacrifice of his life and he agreed to do that if it came to it when he volunteered to join Starfleet. And so did Uhura for that matter. It can be difficult and it can hurt, that makes good drama, when two things people care about are in conflict. Spock willing to sacrifice his life for the Prime Directive reinforces the idea it's the Prime Directive.

Matthew: Initially, I hated the teaser scene because there seemed to be a false dichotomy. Spock was accusing Kirk of violating the prime directive by revealing the presence of aliens to a primitive culture. Kirk was like, "who cares?" (facepalm) Spock, though, was fine with fixing a volcano (somehow) to save the lives of this primitive race. All the while, my Trekkie brain is screaming: BOTH ARE VIOLATIONS OF THE PRIME DIRECTIVE! Then, they get back to Earth, and Pike chastises Kirk for interfering in any way. They were only supposed to observe, not alter the destiny of this race. So I was like... OK, maybe the writers understand the prime directive after all? But then it dawns on you... if Pike knows what it is, that means Spock knows that he was violating it in the first place with the rescue plan. What? The Spock who is such a stickler for the rules that he reports Kirk for his slightly different violation of the prime directive? So either Spock is an ignoramus or he is a hypocrite. Neither option is tenable for a Star Trek fan. Also, can I just ask - if launching your ship from the ocean will attract the attention of the natives, how the hell do you park your ship in the ocean without attracting the same unwanted attention?

Kevin: Then there's the Abomination. Trying to repeat the death scene from Wrath of Khan was cheap and stupid and any emotional payoff it attempted was undeserved. They talk about being friends, but that's never shown on screen. Kirk dismisses Spock, his knowledge, and his point of view at every turn, and certainly without the humor and camaraderie that infused the original relationship. I just got the impression that neither liked nor respected the other. You might have had Kirk give Marcus Rick's speech to Ilsa at the end of Casablanca, just because. I understand we bought Spock back, but it took a whole movie and Kirk paid with his ship and his son. Yes, he was resurrected, but it cost our friends dearly. Kirk being brought back and the cheap telegraphing of the solution with the ham-fisted addition of the tribble reference was obnoxious. And why do they need Khan alive? He has blood if he's dead. And we have 72 more just like him. Why not use those guys? Oh, and why was Praxis already exploded? I know that's a bit of non-sequitur , but it really bothered me. And another thing, what the hell was with calling Old Spock? Khan should be a part of the unaltered history of the universe. And Spock isn't going to tell young Spock about the future? Except for when he mind-melded with Kirk to fill him in and told Spock with was his destiny to be Kirk's friend. That was fine. And what was the answer to his question about beating Khan? Other than repeating the line about thinking three-dimensionally, what is the answer? And young Spock mind-melding with Pike? I can't even articulate how awful that was...Matt can you cover this one?

Matthew: Of course this zombification of a classic scene is a gross insult to anyone who had invested hours in caring about the characters of TOS and the TOS films. Those characters have earned our admiration and our support, and to see them make sacrifices is genuinely emotional for a viewer. These characters have not. So it's just cheap and demeaning. But I actually want to attack this from a non-fan perspective. If I had only seen this and the previous movie, how am I supposed to feel anything when these characters sacrifice for each other? No friendship has been established, only animosity. In The Wrath of Khan, even if you had seen nothing else from Trek, it was established in several scenes ON SCREEN that these guys are life long friends who care a great deal for each other. There are birthday presents, deep conversations about life and mortality, all manner of affection displayed for the viewer to put the death scene in context. Here, there are fistfights and explosions. So I submit that any non-fan should just be sort of perplexed by what goes on here. When Kirk says "I want you to know why I saved you on the planet," I thought to myself: "Yeah! Me, too! Great question!" Spock yelling "Khan!!!!" was worse than Darth Vader yelling "Nooooooo!!!" in Star Wars Episode 3. It was so frankly dumb I couldn't even laugh the way I did when I watched Episode 3 in the theater. For one thing, it seems to belie the characterization of Spock, as well as being an expression of emotion that was unearned. But more importantly: KHAN WASN'T RESPONSIBLE for the malfunction on the ship that Kirk "sacrificed" himself to rectify. If anything, Spock should have been yelling "MARCUSSSSS!!!!" The mind meld was offensive to any fan, because we know both how intimate such a bond is, as well as how important consent would be. But to a non-fan it just had to be confusing. Spock wanted to basically steal Pike's feelings while he died... in order to understand grief? But he says in his dialogue that he already understands it, having lost his world (no mention of mommy, but whatever). If you can come up with a more opaque motivation for such a violation of someone's sovereignty as a rational being, I'd like to hear it.

Kevin: There are two overarching thoughts I want to end this section with. The characterization of Khan in this movie was just plain wrong. The Khan from Space Seed was ruthless, but he wasn't cruel for cruelty sake. He was a tyrant, not a sociopath, and that's a big difference. He marooned the crew of the Reliant, he didn't kill them. Khan crashing the ship and, in particular, the violence on the bridge of the Vengeance was really awful. The exact moment I started wishing the movie was over was when he kicked Dr. Marcus. Based on the sound effects, I take it we were meant to assume that he shattered her leg. Then there was the head squeezing thing. In both instances, the violence is far more than Star Trek normally goes for, but then chickens out of actually showing consequences.  Star Trek is something Matt and I came to as children and I think it's safe to say that it had a large and positive impact on our childhoods. This Star Trek is not something I would want to share with my child. The violence was disgusting but not engaged in any meaningful way, and it cheaply avoided anything that would imperil it's mass appeal PG-13 rating. Chain of Command was a beautifully executed episode because the violence was horrifying, but subtle and the disgust I felt was justified and used by the episode to make a point about torture, rather than merely showing it for the sake of titillation. The other major thought I have after this movie is about the reboot in general. The whole reason we needed a reboot in the first place was that Star Trek, after Nemesis and Enterprise, was apparently out of ideas. If that's true, why do they keep going back to the old universe for story ideas. Tell a new story Abrams. Even if it's a different tone and different people and different outlook on the world, if it were a real, self-contained story, I would be far happier. Fan service is not just repeated the words or using the images. You can't just say that the "Space...the final frontier" speech is the captain's oath and expect me to coo with pleasure. First, it's not an oath. That's just grammar. Second, you haven't earned those words. When Kirk or Picard (or Spock that one time in STII) say them, they inspire. Here, they offend.

Matthew: My problem with the conclusion of the movie, in which Kirk admonishes the audience to return to the roots of the Federation ethos of freedom, justice, exploration, and all that jazz, is that there is no evident ethos to return to, given the last two movies. Both films are chock full of violence, battles, fisticuffs, and playing fast and loose with the moral dimensions of any given situation. What exactly are they returning to? I've read a few reviews that state that these movies, like the (far superior) James Bond reboot, finally clean the slate and put the Trek franchise into a position to tell classic sci-fi stories. Huh? It took two movies' worth of inane violence and chase scenes to "clean the slate" for more thoughtful science fiction? I'm not seeing it. And yeah, I was annoyed that he called it "the Captain's Oath," too. This isn't Green Lantern, folks.

Acting

Kevin: Once again, the main cast does a good job. I bought Kirk's bravado, then self-doubt, and the crying over Pike was pretty solid. If you wanted to focus a story on how a man who never knew his father watched his surrogate father die in his arms would be personally affected, you'd probably have a pretty good story. Karl Urban was great as McCoy. He really nailed the emotional concern for everyone, and his half of the banter with Spock was spot on. Simon Pegg added some of the gravitas in his resignation that we thought was lacking in the last one, and it made Scotty a better character. I liked Zoe Saldana, though she was sadly underutilized. Even the attempt at apology for Star Trek VI and her speaking Klingon felt flat. I think Quinto did as much with Spock as the script allowed. It cheapened his duality to something even less than Data's on/off emotion chip.

Matthew: I agree for the most part on Pine. I think he oversold the fratboy antics. But the guy can play charming. He showed really good comic chops, too. Indeed, Karl Urban's was the best performance yet again, and it's a shame he was given so little to do. But then, what use is a doctor in a dumb action movie? I like Quinto's Spock even less than I did the first time. Even with the worst of scripts, Nimoy could add just a little something to indicate the depths of the character. Quinto adds nothing. He is wooden when Spock is logical, and a blubbering tool when Spock is emotional. There's no middle ground, no subtlety, no mystery. Pegg was funny. Saldana was fine. Cho and Yelchin were a big nothing to me, yet again.

Kevin: Alice Eve really didn't have much to do except be pretty and give a Wilhelm screan. Check and double check. Peter Weller was a bit too Bond villain for my taste. Again, the script doesn't help, but I never understood why he felt the Klingon threat was so urgent. Bruce Greenwood was once again good as Pike. Frankly, had they made the reboot universe about Pike and his Enterprise with the new actors under his command, that would have probably been an awesome movie.

Matthew: I thought Alice Eve was charming despite her character being pointless and her motives inscrutable. Peter Weller did a good job when he was supposed to be warm and charming. I agree that he was a tad over the top when he was the villain. More subtlety would have helped us maybe see his character's side of things. Greenwood has now become the Obi Wan Kenobi of this franchise. He was great every second he was on screen, then he was killed way too early for no other reason than to get Kirk back into the chair. Sigh.

Kevin: Look, I find Benedict Cumberbatch as hot as the next androphile. Particuarly as Sherlock, his unruly mop of curls just melts my heart, but he wasn't quite there for me. If this is supposed to Khan Singh, the greatest of all tyrants, I didn't get that, and if we abandoned that history, then I don't know who he was or what his deal is. He was just violent.

Matthew: Cumberbatch's Khan seemed to have two settings. 1. Monotone Mannequin. 2. Explode Head! I think most of this was script. He certainly cut a dashing figure. But Montalban's Khan was so much more charming and seductive. So by comparison, it was disappointing.

Production Values

Kevin: Like the last one, this one had plenty of pretty when the camera wasn't shaking. Nibiru was pretty good and the color scheme actually felt alien. I hated the title cards. Don't call it "Class M." The only people who care about that can infer from the breathing people on it. And don't flag the city as London again after you've done it once. Mickey Smith from Doctor Who is there, so we know it's London.

Matthew: I found the earth cities to be too identical-looking. I think this was why they ended up using the title card each time. London didn't look appreciably different than San Francisco. I did like the look of the London suburbs and the hospital. I hated the font on the subtitles, it wasn't good for optimal reading, and they changed the color of the letters to match the scene. Nibiru looked great, and the aliens looked neat.

Kevin: Kronos was a big nothing. It was a large abandoned industrial complex with big yellow wheels and the narrow corridor from the Death Star. I also, personally, hated the design of the Klingons, but they've been through enough actual redesigns for it not be a real criticism I can levy.

Matthew: Kronos was the "evil manufacturing district" from the Star Wars prequels. It did not look like a real place, even an abandoned real place, instead it looked like a collection of giant things placed there so as to be foreboding.

Kevin: I hated the Vengeance. It was the Narada 2.0. A big black ship on a big black background and never enough of an establishing shot to make it clear what it looks like. It also looks EEEEEEEEEVIL. Assuming this is actually supposed to be a new class of ship, shouldn't also look a little more stately an inspiring, if only from a PR/morale/patriotism sake? I also again got annoyed at the conflation of the warp and impulse drives in the same engine and the plasma globe warp nacelles that we saw at the end were hideous.

Matthew: My problems with ship design were ones of scale. The Enterprise in particular seemed to have wonky scale all over the place. The window on the bridge (sigh) shows the whole ship to be a certain height, but Kirk climbs several stories in the reactor core of the warp engines. This multistory complex also exists on the same ship interior as the brewery and the particle accelerator exterior (that said, I liked the particle accelerator, which was a location shoot by the way, because it finally depicted something that looked like it belonged on a spaceship). The shuttle bays yet again were way too big. So I just never got the feel of the Enterprise as a real place. It seemed like a bunch of location shoots linked by corridors. Yeah, the Vengeance was the same evil ship we've seen for the past 3 Star Trek movies, actually.

Conclusion

Kevin: I have had several friends, people I like and respect state on facebook that they liked this movie and thought it was good. I don't understand that, even a little. Even if I had never seen Star Trek before, this was still a stupid awful movie with no internal consistency and in no way deserves any of the emotional payoffs it tries to sell. Have we been so desensitized by Transformers and GI Joe and whatnot that anything seems good anymore? The internal plot of this movie makes no sense in and of itself. Adding on that it pisses on Star Trek history only makes it worse. 

I mean, this isn't just me being a pedantic, nitpicking fan. I'm not just annoyed that the button is in the wrong place or they jiggered the chronology a little. They are on a fundamental level disregarding the things about Star Trek that made it interesting and good. This is a 1, only because "punch Abrams in the throat" is not an integer.

Matthew: I agree with the 1 for a total of 2. This is a complete piece of trash as Star Trek, easily in the bottom decile. The sheer fact of plagiarizing a past story devoid of all the emotional weight is probably enough to relegate it there. But what about as a movie? I too am flummoxed by the apparent high esteem this is being held in by many a critic and a friend. Here's what I think it going on:

Perhaps Star Trek (the real thing, that is) appeals to people who like a certain cohesion and level of detail in their narratives. Kevin, people like you and me crave setting, cultural backdrop, coherent motivations, understandable rules for a world. We also want great characters and empathetic emotional stories for those characters. But it seems like the majority of the American audience is content with only the latter and doesn't find the former particularly important. Maybe this owes itself to the character of popular entertainment in the past 20 years, maybe it's down to an ADHD smartphone culture, who knows. But I think it's true.

So as a story about revenge and anger, it's pretty OK. Khan is a maniac terrorist. Boo, we hate terrorists. Kirk hates this particular terrorist because he gunned down his surrogate daddy. Yay, we like revenge! I guess it works on a very broad scale. But the question now is, how many more vengeance and anger stories can be told? Kirk is running out of daddies, and now death can be cured with a handy injection. If the slate has truly been "cleared" to write science fiction stories, we'll just have to see what Abrams et al. can do.

Too bad they've broken the universe those stories are to be told in, then.

Addendum: My wife Kelly suggests that what I've said above might alienate some people. As such, I just want to make something clear. If you liked this movie, I don't think that makes you some sort of stupid philistine. I just think it means you have different priorities when it comes to your entertainment than me. I also don't think it means you're somehow deficient as a Star Trek fan. It very well could be that you didn't follow Trek for its expansive, coherent science fictional universe, but only for its interesting characters and heartfelt emotional storylines. This movie fails on the former score and succeeds for at least half of the latter (I will not relent on the opinion that the Kirk/Spock emotional connection was absent, and so the "sacrifice" is meaningless).

Podcast

Like the review, the podcast contains spoilers. Though, really, the plot is what's spoiled. Revealing it would be a mercy. We decided to do a podcast now to essentially discuss our review rather than wait for the Blu-Ray, if only because it spares us having to watch it again. So this is not a commentary that is intended to run in conjuction with viewing the movie. It's a two person screed, pure and simple.




48 comments:

  1. I don't have as much youthful love for WoK as y'all do I think, so I didn't view this as such an insult. I thought the difference between Quinto and Nimoy's portrayals of Spock were due to the age difference of the characters, this is young Spock. But I liked much of this movie way more than y'all did. Look, if we hadn't had a well telegraphed way to save Kirk immediately, then we would have had Star Trek III, Canvass for Kirk

    My favorite part was when Uhura's interaction with the Klingons betrayed Federation ignorance of Klingon diplomacy in the early years. Where Uhura said "You should fear this man as he has no honor," a nice try given how little was known at the time, later generations of federation officers like Picard would have known to say "We're going to capture a coward who fled in the heat of battle to teach him the meaning of pain and fear, want to help?"

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  2. I like that you found an alliterative way to phrase the hypothetical third movie.

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  3. This was too funny not to share:

    http://io9.com/star-trek-into-darkness-the-spoiler-faq-508927844?utm_source=feedly

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  4. More than anything, I appreciate this film for delivering more Cumberbatch into my life.

    In addition to the risible execution of the plot, I find the characterizations of Kirk and Spock to be problematic. I like Quinto quite a bit, but his Spock is frequently required by the script to emote–intensely at that. It makes him seem less like an alien and more like an unsuccessful stoic. I suspect that the writers think it's dramatic to defy the audience's expectations of Spock, but they've failed to establish those expectations in their own films because they spend so much time breaking them.

    And Kirk... I can understand how a young Kirk in the first film can be brash and reckless, but his character hasn't grown at all. When I watched this movie I was incredulous that anyone would give him so much responsibility. He is obviously not suited for it. In fact, Spock out-captained him by tricking Khan. Even Sulu's brief stint in the chair demonstrated more gravitas than Pine's Kirk possesses. I kept looking at him thinking "This guy will never grow up to be Captain Kirk."

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  5. Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to release a cold fusion device into my glass and enjoy some delicious iced tea.

    What do you mean that's not what cold fusion is?

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  6. Anthony,

    Although someone's liking this movie doesn't make me respect their intelligence less, disliking it makes me respect them more.

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  7. Am I the only one bothered by the transliteration of "Kronos"?

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    1. Believe it or not, when it flashed on screen, I thought to myself: am I bothered by this? And the answer was "no."

      The reasons are two: first off, the name itself was chosen by the TNG writers almost at random, and basically only because it had a cool mythical connection (son of Gaia and Ouranos, he overthrew them before he was later overthrown by his own son, Zeus).

      Second, I've never been a fan of the unwieldy apostrophe-laden "alien" spellings. Several years of typing K'Ehleyr has really given me my fill of Klingon transliterative spellings.

      I also dislike alien words that have two A's in a row. Writers, you;re not convincing us. You're just annoying us. Spend the time developing the alien culture, not the spelling of their names.

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  8. Sidney HandjerkerMay 23, 2013 at 8:07 PM

    I agree with the main point: Star Trek Into Darkness is not a good movie. Most of the problems come from the script, which looks like it's been re-written a whole bunch of times. Still, there are a couple of little points I want to take issue with:

    1. "In fact, [Kirk]'s thoughtful, even romantic, and generally only bangs an alien chick because she has information or power he needs to save the ship or complete a mission." This sounds very paradoxical to me, since seducing someone for the sake of information seems extremely exploitive (and indeed comes across as such in episodes like The Conscience of the King), probably worse than the behavior Pine's Kirk engages in here.

    2. Maybe I'm wrong here, but the idea of the Prime Directive as urging non-interference with pre-warp cultures even when an extinction-threatening natural disaster arises seems to be an artifact of TNG. The whole plot of "The Paradise Syndrome" revolves around preventing an asteroid from destroying a pre-warp civilization. No one ever questions whether or not this is in violation of the Prime Directive. In "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky," we have this exchange:

    SPOCK: Captain, informing these people they're on a ship may be in violation of the Prime Directive of Starfleet Command.
    KIRK: No. The people of Yonada may be changed by the knowledge, but it's better than exterminating them.
    SPOCK: Logical, Captain.

    I've always felt that the TNG interpretation of the Prime Directive is pretty hard to take seriously, anyway, so Kirk and Spock's attitude towards it in STID didn't bother me.

    3. It seems to me that Khan is a pretty cruel dude even in TWOK, given his use of the Ceti eels and the implied torture and murder he carried out on Regula One, whose gruesome aftermath both Kirk and McCoy witness. It's doubtful that transporting the Reliant crew to the surface of Ceti Alpha V was intended as an act of mercy; perhaps Khan wanted to inflict the same kind of hell on them that he felt he had experienced (this actually seems more likely given the "buried alive" exchange which prompted Kirk's famous yell).

    Mostly these are nitpicks; otherwise, I'm largely in agreement with your criticisms of the film (although I do think many of them apply to films you've given better reviews to, especially Generations). I'd probably rate the film as more mediocre than awful, as I don't have any particular view as to what constitutes "real Trek." Star Trek has been many different things to many different people, and I don't see why one has to say any one of those manifestations is more "real" or legitimate than any other. There are simply ones that we like more or less than the others. Since I don't have any expectations that the film needs to remain loyal to some specific tradition, the likable cast and occasional bit of charming humor is enough to make this film better than bad for me.

    Well, I hope that didn't go on for too long. Thanks for listening!

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    1. Not at all, Sidney, if that IS your real name...

      I take your point about "real" Star Trek and agree that we're reviewing this from a certain perspective. Really, this whole blog is about that certain perspective, and it was created in many ways as a response to the perversion of that concept by the 2009 movie (and now this one).

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    2. Since I was the one who raised the Khan point, I feel I should respond. Khan was brutal and ruthless in TOS and WOK. Forcing the crew to watch Krik die in the vacuum chamber and torturing the Genesis scientists is awful, but it had an internal purpose for Khan, controlling the Enterprise and getting Genesis respectively. In STID, his violence was random and purposeless. Why destroy the Enterprise after returning Kirk? Even the means felt more bloody this time, like kicking Marcus and the head thing. Even the tactic of triggering a Starfleet emergency seems needlessly bloody. I'm not saying TOS Khan was a good or nice man, but he was certainly not a sociopath, killing for its own sake, and the violence he committed had a much more focused form to it, and more importantly from a movie-goer perspective, it did not read as gratuitous to titillate the audience.

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    3. And as for Generations, we fully acknowledge it is a not fully formed idea and everything after the Nexus scene is draggy, but Generations' failures were the failure of a good idea to be fully fleshed out, not an attempt to distract me with boobs and explosions and hope I wouldn't notice the lack of idea at all. And Generations is tonally certainly right up there with the rest of Star Trek. Picard has to choose between personal happiness, or earlier in the film, wallowing, and his obligations to his crew. Data has a similar arc, facing his own emotional development and how it conflicts with his duties and presumed abilities. Successful or not, Generations is about something, STID is not.

      I will always take a genuine and enthusiastic failure over a crass attempt to pander to me.

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    4. Yep. Generations had a good theme and good characterization, it just had an under-baked sci-fi element and some pacing issues. Many a decent or even good episode has been hampered by the same sorts of flaws. But they're still Star Trek in terms of tone, ethos, and characters.

      This movie is not.

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  9. Sidney HandjerkerMay 24, 2013 at 10:51 PM

    "Sidney Handjerker" is a reference to this scene from The Wire:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyewqmAKHto

    The actor, Robert F. Chew, sadly left us earlier this year.

    In fairness, STID does actually have some clear thematic intent, with the militarization of Star Fleet being a clear response to the destruction of Vulcan (conceived of as a 9/11-type event), the torpedoes being blatant metaphors for drones, etc. There's also the attempt to rework TWOK as a coming of age story, rather than a getting up there in age story. There's stuff about the importance of surrogate families, with Khan's loyalty to his 72 crew members paralleling Kirk's loyalty to Spock, an exploration of mortality (Spock's mindmeld with Pike, his response to Vulcan's destruction and later response to Kirk's death, etc.). You can argue that it's clumsily, maybe even horribly executed, and I won't disagree, but it's not as simple as "Generations has ideas, STID doesn't"; it's a question of execution. Hell, even the woeful Nemesis has interesting thematic ambitions (the duality of man, an attempted engagement with Arthurian legend, etc.), but I'd argue that none of these films follow through on their goals in any satisfying way.

    Also, did you know that you guys have been cited on another webpage? Check this out:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-05-23/why-star-trek-into-darkness-is-smaller-than-life.html

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  10. Can you guys give out Zeroes! I hated this movie. Its funny listening to your podcast, I even said tomyself just before turning it on Code of Honor might be better than this piece of crap. I think you guys have said everything you could about the Kirk death scene, the idiocy of unfreezing an old dude to help you design futuristic weapons, the idiocy of the whole teaser(the ship underwater, dropping the device into the volcano). The list could on. I want to bring up a few points that you guys did not mention.

    1) What happens to Admiral Marcus's plan if Kahn does not beam to a seemingly deserted Kronos. Does he just bomb them anyway. It seems really problematic to base your plans on a bad guy doing what you need them to do.

    2) Is it me or is Kronos a little to close to Earth or even the border of the neutral zone. I don't seem to remember this in TOS or TNG. why not just send your fleet quickly to KRonos and blow it up. You dont need new weapons for that.

    3) Also I didn't realize that a little communicator(Kirk to Scotty) could work across light years. That whole scene really bothered me. Because already in this movie the communicator does not work really that well.

    4) Was it really necessary to destroy san francisco.

    Overall the movie was just too focused on fighting and explosions and not nearly enough on plot development.

    Now that being said I thought the dress uniforms were really cool.

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    1. Definitely noticed the communicator, especially since not 3 minutes later they made a big beef about whether they could contact New Vulcan with the ship's communication device! Just pull out your cellphone and make that call, I guess.

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    2. Great point on number 1, btw. It was difficult to keep all the twists and turns of the "plan" in my mind.

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  11. I love reading your thoughts even when I disagree. If you aren't sick of discussing Into Darkness, you're probably about to be. You guys are too hard on the movie. Matthew, I know you're a philosophy guy so maybe you're familiar with the informal logic phrase "proof by verbosity." A lot of your criticisms of the movie are so small, that they aren't even worth mentioning in a review, but including them makes it seem like there's endless problems with the movie. The only way to really argue against that is to do the painful thing and have a really long post. You two also give understandable criticisms of the movie which I'll acknowledge.

    You started with criticizing the science fiction. I basically share this sentiment: "I have defended many a Trek outing with minimal science fiction, and when the story chooses instead to focus on good character development or political intrigue inside the Trek world, I am happy." The main difference between us is that I think there was a good story and good character development, but I'll get to that.

    You criticized the science behind them falling to earth. Fair enough, but it's actually not that far off from ways it was presented throughout the TV show. You said the jetpack scene seemed like they were in an atmosphere with downward pulling gravity. I didn't get that impression, but this is such a minor issue even if I granted it.

    "Aft nacelle"? I didn't catch that, but yeah that doesn't make sense.

    You then raised the issue of people doing what makes sense. I don't really understand the criticism of Kirk spotting the holo-thing. I'm fine with Bones working with the torpedo with his magic hands. I didn't like Chekov's role in the movie and it just seemed like they were desperately trying to find something for him to do. But going back to my ongoing theme of "you guys are being too hard on the movie," this sort of thing happened all the time in the show. Every time Chekov, or one of the yeomans beams to any planet it's for no real reason.

    Kevin, you were critical of the number of climaxes in the movie. I thought the pacing of the movie made sense. They gave us time for each emotional beat.

    Matthew, you brought up Kirk being a womanizer. I agree that the writers misread the original Kirk. I guess it makes some sense that Kirk chases women much more when he was this age, but it kind of comes off as pathetic. The original Kirk didn't even really chase women, they normally just flocked to him.

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  12. Then there's the issue of Kirk being rapidly promoted back to captain. I'm fine with Kirk maintaining the position of first officer instead of being dropped down to cadet. Pike's word goes a long way, and Kirk did kind of save all of humanity. As far as him being able to keep the Enterprise after Pike dies, I think what they were trying to get across was that Marcus allowed him to do that because he wanted an inexperienced captain to go provoke his war, or whatever.

    That leads to your next criticism, which is Marcus' scheme to start a war with the Klingons. I think this was one of the major plot issues. I think it would make sense that some people in starfleet were freaked out about Nero almost destroying the federation and wanting to amp up their military production. I think this would have been a fine and even interesting motivation for the villain. His overreacting would still be wrong, but at least somewhat understandable. Having him secretly orchestrating a war against the Klingons makes a lot of things not make sense (like the convenience of Khan hiding there).

    But you went on to say that there was a problem with not showing how bad the Klingons were, and you even likened it to Episode 1. Sir, you go too far. This was nowhere near Episode 1. In Episode 1 the conflict between the republic and the stupid trade robots was the main conflict of the movie. The war with the Klingons is a motivation for a surprise villain that isn't at the heart of the conflict. And you quickly acknowledge that they did say the Klingons are conquering worlds, as if that isn't a huge justification. At any rate, we aren't meant to feel Marcus' perspective, were meant to feel Kirk/Spock/Scotty's perspective which is that the war is unjust. So I think they were completely correct in the extent that they showed the Klingons being bad.

    Your exact words were: "I think this is about on par with Star Wars Episode 1 as far as establishing on screen the motivations of the characters and the actions depicted."

    I couldn't disagree more. Marcus' overall plan has some serious holes in it, but his motivation in any given scene is sold. Khan's motivation is clear (he wants revenge against Marcus for what he thought was the murder of his crew), even though once again, his plan is a little weird. The same can be said for Kirk and Spock. I think the actors do a great job of selling their motivations.

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  13. Keven, you mentioned some more issues: "How was Scotty able to get to and inside the super secret base and the super secret ship undetected. Why did Spock sit on the information about Marcus given the first half of the movie was what a stickler Spock is for the rules? Why is it required all the brass meet in one room? Why is it a room with windows? Why did Dr. Marcus have access to all her father's secret files?"

    Most of these aren't plot holes or anything, they're just things that weren't explained, nor should they have been. If the movie took the time to explain how Scotty got on the ship it would have been out of place, and cut up the pacing of the movie and overall story. Spock sitting on the information about Carol Marcus made sense in the movie given everything else that was going on that was more important. Why did they meet in one room? Why did it have windows? Are these really giant leaps of what's plausible? They seem hardly worth mentioning. How did Carol learn about her father's secrets? Maybe she saw the model of his super secret spaceship sitting in his conference room, haha. Seriously, why was that there?

    Matthew, you brought up why Marcus would even want Khan's help: "It would be like thawing out Hitler and asking him to help you with the Hubble Space Telescope. What the hell would he know?" Well, it wouldn't exactly be like that. Khan is some kind of super genius. In Space Seed he basically memorizes everything about Enterprise in one day. I'm okay with the explanation they give for using Khan, of course we all know the real reason: Khan is a familiar name, branding is important, and they probably just really wanted to do something with Khan.
    The next issue was the Prime Directive and I'm going to have to go with Mr. Handjerker on this one. TOS and even some episodes in TNG defined the Prime Directive differently than in Pen Pals. My interpretation of how TOS defined the Prime Directive was to not interfere with the development of a society, or in other words, they need to advance and discover things on their own. If there was some natural phenomenon that would destroy a civilization and therefore stop the free development of the society, they would very often intervene. In TOS they never talked about it to mean completely staying away from planets, or to not interfere with a "cosmic destiny" like explained in Pen Pals, to not interfere even if their destiny was to be destroyed. In A Private Little War they talk about Kirk living with an undeveloped group. He even tells his alien buddy that he's a spaceman, but tells him to keep it on the down-low. As far as Pike saying that they shouldn't have gone there to begin with, I thought he meant Kirk shouldn't have risked the life of his first officer, not that it's against the Prime Directive to freeze a volcano. I too was a little put off when they treated the aliens viewing Enterprise as a god like a joke. But then Pike starts talking and it wasn't a joke any more. They made it seem like a pretty serious offense.

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  14. Kevin, you mentioned that it bothered you that Spock tells Uhura that he was choosing not to feel when he was going to die. I don't think this was an explanation of why he was sacrificing himself. The explanation was still that he needed to sacrifice his life to preserve the Prime Directive. That's what he says when it happens. It clearly wasn't to feel like how Pike felt when he died because that happened after.

    And on the issue of the mind meld, you both had problems with that, saying: "Spock mind-melding with Pike? The mind meld was offensive to any fan." Why? Ideally I would like mind melds to have as much of an effect on people as in the Voyager episode "Meld" but the reality is that the vast majority of times there are mind melds in Star Trek they're done quite casually. I think mind melding with Pike was touching and I viewed it as Spock wanting to retain some of his memories and feelings before he passed. Yes, it also apparently taught him a lesson about fear, but I don't think he did it to learn that lesson.

    "If launching your ship from the ocean will attract the attention of the natives, how the hell do you park your ship in the ocean without attracting the same unwanted attention?"

    Not saying it's a good explanation, but the one given in the movie was that at the time, the ash from the volcano was providing cover.

    "the cheap telegraphing of the solution with the ham-fisted addition of the tribble reference was obnoxious." Agreed on this one, and it wasn't necessary. The audience already knew the blood was magic from when it saved that girl in the beginning. Your points about needing specifically Khan's blood is also on point.

    The Praxis thing doesn't make a lot of sense. I know things are happening in different orders in this timeline, but that seems like a stretch. All I can gather is that it was done because it looked cool. Whatever

    Calling old Spock...Yeah, that was lame. We all know they just wanted his cameo, but it didn't fit in well enough.

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  15. The death scene: I didn't think it was tasteless imitation. I wasn't offended or find it insulting at all. It had a point, and I think it's an interesting use of the alternate timeline. They used the situation to show Spock and Kirk's understanding of one another. In general I think you guys missed to mark in terms of their characterization. Maybe it was because the other things bothered you so much that it didn't mean anything to you, but it was done well. Sure, their friendship isn't going to seem as genuine as the original movies, which were following years of seeing them together. The actors did a great job and they effectively illustrated that they understand and respect each other. Logically they shouldn't have been able to pull this off given the short amount of time they've spent together, but they did a surprisingly good job.

    Spock yelling "Khan!!": I thought that was dumb, and didn't fit with Spock's character. As far as Marcus being responsible, that was also my initial thought, but Khan did do the final damage to the ship.

    Khan the sociopath: The original Khan did seem more collected initially because that made sense for the situation he was in. You said there's a big difference between a dictator (and I wouldn't add genocidal war criminal) and a sociopath. ehhh, not really. In the Wrath of Khan, he becomes bent on revenge at the very end to the extent that he destroys himself. The Khan in Into Darkness is more like that Khan we see at the very end of WoK because that's the position he's in.
    In regard to the head crushing and leg breaking: "In both instances, the violence is far more than Star Trek normally goes for, but then chickens out of actually showing consequences." What do you mean by "chickens out"? Would you preferred it was more graphic? It's also worthy of note that Star Trek did indeed go that far. In TNG Conspiracy they show a guy's head explode, and it was completely unnecessary.

    You said "The violence was disgusting but not engaged in any meaningful way…showing it for the sake of titillation." I think you missed the meaning. It was a very chilling and effective realization that Kirk should not be teamed up with this guy. Yes, Kirk already had reason to think that, but like you often say, they need to show it, and this was a good way of showing it. It wouldn't have been as effective if Kirk quickly reminded us about how Khan killed Pike or something.

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  16. You mentioned the "Where no one has gone before..." "oath". You said it offended you. Why? I think one of the themes that they effectively told was that Starfleet was caught going down the wrong path. They began building super war ships and went looking for fights. The point at the end was that they can't be changed by revenge or overreaction to dangers, and they conclude with setting up the five year mission. To me it seems completely in line with great Star Trek themes.

    Matthew you said Chekov and Sulu were a big nothing for you. I'm with you on Chekov, but I think Sulu was cool when he took command.

    "Montalban's Khan was so much more charming and seductive. So by comparison, it was disappointing." True that

    "I hated the Vengeance. It was the Narada 2.0." I was alright with the Vengeance look (not the name though). It looked like a ship designed for it's purpose. A reliant wouldn't have worked in that situation. At least you could kind of distinguish it's shape, unlike the Nirada, which really was a giant stupid looking mass of jagged darkness.

    In the end you said: "Tell a new story Abrams. Even if it's a different tone and different people and different outlook on the world, if it were a real, self-contained story, I would be far happier."
    Do you really believe that? I mean wasn't it also one of your criticisms that he didn't capture the right tone of Star Trek? One of the reasons you're letting Generations off easy is because they apparently got the tone right. I think talking about Generations perfectly makes my point that you two are being much harder on these movies than any of the other Star trek movies.

    Let's think about Generations, and I'm going to be hard on it, not because I hate it, but to just show that the level of scrutiny you apply to STID could be applied to any of TNG movies and some of TOS movies (yes, I would even put Into Darkness up against First Contact if you want). The writing team behind Into Darkness very often gets themselves into trouble by making overly-complicated plots, creating problems. Certainly they deserve to be criticized for this. Generations on the other hand had a very simple (slow, boring) plot, but even given this fact, almost all of the main plot points don't make sense.

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  17. In the first scene, all they had to do was come up with a way of having Kirk be "killed" by an incident involving the Nexus. But the backdrop for this scene is that their ship, which is hanging out around Earth, is THE ONLY ship in range of an emergency. I mean this kind of stuff happens in Star Trek a lot, but when they're at the heart of the federation?

    You two mentioned that you liked the characterization in Generations. Yeah, Picard cries some, and has some regrets, but it ties very little into the end conflict. I think you give Data and his emotion chip too much credit. This was mostly done for comic relief. The characterization in Into Darkness was a lot better. I'm sorry, it was.

    So anyway, the plot continues with our lame villain, Soran. He steals Geordi for some reason, although I can't figure out why. He asks him about trillithium, but Soran already built his super rocket, so he doesn't really need any information from Geordi. They end up hooking Geordi up with a camera but it's weird if that was their plan. It seemed more like they were surprised when they were discovered by Enterprise. So then Enterprise D, the ship we've grown up with and love, gets destroyed by a mere Klingon Bird of Prey because Riker and Worf can't figure out that they need to rotate the shield frequencies. It's easy enough to think of the new movies as something different, something in a new timeline, but this is depressingly destroying what we love in a pathetic way.

    So Soran shoots his rocket at the star, which can apparently go extremely fast, so fast that Enterprise can't even lock onto it. And there's also something about the clear blue skies on Viridian III that makes it so they can't beam Picard up, or more people down. For some reason, they can't even scan what's going on correctly. So the star explodes and I'm pretty sure everyone on the planet would instantly die, but that doesn't happen, and Picard goes in the Nexus. There, echo-Guinan tells him he can go back to ANY time and ANY place. So, ya know, he could go back to the beginning of the movie and just capture Soran. He could do anything he wants, but instead decides to go back right before the rocket launches and he needs Kirk to help punch Soran. This plot hole is so much bigger than any issue in STID.

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  18. So then the next incredibly depressing thing happens, and Kirk dies in a pointless fight with someone he has no connection to, basically because he's helping out another person he just met, and wants to save a planet we've never seen. His fake "death" at the beginning of the movie had more feeling behind it. And I should also point out that all of this was totally needless. Star Trek 6 ended things beautifully for TOS. Why did they have to ruin it by adding on this depressing stuff?

    But all of this is forgiven because they had some good idea in mind for this movie that wasn't fleshed out? What idea? The idea was to have Kirk team up with Picard. Because it had the right tone? Didn't feel much like TNG to me.

    We can go over all the details from Into Darkness, but we should save time and just talk about what it is that makes you want to be so unforgiving of Into Darkness. I realized all the problems that I've mentioned above, but they didn't bother me at all. There's something going on that made you guys really WANT to hate this movie.

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  19. I agree that it isn't fruitful to belabor points like those above. Some people are annoyed by them, some aren't. Kevin and I are. So you're right - the interesting thing is to figure out the one thing, or feature, or even scene that soured me (I won't speak for Kevin, but I'm sure he'll chime in).

    I'm trying to cast my mind back to 2009. I don't think it was the car scene, though that gave me a very bad feeling. I think it was a bunch of little things (Gregorian calendar dates, etc.) which had me wary, then it was a one-two-three punch of things that struck me as fundamentally "not star Trek." Spock diddling Uhura, beaming across interstellar distances, and the insta-promotion. These three things destroyed all the potential good will I could have had stored up in response to the great effects, the charming performances, and the general freshness of the tale. They fundamentally destroy the credibility of the Trek world to me, and the credibility of the world is exactly what draws me to the franchise. It's a place I want to live, and the Abrams movies are not - they're like some sort of awful mirror universe vision of the place I actually want to be, a place where everyone shouts, screws, punches, shoots, and makes up the rules as they go along.

    Generations and TMP are rife with problems. The Final Frontier is rife with even more. But at no point do any of those movies rip me out of that happy place that I'm in when I'm watching "Real Star Trek."

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  20. I still don't really get what's meant by "real Star Trek". "Spock diddling Uhura, beaming across interstellar distances, and the insta-promotion" are all problems, but they aren't things I associate with being fundamentally Star Trek.

    If I may take a guess (and feel free to tell me if I'm wrong), does it center around sophistication. "Sophistication" is a nebulous term, but I think it's how a lot of people fundamentally view Star Trek. Even when it's really goofy, it still has a certain level of sophistication, sometimes adding irony. There's very little they could make Patrick Stuart do to make him not radiate sophistication. Perhaps this is also why you don't care for Enterprise?

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  21. I get what you're saying about sophistication, and that is certainly lacking from the reboot. Everything in these stories is of a very superficial gloss, with no real depth of philosophical or humanistic introspection. "Real Star Trek" was always *about* something other than just the rote mechanics of the plot on screen. The Abrams movies (heck, Abrams anything) have never been about a theme, any theme, as far as I can tell. They're about looking cool and selling tickets. Yes, they have character stories in them, but I never feel invested in the characters, because they don't act in predictable, rational ways, the way that those characters in "Real Star Trek" have. The character stories feel pro forma, as if they have been grafted onto the plots because someone said "Kirk needs a heroic journey" or "Spock needs to have romance." In "Real Star Trek," character stories seemed designed to illuminate an aspect of the world, the worldview, that Trek was propounding. Quark, for instance, was not just comic relief. He was a character who had adopted an entirely different philosophy than that of the Trek universe's protagonists. When we learn about his character, we learn about the world of the future though that lens.

    What do we *learn* about the future from NuKirk or NuSpock? Not a fucking thing, if you'll excuse the language. They are not organically real characters in their own rights, they are just imitations of characters who did teach us something over the course of 100 or so hours of video.

    I think Enterprise is the least of the live action series, but it is not due to a lack of sophistication. Enterprise was firmly and resolutely *about* something other than the A to B to C plot on the screen. I think Enterprise's fundamental structural problems were two: being shoehorned into an already developed continuity with story-squelching expectations; and containing a plethora of fundamentally bland characters. Who gives a shit about Travis Mayweather or Hoshi Sato? How many Trek fans could even name them?

    So in the end, it's still about the Trek world to me. All of the series, including Enterprise, are about that world. The reboot movies are not. Something they did took them fundamentally and completely out of that world. And once they were out of it, their mistakes and stupidities and aping of previous Trek tales ceased to be minor annoyances and instead became gross insults.

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    1. Well said. I think I understand your perspective better, even though I'm still okay with the Abrams world. I definitely get what you're saying though

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  22. I'm going to respond to the specific comments once I've had my coffee, but I want to make some general points while it's brewing.

    First, to the extent we may give Generations some leeway on it's plot problems, the creators of that film earned it. The same people who created Generations, both in front of and behind the camera, created, pretty much at the exact same time "All Good Things...", arguably one of the greatest 90 minutes of human creativity ever. So I know from the outset that everyone involved feels an explicit custodianship for the franchise and Rodenberry's vision, even if they're breaking from it. Abrams gets no such leeway. I was disappointed, but not as outraged by Star Trek 2009. It lacked the philosophical or intellectual heft of the original, which it turns out Abrams by his own admission doesn't 'get' apparently, but it had a certain momentum that kept me entertained while in the theater. STID fails even as a movie inside itself, and does so while putting the nail in the coffin of Star Trek being intellectually or philosophically rigorous.

    I stand by the comment that if they had created an internally cohesive universe, even if it were different than the old Star Trek, I would have been happier. I will always take an earnest attempt at creativity over a callous attempt to cash in on an intellectual property library. Even when DS9 veered into arc stories and a prolonged war, both no-nos from Rodenberry, I never felt that Behr or Moore were doing so because that thought the original Star Trek was stupid or lifeless or they knew better. DS9's differences need TOS and TNG's optimism to have any meaning. Based on the movie in front of me and the comments from the creators, I get the distinct impression they don't have respect for the source material. So maybe I am more forgiving of what I deem to be the good faith errors of Berman, Braga, and Moore than what I find to be the negligence of Abrams, Orzi, and Kurtzman. I'm okay with that.

    If STID had been a standalone story, I might have been able enjoy in a so-bad-it's-good way, but I can't. It's borrowing narrative in an attempt to give the story weight it just doesn't have on its own. A friend of mine recently watched the first four films, and that was his introduction to Star Trek. I was at his place when he watched TMP and WOK, and sure, we 2x sped through the V'Ger sequences, and I gave him a little background where he asked (mostly it was explaining what a split diopter was how they were popular in the 70s), but certainly didn't spoil things. And he enjoyed them and had no trouble getting them. I bring up this story because those films demonstrate it is possible to tell a story that is self-contained and interesting story, that while using canon to build the story, don't require foreknowledge. STID used canon in a way that befuddled or offended long-term fans without actually building an internally cohesive story.

    And even if somehow, I could like the movie as a movie, it remains bad Star Trek. Matt and my essays on why we liked Star Trek both list approximately a bajillion reasons why we came to love the show, and I really don't see any of them in evidence in this movie. Generations had plot holes (which we totally called them on in our review), but the ideas were still there that made me like the show in the first place. We've said it before, but it holds true, with extremely limited exceptions, even when it's bad, I would still want to live in the Star Trek universe they showed. Even Enterprise, in season 3 or 4. I don't want to live STID's universe because I don't think there is anything in it.

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    1. I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts. I don't really get the giving leeway because the movie makers earned it. I usually try to actively avoid hearing what movie makers say about their work. Too many times they disappoint me. I'd rather judge what's on the screen. The art can be better than the artist. At any rate, you also make good points about what's on the screen, so we should just focus on that. Whose in the accepted Star Trek club doesn't mean anything to me.

      Although (and maybe I'm about to contradict myself much like the Old Spock in STID), I did find Ronald Moore's comments interesting about Star Trek and the nature of movies. I think he's right on point about Star Trek implicitly working better for TV. It's interesting how Ronald Moore wrote Picard's reaction to being assimilated in the TV show and I thought it worked really well, but when he did this task for the movies he made him fit more into the vengeful action hero role. I think that I'm okay with a Star Trek movie just being about excitement and characters. Of course I would still prefer something more. For example, I think the story of "All Good Things..." would have been the ideal movie for TNG pretty much as is. But I don't really hold it against the movies if they aren't as philosophical.

      I think that STID does work on its own. Most people unfamiliar with its references enjoyed the movie. You mentioned the first 4 Star Trek movies, and I would agree that those are better than STID, but I still think STID works on its own.

      One thing I love about Star Trek is that is has such a wide range of appeal. There are probably around 40 very different semi-main characters that all have different things to offer and appeal to people in different ways. You could endlessly list the themes and types of stories in Star Trek. While I don't like some of them, I still appreciate that it probably appeals to someone, and gets them involved in the universe. If nothing else the new movies have made more people interested in Star Trek, and it's not just the stupid masses. I'm sorry nothing appealed to you in STID

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    2. I've certainly given thought to the notion that the reboot will resurrect the franchise on tv (with the caveat that I never thought it was dead in the first place), and whether therefore the ends would justify the means.

      I am very apprehensive about this though, since it seems almost certain that Abrams et al. would be tapped to create such a series. For one thing, they all have too much on their plates to do anything good. For another, they've never done anything good regardless of plate load.

      As such, I'd prefer Trek remain "dead" than be resurrected in this hideous undead manifestation.

      Star Trek was the culmination of one man's dream, executed by a core group of creators who bought into it. It is not something to be farmed out by corporate entities to "fresh blood" who aren't similarly invested.

      If Seth McFarlane were the exec. producer, I might be optimistic. But I would never be optimistic about yet another Abrams/Lindelof/Orci/Kurtzman craporama.

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    3. Roddenberry always believed in bringing in fresh perspectives. One of the reasons Rick Berman was chosen was because he had never seen Star Trek. Of course half the time Roddenberry was upset about the results. I think we have pretty different perspectives about Abrams. I don't think he's done anything that's bad in terms of directing. Can't say the same about the writers

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    4. Five words: Lens flare and shaky cam.

      The director is responsible for the final product on screen. The director can change the story if he or she sees fit. He is also a producer, which means he hired and vetted the writers. So he bears as much blame as they do.

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    5. Right, I know he shares the blame for the Star Trek movies, both of which in my view are good. I was saying that the writers have done work outside of Star Trek that I don't like whereas Abrams generally does a good job with whatever he's directed. He's made some bad choices, and I don't count lens flares and shaky cams among them.

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    6. It's clear you're not trolling, but it's honestly like reading someone declare that McDonald's hamburgers are really, really good, or that Steven King is as good a writer as Robert Louis Stevenson, or that The Third Man is kinda boring. Not much happens, then the guy dies in the sewer.

      I'm also aware there's no point at all to posting this. I'm just beyond mystified anyone can think Abrams directed two good Star Trek movies. I suppose I just want to register an objection to a world without standards.

      Carry on.

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  23. Thank you!

    And Kevin, listening to your point on the podcast - you summed up 95% of what I wanted to say! Thank you for saying it!

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    1. I would love to hear the 5% I missed. What did I not explicitly cover in hating this movie? :)

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    2. I really hated the fact that the Klingons attacked Uhura. She didn't have a weapon (that I recall), they were very blunt in pointing out that humans, especially human women, were inferior to them - so how was attacking her honorable? It wasn't and it just didn't sit well with me.

      And I kind of wanted to hear more of a rant on casting of "Khan." I mean, like you both pointed out, despite being AU/different timeline/whatever excuse they've said, it should not have impacted Khan at all. So why was he not of Indian ancestry?

      How was the Enterprise allowed to leave space dock if the chief engineer resigned over something he thought was a problem on board? Red flags should have gone up in the space dock offices to at least ask that the Enterprise be checked out for problems.

      The Vengeance was designed to be a "one man ship" - but that ship was SO BIG Scotty could run across it without encountering anyone for all that time until the plot deemed it necessary. One man could not run that ship alone.

      The original Chekov was a tactical and security chief, if going into battle against a super genius terrorist is the plan, why move him to a place where he has no use? I would want every tactical officer to weigh in on plans before we zip off to enemy space and violate a bunch of treaties to capture this guy. I'd need to know our strengths and weaknesses and how to cover or compensate for our weaknesses before hand, especially without a competent chief engineer.

      Why was the universal translator not an option for dealing with the Klingons? I swear they've used it on away missions before (but I could be wrong.)

      The "surgery on a torpedo" scene was so much better in WOK. That offended me so much that when I saw the "reverse death scene" I was expecting it and already at a point of "I hate this movie, but this is the icing on the cake." The torpedo in WOK is actually one of my favorite scenes.

      Like you, I left the theater shaking in rage.

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    3. The torpedo scene was from Undiscovered Country. :)

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    4. *headdesk* I knew that! Sorry, I got carried away and didn't proof my comment.

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    5. To expand the torpedo issue: by the time we had "Khan" and the torpedo, it was just a butchering of some of Star Trek's really good pieces that I wanted to throw something at the screen.

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  24. This is a really excellent summary of the same kind of criticism I have of this movie. A crapfest is a good way of putting it. When I look at these two movies i just feel like Star Trek has been cheapened and dumbed down. The reason Kirk only makes decisions based on his guts and does not, for example, put a competent person at the helm and so forth is because this Kirk is not a Starfleet officer first, he is some hot shot, know-it-all womanizer who'se counting on his charms and good looks to get ahead in life. He's a rebel (no one knows why, I guess it is sexier), he doesnt need to play by the rules, he is above academic punishment or genuine failure at something. Even if he messes up at first sight, he still comes out on top because he's a winner etc etc blah blah.

    That's not a character, that's a caricature. And this is what this movie is, it is a caricature of Star Trek where flashy scenes. camera glares and sexy, good looking individuals get to be flashy and sexy and make bold choices and throw around star trke jargon every 2 seconds to remind us that this is, in fact, a Star Trek production, but it's not just like any Star Trek - this is a hip Star Trek.

    Command structure, internal consistency, logic and so forth are secondary when you are busy filming a modelSlashActor in her underwear or make Kirk look like he was doing an Axe commercial in every scene.

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    1. I think I speak for Kevin as well as myself when I say that I heartily endorse your opinions and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

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  25. I know I'm a little late to the party, but I just wanted to say how much I've enjoyed these podcasts deconstructing NuTrek. It's heartening to know that it wasn't just my fiancée and me whose brains had an allergic reaction to ST:ID.

    I think you both (and may of the previous commenters) voiced many of the issues I had with the movie, though here are a couple more:

    (1) The ham-fisted commentary/message of the movie regarding cruise-missile/drone-strikes. Assuming they were going for a "drone strikes are bad" message, they did a pretty darn good job at constructing a scenario where a long-distance air strike wasn't the worst option:

    - Harrison/Khan was hiding in an uninhabited area, so no collateral damage/civilian fatalities.
    - Harrison/Khan is shown to be able to single-handedly kill/neutralize entire squads of trained soldiers, so a low-key spec ops capture mission would be a disaster--as was depicted.
    - If one is trying to avoid a political disaster, bombing a remote, uninhabited region of a hostile power's territory is much more plausibly deniable than...getting your exfiltration squad captured by said power.

    The real question that Spock should be raising is, "why aren't we getting the Klingons involved in this as a joint operation?" It's their jurisdiction, and there's no reason brought up as to why they would want an extremely dangerous human terrorist wandering around Qo'noS. The fact that Admiral Marcus has come up with a covert, unilateral plan that disregards the territorial sovereignty of a major galactic power may likely be indicative of: (a) jingoistic stupidity; (b) more sinister motives.

    But much like the Prime Directive "debate" at the beginning of the film, the big picture is missed entirely, and instead we get a poorly conceived conflict about the details of airstrike vs. commando raid.

    (2) The scene on the Vengeance where the security guard/crewmember politely quizzes Scotty (an unknown, likely unauthorized individual) for a couple minutes about his activities while it's implied that everyone else on the ship is searching for a potential saboteur. It was so glaringly artificial for the purposes of introducing another layer of "tension" that I was literally face-palming in the theater. Realistically, he should have called for backup and ordered Scotty away from the panel at phaser-point... or tackled him or something. Instead the poor guy gets spaced for just doing his job (albeit badly). I honestly felt more sympathy for him than I did for the designated protagonists of the movie.

    Keep up the good work!

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    1. I'm always happy to find people who agree with us. Particularly for STID, finding professed fans who liked just causes this ice cream headache that I can't fix.

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    2. I know what you mean. Though to some extent for me it goes beyond issues of my specific Trek fandom to perhaps broader science fiction fandom, because I had a similarly vehement response to the movie Prometheus the previous summer, and I can only be described as an extremely casual fan of that universe/franchise. Yeah...not the greatest Lindeloff fan...

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