Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

  Star Trek Into Darkness is a fun movie. There's absolutely no denying that. It's a big summer blockbuster as loud and action packed as they come. If the 2009 reboot was reaching out to a new audience, this one is making sure they're still paying attention. How does it go about this? By flooding it's screen time with action scene after action scene. It's almost unbelievable that the movie is actually 132 minutes. That's over 2 hours folks. I know you know that, but I'm still shocked.  The movie doesn't feel over an hour and a half to be honest. That's because of the breakneck pacing. Now, some may say this is a good thing. I don't think it is. Granted, it's 132 minutes of well constructed action scenes, thrilling set pieces, and witty banter... but it's lacking something. Room to breath. From the opening gambit, to the non-stop roller coaster ride of the rest of the movie- Star Trek Into Darkness sacrifices suspense for action.

  There's so much action, that we feel carted around from one phaser fight to the next. There's a build-up, but even that is developed so quickly, that the build-up feels like it needs a build-up. I may be seeming vague, but... the plot develops like it's trying to catch up with the rest of the movie. Revelations and twists are discovered and revealed in between the moments when the protagonists are reloading so to speak. Every scene is nipping on the heels of the next like a rabid animal. The plot is racing to a finish line, and before we know it... the whole starship Enterprise is shot towards the planet Cronos like a bullet, ready to execute a war criminal by the name of John Harrison. This is a very tense set up. Not suspenseful, just tense. It seems unethical to everyone but Kirk, who's hellbent on revenge. Of course, all these conversations about morals and ethics, are had as people jog down corridors and pile into shuttlecrafts. Nobody ever takes a moment to catch their breath and let the music settle as well. The movie zips along at maximum warp. Your problem if you can't keep up. Characters are revealed and then shoved to the sidelines just as fast and I'm left wondering if I blinked and missed something somewhere...

  It's easy to sound overly harsh on the movie. Maybe I'm just old fashioned. Maybe there's no room in J.J. Abrams' Trek reboot universe for old dogs like me. (Even though I'm actually quite young, this movie makes me feel ancient as someone who's been acquainted with all things Trek from the time I was able to speak.) That should be a problem though. It feels like a problem. Star Trek was never about phaser fights and such- even a recent revisit of the Original Series cast that stigma aside.  The movies always spent more time developing their stories, themes, and plots, and then penciled in action scenes where necessary. Into Darkness however seems to revolve entirely around it's action scenes.

  The movie's story is kinda bad. In fact, as a riff on The Wrath of Khan, trying to hit the same beats as the 1982 classic, it does nothing original. There's nothing entirely wrong with a breakneck pace, it just doesn't seem to fit Star Trek quite right. I had a blast watching Kirk and Spock punch their way through each little skirmish and each epic dogfight. The action scenes are crafted with style and filmed with flair. There are chase scenes, fist fights, shootouts, crashes, and just about every other kind of set piece a sci-fi action movie could possibly have. Make no mistake, while my critic brain is taking notes about everything that sorta bothered me, I was deeply conflicted, trying to convince myself I was still having a good time.

  Not enough sci-fi action movies are anywhere near this fun anymore, but at what cost does Into Darkness entertain? The movie can't go five minutes without insulting your intelligence, to say nothing of how it treats long time Trek fans. This isn't Science Fiction anymore, it's Science Nonsense. The Star Wars formula has been carelessly applied to the Trek franchise and it doesn't fit goddammit. This is NOT how Star Trek is supposed to be. Sure, seeing these characters return to their roles is wonderful, and having brushed up on The Original Series the very night before, I can say with absolute energetic enthusiasm- these actors, playing classic roles, they got it.

   They really nailed it. Without seeming like carbon copies, from the 2009 reboot to this one, I have utter and complete confidence in these actors to continue playing these characters. In fact, I'd love to see more with them. So bring on a third, and a fourth. I'm down.

  There's a scene towards the end, in the middle of the climax that any self-respecting Trek fan will see coming from miles away. I saw it coming myself. However, I didn't expect how emotional it would be regardless. I can't say they put a great deal of thought into it, in retrospect, but the actors sell it so hard and the atmosphere at that point was just right... that it had me a little more misty eyed than I'd like to admit. But it's perfectly emblematic of why this movie doesn't work. It veers far off course from what you'd want a Trek movie to be, and never manages to emerge from the murky cloud of plot holes and haphazard writing it's generated for itself. The movie uses transporters like a magic wand, and there's all kinds of bullshit surrounding Kha- I mean... John Harrison... of course, and the movie is all the worse for wear in the end.

   This is arguably one of the worst Trek movies ever. It stoops to embarassing lows and fails to understand thing 1 about the franchise. Of course it's no surprise since J.J. Abrams himself actually admitted that he never liked Star Trek to begin with. This is the man Paramount surrendered it's franchise to. Wonderful. Because... you know... that's always worked out well before. Maybe stop handing the franchise off to people who don't even like it? Abrams didn't like how philosophical and introspective Trek was, so he did away with it. He turned it into a mindless action movies, with logic gaps so big, you could fly the Enterprise itself right through em. So come on. Let's get someone else for #3.

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