crap i have watched recently #19

khanThere will be SPOILERS!

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Star Trek Into Darkness (2013):  I know I’m late out of the gate but I finally had a chance to watch the latest installment of the rebooted, reinvented, rehashed Star Trek universe.   In this one, alternate universe Kirk and crew chase an old adversary across the galaxy and into Klingon space, risking all out war to capture him.   Although I liked the film in general, I’d be hard pressed to concede that it’s actually a Star Trek movie.  Everything about the television series except the character names and the mise en scene has been surgically removed.  The moral heart of the franchise is paid lip service at best and the movie relies heavily on our affection and respect for the Enterprise and her crew as it goes about its loud and frenetic business.   The ironic thing is that this supposedly brave new Star Trek boldly goes exactly where it’s predecessor went, just with younger, edgier stars, a lot more special effects, and less of what made us love the series to begin with.

STID starts with the fresh faced young Captain Kirk violating the Prime Directive to save Spock’s life.  They’ve gone to “observe” a primitive planet, discovered its volcano is about to blow up, and decided to detonate a device within the volcano that will stop that from happening.  Something goes wrong and in order to save Spock Kirk exposes the pre-technological civilization on the planet to the sight of the Enterprise in all its glory rising from the ocean, a sight that immediately and obviously changes their understanding of the universe and their place in it.  Kirk rightly loses his command of the ship after this little escapade.  He’s busted back to First Officer and his mentor Christopher Pike is back in the captain’s chair.  However, fate intervenes.  A Star Fleet site in London is bombed and shortly thereafter the emergency meeting of all captains and first officers (what a great  idea…not) in San Francisco is also attacked and Pike is killed.  For no reason whatsoever as far as I can tell, Kirk is given back the Enterprise, and he sets off after the perpetrator, who has taken refuge on an uninhabited part of the Klingon home world.   Before Kirk and crew head out to catch themselves a bad guy a Star Fleet admiral outfits the Enterprise with some top secret prototype photon torpedoes and Scotty resigns when he is not allowed to inspect the weapons before they are loaded onto the ship.  A pretty blond woman using an assumed name joins the crew as a science officer and weapons expert.   And then they are off to the races.  Before it’s all done, a lot of people are dead, a war with the Klingons is avoided, friendships are avowed, the Enterprise is mostly blown up, a tribble is revived, and we are set up for a whole lot of sequels.

I guess what I had a hella hard time getting past is my disbelief that Star Fleet would hand over a starship to a crew of children.  Yes, you heard me.   Nobody on the crew looks to be out of their twenties.  Most of the cast is in their mid-thirties, a few are in their early forties, but absolutely none of them appear to be over twenty-nine and they not infrequently act like teenagers.  These people should all be junior officers at best but old people sitting in the big chair won’t sell as many tickets.  This not to say the cast don’t do a good job.  I still can see Chris Pine growing up to be William Shatner’s Kirk, but to be honest much less so than in the first movie.  With Shatner, even though he was irreverent and willing to bend the Prime Directive, you knew Kirk was an experienced professional.  He was every inch a Captain, willing to die for his ship and also willing to do what it took to save her and her crew.   In fact, every member of the command team on the Enterprise, from its Chief Engineer, to its Communications Officer, to its First Officer represented the finest that Star Fleet has to offer and really, who else would you send as your ambassador to the stars?  Can you imagine the real Spock sleeping with a fellow officer even if he wanted to?  Of course not.  It would be neither logical nor professional.   And Pine’s Kirk is all soulful blue eyes and passion with none of the professionalism and real command authority of his alternate universe predecessor.  One wonders if he’d have any success commanding a crew that wasn’t made up of his best friends.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I mind the reboot.  The movies are a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.  They clearly mean to honor the original, to expand on it, to refresh it for a new generation.  The films are well plotted and move along at a good clip.  Sometimes it seems they are tossing in elements of the TV series randomly.  The Klingons, for example, make an appearance in this one, but do very little else other than chat a bit with Uhura and look menacing. The cast is generally good and is occasionally great.  Simon Pegg as Scotty and Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy are the obvious standouts.  Zachary Quinto, who did not really impress me in the first film, has moved more firmly into Spock’s persona.   It is unfortunate that Zoe Saldana’s lovely Uhura has been reduced to Spock’s love interest; in the original series she was one of the more reliably efficient members of the bridge team, beautiful and tough and smart, but in the reboot you rarely see her at the comm.  More often she is arguing with Spock over his lack of normal human emotion.  Chekhov is little more than comic relief and other than a couple of jokes about sitting in the Captain’s chair Sulu is almost invisible.  Leonard Nimoy has a brief and inexplicable cameo as Real Spock.

And this brings us to Benedict Cumberbatch, the golden man of this golden hour.  He plays, believe it or not, none other than Khan Noonien Singh, awakened prematurely from his cryogenic sleep to make weapons of war for Fleet Admiral Marcus.   I read very little about this movie before I watched it.  I knew Cumberbatch was the bad guy but, hand to god, my mouth literally dropped open when he revealed that he was Khan.  Honestly?  The episode of TOS where Kirk et al.  met Khan for the first time was one of the best of the series.  The movie where they meet him the second time was the best of all the Star Trek movies.  Both times he was played with absolute authority by Ricardo Montalban whose shoes Cumberbatch completely fails to fill.  I don’t really know why.  Perhaps it’s the “Sherlock aura” but nothing about Cumberbatch’s Khan made any sense to me, starting with his professed devotion to his crew, his physical and mental prowess, to his motivations for anything he did.  He’s a great actor and his performance is technically good, but he just never jelled as Khan for me and that made all the attempts to make this movie a melange of Space Seed and Wrath of Khan approach dangerously close to parody.  Believe me, I do understand the concept of divergent universes and the freedom to mess about with canon that implies.  It’s just….did they really need to have Kirk and not Spock go into the reactor?  Did they really need to flirt with the “I have been and shall always be your friend” speech?  Did they really need to go there?  If you are going to reboot a series, do something really new with it.  Be bold.  Don’t cannibalize your betters and  pretend we don’t see what you are doing.

Anyways, it’s not a bad film by any means.  There will no doubt be more of them and I have every hope that they will grow into the considerable space their predecessors left behind them.  After all, at the end of it our intrepid crew has been given a starship and five years to explore the galaxy.  Even if that was just what it took for Star Fleet to get them out of their hair for a long time, it’s bound to lead to something worth seeing.  So, you know, boldly go….

(As a side note…this does not bode well for the next Star Wars movie.  Just saying.)

Score:  Meh.

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~ by gun street girl on October 7, 2013.

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