Star Trek: Into Darness - Thoughts - SPOILER ALERT


Here are some random thoughts about the new Star Trek movie, "Star Trek: Into Darkness" which I have now seen twice, both times 3D IMAX (note: not rich just foolish.)

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

PLEASE STOP READING - unless you've already seen this movie or don't mind it totally spoiled (probably this isn't worth reading if you haven't seen it, though.)

MAJOR SPOILERS OF EVERY IMAGINABLE KIND!

Bad: There is no Space in Space

The biggest problem this movie has is it fails to create scale in either time or space. This bothered me the first time I saw but it I wasn't watching it to be critical, however the second time I couldn't help but see it.

These days there is a certain philosophy, which is to remove anything that doesn't serve to move the story forward. And so while Star Trek is a great thrill-ride, it's at the expense of adventure.

When Kirk travels to Kronos, for instance, there is no feeling that it took longer than a few seconds. We can perhaps accept Khan's trans-warping there (although it's too powerful of a technology, really) but the Enterprise needs some time in order to create a sense of space.

This isn't helped when they travel back to Earth, a sequence that again takes only a few seconds. What's worse, they are knocked out of warp very close to earth-- again we could well accept this is a coincidence but it only reinforces the idea that somehow Kronos is only slightly further out than the moon, and we travel at warp there.

It's also hurt because we basically never have any landscape shots or even really very many medium-length shots either. What a waste of IMAX! Is it just JJ Abrams' style to have tons and tons of closeups? This may sound harsh but I do actually wonder if modern movie producers try to take into account that many people now watch movies on their phones? Kind of like how music is often now produced with that in mind.

You know, one of the greatest, coolest illusions of the Star Trek TV show is that simply by having nothing outside the window besides stars, we immediately feel we are in deep space. The creators of this movie seem afraid to leave the space shots ever without a planet or other spaceship in near view, and so we never feel we have gone very far. In fact except for the bridge I don't think the Enterprise has a window anywhere on her.

Good: Enterprise is the Tardis

On the other hand, the inside of the enterprise is very imaginative. The warp core sequence, yeah, ok it's a giant sparkplug but the chamber with it's coiling tubes and so forth is very evocative. And this chamber looks great on the outside as well as inside.

Likewise the shots of engineering or other decks which have that sort of naval or factory scaffolding.

So in a way the Enterprise feels bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

Bad: It's Kind of Violent

Not much to add here. It was really senseless to have the Dreadnought crash into the buildings after it hit the water. In fact, watching the second time it crashes directly into what looks like it could be Starfleet HQ on an island, obliterating it, then into the water where it creates that massive wave.

That would have been enough. We could have seen a shot of the individuals in HQ seeing the ship come crashing in and it would have created enough of a sense of loss. Instead, we see what must be a hundred thousand people killed as it crashes into downtown of a major metropolis.

I hear Michael Bay does this but nobody that is really truly into Star Trek probably wants that in a Star Trek movie.

Likewise some of the fisticuffs are a bit, uh, over the top. I thought it was fine to show Spock's unbridled rage, obviously that fits into the greater Trek backstory, but the sound effects for each hit lend them a particularly savage quality, and when he breaks Khan's arm-- over the top.

Finally, the design of the Dreadnought was pretty ugly and unimaginative. Especially the scene where it's showing it's weapons, there is one where a gun descends from below it and I was just like "ugh really? that's pretty ugly."

Good: The Most Stylish Scene in the Movie

Was where Khan is kicking ass on Kronos. Really that was very imaginative, him dual-wielding an AA-gun of some design together with a phaser rifle, all while decked out in that incredible hood and set off across the again very imaginative background of Kronos-- this is a really excellent sequence all around.

Too bad there were so many other action sequences-- we'd more easily remember this one.

(EDIT: I realize this may seem at odds with the previous critique, since it's a violent sequence. Well yes it's a violent sequence, but it's good and although the Klingons, sadly, turn out to be completely disposable and not a part of this movie in any real sense, it's meaningful and imaginative. Worth doing.)

Bad: Pacing is Rather Tiresom

There was a very brief scene with Kirk and Cat-girls (fun!), a scene with Scotty and his friend in a bar (again, fun!) a few brief moments in shuttle craft and... well that's about it.

It feels a bit like everywhere else in the movie people are either yelling, fighting, or running.

But what makes a great action movie is a sense of pacing, to give the action a chance to build to something. Even more true with traditional Star Trek. And it's really just missing here.

Bad: Kind of Racist

Nicely acted response from Spock but if you think about it for a sec, it's not really funny when Kirk calls Spock "pointy." Also not really funny when Scotty calls his friend "a clam" although I'm not sure if he just meant because he didn't open his mouth or because his physiology resembles slightly a crustacean.

Really we don't need this in Star Trek and it kind of misses the point to say it's fine to laugh at it because these are alien races, not human races. I guess there was always that thing where McCoy hated Vulcans but it doesn't play out the same here for me, somehow.

Also the fanservice with the Admiral's Daughter (sorry I cannot remember her name-- I suppose that tells you something) was totally unnecessary. Also we are back to Star Trek women in skirts again, huh? I understand the fact that it's based on the canonic timeline what with how they wore skirts in TOS but I'm afraid this particular detail has more to do with the timeline of us here on earth than with any fictional one.

Good: Cool Shots

I want to end on some good stuff, overall I really enjoyed this the first time I saw it, I suppose it was inevitable to find flaws with it on a second viewing. Ce'st la vie!

There were a few really great shots in the movie I want to point out or remind you of:

  • Running/Tracking Shot - at the end with Spock chasing Khan, for a bit the camera perfectly tracks both Spock and Khan, and it looks great.
  • Enterprise Cloud Drop - very nicely conceived when the Enterprise drops below the clouds and then rises up.
  • Over The Cliff - near the start of the movie, it was great how the camera pans overtop the cliff to create a sense of vertigo, but not too strong (hopefully!) as it does not follow them down, which would have been a cheap thrill in 3D and so I appreciated the choice to avoid the cheap thrill. There is a similar shot with Scotty overtop the construction hanger in space, with his shuttle.
  • Enterprise Underwater - this was very imaginative and nicely done. The fade from the drawing in the dirt to the enterprise in space was excellent.
  • Loss of Stabilizers/Gravity - lots of great scenes and shots of the enterprise losing gravity. I liked the auto-belt-in (well, I sorta liked it-- it isn't believably done but I like it in concept), and for instance where Kirk runs away and then goes back to belt in Chekov was one of the (sadly few) moments that felt genuinely spontaneous (as opposed to ruthlessly minimalized) in the movie. It wasn't neccessary and that is precisely why I liked it.
  • Street Fashion - Excellent street fashion at the end. This is one of the more interesting scenes, also one of the few scenes with more than 5 or 6 people visible. Somehow believably futuristic fashion, nice job whoever did design on this.
  • Warping - Enterprise warp effect itself is just absolutely ace, especially in 3D.
  • Turbolift - Traditionally the turbolift is show where they enter, the door closes, and there is a cut. There's one scene near the end where they enter, the door closes, and it opens on a different area-- but no cut! Probably not a difficult special effect but it was great to see. Didn't notice the first time.

Conclusion

Now I've got to go watch The Wrath of Khan. Maybe I'll do a writeup of that movie.

If you are looking for another interesting sci-fi movie with great scenery shots, check out Oblivion! Tom Cruise is a good actor, very watchable-- easy to forget that, so don't let his presence scare you off.

2013-05-25


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