Friday, November 1, 2013

A Review of "Star Trek Into Darkness," Part 2: A Non-Review

Way back in May, when I published my initial review of Star Trek Into Darkness, I promised that there would be a Part 2, one that delved into the movie with no spoiler-phobic gloves on.  I put that review off, and put it off, and then put it off some more.  Then, I forgot about it, remembered it, put it off, put it off, put it off some more, and decided to wait for the Blu-ray to come out so I could watch it again.

Well, the Blu-ray came out, and I opted to not buy it.  Paramount did a stupid, stupid thing and decided to split the various bonus features up over various releases (such as the Target and Best Buy exclusives, and the iTunes digital-download edition).  That was a bridge too far for me, and so I simply opted to wait for a better edition to come out in two or three years.  

Ultimately, I decided that that was probably saying all that needed to be said about the movie, right there.  On the one hand you have mistreatment of the fans by a mercenary studio; on the other you have a movie that I liked, but not enough to want to shell out money on a Blu-ray that struck me as being unsatisfying.

I enjoyed the movie upon its initial release, and I still think there is way more to like about than to dislike.  However, as time has passed, I've grown less happy with the decisions made regarding the character of Khan.  The Khan of Into Darkness simply does not measure up to the Khan of "Space Seed" and its motion-picture sequel; for all intents and purposes, they are not even the same character.  And don't get me started on the character's ethnicity, which a lot of people will call a non-issue; I am not in that group.

I've got room in my heart to live with that, though.  I've got less room for the movie's issues regarding the amount of time it takes to get places.  Warp speed, here, seems to be some sort of Harry Potter-style magic, where the ships reach their destination more or less in whatever amount of time the screenplay requires.  I understand that decisions like that get made to add to the excitement; in an action-movie setting, you don't want to slow things down unless there is a really good reason for it.  And apparently, following established series continuity is not considered a really good reason.  I can live with a certain amount of it.  But at some point, it becomes obvious that what's happening is that the filmmakers are refusing to engage with Trek on its own terms.  They've only committed that foul a few times, but it's makedly more of a problem in Into Darkness than it was in the first film.

And so, it takes a few minutes to reach the Klingons.  And so, there's a vast conspiracy inside Starfleet.  And so, Khan is a British dude.  And so, Spock can scream whenever the writers feel like making him scream.

Don't misunderstand me.  I like the movie.  But as time has gone by and my interest in writing the review I intended to write has waned, an inescapable conclusion has been reached: I simply don't like the direction these movies are taking.  I've liked both movies; but that seems, now, to be an aberration.  I like them not because of what they are doing, but in spite of it.

I blame J.J. Abrams for part of this.  His bizarre, counter-productive obsession with keeping everything A Secret from fans is simply not paying off.  And as rumors mount of behind-the-scenes dissension between Abrams, Lucasfilm, and Disney on the pre-production for the new Star Wars film, you have to begin asking whether Abrams' approach is more harmful than it ought to be.

Mostly, though, I blame the writers.  I'm tired of Orci and Kurtzman, and, to a lesser degree, Lindelof.  I would love to see Paramount fire the lot of them, and replace them with people who have more of an ability to make Trek work based on what it is, without having to fundamentally alter certain aspects of it.  They did a good job of making the movies something that can be cool again, but I think their approach showed its failings the second time around, and if I had a vote, I'd vote against seeing them get a third try at bat.  And I damn sure hope they are nowhere near it when and if a new television series is made.

So, that's my review.  I like the movie, and hope all the people involved in writing it are fired.  An odd conclusion, but so be it.


  1. Would "ditto" be too lame a comment to leave?

    Sorry, if so, but what you expressed is pretty much exactly as I feel. Thanks, guys: I've enjoyed both movies and tip my cap at where you've positioned the series, despite some of the same reservations with STID that settled into mind after the initial "wow, that was cool"ness of it all wore off. (I still think it's cool and don't have many of the problems with it many do out there in internet-land, but yeah.) Now let's see some new blood and really deliver on the 3rd film with the new cast.

    Otherwise, it'll just be ripe for another damn reboot in a few years after that one. (If it isn't already.)

    Bring back the Tholians, too, please. In fact, just remake "The Tholian Web" for pt. 3.

    1. If "ditto" is a lame comment, then it would at least be appropriate, seeing as how this is a thoroughly lame review. And yet, I think it's a review that perfectly captures my mood about the thing I was reviewing. So, there's that at least.

      On the one hand, I wholeheartedly endorse the idea of Tholians for #3. On the other hand, I'd like to see something entirely original (i.e., not a retread of an original-series idea or plot).