Secret Pop

May 16, 2013

Into Darkness We Go, For No Apparent Reason

I saw Star Trek Into Darkness last night. If you know me at all, you know that I'm a Star Trek fan, and I can be a bit of a pain in the ass when it comes to movies. So it won't surprise you to learn that I won't be adding this title to any list of favorites. But let me begin by saying that it's not the actors' fault. I love Chris Pine as Kirk, even though he seems to only ever get the shit kicked out of him and has none of the wry confidence of Shatner. I love Zachary Quinto as Spock, even though the friendship between him and Kirk is only apparent in that the dialogue says so. I even love Karl Urban as McCoy, even though he has never played the practical, emotional role he is meant to to be relevant in the friendship triad between him, Kirk, and Spock. But since we're given no reason to believe there is any friendship there in the first place, this issue is moot.

And, yes, it's important that the franchise is finally being given budgets that allow for the kind of epic sci-fi storytelling that fans have craved for decades. But there's the rub. Even with a very respectable budget and a fine cast and a fan following that is willing to accept less in hopes of getting more -- even with all these things, the failing of this movie is in the hopelessly terrible storytelling. Despite its urgency to stick its head up its own ass, this movie can't even figure out which hole that is. It is a mess. A mess that I will refrain from going into, because you will have things spoiled for you. And even though once you know what those things are you will want to kick something, I afford you the right to be disappointed on your own terms.

I will also say that -- for his years of mantra-like insistence that he never liked Star Trek -- J.J. Abrams signed off on an embarrassing amount of fan-targeted hand-jobbery, all of which still misses the point. The way I described it last night was that it's as if there is a deck of Star Trek flash cards that was used to populate the film with references and species and memorable quotations in a completely context-free and haphazard manner, to the point where, if you actually know the context that is being ignored or care about the story that is being co-opted, it's difficult to not be offended.

I will clarify that I don't think J.J. Abrams needed to be a Trek fan. I don't dislike him for not knowing the series. Nicholas Meyer wasn't a Trek fan, and his was the finest of the franchise features. It's not the fandom that matters. It's the desire to make a movie that doesn't suck. Whatever his intentions may have been, the movie J.J. Abrams made is a pastiche of formidable elements that does not coalesce into anything significant. And that would be easier to excuse if he hadn't had at his disposal all of the necessary resources to make something great.

If you know me, let's talk about this in greater detail over drinks, because you won't want to talk to me about this without them.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

How dare they. John Daily said it best, at the end of an old Star Trek episode you would find yourself saying "oh yeah, racism is a really bad thing." and not necessarily understand why you felt that way. What message are we left with in this episode? That politics, fear, and greed are there in full force. The whole idea of Star Trek is that we are mostly above that in the 22nd century. No more, now we have into darkness to show that the star-trek future is little more than more of the same. Shame on them.

JJ needs to be fired from the next film. We need messages and ideas in the spirit of Rodenbury not "SEE the military/corporatocracy remains".

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