Friday, May 17, 2013

Star Trek XII (Into Darkness): Review

Star Trek: Into Darkness is the twelfth Star Trek movie, and the second in the modern reboot of the franchise. This reboot, as you may recall, reintroduced the characters from The Original Series, with different actors, and then branched the canon off into an alternate reality. Which is odd, when you think about it, since previous ST reboots always stayed in the same reality but with a different cast of characters (in a different time period, perhaps).

Previous reviews: : 1-3, 4-6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11.

Plot: The Enterprise is engaged in a James Bond like mission on some planet where Kirk breaks the "prime directive" by revealing their presence to a primitive planet's population while swooping in to rescue Spock from immanent death. Spock doesn't understand why he did it, and his report to Star Fleet command gets Kirk kicked out of his captaincy. Major subplot of the movie: Spock tries to figure out what instinct and gratitude are. Uhura continues to pine over Spock in the meantime.

Back to the main plot: Some dude attacks Star Fleet command, stealing some weapon information or something and then heading out to Klingon-ville. Kirk gets the order from Admiral Marcus to go find the dude and assassinate him with a bunch of long range missiles, thus a) receiving an unethical order to meet out drone justice rather than bring the dude in to stand trial (*cough* politics *cough*), and b) fooling around with some unknown highly volatile missiles, which is dangerous, and c) being highly likely to start a Vulcan-Federation war. Maybe that's the intent? Spock, Scotty, and a bunch of other people tell him not to do this, to the point where their harping on it means something is afoot. And of course, something is.

The identity of the dude becomes significant. The motivation of the admiral becomes significant. Kirk, Spock, et al get into lots and lots of fist fights and once again basically destroy the entire Enterprise and hundreds of other expensive space stations and buildings, probably killing thousands upon thousands of people (conveniently ignored, because the effects are cool). Kirk must learn the meaning of discipline and responsibility. Uhuru must learn that Spock isn't a bad guy because he represses his feelings (but he still doesn't want to hanky panky with her). Bones must learn that he's not a torpedo technician; he is, in fact, a tribble gene splicer. Scotty must learn that running around a big dark empty spaceship takes fitness training. Sulu must learn that he wants to be a captain one day. Chekhov must learn that he's a pretty good engineer. And Carol Marcus must learn to wear short skirts and flirt.

Reactions: This movie consciously tried to be Wrath of Khan II, lifting a number of situations from the second movie, either directly or with some kind of twist. I was bored with it for a while, and then it got interesting when Kirk finally learned to rein in his impulsiveness. But then he went right back to being impulsive again, which kind of ruined the lesson. Still, I remained interested for the rest of the movie. Why? Because the acting was good and the characters and some of the funny quips they made were also good.

The movie tried to hammer a message home: good guys don't just strike blindly for revenge. But they do punch and kick a lot, and the prime directive and most other directives are still a constraining waste of time, and if you try to follow them you'll get killed. So don't. But do. Got that?

Me neither. There are too many pieces of debris and fists flying around, Everything is constantly exploding; complex things that look like they take decades to build blow up every few seconds. I'm guessing that it will take the Federation half a century to fix all of it, even supposing that they have the raw materials.

But wait! What am I talking about? Apparently complex electronics the size of many buildings that gets blown to smithereens with guns, lasers, and explosions can be fixed in twenty minutes - and if you're in a hurry, about thirty seconds, but only through the careful and accurate appliance of knowledge from experienced professionals. I'm just kidding! You can fix anything by slamming your fist into a big fat button that says "manual override" or by jumping up and down on it and kicking it repeatedly until it's pointing back the way it was originally.

The upshot is that engineering and sense takes a back seat to humor, stubbornness, fights, explosions, one political lesson, and lots of references to past ST, such as bars of the TOS score thrown in at just the right time. It wasn't my favorite Trek, but it didn't embarrass the series, either.

But I REALLY had no idea why alternate reality Spock made an on-screen visit.

Ranking: 4, 11, 9, 8, 2, 3, 12, 10, 7, 6, (5 and 1 which are both the same and horrid).


Dan O. said...

Good review. Apart from being a fun, sci-fi, action adventure film, the movie has a surprising amount of layers to it, which got me when I least expected it to.

Chris Bateman said...

Afraid to read this until I've seen the movie for fear of spoilers, but I can answer this one:

"But I REALLY had no idea why alternate reality Spock made an on-screen visit."

Because Leonard Nimoy is not dead yet. ;)