Saturday, 15 February 2014

Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

 For my friend Garrus' review of this film, see here. Sorry about that, buddy.

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From IGN.
Star Trek Into Darkness
2013, Directed by J.J. Abrams

If the Trek fandom was irked at J.J. Abrams' 2009 reboot/retcon of their franchise, last year's follow-up movie Star Trek Into Darkness was something of a declaration of contempt - and not just because of the awkward title. Three months after its release, fans were already calling it the worst Trek movie ever made, even behind Galaxy Quest, which is a parody flick. But what was it about Abrams' latest big-budget blockbuster that made it so hateful? Well, it could have something to do with the fact that Abrams and co. took their Star-Wars-esque philosophy and casual misogyny and used them to bastardise some of the franchise's most glorious moments.
     STID is the Nu!Trek adaptation of the second film in the franchise, The Wrath of Khan, as well as a straight up re-working of most of the elements from the 2009 movie. Following a terrorist attack on Earth by scary white man John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), Starfleet Admiral Marcus (Enterprise guest star Peter Weller) sends the Enterprise off to the Klingon's home system to eliminate him and the threat he poses to humanity. Upon finding Harrison, the newly reinstated Captain Kirk discovers that his is none other than Khan, a genetically engineered tyrant from Earth's Eugenics Wars who was awakened by Marcus to fight a war with the neighbouring Klingons. As Khan takes his revenge on Earth and on Marcus, the crew of the Enterprise are forced to stop both of them from breaking the fragile peace between the two powers.
     The basic premise of Into Darkness is not a bad one on principle, with a lot of elements lifted from Deep Space Nine which certainly make the film more interesting than it might have been without them. But the devil comes in the execution, which sees several scenes from 2009 played out again - Kirk being convinced by Admiral Pike to join/rejoin Starfleet, before a sudden battlefield promotion sees Kirk in charge of the Enterprise and onto fight an immensely powerful enemy through guile, cunning, falling a long distance and getting cheat codes from the Prime Universe's version of Spock. Add in some glaringly stupid plot holes, and you've got yourself a very, very unsatisfying plot - especially as 2009's travel-anywhere-in-the-Galaxy technology has now been added to by an elixer of life which can bring anyone back to life
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Despite the fact that in the Original Series Khan was
played by Mexican actor Ricardo Montalbain, it still doesn't
excuse the whitewashing on the part of Into Darkness's
casting managers. From racebending.com
     And, adding to that exponentially, is the film's treatment of women and minorities. While the main cast remains as diverse as it was in The Original Series, the only people who get anything important to do are the whiter-than-white Kirk, Spock and Khan. And yes, I said Khan - a character who originates from India, who was genetically engineered as a product of all the world's races, is played by a white man whose family's main source of wealth originated in slavery. While I'm not going to blame Cumberbatch himself for playing the role, which happens to be one of the highlights of the film all things considered, I am a little weary at the fact that he was considered for the role at all when there are dozens and dozens of Indian actors who could have had that role and who were instead ignored for yet another white cast member. Further, on a completely issue, the film does not handle its two female characters at all well - ignoring for a moment the fact that fourty-seven years hasn't changed the number of female members of the main cast, we find them reduced to wearing unnecesarily skimpier outfits than their male counterparts, and used for little beyond talking about their emotions, being abused by the bad guys and being attacked to provide motivation. Considering that Star Trek's philosophy is all about acceptance and progressiveness of all peoples, it strikes harder than ever when issues like this arise here.
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More or less the definition of "gratuitous", no?
From Star Trek.com
     Into Darkness did well with the majority of mainstream critics, and that's because on a basic level it's not a badly constructed movie. It's got a great sense of tension, cinematography to die for and enough of a balance between Abrams' trademark style and modern chic that it's a treat to the eyes. But like 2009's reboot, Into Darkness is a hollow imitation of the franchise it's supposed to be an entry in, even more so this time as Star Trek's core philosophies are repeatedly and brutally pushed aside for a blockbuster style which, while entertaining, is as far from Gene Roddenberry's idea of Trek as you're going to get. (Or that of any of the Deep Space Nine writers either, for that matter.) We're now left with something of a problem as, even though J.J. Abrams has gone off to direct the new Star Wars film (as he tried to do twice with this series), the future of Star Trek is still in Bad Robot's hands, and the scriptwriters of the currently untitled Star Trek XIII are those same writers from 2009. Yes, the ones who wrote Kirk as an orphaned farmboy on a desert planet. Yes, I'm not looking forward to it.
     Hey, at least there's still tons of Next Gen I haven't seen yet.

Thanks.

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