In order to escape the heat yesterday, I snuck away to the cheap movie theater and watched Star Trek Into Darkness. I was none too pleased with the first “new old” Star Trek. In particular, I don’t buy most of the characters. The only one who manages to make me believe he’s the real guy is Karl Urban as McCoy. The others are silly caricatures like Scotty (with all due respect to Simon Pegg) and Chekov. Or they are banal Hollywood archetypes like Kirk and Uhura. I wasn’t expecting much from the movie and it delivered.
The film is a good example of what has become of action films. Into Darkness effectively takes the two Nicholas Meyer Star Trek moves and puts them into one. Instead of using the episode “Space Seed” as background, it is put right into the film. But rather than the Enterprise finding the Botany Bay, the head of Starfleet uses Khan to start a war with the Klingon Empire. So you have The Wrath of Khan with The Undiscovered Country. Yet both of those films are better. A large part of it is just that Meyer actually knows how to tell a story. But so does J. J. Abrams, when he wants to (e.g. Super 8). I think the bigger problem is that because of how easy and cheap CG effects now are, action scenes take up far too much time in these movies. You can literally leave the theater at the beginning of an action sequence, buy some Jolly Joes, flirt with the ticket taker, and be back in your set before missing any important plot information.
But the film is fine. It works. Star Trek is by its very nature a silly franchise. It should have been a half hour shorter. But hey, the people need time to finish their popcorn. Regardless, it was a hell of a lot better than Man of Steel.
There were, however, two things that really bugged me about this film. The first is that I don’t like being pandered to. My knowledge of the original cast Star Trek is far greater than I would like to admit. I hated it every time the film tipped its hat to something in the future. I know all about Dr. Marcus. I know that she and Kirk are going to hook up and that she’s going to give birth to Kirk’s only son and that in The Search for Spock, he will die and Kirk will get to say his best line ever, “Klingon bastard! You killed my son!” I do not need to see Kirk ogling the young Dr. Marcus in her underwear. Not that I ever mind looking at Alice Eve in her underwear.
The second thing that really bugged me was far, far worse. When did Dr. Marcus suddenly become British? Her father isn’t British. She isn’t British in 20 years when she and Kirk reunited in The Wrath of Khan. What the hell is that all about? Similarly, when did Khan become British? Because 20 years later, Khan will talk like this:
What is going on? The producers decided that if anything, Scotty and Chekov had to have even more silly Hollywood accents, but Marcus and Khan could just become whatever? And here’s the thing: Alice Eve and Benedict Cumberbatch are fine actors. They could have done the accents. They’re from England. Unlike most American actors, they’re trained. Karl Urban managed it. Jeez!
I could go on and on about how Star Trek generally betrays all of its high ideals for the future of humanity. But let me just say this: the worst thing is the way that it is so rigidly hierarchical. If we are to survive for another 250 years into the future, we have got to get beyond that. And it is interesting in Star Trek Into Darkness that there isn’t even much in the way of token women commanders. It is as though the producers today are no more evolved than they were in the 1960s.