Star Trek Into Darkness

We went to see Star Trek Into Darkness on Monday, in a surprisingly empty cinema – I know the weather was good for a change but I’d still have expected more people around on a bank holiday afternoon. But at least it being fairly empty meant we got sensible seats instead of under the speaker stack like we had for The Hobbit. Overall I enjoyed the film, it was a fun action film with a lot of neat set piece sequences. I’m not convinced it always made sense, though.

SPOILERS AHEAD! Hover mouse over text to read, or read on entry page:

The bit we picked over most when we got out of the cinema was why Khan had gone to the Klingon homeworld anyway – in the end we decided he wasn’t expecting Kirk (plus bonus Admiral Marcus) to follow and his actual plan would’ve involved some other next step. I’m … not sure what his plan was though. Was he going to negotiate to get his crew back after killing a bunch of people as “proof of concept” for ability to commit terrorism? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to steal the torpedoes, put them on the super secret special ship that only needs one man to fly, then fly away somewhere? Given he seems to be free to do what he wants to do right up until the point where he blows shit up (and even after that even tho he’s made it harder for himself to go anywhere on Earth he’s still pretty free).

Speaking of not making sense … Kirk in the meeting is saying “why the archive? That’s not a good target, there must be a bigger plan.” And oh look, there’s Khan to shoot them all. Except it wasn’t an archive, it was a secret weapons base that Khan had reason to want to destroy so Kirk’s logic was based on a faulty premise … and why didn’t Khan wait to come and pick them off more sensibly for a super-soldier who’s better at everything. (Each ship has a crew of hundreds, could he not find a Harewood for each ship – off they all fly to find Khan and there are a series of earth-shattering kabooms. Plus an extra one for Admiral Marcus’s office building.)

Well, “because Plot” is the reason, and perhaps I should let them have their collection of implausibilities to string together the set pieces because I did like the set pieces.

I think my biggest overall issue with the reboot Star Trek universe is the age of the crew – there’s a genre of fanfic that’s “alternate universe where they’re all in high school” and that’s what this reboot feels like. It’s been a long time since I watched any of the original Star Trek series, but I remember Kirk & the rest of the main crew as more mature. That Kirk was captain because he’d started as a lower officer and been promoted. Ditto the rest of the crew. They’d earnt their positions on the ship. And here we have a bunch of mostly new graduates dumped on a ship all together with no experience and no senior officers. And their interpersonal relationships are all pretty high school too. Lots of bickering and gossip, and “I thought you were my friend” stuff.

Right, enough complaining, what did I like (other than explosions and spaceship chases etc, because that goes without saying 😉 ).

I’d seen some references to Uhura just being “the girlfriend” in this film, but I’d disagree. She gets to come to the rescue rather than play damsel in distress. Like when she’s trying to talk their way out of trouble on the Klingon homeworld – clearly terrified but once she gets out of the ship she’s got her game face on. She fails, but you’re left with the impression she fails because anyone would not because she messed it up. She’s also the one who plays a pivotal role in subduing Khan at the end.

I guess the overall theme was that violence isn’t the right answer, even when provoked. That’s the flaws that both the antagonists have – Khan reacts to being used by Starfleet by lashing out, Admiral Marcus sees the possibility of war with the Klingons and reacts by trying to start it early. And Kirk is a hero because he has that initial reaction and then calms down (and listens to Spock) and tries the non-violent alternative. Most obviously in his reaction to Pike’s death where he’s consumed with the need for vengeance, but then decides to try to take “Harrison” into custody instead. The Kirk & Spock juxtaposition was well used, too – Spock demonstrates that suppressing all emotional reaction just leaves you inhuman & inhumane. And when Kirk just reacts and lets his emotions run the show he gets into trouble. It’s the combination of both emotion & reason that wins.

Interesting that we are told Khan & his crew would kill anyone they deemed inferior & that’s why they’re dangerous, but we never actually see this. All the violence that Khan does in the film is provoked – not justified, see above, but Khan feels it’s a reaction to what’s been done to him. I guess it makes the mirroring of Kirk more obvious – this is what happens when you let your anger cloud your reason.

I read somewhere elseweb, I forget where, that “it wouldn’t be a J. J. Abrams film if it didn’t have Daddy issues”. I haven’t watched enough stuff by Abrams to know this from experience, but it certainly feels true for this one. Most obviously Kirk – not only is his real father dead but first he disappoints his surrogate father then his surrogate father dies in front of his eyes (pretty much). And then Admiral Marcus tries to step in as the next obvious father figure, only to betray Kirk. There’s also Carol Marcus – disowning her father for cover at first, then disowning him for real once she realises (well, has confirmed) that he’s given in to megalomania. And I guess you can fit Spock into that too – he’s trying to be Vulcan enough for the (paternal) Vulcan side of his heritage.

But most of what I enjoyed about the film was that it was fun and full of explosions & chase sequences Candy-floss for the brain, and there’s nothing wrong with that every now & then 🙂