With Star Trek: The Next Generation fresh in our minds, Tara and I decided to go see the new Star Trek movie. After all, the last one, though mindless, was a decent distraction. This one has Benedict Cumberbatch in it, so it's gotta be even better, right?
Absolutely wrong. There's so many things wrong with this movie.
Captain, That Course of Action Is Highly Cornball
Hope you didn't want subtlety, because this movie ain't got it. Scotty runs around like a madman, Chekov runs around like a Scotty, and Uhura and Spock fight ridiculously because Market Research Says All the Fans with Vaginas Need Some Romance Because They Couldn't Possibly Be Smart Enough to Figure Out the Plot. The first half of the movie is entirely people who nobody cares about dying or characters spouting unfunny self-referential humor.
And it's not strictly because of the TV heritage of this series. My friend said it when talking about Bond films, but it holds here too: The Original Series wasn't campy because it was trying to be campy, it was campy because it was the 60s, and that's how action was done. Something about the campiness is lost in translation when you layer it over cutting edge visuals and make it high-res. Shit, son, if you want to do it campy, your film better have a stuntman in a repurposed Godzilla costume chucking styrofoam rocks around. Don't feed me terrible one-liners and pretend that you Get Camp.
To Boldly Go Where Michael Bay Has Gone Before
In the opening scene alone, our main characters
- Are chased by bloodthirsty natives (Yup, seriously).
- Duck spears chucked at them by those same natives (Again, yup).
- Jump off a 300-foot cliff into the ocean.
- Are beamed off of an exploding shuttlecraft.
- Survive a fusion bomb detonation about 5 yards away.
- Fall from a broken rope INTO AN ERUPTING VOLCANO.
Of course, they survive all of it because Hollywood. Jesus, I know most moviegoers are going to know who Kirk and Spock are, and that means the filmmakers can be a little bit fast and loose with character development, but if I wanted to see Transformers 8: The Bro-gasm I would just go see it. I'm an old-fashioned guy, give me a little Plot Development Wine and a bit of Character Background Entree before you take me home to see your Engorged Explosion.
Dammit Jim, I'm a Sequel, not a Miracle Worker!
The movie has sequelitis in a real bad way. You can practically see everybody involved thinking that they're going to do everything that worked last movie, only bigger. Kirk jumping off of cliffs in the opening scene! Kirk clashing with Starfleet authority! Enterprise picked on by bigger and better spaceship! Scotty saves the day from someplace that's not the Enterprise! Gigantic spaceships plummeting toward Earth!
Of course, the novelty factor is gone, so things like a cameo by Leonard Nimoy don't really work this time around. If it quacks like a rehash, then it's a rehash.
Star Trek Philosophy
Love it or hate it, the thing that makes Star Trek different from any other science fiction is its adherence to often simplistic philosophy. This is most obvious in the extended diplomacy of The Next Generation, but it also makes itself felt many times in the original series. Star Trek has a bedrock philosophy that conflict can always be solved peacefully, cultural differences can be resolved through mutual education, and empathy can always win the day if we give it the time to do so.
When Khan shows up in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the plot works because it takes care to fit itself into this framework. Khan is a parable about being careful what you wish for, an admonishment against genetic engineering of humanity. When Khan shows up in Into Darkness, he's just The Ultimate Badguy who can't be hurt and can't be stopped, except when he can. There are vestigial elements of the old philosophy, but they feel strange and out of place, and mostly just copped from the old movie.
Star Trek Into Darkness has easily claimed the spot of worst movie I've seen in theaters this year, and it's going to take a real stinker to unseat it. (To be fair, I thought that about Prometheus last year, then Step Up 4volution came along to nab the dubious honor. It could happen again this year.) Do not see this movie.