Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Nitpicker's Guide to Star Trek Into Darkness Part 1

Happy 85th birthday to Mr. Bill Shatner!   

And what a year it is for Star Trek.  The Original Series is celebrating its 50th anniversary on September 8th a new TV Series is due out in January 2017 and they already have great talent on board like Nicolas Meyer.  And finally Star Trek Beyond is hitting theatres this summer and with a whole new creative team this third film in the reboot franchise might actually not suck. However, none of that is saving this film and so it’s not getting spared the nitpickers treatment.

“You just shot our ride!”

How did Kirk not know that was their ride?  Did McCoy just find some random animal in the forest and tame it?  Also what the hell is McCoy doing on this mission?  It’s involves so called science with the inactivation of the volcano and getting the natives a good distance away from it.  None of this needed to involve the ship’s Chief Medical Officer.      

Why can’t they just beam the device into the volcano and detonate it remotely?  Why do you have to put Spock in the stupid looking suit?

Wait if the shuttle was supposed to pick Kirk and McCoy up how was it not going to be seen by the locals?  And if it was going to pick them up what did they need the beast that Kirk stunned as a ride for?  Also if Sulu is ditching the shuttle are we supposed to conclude that it just crashed in the Nibiru forest somewhere and the natives are free to pick it apart?

The Enterprise being parked in the ocean will never stop being stupid.  I thought it was stupid in the theatre and I think it’s stupid now.  And no, Scotty announcing that the situation is ridiculous does not give the movie a free pass.  Especially since he then says the Enterprise has been under water since the night before.  Why didn’t they go stop the volcano last night then?

All right they can’t use the transporter because of the magnetic fields.  First excuse for why we can’t use available technology to simply end the crisis right now.  Make a note of this, with the amount of times it happens in this film it could be its own drinking game.

You know it would have been a lot easier to get a direct line of sight if you had kept the ship in orbit.  Also why couldn’t you just stun the natives and then stop the volcano?  The Enterprise can do that it did it in ‘A Piece of the Action’. 

So they pull the Enterprise out of the water, in a shot that I don’t think looks remotely cool so there goes the only reason this stuff is even in the film, and they go to save Spock.  So, how exactly were they going to get the Enterprise off the planet even if everything had gone to plan?  Presumably they would leave at night just like they did when they arrived so they wouldn’t be seen, because none of the locals would ever be up at 3am, nor would anyone notice the sounds and lights of the Enterprise landing, and the water displacement it no doubt caused.  There is no way they weren’t going to be seen even if they never had to save Spock.  This scene doesn’t work no matter how you look at it and I can’t believe it actually stayed in the film.

Anyway the device goes off and ‘freezes’ the volcano.  Even though this is not at all how cold fusion would work if it did work.  Man science is going to take such a beating in this film it makes the last film look positively cerebral.  Also Spock’s device appears to freeze the top part of the lava so all that’s going to happen is that the pressure from the magma underneath all that now hard rock will continue to build until the volcano erupts again, possibility out the side of the cone of the volcano a la Mount Saint Helen and then the locals are still up shit creek without a paddle.  And I’m still at a loss as to how one volcano erupting means the planet will die.  It may be altered depending on the amount of ash and gases thrown up into the atmosphere affecting the weather certainly, and the local population would indeed be devastated like the island of Pompeii on our own Earth, but the planet itself wouldn’t die.

“They saw us big deal.”

God this movie is determined to make me hate Kirk and we haven’t even gotten to the part where he is shown to be a liar and a sexist scumbag!  

Why does Spock care that saving him violated the Prime Directive?  The whole mission violated the Prime Directive!   You can’t interfere with a species’ development even if it’s to save them. Whole episodes of Trek were dictated to this.  Now you can certainly make a case that letting a whole species die out, because of the Prime Directive is wrong in fact that would have been a fine conflict for the film, but after the title card none of this is going to matter again so forget that.

Cut to two people we never learn the names of and their dying daughter.  I must say that I really don’t like the design of the future cities in this film.  Everything just looks cramped and grey and tall.  Also I hate the blue filter over this it further makes everything look drab and washed out.  However, the hospital itself looks nice I’ll give the movie a point for that.  I also like that this entire sequence has basically no dialogue and yet we understand exactly what is going on.  We see the heartbreak of these parents watching their daughter die so we know why the father would be desperate for a cure. 

We cut to Kirk in bed and I now have a song I hate more than ‘Sabotage’ from the last film good job guys.  And thanks for continuing the playboy Kirk characterization.  Showing that not only do you not get Kirk Prime, but you think some frat boy punk is the kind of person we should be aspiring to.  Then the next scene is only going to make this worse with the “hey ladies” line.  Yes I can see how Kirk has grown from the brash young man of the last film to a whiny brat in this one.  But first I’m going to complain about the grey uniforms.  It’s bad enough that the grey blue tints of San Francisco now has no distinguishing landmarks from future London, but the grey uniforms on top of that tint starts to make everyone fade into the concrete and I start to get The Motion Picture flashbacks.

So the scene with Admiral Pike confirms that the mission was a violation of the Prime Directive because Spock says that aliens would never have known about the interference.  So he knew this mission was breaking the rules right from the start and didn’t care until they came to save him, but at least he was honest about it in his report.  Kirk on the other hand not only violated the rules he then lied about it and has the nerve to get mad at Spock for doing what every good officer is supposed to do!  Also wouldn’t Sulu, Uhura, and McCoy have made out reports as well since they were on the away team?  Are we to assume that everyone expect Spock lied on official documents? 

So Pike gives Kirk the dressing down about living on luck and not respecting the rules and I do agree with Pike, but for me this talking to comes one movie too late.  If the last film was supposed to be about Kirk growing from a rough tumble youth to responsible captain why are you bringing this up now?  Now on a meta level I know why it’s here.  It’s an answer to the criticism of the cadet to captain mess in the last film.  That only gets worse here when Pike says they’re sending Kirk back to the academy so he really didn’t finish his training and they made him captain anyway.  What the hell is the matter with Starfleet?  Yes, Kirk doesn’t respect the chair, but it’s too late to change that now because that would be admitting that the whole arc of the last film was a failure.  Now I did say I would like to see this whole thing dealt with.  I just don’t think it was handled correctly.  You can’t really have Pike be the one to do this I don’t think because he was one of the cheerleaders for Kirk in the last film.  Especially since this demotion isn’t going to last and by the end of film Kirk still won’t really show that he has learned anything anyway.

This all still makes command look like a bunch of morons too.   You put an arrogant untried cadet in charge of a starship what the hell did you think was going to happen!?  Also in the last film Pike didn’t give Kirk his command the other admirals did.  However, in this film it looks like only Admiral Marcus is left since Pike has to convince Marcus to get Kirk as his first officer, Kirk only goes to Marcus to get his captaincy back, and at the end getting rid of Marcus apparently fixes Starfleet because they’re back to being explorers. 

Well enough of that we’re back to man whose daughter is dying that we’re never going to learn the name of as Khan saves her with his blood.  Although I don’t how the medical staff is going to miss the fact that you put a vial of someone’s blood into her machines buddy.  Then the man goes to the archive and we get the only Dutch angle I like in the film where it holds on the Kelvin memorial sign.  To then be followed by the twirling camera shot that I don’t like.  You supposed to move the camera, to enhance mood or theme by creating ambience not just because you can!  Also why is the guy going along with what Khan wants?  Sure Khan would have blackmailed him to cure his daughter, but we just saw the daughter being saved, Khan’s leverage is now gone, and Khan is outside the building so why doesn’t guy with no name just tell somebody what’s going on?  Or send a message to someone, or anything other than going along with the guy who doesn’t have control over you anymore told you to do.

But no instead he kills himself and takes the building and everyone inside with him.  Also there’s appears to be more than one explosion, possibly gas lines being destroyed, and the building has several floors so there should be a hell of lot more people dead than 42.  It doesn’t even count as a reference because the random number Star Trek uses isn’t 42 it’s 47.

The shot of the ice cube hitting the glass looks like it should have mirrored the ring hitting the glass in transition and it probably would have looked really nice if it had.

Once again we have a character saying Kirk is awesome and I still have yet to see any of that.  I just see a guy up shit creek in his douchcanoe.  We don’t see him reflecting on the situation and taking responsibility for his actions.  It’s not Spock’s fault that this went south.  He was truthful on his report.  Kirk is the one that lied.  And I don’t know why Kirk would ever think Spock would be anything but truthful he is a Vulcan for heaven’s sakes and the whole opening was there to show that he does want to follow the rules even if it will cost him his life, why did you ever think he wouldn’t tell command what happened on the planet!?  This whole Kirk Spock friendship drama rings totally hollow for me because I’m not sympathetic to Kirk in the least here.  I’m just annoyed.

Okay is the Daystrom institute where they are meeting or is it Starfleet HQ?  Pike says Daystrom and then Kirk says HQ when he asks why Khan bombed the archive so I am honestly confused here.  If this is an institute than I think it would be a great cover.  If its HQ why on Earth are they meeting in room with giant windows?  Why not a secure basement room 10 stories below the parking garage?  Still I do like that Kirk is showing studying the footage and asking questions.  For a moment his being smart stops being an informed trait and gets to be something we actually see on screen.           

Okay being that close to the window during the explosion should have killed Kirk from the shockwave or at least severely injured him with shrapnel.

Why is Pike calling air defence?  Shouldn’t they already be securing HQ especially since a Starfleet building was already attacked?

Spock don’t just stand there put pressure on the wound!

Hey look it’s another moment of thinking Kirk!  The nice use of point of view shots shows us Kirk seeing the hose and figuring out how to use his limited resources to take down the attacking ship.  He’s still an asshole, but at least he is doing something to help people, which is a heck of a lot more than Spock who is mind melding with a dying man for his own selfish reasons.

Pike bites the dust and fandom proceeds to give him the Agent Coulson treatment and I approve!

The portable transwarp beaming device can transport people across huge distances of space without the need for transporter pads of any kind.  You have just introduced a piece of technology into your universe that renders starships completely useless congratulations! 

If Marcus reinstates your captaincy Kirk how are you going to be able to go after Khan?  You’re taking a Starfleet ship to Klingon space under Starfleet orders.  How is this not Starfleet going after him?

Okay the Klingons really don’t sound like much of a threat.  They’ve occupied two planets and fired on your ships six times in about a hundred years well they certainly sound like a worthy foe to the Federation that makes them quake in their boots.

So Kirk is back in the captain’s chair after losing it for about twenty minutes.  Drama brought up and resolved with no change what so ever oh goody.  But hey at least as they travel on the shuttle Spock brings up how taking out Khan like this without a trial is wrong.  Morally questionable acts and later Scotty brings up how they are supposed to be explorers and not just military.  Hooray the film is going to have actual depths and a theme!

And then we have the turbolift scene that makes the crew come off like a bunch of sixteen year olds I swear.  Instead of Kirk realizing that yes he behaved poorly too we just let Uhura reinforce the fact that Spock is the one in the wrong here, because if we don’t we might have actual character growth on our hands and we can’t have any of that!

Okay so Scotty resigns and Kirk sends Chekov down to engineering why?  There is an entire department of people, that Chekov isn’t a part of since he doesn’t wear red, that are there to step up and take over the chief engineer’s job, why are you sending the navigator for this?  Is there literally no one second in command in engineering like oh I don’t know Charlene Masters?  Also seeing Chekov’s face at being told to put on a red shirt should be funny, but with the lens flares obscuring a large portion of the screen I find myself too distracted to laugh.  The lens fares have diminished since the first film, but there’s still enough of them that I find it still ruins the look of the film overall.  I am trying to focus on the characters or the actions in the frame and there are these big lines of light going right across the screen and blocking anything I’m trying to look at.

How did Chekov get changed, get down to engineering, and do a systems check in the time it took Sulu to retract the moorings and have Lieutenant Darwin sit in the navigator’s chair?

Okay Kirk is using the intercom so why is Chekov answering with his communicator? 

How did everyone get changed and down to the shuttlebay in the time it took Sulu to change seats?

Sulu’s speech to Khan is awesome, but how is he communicating with him?  A comm burst would require that Khan have a communicator or other device with him and it wasn’t established if he does.

If Mudd’s ship won’t arrive for three minutes and Sulu said Khan had two minutes then obviously they won’t fire the torpedoes in time and Khan will know they are bluffing.

The shuttle ride is such a stark reminder of why I hate the Spock Uhura relationship, it is so unprofessional.  Kirk and Uhura shouldn’t be dissing a fellow officer in the turbolift and Uhura shouldn’t be bringing up her personal relationship in the middle of an away mission in front of their boss and lower ranked crewmembers.  And why does Uhura and everyone else, including the writers, seem to forget that Spock is a Vulcan and acts like it!  Vulcans don’t show they’re emotions openly and base their lives around logic.  The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.  In the case of Nibiru the native’s lives took precedent over his own and so Spock made the decision to activate the device to save them and sacrifice himself.  Also these people are all part of a military organization and the last time I checked one of things you understand about doing that is that you may be asked to lay down your life for others, whether that is for your fellows or people you have never met.  So acting all appalled that Spock made the choice that both duty and upbringing demanded of him just really bugs me.     

Not that Spock is entirely blameless here.  I mean he mind melded with Pike just so he could know what it felt like to die?  What the hell?!  Some of the Star Trek novels like The Entropy Effect touched on this idea that Vulcans meld with someone near death and anchor them and give them their strength to survive until help arrives, and I thought that’s what was going on with Pike.  I even thought that would be a great thing to introduce into the main canon.  It would be something new at least to those less familiar with Star Trek in comics and books.  They could have had Spock hold Pike’s katra perhaps and that would provide a reason for him completely losing it at the end of film in the fist fight with Khan.  That would have even been a great same but different nod to what has come before, because this time instead of someone holding Spock’s katra he is the keeper of one.  But no instead let’s have it all be about how Spock just doesn’t get feelings!  Even though Vulcans have emotions darn it they just don’t often express or act on them! Argh! 
Speaking of emotions I asked this in my first review and I’m asking it again here, Uhura, what the hell do you get out of this relationship?  I mean she doesn’t appear to get the emotional support and comfort she desires.  Outside of kissing in public we haven’t seen these two doing anything as a couple or sharing any common interests.  I mean even in TOS they at least shared a love of music.  And goddammit Nyota Uhura deserves to be so much more than just the love interest.  She deserves to have her skills shine.  She deserves to have a plot and character development that is all her own.  And that brings me to my biggest problem with this scene and that is that once again this isn’t here to help push Spock and Uhura’s dynamic in new directions or provide insight into either of them in regards to each other, it’s there to lift up the Kirk and Spock relationship.  Kirk has to be there has to hear this because the friendship that for some reason still isn’t developed, even though that’s what the last film was supposed to be doing, is the revolving factor on which all the other characters and plot wraps around.

“What the hell was that?”

Gee I don’t know maybe if you guys had been watching the instrument panels instead having a row about personnel problems you’d know!

I love Uhura’s speech to the Klingons and I hate that it doesn’t mean anything to the plot because Khan comes in firing away, and I’d love to know where he got that gun by the way, and then Jim and the rest join in. So they might as well have had everyone come out blasters firing from the start.  Also way to frame Uhura’s butt as she walks towards the Klingons, you stay classy JJ.

Yeah, Kirk you show growth and maturity by sparing a man and then wail on said unarmed prisoner.  Everybody wave goodbye to themes and depth because we ain’t gonna be seeing any more of them in this film.

Continued in Part 2

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