It’s saturday and that means no rules! Well, not as many anyways. Off-Topic Saturday lets us talk about other geeky things that we feel like talking about that aren’t necessarily directly related to board games. You can read ’em, you can ignore em, it doesn’t matter to me.
This week’s topic: a very spoiler-y reaction to Star Trek: Into Darkness. Do NOT hit the jump unless you’re prepared to face a lot of details from the new movie that you wouldn’t know unless you saw it or it already got spoiled for you.
SPOILERS BEGIN NOW.
I am a big Star Trek fan. I grew up in the 90’s which means I watched a lot of sporadic episodes of TNG and my family watched Deep Space 9 on a weekly basis together. I also grew up on the original Star Trek movies, borrowing them from the library frequently, and I’m pretty sure that Star Trek: Generations was the first movie I saw in the movie theater. Even though it wasn’t until only a few years ago that I was able to watch through the original series and then through the complete series of TNG, I’ve loved the franchise for a very long time. I love the optimism; the hope; the exploration of humanity, of truth, of the future, even if I don’t agree with every point that is made.
A lot of people get set on one series, as if it’s the only one that matters and the others are worthless. This is silly; I enjoy each series (though I haven’t gotten to Voyager yet, it’s on the list), which so far have all fit into the Star Trek universe, even if giving it their own flavorful twist, and that’s okay.
So, when the new JJ Abrams Star Trek cam eout, I was excited and I was NOT disappointed. True, it was more action-adventury than previous Star Trek outings. But it was an entertaining story with brilliant production quality, from the visual effects to the sound effects to the re-creation of original and beloved characters.
Star Trek Into Darkness continues this franchise, and I found it to be a very enjoyable movie. Not quite as cohesively brilliant as 2009’s Star Trek, and a few disappointments, but overall a great experience.
The biggest disappointment was that our villian was, indeed, Khan. Not that I think Khan is a lame villain by any means. It’s disappointing because it was hyped up to be so secretive, and yet everyone expected that’s what it was. Why keep is so secret if it’s not even going to be a surprise? Instead, it just made us, or at least me, hope for a surprise, and it was disappointing that it was not one.
Fortunately, Khan’s storyline was handled very well. The trailers did an amazing job keeping the film under wraps; what’s shown and implied is only a fraction of the movie. Khan in the original series was not entirely evil; in fact, Kirk agreed to let him live on a planet of his own and build a society, and it was only an unfortunate tragedy that drove Khan to pursue Kirk out of revenge.
The changes in the timeline mean that Khan’s story unfolds differently. Instead of being discovered by Kirk, he’s discovered by other Starfleet officers out seeking for new ways to defend against the apparent romulan threat after the destruction of Vulcan. Khan is awoken and then used as part of a top secret project to create advanced weaponry, with his crew held hostage. So at the start of the movie, Khan’s revenge is directed at Starfleet, not Kirk specifically.
Khan has all the staples of his previous incarnation; genetically enhanced strength and intelligence, which certainly gives him an upper edge, and all of the characters must work together to overcome him.
What surprised me most about this movie was how much it was like the older Star Trek movies, stylistically. You still have all the new fancy special effects, epic setpieces, and shiny technology, but the pacing of the movie was much slower than the 2009 Star Trek, with a heavier emphasis on thematic elements. Elements such as the purpose of Starfleet, what it means to be a Captain, when to follow the rules and when to throw them out the window, and when a sacrifice is needed. What my hope is, is that this movie will bridge the gap between those long-time fans of Star Trek, and those who discovered it through JJ Abram’s modern take. If you liked Star Trek and enjoy Star Trek Into Darkness, but previously shunned Star Trek movies and TV shows for being too nerdy, you may be surprised to discover that this new Star Trek captures what Star Trek is supposed to be about.
But why I really enjoy these new movies as much as the old are the characters. Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Chekov, Sulu, Scotty, McCoy. These characters make the original Star Trek what it is, and they are portrayed excellently in the new movies. That they are done so well makes these movies count as Star Trek movies, even if 2009’s film was a little outside the Star Trek box. Do all the universal details really matter? Considering the “canon” changes frequently, especially in the original series, as writers developed the series, the stories and scenarios they face are less important than the people facing them, and JJ Abrams nails it in his first rendition and again with Into Darkness. Scotty is hilarious, Spock is ever so logical but still part human, McCoy is grumpy but gets the job done. I would have liked to see more of the other characters – much of the film centers around the actions of Spock, Kirk, and Uhura, with major sections of Scotty off on his own accomplishing things. Sulu and Chekov are present and have a few key moments, but aren’t quite as immersed. McCoy makes enough screentime, but it’s hard to get enough of him.
The movie also has a TON of fan service. From the exact replica of the death scene from Wrath of Khan but with Spock and Kirk roles reversed (including the cheesiest part of the movie, Spock screaming “Khaaaaaan!”) to the extremely subtle nods to elements of older movies and even episodes (Let me know if anyone else caught the reference to Harry Mudd), and finally a real look at some Klingons (and possible forshadowing that the next movie will feature Klingons prominently, possibly in the form of a war with the federation), there’s enough here to really tickle a fan’s fancy (as long as they’re willing to accept the alternate timeline). Even old Spock gets a few seconds of cameo.
Aside from the lack of “Khan” being a surprise, the only other disappointment was in the design of the Klingon ships. I prefer the classic design which is more unique, while the new Birds of Prey – if that’s what they were – looked much more generic, although vaguely remensicent of the original.
The other thing which is less of a disappointment and more of a flaw is that the pacing is a bit too slow in a few spots. Overal the movie is much slower than the first new movie, which is fine – like I said, it’s much more like the older Star Trek movies – but in a few scenes the pacing really slows to a crawl. Not for long, and not enough to ruin the movie. Just expect less action and more talking onscreen.
All in all, I’m just happy to see Star Trek get some love. I really enjoy seeing these characters together, and I’m looking forward to the future of these movies.
So, did you see Star Trek Into Darkness? What did you think?