Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Into Darkness

It's been all dungeons and superheroes around here lately so here's a tangent...


I didn't really say much about the movie when it was out but I did go and see it. Now the disc is out and after watching it again I felt like I ought to say something: I know as an old-school Trek fan I'm supposed to hate this new stuff but I can't help it - I like it.


Three Classic Elements:

  1. The Prime Directive is a subject of debate for the beginning of the movie and here we see Kirk suffer more consequences for violating than we ever did in the original series or the movies and that's a good thing. It's one of the defining traits of the Federation and it should be something that comes up a lot. Plus, although the Federation is usually portrayed as the good guys, the prime directive is a decidedly "neutral" take on things (to use D&D terms) and so how does a "good" character deal with it? Not easily in every case, and here for the cold open we get to see both the act and the consequences that follow. Also: The conflict between being scientists and explorers vs. being the military, which also shows up again in this movie.
  2. Science does get bent rather heavily in this one - beaming from Earth straight to the Klingon home planet? The neutral zone apparently covers one system? Ships shooting while at warp - that always been a little unclear but it's a plot point here and still a little unclear. That said, let's not act like the original was a paragon of scientific accuracy - Genesis, a huge plot device from the very movie this one most resembles, the best of the original cast movies in most fans opinion, is as unscientific as anything you will find in this movie. Time travel? Spock coming back to life? Speeds, distances, and a lot of other baseline elements are pretty fluid, bending as needed to fit the plot. If it didn't matter then, let's not crucify the newer movies for it now.
  3. The original triad of characters and their respective perspectives are all over these movies. Sure, Kirk is cockier and more rash - remember in this movie he grows up with no father *and* we are seeing him at an earlier point in his career than we ever did in the original show. Spock seems to be a little more open about things including having a girlfriend but then again his planet did blow up in movie 1 so I think there's room for some character differences. McCoy is the closest to his original characterization and his character has the least amount of change from the "historical version" which makes all the sense in the world.


Three New Things I Liked:
  1. All the new shininess - how long has it been since Trek looked cutting edge, both in design as a movie and in general techie gadgetness? I'll leave it at "a long time" and these movies put it back to looking like the future.
  2. Respect for, but not chains to, what has gone before - bringing in Leonard Nimoy and specifically stating the timelines had split is a perfect (and very Star Trek) way of respecting the past, connecting to it, and updating it without invalidating it (as if that really mattered)  and was done just about as perfectly as it could have been IMO. Even this somewhat less well-received movie remixes the past, updates it in some ways, then handles it in a very Star Trek way and moves on.
  3. Actors - I like all the primary actors and think they're doing a fine job so far. One example from STID: when Kirk realizes the dreadnought is about to blow his ship to smithereens all the cockiness drops away and he looks at the crew and just says "I'm sorry" and it seems to fit perfectly. I also think the supporting cast has been very strong. I really like Bruce Greenwood as the mentor/substitute father figure and I was sorry to see his character die in this one as it means he is unlikely to be in the next. I also liked Peter Weller as Admiral Marcus in this one too, turning on the Texan "son" as he talks to Kirk after blowing the Enterprise out of warp. There are a lot of good performances here.

Three Things That Could Be Better:
  1. On the ship, Engineering is a little too industrial compared to the rest of the bright shiny white interior. I know they film those parts in water plants and factories and stuff but it makes for some jarring transitions. Dress them up a little more.
  2. Planets: We get lots of Earth, particularly San Francisco. We get lots of Enterprise and other ships. We don't get a whole lot of other planets - a little Vulcan, a little ice planet, a little Klingon homeworld - how about some more planetside stuff.
  3. Aliens: How about some more non-humanoid aliens? A Horta could be played for a lot of laughs as a member of the ships crew. yeah, yeah, I know - but it is an alternate timeline. 
  4. (Bonus Thing): I really wanted the "dreadnought" to have three nacelles. Yes, it's the old rivet-counter in me coming out but that would have been a tremendous cherry on top of the sundae. Ah well...
Oh it's gratuitous here too but what the heck
Anyway there's my "defense" of New Trek. I suppose I can file this right next to my being ok with 4th Edition D&D on the Internet Pariah shelf. 

Bonus revelation: I wasn't all that thrilled with The Hobbit movie, but that's another post for another time.

Next: Barking Alien no doubt tells me why I'm wrong here and then back to some game stuff

3 comments:

David Larkins said...

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on The Hobbit.

Mainly commenting so I can see what Barking Alien has to say about your heresy. ;)

Barking Alien said...

My reputation precedes me.;)

I don't know what to say other than...this movie is dumb. It is the Star Trek label on a dumb product. Why? Because we want dumb products now.

Dumb is easier. You don't have to think about it too much. "It's a great popcorn flick", "I just zoned out and enjoyed the ride". Anything more complex or involved requires too much of our brainpower, too much investment.

This is the era we live in and these are the films they make to entertain us in this time.

My problem is not that I'm old and don't like the new. I love the new. I a big fan of new games, new books, new food and even new comics (except the New52, which is dumb). But new movies are largely dumb.

I could pick 'Into Darkness' apart and at no point reference the Wrath of Khan or Star Trek lore at all, just like I did with the first film. They don't bother me on a Trek level. They bother me because they are stories filled with unintelligent characters doing unintelligent things in an unintelligent universe.

If you liked it I am not saying you are dumb. Some people, many people, enjoy a bit of mindless entertainment. I don't.

Monkapotomus said...

My take? It is a fluffy summer sci-fi action film that just happens to contain Star Trek characters in it.