Tag Archives: Star Trek into Darkness

Movie Baggage

Pacific Rim came out last week, and I loved it for most of the reasons I already predicted. Visually, it’s fantastic. It hits all the bright colors and foreign feel of Blade Runner while containing the grittiest elements of military fiction. And that’s kind of what the movie is, a marriage between Starship Troopers-esque action and Voltron with a massive budget and an adult demographic. It’s all the best parts the Power Rangers, Godzilla and, for reasons I’m not entirely sure, Street Fighter 2.

What the movie isn’t, though, is an origin story. And thank god for that. The audience gets caught up with the current events of the film through a 10 minute introduction with protagonist narration. It’s simple, elegant and somehow not reminiscent of the 90 second info dump at the beginning of Green Lantern.

Not unlike a cross between an anime, a video arcade and a Hong Kong casino.

Not unlike a cross between an anime, a video arcade and a Hong Kong casino.

I can’t say what every film should do because there is no such formula for success, but I can say what I liked about this movie: simplicity. There’s no question about how to use power or how to deal with the morally grey questions of supeheroics. The protagonists aren’t grappling with the hardships of great power and great responsibility or restraint.

There’s simply a hole in the ocean where monsters keep coming out and you need to punch them in the face with a robot while wearing Mass Effect style armor. Kick it in the d*** and don’t get killed.

And I couldn’t help but reflect on other summer movies that were a little too bulky. Man of Steel‘s origin story, coupled with the obligatory struggle with power and shoe-horned romance, had enough girth to bog down the entire story to a degree that made us questions whether it was still Superman.

For anyone that saw the film, did romance between Lois and Clark seem uncomfortably forced? With all the time we spent rehashing Superman’s past and dealing with the Kryptonian invasion, by the time they were kissing at the end, all I could think was, “Uh, Lois! You barely know that dude!”

Also, that Superman couldn’t stop the destruction of Metropolis, the death of thousands of people and snapped a guy’s neck: SUPERMAN IS SUPPOSED TO SAVE ALL OF THEM!

Am I saying that Superman’s origin shouldn’t have been part of the movie?

No.

Maybe.

I’m saying that everyone knows his origin story because Superman is the most recognized fictional character on Earth. Would it have been bad to do a clip montage like Pacific Rim or a brief intro like the 2009 Star Trek? Actually, that’s a great idea. In 8 minutes Abrams created a tangent history for Kirk and the entire Star Trek universe. Granted, the rest of the film was still a kind of origin story for the crew, but it was dynamic and interesting.

Speaking of Abrams, Star Trek: Into Darkness has a lot of the same baggage. I really wanted to like the film, and I’m quite fond of the first J.J. Abrams reboot, but there were some things that I couldn’t get past.

1. Kirk getting demoted for being a screw-up and then being immediately promoted to save The Federation and avert war.

2. Having a battle with a secret ship in orbit of Earth. Where is the rest of the Federation? They just had a terrorist attack like 2 days ago.

3. Earth’s complete lack of monitoring devices or defenses, allowing for a terrorist to crash a ship into Star Fleet HQ. If the destruction of Vulcan was the 9/11 (or Pearl Harbor) of Star Trek, how is it Earth is completely undefended?

4. Kirk kicking the ship’s engine to get it working again. This wasn’t so much an oversight as an accidentally perfect metaphor for the transformation of Star Trek characters from their original incarnation as diplomats and scientists to people who get things done by hanging off ledges and punching people.

All of these things are symptoms of movie baggage. These films are trying to complicate characters that, traditionally, are considered beyond reproach. And maybe this is the heart of the problem. I’m tired of flawed characters burdened by their responsibilities. I’m over shades of grey and coping with how awful having super powers must be.

Where is the joy? Where is the sense of whimsy? Where is the simplicity of having the ability to help people and wanting to do it? That’s what Pacific Rim had and, I argue, what Man of Steel and Star Trek: Into Darkness were missing. Again, I’m not saying that this is the way all films should be because you know I would be on here complaining about how static and boring protagonists are. But I do believe these two franchises deserved characters with a sense of wonder and joy.

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Live Long and Nitpick (Infinite Star Trek Spoilers)

Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Kahn was released 31 years ago this week. Courtesy of social media and our overly connected society, it feels like Star Trek: Into Darkness has been out about that long. So, if you haven’t seen the latter yet this is your only spoiler warning. Walk away, and check out this spoiler free version. By the way Norman Bates is his own mother and Bruce Willis was dead the whole time.

The rest of you already know Sherlock is the rebooted Kahn and Robocop is a rogue Starfleet admiral. What exactly is the vetting process for becoming an admiral in Starfleet? Like 1/3 of them wind up baddies. It is rarely even a surprise anymore. I start sizing them up as soon as they are introduced, like the first person Columbo interviews.

I digress. Several things have been nagging at me since viewing Into Darkness:

Did the event that rebooted the universe have retroactive effects? spock

In 2009’s Star Trek a Romulan Ship from the 24th century (TNG era) destroys the USS Kelvin in the year 2233 and  creates a divergent point from the Trek universe we know to a new continuity. This device is what allowed J.J. Abrams to reboot Star Trek continuity. When Kahn is introduced in the 1967 episode Space Seed  Kirk, Scotty and Bones all admit to having a certain admiration for the 1990s-era tyrant, at least through the filter of history.

In Star Trek Into Darkness no one has ever heard of the guy. Spock  has to call up Spock Prime to ask who he is. It’s too bad that Cumberbatch’s line “I am Khan” is pretty much rendered uneventful by the lack of knowledge . I guess the destruction of the Kelvin demolished all the history PADDs as well? Perhaps they all learned of him during their time at the academy which was cut short by the events of the previous film.

Where is the civilian authority of the Federation?

Admiral Marcus is convinced that war with the Klingons is inevitable. He commissions a Starfleet warship which he names the Vengeance, then manufactures the need to use it. Where are the checks and balances of the Federation/Starfleet relationship? In an early scene we see series of model ships on Marcus’ desk the last of which is the largest, and it’s black so you know it is bad. Where did he get the commission? “Uh… Yes enlightened outer space United Nations, I would like to build a ship called The Vengeance” (named after the fallen “Captain Vengeance,” I’m sure; definitely not after the dish best served cold.”

 

The Klingons wear helmets and Starfleet officers wear caps:  dress uniform

The Starfleet uniform has changed with such frequency during each series that it has been difficult to keep up. The drab and unadorned officer’s dress uniform is in stark contrast to the exaggerated stars and odd chest piece centered uniforms worn by the admirals. Seeing our heroes with salutes affixed to the bill of a uniform cap like an intergalactic air force was ridiculous.

On the other hand or head I guess,  the introduction of Klingons in this era was made all the more interesting by their protective head wear. In a society where social interaction is based on hand to hand combat, how have we never seen a Klingon in a helmet? This timeline also allows the writers to avoid the Klingon head ridge discussion altogether by showing them intact, as it were, from their first appearance.

helmet

I am sick of Spock Prime:                                                                                                                                                   

It is no secret that Abrams has a certain adoration for Leonard Nimoy; however, if they keep finding ways to make him relevant in this continuity, then I’m not sure what the point is. I would be just as happy watching the further adventures of Mister Spock staring the aging Leonard Nimoy. His inclusion here seems forced as his only purpose is to impart knowledge that the crew should have already had (see point 1).

 

These are just a few thoughts I’ve had since watching Star Trek: Into Darkness. Some of these may seem a bit petty, but not to worry JJ, most Star Trek fans aren’t the type to be obsessive. ;-{)}

 

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What 2013 Has to Offer on the Big Screen

I thought I’d take a moment this week to briefly look at what’s hitting the box office this year and give a quick prediction on the outcome of each.

  1. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters – January 25th. Premise: Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) play the fairy tale brother and sister who are all grown up and have become professional witch hunters. Prediction: Van Helsing meets Brothers Grimm, which means a lot of action with an intriguing story but hopefully with more Grimm and less Helsing.
  2. John Dies at the End – January 25th. Premise: You take a drug, it sends you through time and space, you might come back normal, or you might come back as something else. Something otherworldly. Now the world is in danger of a sinister invasion and it’s up to two college dropouts to save it. Prediction: Dude, Where’s My Car? meets Buckaroo Banzai but with Paul Giamatti for added effect. Definitely worth a viewing, high or not.
  3. A Good Day to Die Hard – February 15th. Premise: John McClane (Bruce Willis) and his son travel to Russia to fight Russians and stop a nuclear weapons heist. Prediction: I think it might be getting to the point where it might be a good idea for John to die. Hard.
  4. Warm Bodies – February 1st. Premise: A zombie becomes human again through the power of love, other zombies follow suit. Possible hilarity, horror, and action ensues. Prediction: I think someone might be trying to “Twilight-ize” zombies. Let’s hope not.
  5. Oz: The Great and Powerful – March 8th. Premise: A prequel to The Wizard of Oz telling the story of how Oz (James Franco) becomes the Wizard. And it’s directed by Sam Raimi. Win win. Predictions: I think this film will be fantastic and be the magical wonder that Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland failed to be.
  6. G.I. Joe: Retaliation – March 29th. Premise: All but a few Joes are killed off by Cobra. Now it’s up to the remaining Joes (The Rock, Channing Tatum, some other people), including the original Joe (Bruce Willis) to, for lack of a better word, retaliate. Prediction: Hopefully this film will offer some retribution for the let down that was G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra.
  7. Evil Dead – April 12th. Premise: A remake of the original with a female lead (Jane Levy) in place of Bruce Campbell’s Ash. It’s also promising less humor and schtick and more blood and gore. Sounds promising. Predictions: Hardcore fans will be difficult to convince, but from what I’ve seen so far of this flick, they’ll be won over. It looks wicked.
  8. Iron Man 3 – May 3rd. Premise: Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) returns to take on his greatest foe yet, The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). From the looks of things, this might be the Dark Knight Rises of the Iron Man series. Ya know, a very powerful foe shows up, strips him of everything, and then Tony must find the hero in himself to defeat his enemy. This also begins Marvel’s Phase II. Prediction: Probably won’t be the best of the three films but I’m sure it’ll outdo Iron Man 2. And make Marvel a lot of money.
  9. Star Trek Into Darkness – May 17th. Premise: Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), and the rest of the Enterprise crew return to take on a most deadly foe, possibly Kahn, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Prediction: This film will be epic, just like the first, and seeing Benedict as a bad guy is going to be sweet. This is a can’t miss flick.
  10. Now You See Me – June 7th. Premise: A film about bank-robbing illusionists, directed by Louis Leterrier and scored by The Chemical Brothers. Enough said. Prediction: I have a feeling this is going to be one of those twist-and-turns, mind-f*ck types of film. But with bank-robbing illusionists.
  11. Much Ado About Nothing – June 7th. Premise: Joss Whedon adapted this classic Shakespearean tale while making The Avengers. He cast it with people from Firefly, Buffy, Angel, and The Avengers. He made it because of his insecurities with taking on a huge project like The Avengers. It’s Joss Whedon’s take on Shakespeare….do I really need to say anything else? Prediction: I love Joss Whedon. I love Shakespeare. Without even seeing it, I love this film.
  12. Man of Steel – June 14th. Premise: Zack Snyder directs, Christopher Nolan produces, and a bunch of great actors star in what is sure to be the best Superman film ever. And a film that will hopefully restart the series and lead into a Justice League film. Prediction: The more I see of this, the more I believe that this film will be one of the greatest comic book films of all time. But I’ve been wrong before.
  13. World War Z – June 21st. Premise: Brad Pitt stars in this adaptation of Max Brooks’ bestselling novel about a U.N. employee trying to stop a worldwide zombie outbreak. Prediction: I’m pretty much done with the whole zombie genre, and I haven’t read the book, so I’ll probably wait until this comes out on Blu-ray.
  14. Pacific Rim – July 12th. Premise: Guillermo del Toro writes and directs this film about giant robots fighting to save the world from giant alien monsters. Prediction: I was sold at Guillermo del Toro. The rest is just icing on the cake.
  15. wolverine_jackman_660The Wolverine – July 26th. Premise: Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) travels to Japan to train with samurais and take on a powerful new foe, The Silver Samurai. Prediction: This has to be better than Wolverine Origins. If not, I give up on Hugh Jackman. And Wolverine.
  16. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters – August 16th. Premise: Part 2 of the series finds Percy (Logan Lerman) and his friends searching for the mythical Golden Fleece. Prediction: I enjoyed the first film, so I may go see this one. I’m hoping this film will fill some of the void that Harry Potter left, but I doubt it.
  17. Riddick – September 6th. Premise: Vin Diesel returns to his most badass character to take on new alien predators, new mercs, and an old foe. Prediction: I will watch this film because I love the others. I will hope this film is the last in the series because I don’t want this series to be run into the ground like Diesel’s other popular series, Fast and Furious.
  18. Cloudy 2: Revenge of the Leftovers – September 27th. Premise: Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) discovers that the machine he’s created is still creating food-animal hybrids and wreaking havoc. Now it’s up to him to stop it once and for all. Prediction: If you don’t like the first film, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, you have no soul. No but seriously, the first film was hilarious and great for the whole family. This one will be too. I can’t wait.
  19. Oldboy – October 11th. Premise: Spike Lee’s remake of the ultraviolent Korean cult classic about a man (Josh Brolin) who has five days to figure out why he was imprisoned for 15 years without explanation. Prediction: Of all the films on the list, this is one I’m looking forward to the most. I love the original, and I cannot wait for this remake.
  20. The World’s End – October 25th. Premise: Edgar Wright directs a film about five friends who reunite in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from 20 years earlier unwittingly become humankind’s only hope for survival. Prediction: This is the final film in Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s “blood and ice cream” trilogy, so I hope it’ll be pretty damn good. I have a feeling it will be.
  21. Ender’s Game – November 1st. Premise: Based on the novel by Orson Scott Card, 70 years after a horrific alien war, an unusually gifted child is sent to an advanced military school in space to prepare for a future invasion. Prediction: Die-hard scifi fans will go ape over this film and then probably rip it apart. That’s how it works. I want to read the book before I watch it.
  22. Thor: The Dark World – November 8th. Premise: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) battles an ancient race of Dark Elves led by the vengeful Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) who threatens to plunge the universe back into darkness. Prediction: Part two of Marvel’s Phase II looks to be another epic win with the addition of Doctor Who number nine as a baddie. Get ready to nerd out, kids.
  23. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – December 13th. Premise: The journey continues for the Dwarves, Bilbo (Martin Freeman), and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) as they seek to retrieve their gold from the dragon, Smaug (voice by Benedict Cumberbatch). Prediction: Do I really need to predict anything for this? People will flock and empty their wallets for this film. We all know what’s going to happen.
  24. Anchorman: The Legend Continues – December 20th. Premise: The Channel 4 News Team returns for more crazy on-set adventures. Predictions: Probably won’t be a hilarious as the first but I’m sure it will be freakin’ hilarious! And filled with many great one-liners that will be quoted for years to come.

I know I’ve missed a few films here and there, but I don’t really care. I think the list is long enough as it is now. It doesn’t need any more.

What films are you looking forward to this year?

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Star Trek Into Darkness Poster Revealed

Star Trek’s Facebook page put up a poster for Star Trek Into Darkness! 

The poster seems reminiscent of the recent Batman movie posters and features Benedict Cumberbatch (who has the most British-sounding name ever).

Who Cumberbatch is playing in the film has yet to be revealed; however, speculation has generally centered around Khan (I hope not), and Gary Mitchell (better), but I’m holding out for an original creation.

Or Trelane!

 

Take a look at the poster!

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