OR a review of the new Star Trek film in which there are MANY SPOILERS and lots of other Star Trek thoughts…
I’m guilty. I got too excited.
You see, I have always been a ‘Trekkie’ (see note 1). I grew up watching Kirk and Spock on VHS, I remember watching, initially disliking and learning to love The Next Generation. I still hold Deep Space Nine in high regard (see note 2). When I was made cinema manager, I was very, very tempted to walk around slowly while listening to Jerry Goldsmith’s ‘The Enterprise’.
The point I’m making is that I know Star Trek. I adore Star Trek. I love it when it’s great (often), and I love it when it’s bad (Spock’s Brain, raise your hand… hehe). Over the last few weeks I have allowed my love of all things Trek to grow into a little ball of intense energy, and then last week I allowed it to escape. We had a screening of THE WRATH OF KHAN (see note 3), I got very enthusiastic with the social media posts, and I had a feature about Star Trek: Phase II published in Starburst Magazine, which I used to read about Star Trek in as a child. I even arranged for (cheap & fake) Starfleet uniforms for the staff, and made them listen to Shatner’s albums. Whew!
And then I sat down to watch this…
Let us begin, much like the film does, with the music. Michel Giacchino’s score for 2009’s STAR TREK is excellent, with enough nods to the past that it merge’s with the works of those great composers gone before, and also manages to sound fresh and exciting. There are a number of new themes thrown in this time, including some piano work, and I think it is fantastic. So, the film opens with the heroic, but slightly wistful notes of this great score before we are quickly into action. Running. Natives. Red trees. Some exciting nonsense and then… the Enterprise rising from the ocean. There is not a single moment in the remainder of the film which even approaches the greatness of this.
And then we get in to the nitty gritty. Terrorism against Starfleet by Cumberbatch’s mysterious enemy pushes the local officers into a frenzy of anger and vengeance. Kirk, being Kirk, figures out a little more than anyone else, so he and the Enterprise are sent on an assassination mission by Admiral Marcus. They must use some new, fancy and ultra secret photon torpedoes to take-out the terrorist, who just happens to be hiding on the Klingon homeworld of Kronos (see note 4).
There is some good old fashioned Star Trek moral angst, and Kirk decides to capture this terrorist instead of killing him in cold blood. Action follows. It’s exciting. I really appreciate the larger role that Uhura plays in this new film series. I think that it’s in keeping with what Gene Roddenberry would have liked.
Upon capturing him, it turns out that, much like the rumours suggested, Cumberbatch is indeed playing Khan, and he claims that he is being manipulated by Admiral Marcus, who wants to militarise Starfleet. Oh lordy. Khan. This changes the film somewhat. I really wish they hadn’t done that.
So, let’s swing around the sun and go back in time a week to the screening of WRATH OF KHAN I attended. Or maybe a few decades, to its first release. This film, you see, is iconic. Khan and his feud with Kirk is iconic. I know the film very, very well. And suddenly this new Star Trek is being directly compared to old Star Trek in my mind, and I’m sorry, but new Trek just isn’t going to win.
So, some more action happens to get our heroes onto Admiral Marcus’ big battleship (see note 5). The film then dispenses with the Admiral, and places Khan in his throne as the main villain. The brief period of ‘who can I trust’ is certainly interesting, but ultimately the answer is ‘no one’, so… back to the action. What I found myself wanting here was for Khan and Kirk to become allies, even friends. It would have been an interesting flip of the relationship coin, and a huge ‘what if’ which could change everything in future installments of Star Trek. After all, what’s the point of simply remaking the same damn thing?
What then follows is essentially a replaying of WRATH OF KHAN, but with the pieces moved around. Same dialogue. Same shots. Same everything, except much, much less emotion. In WRATH OF KHAN, the Kirk/Spock dynamic had years of building, and we had been a part of it. With INTO DARKNESS, we’re simply told that they’re friends, and it’s just not the same. It was too early to tell this tale with these actors – the bromance has yet to flourish.
I won’t lie, I did enjoy seeing the classic film mirrored, in quite a ‘geek’ way. But I also found it very distracting. What is interesting is the reaction of people who haven’t seen WRATH OF KHAN – it seems almost universally positive. Perhaps in this instance, pandering to the fans may have worked against the film?
The action scenes are all exciting, fast-paced and perfect ‘popcorn’ fun. I find that there isn’t a strong sense of location to any of it… and I also felt that any real threat or suspense had already gone by the second half of the film. You see, Khan’s blood apparently has some amazing ‘cure all’ possibilities, so we know that anyone who has to make a sacrifice will be magically brought back.
Gosh, this sounds like a very negative review. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the film. I recommend going to see it, and I will be going to see it again.
The actors are all great, with Quinto and Cumberbatch really standing out. Sulu and Chekov get some great moments. Simon Pegg is fantastic as Scotty. I feel like McCoy needs some more time on screen. I like the new take on the Klingons. They feel dangerous, unpredictable and suitably alien. The effects are great throughout, and the action is exciting. Overall a very entertaining film.
If anything, I allowed my love of Star Trek to lead me astray. When I see it again, I will endeavour to leave all of my history at the door.
1) a term I prefer over ‘Trekker’. Although frankly I don’t much care. The realm of fandom deserves a post – possibly even a book – all to itself.
2) especially Jadzia Dax. Oh lord.
3) which my girlfriend slept through.
4) or Qo’noS, if you’re that way inclined.
5) Is it just me, or does it look like it’s been made from lego pieces?