Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Star Trek Into Darkness - what I liked

STAR TREK - the 2009 movie that rebooted the Star Trek universe, from J.J. Abrams & co. – was one of my favorite movies of the past few years.  I saw it in the theater and had chills as soon as I heard that first ping, before anything other than a star field was onscreen.  Loved it.  The story took parallel timelines and made it work.  The audience was given slightly altered, but still recognizable, characters.  And the goodwill that came from this reinvention afforded these creators the opportunity to go off in whatever direction they wanted. 

But, as with the “New 52” relaunch from DC comics, it appears Abrams, et al. merely want to rehash what has come before, rather than attempt something bold or inventive, as evidenced by Star Trek Into Darkness

I wanted to love this movie.  I think Benedict Cumberbatch is a great actor.  I love science fiction (and am a fan of the original Trek) and have been left wanting more with much of the recent sci-fi filmic fare (see:  Prometheus).  Even with the backlash online, I was ready to be a contrarian (by way of example:  despite its flaws, and there are many, I love Return of the Jedi). 

But no … didn’t happen. 

[tangent:  Sure, this piece will look like click-bait.  Fair enough.  But, for me, someone who writes and is always trying to learn and improve and make my own stories better, this is an exercise in trying to parse out what it is about this movie that did not work for me.  And, by putting it out here on the internet, it is possible someone with a different point of view will read it and offer some counterpoints that might allow me to re-evaluate Into Darkness.  Maybe that’s an overreach on my part, but it would nice if that happened.]

First:  what did I enjoy about this movie? 

A lot, actually.  The scenery and effects were wonderful.  The starships felt very much a part of this futuristic world.  They had weight and dimensionality and belonged in this milieu.  In short, they felt real.  And the settings also, with the possible exception of the area on Kronos where Khan is hiding, felt fleshed out in a way that allowed you to immerse yourself in this world and this story.  Similarly, the costuming of the crowd scenes on Earth was very well done.  The fashions were different enough to feel futuristic, while also being recognizable enough that, again, you weren’t taken out of the film because of the oddity of the clothing.  It’s a fine line that is navigated smartly by the costuming crew. 

Many of the scenes – the opening one with Spock in danger, the scene on the shuttle as Spock and Uhura argue (which almost fell into slapstick, but, to my mind, clung to that precipice without tumbling down), and others – were well conceived.  Despite what I knew was coming, I loved the scene as Kirk and Scottie ran through a listing Enterprise to get to the warp core.  Running along the walls, jumping across side corridors, working to stay upright – I thought that was well shot and an exciting and novel scene.  I also appreciated it when Kirk made the decision, as they are setting off for Kronos, to apprehend Khan rather than kill him, as Admiral Marcus had ordered.  It was a nice character moment that did not waste the argument between Kirk and Spock from moments before. 

There were some great scenes – scenes that looked wonderful and worked well narratively – in this movie.  But with too many that fell flat, within the parameters of the “rules” of this particular narrative, the whole of the film failed to cohere in a way that worked, to my mind. 

Next time:  what didn’t work, and why.


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