One of these dudes is an Asian Sikh with Mongol ancestry. Can you guess which one?And let me say that it doesn't mean you didn't enjoy watching the film. Typically that's not the case at all. Typically the film is more than good enough to keep you entertained. Absolutely. But, upon reflection, the cracks begin to show, quickly, often and the internal logic of the film just falls apart.
I did enjoy it (Star Trek Into Darkness). It was genuinely fun, it had some great lines, it sports the highest possible production values, the performances were all solid, the action was interesting, and it really hustled along with breakneck speed. But lately, I'm discovering that this new breakneck pace that modern films demand is not just a sign of exciting film making. It's also a symptom of something else: a defensive, obfuscating distraction. It's absolutely required to keep you from figuring out what is seriously wrong with the film WHILE you are watching it, allowing you to leave on a high, all jacked up like you just stepped off an awesome roller coaster and feeling compelled to tell everyone you had a great time. But that wears off. And then it hits you: THAT DIDN'T ACTUALLY MAKE ANY SENSE AT ALL.
Star Trek Into Darkness was SUPPOSED to make over a hundred million in it's opening weekend. But it didn't. It was supposed to build on the success of the original. But it hasn't. Is it a failure? No. Not really. It's making good money, but it is considered weak by Hollywood blockbuster standards and I believe that it's due entirely to two seriously mishandled elements:
- Mishandled promotion re: the villain. The secrecy surrounding Benedict Cumberbatch's character and how the powers behind STID handled the "big reveal." After the fanboys figured out who the character was very early on, instead of admitting to the fact and changing tactics by embracing the interest of fans and just promoting the hell out of what should have been a slam dunk, they decided to simply DENY IT, telling said fan base "No. That's not it. You're just going to have to see the film to find out". Ultimately they outright lied to try to hide a weak element that doesn't actually help the film at all.
- The script and its many "sandwich moments" created by the writing style of one Damon Lindelof.
So, in the words of Benedict Cumberbatch's character "John Harrison", "Shall we begin?"
SPOILER AND LANGUAGE ALERT!
I"M GOING TO GIVE THE WHOLE MOVIE AWAY NOW!
AND I"M GOING TO USE FOUL LANGUAGE TO DO IT!
TURN BACK NOW IF YOU DON"T WANT TO KNOW,
OR IF YOU WANT TO REMAIN CHASTE!
The movie is filled with dumb shit. I mean a ton of it. But as mentioned, it hustles along so fast, and it's so fun, you really don't have time to let the dumbness sink in and see it for what it is. It's a very effective use of classic "shock and awe" type tactics. But there's really no denying it's fucking dumb.
The film opens on a planet inhabited by a tribal civilization. Cool looking natives with cracked white skin (body paint?), and black eyes that have inhuman eyelids and wear loincloth-y type clothing and such live in the shadow of an angry volcano. As per everything in the film, they look cool, the volcano beginning to erupt in the background looks cool, the blood red vegetation/forest-type stuff looks cool. It's all JJ Abrams cool. Until...
From overhead we see Kirk (in disguise - heavily covered up in a wrapped hood and long cloak) hauling ass away from some kind of temple. OK. Now we're clearly in a Star Trek movie (although Bill Shatner never moved that fast -ever, so this must be THE NEW, JJ-STYLE WARP SPEED STAR TREK WITH FASTER-THAN-LOGIC ENGINES). He's being chased by the natives. Why? Because he stole something from their little temple - a scroll of some kind. Why? Unclear. I assume it's because he was trying to lure the natives away from the temple area and specifically the dangerous erupting volcano. Why? No idea, but in short order we discover that the crew of the Enterprise is there attempting to save the planet by diffusing the volcano with a "cold fusion" bomb. Got that? Oh, and also, The Enterprise is just off shore, hiding on the floor of the ocean. Because Lindelof.
Here's the plan: Spock is going to be lowered into the volcano on a rope (makes sense!) out of a shuttle. He's going to set up a suitcase "cold fusion" bomb that will neutralize the erupting volcano, and then everybody is going to escape in the nick of time WITHOUT VIOLATING STARFLEET'S PRIME DIRECTIVE WHICH IS TO NEVER INTERFERE WITH A PLANET'S INDIGENOUS LIFE. EVER. "There can be no interference with the internal development of an alien civilization". This means never get involved, never alter the course of their natural development or evolution, never give them new technology, never make contact, never even let them see you!
OK. After a lot of loud and exciting shit and some great, but shallow dialogue, the plan works. Amazing right? BUT... not before Kirk lets the natives see the Enterprise rising out of the ocean while rescuing Spock from the volcano. It looks very cool rising out of the water and, naturally, the natives see it flying off towards the heavens, go batshit, declare it their new God and begin worshiping it. Sure. Who wouldn't?
Let's stop and have a look at that series of events:
Why is Kirk (and Bones) on the volcano planet at all? Why are they trying to lure the natives away from the volcano? Even if they ARE trying to get them to safety, it is explained at more than one point that IF the volcano erupted THE ENTIRE PLANET WOULD BE DESTROYED. Running a mile away would do exactly sweet fuck all.
And this is Kirk's idea of "blending in" with the white and yellow natives. ?
Despite their inexplicable and idiotic attempt to "stay hidden" from the locals by raiding a temple and stealing a religious artifact, they are clearly seen AND HEARD by the natives yelling in English. So... that's too dumb to defend. Super dumb, but required to keep the viewer entertained and distracted during the sequence.
What happens on a remote tribal planet stays on a remote, tribal planet.
Also: why the fuck is the Enterprise hiding underwater anyway? If anything about that craft is designed using real world science, who the hell would have thought that moving through water in a craft designed for the weightlessness of space would be "pretty much the same thing". That is fucking dumb. Really, really cool looking, but fucking dumb. Why would it not simply be in orbit as usual? Why not transport everyone back and forth? In the film, somebody says some bullshit about the planet's magnetic fields making that impossible or some such nonsense, but they actually do beam Spock out of the volcano at the last second anyway, so... Huh? And if they can transport Spock, then why the fuck were Kirk and Bones running around on the surface? Ultimately a thousand other options existed that would have made a hell of a lot more sense, but that's not how Lindelof rolls, yo. Action first, logic way in the back. This is now a franchise that has been outfitted with FASTER THAN LOGIC DRIVE.
Yeah. It does look cool. But... seriously?
Also, who decided that COLD FUSION has anything to do with freezing temperatures? It doesn't. Cold fusion is less hot than standard fusion, yes, but it certainly doesn't make shit cold. That's dumb AND ignorant. And I'm not going to even critique the concept that detonating a "cold bomb" inside an erupting volcano would instantly render it inert. OK, I just did.
Are we really supposed to believe that every Starfleet ship is equipped with a suitcase bomb that requires being activated in person, at the target site? Don't we have things that can fly to a target destination and blow it up, right now in 2013? Shouldn't a snazzy photon torpedo be able to do that from orbit? Magnetic field you say? Fuck off.
Did anybody else notice EVERYBODY that went down to the surface was in a wet suit,
not just Bones and Kirk, who were the only ones that actually went into the water?
And did anybody notice that Uhura had a completely different wetsuit in sexy red, with a cool Peter Pan collar?
If one of the Enterprise's shuttlecraft can't take the intense heat of the volcano's interior and starts breaking up just flying Spock into position, why does a shiny red space suit worn by Spock do the trick just fine? And even if we accept that an atmospheric re-entry-proof shuttle can't handle what a fucking suit can, why should I believe that the cartoonish suitcase bomb would work just fine under those same conditions? Did it have a 60's Batman-style label on it reading: ANTI-VOLCANO BRIEFCASE ICE BOMB? I mean Spock had to open it right up to activate it, exposing and then pushing what appeared to be normal, plastic-looking console buttons and stuff, so how could that be protected at all? It's only FEET away from the lava while the shuttle couldn't get anywhere near that close before blowing apart. It can't possibly be explained to be made out of heat-proof materials, could it? Seems like utter bullshit to me. It's goofy. It's dumb.
Next: If Spock was so against breaching the prime directive, and felt so determined to confront Kirk about it, giving him all kinds of shit for two scenes about it, WHY DID SPOCK BREACH THE PRIME DIRECTIVE HIMSELF? Are Vulcans hypocritical assholes now? Just before dropping into the volcano he nags Kirk with the line "There can be no interference with the internal development of an alien civilization" And then he, himself, DIRECTLY INTERFERES. IN THE NEXT SECOND. As Pike points out clearly in the following scene, even the act of stopping the volcano eruption -despite that it would save the planet- breaks the directive as well. The entire "operation" was a complete and utter comic book shit show, and Spock should shut his fucking mouth because his plan was every bit as dumb as Kirk's.
Spock in his Anti-Volcano suit
We also have to endure Zoe Saldana's neutered Uhura deliver the lame, modern, street-cred vernacular line of shit "You got this" to her boyfriend Spock before he gets dropped into the volcano. It's painful. At that point I prepared myself for a moment later in the film where, while arguing with Spock, she wags her finger and states "Oh, no you Di-INT!" Fortunately they cut that scene.
But it was a cool sequence. Right? Sure. Cool and dumb as shit. And that was just the second sequence folks. There's a ton more dumb shit in this film. Two more hours of it.
So this sequence ends with the Title sequence: the logo Star Trek Into Darkness and some dramatic music.
They travel through future London, England to a children's hospital where they visit their dying daughter. After staring at the sick girl for a bit, and watching Mom gingerly place a stuffed bunny beside their sick-looking girl (sniff), dad walks out onto the hospital's balcony and is met by Cabbagepatch Mumblecore (Benedict Cumberpatch) delivering the line" "I can save her." "Who are you?" asks the dad, and the camera turns to reveal Sherlock Holmes. It's Benedict Cumberbatch looking like a character from ANY OTHER MOVIE. I mean it's Benedict Cumberbatch looking cool all right, but he doesn't looks special beyond that. This doesn't feel like Star Trek AT ALL.
In the very next, very short scene, we see young, studly Kirk in bed getting some tail. Literally. Check this golden concept out: he's in bed, right? With TWO girls, because... well, because James T. Kirk, and both girls are ALIENS, right? And one of the girls HAS A TAIL. And because in the first film (Star Trek 2009) Kirk was in bed with ONE alien girl, obviously, this being Star Trek 2, he needs to be in bed with two. Pretty simple math. Nailed it.
It's important to point out that this scene is opened with THE BEASTIE BOYS track Body Rockin'. See, Kirk is a huge fan of all things old. Especially white rap. And I get the white part at least because this film is super duper white. For a fact, JJ Abrams has now made it tradition to place one BB track in every Star Trek movie. In Star Trek 2009, it was Sabotage. It's not cool. It's a contrived choice designed to make the film hip to the kids and keep the younger demographic happy. Except kids don't listen to The Beastie Boys. Beastie Boys fans, like the Beastie Boys themselves are middle-aged now. So this is pretty clearly just the director amusing himself. Frankly, I think it sucks. And I like the Beastie Boys. It puts a date on the film and it's a distraction. I hate it like I'd hate watching Spock crack open a Red Bull and talk about the logic of having more energy.
Also, this scene lasts exactly 15 seconds. For real. Which means everybody knew it was a waste of screen time, but also that everybody in charge felt it was really important to show Kirk getting laid. Cheap, lazy and dumb. Thanks for keeping it short, anyway.
Then Kirk rushes off to meet Spock. They've been summoned by Admiral Christopher Pike, to his office at Starfleet HQ. Kirk thinks it's because they're about to be awarded with a five year mission to explore deep space. Spock, being Spock, is not convinced. Turns out they get their asses chewed off for breaking the prime directive. Who saw that coming? Not me. Pike is the former captain of the Enterprise, a focal character of the 2009 film and a character played with more heart than this film deserves by Mr. Bruce Greenwood. He demotes Kirk and assigns both Kirk and Spock to different ships. It turns out Spock submitted a factual report of what happened and got Kirk into serious shit, stripping him of the rank of captain and reassigning him to another ship. Bummer. Spock and Kirk, still very early on in their relationship are clashing for dramatic effect. That's called dramatic tension, folks. Kirk and Spock bitch at one another. And Uhura and Spock bitch at one another. Of course Bones and Spock bitch at one another and... basically everybody and Spock bitch at one another. So... Kirk and Spock don't understand each other yet. Keep that in mind for later.
Kirk trying not to stare at Pike's muttonchops
Oh. Genuine points for the "I am Vulcan sir, we embrace technicality" exchange between Spock and Pike. That's a great one. For real. I enjoyed it. So... that's one for Lindelof, I guess.
Back to London, England where we watch the black Starfleet employee and father to the dying girl revisit the children's hospital. He has clearly cut a deal with Cumberbatch's mysterious character. He injects some magical fluid into his daughter, curing her almost instantly. That is amazing. And idiotic. Lindelof has now neutralized death in the new Trek movie universe. For real. Just wait, it gets way better. And dumber. Ultimately black Starfleet dad has to payback for his daughter's cure and bombs the shit out of a Starfleet facility, killing himself in the process. Hmmm. Let me think about that. OK. We need this series of events to happen, so it happens. And Lindelof FASTER THAN LOGIC logic dictates, Deus ex Machina (a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved, with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object.) is acceptable now, so... fine. We swallow all that without issue. Except that it's a really dumb, unnecessary and creates all kinds of huge issues later.
"And BOOM goes the dynamite."
And the way I see it, that Starfleet employee was an absolute asshole for not only killing a bunch of the employees that he used to work with, but for also leaving his wife a widow. Fuck that guy for his selfish cowardice. Why not cure his daughter and then immediately turn in creepy Cumberbatch?
That's just me, though. I like to think out of the box.
Cut to Jim Kirk getting shitfaced in a bar. He tries to hit on a girl (Human no less!), and Pike shows up to dispense wisdom. Pike's muttonchops rock this movie by the way. I may have preferred watching two hours of Bruce Greenwood in muttonchops. They're fucking awesome. Anyway, there's some witty dialogue referring back to the fight Kirk got into in the 2009 film and Pike eventually admits, he's been given back The Enterprise as its captain and that Kirk will be his first officer. It's not a bad scene. And... muttonchops.
"It takes years to grow these, son. Years."
Pike gets a message on his communicator/iPhone that there's an "emergency meeting at Daystrom". and they're off.
ASIDE: Has anyone else noticed that communicators have evolved into the same dimensions as today's smartphones making them much more natural AND less interesting looking at the same time? The magic is kinda gone. I guess that's what happens when today catches up with tomorrow.
Next, we see Kirk at the Starfleet HQ walking past heavily armed guards that tell us "shit has gone down". Kirk raises an eyebrow and, quickly heading towards this super-important emergency meeting, gets onto an elevator... with Spock. Don't think about how amazing the timing of this is considering that Kirk was just with Pike in the last scene, that they left together heading to the same place, and that he will be sitting right beside Pike in the very next scene. Right now we need an aside between Kirk and Spock, so... Lindelof.
Incredibly, Spock apologizes for following Starfleet protocol and getting Kirk into trouble. Kirk accepts the apology but also accuses him of stabbing him in the back. It's kind of fucked up. They both broke the rules, but Kirk trumped Spock by lying to Starfleet in an official report. So... ??? There's a funny moment at the end of the scene, but... Lindelof.
"Stay out of trouble."
So after the bombing, all the top brass of Starfleet assemble in one room and talk about what to do about it. Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) has assembled everyone and fills them all in. In one little room in San Fransisco. Sound like a good idea to you? Me either. I have to point out that it is made crystal clear to viewers that the people in the room not only represent the earth-bound upper ranks of Starfleet, but also the "senior command of all the vessels in the region". Got it? Good. Marcus pins the bombing on a man named John Harrisssszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Sorry. I fell asleep there. Is that not the LEAST INTERESTING NAME FOR A PERSON OF INTEREST - EVER? Jesus. Anyway, they pin the bombing on him. Marcus says that Harrison is "one of their own and has declared a one-man war on Starfleet".
Now here's the next tidal wave of dumb shit:
As Marcus spills on who this new threat is and gives us all the backstory on bad guy John Harrison, Kirk figures something out that nobody else can, and it's a beaut. I love the way that WITHIN THE FILM, one of the characters points out just how fucking dumb everyone in the room is: That if it's common knowledge that following a major security-threatening event like the bombing, that all top brass of Starfleet meet in this SPECIFIC ROOM in San Fransisco, wouldn't it be a great tactic for a terrorist to bomb something and then ATTACK THIS VERY ROOM RIGHT NOW, WITH EVERYBODY SITTING IN A TIGHT, LITTLE CIRCLE LIKE FISH IN A BARREL? Sure enough, somebody ATTACKS THAT ROOM RIGHT THEN, WITH EVERYBODY SITTING IN A TIGHT, LITTLE CIRCLE LIKE FISH IN A BARREL. Dumb on so many levels.
"Who wants to go in on some wings?"
So, as Kirk points out, this IS the perfect time and place to attack. But just before that, he's sitting at the big, round table with all the Starfleet heavyweights, looking at "security footage" of Harrison near the bombing site - CARRYING A DUFFLEBAG.
Somebody has to explain to me why Harrison was anywhere NEAR that bombing site, when black dad of dying girl did all the work. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO REASONABLE EXPLANATION TO SUPPORT THE IDEA THAT KIRK COULD FIND ANY EVIDENCE OF HARRISON HAVING BEEN AT THE SITE. It's utter bullshit. And the fancy video security footage FX that Kirk zooms through, in and around are nothing but eye-candy distraction. IT MAKES NO SENSE.
"Everybody get behind a lead character."
So Kirk asks "what's in the bag?" (that Harrison is carrying - note for later). He interrupts the pow wow to say this would be a perfect time for Harrison to attack and lo and behold, Harrison attacks, as I said, AT THAT EXACT SECOND. Does he blow the building up with a huge bomb like he did the other building in London? You know, because that's easy, effective and safe for him? Nope. Harrison, in a small gunship, dripping with weapons (akin to say, stealing an Apache Helicopter and flying it at the pentagon and shooting the shit out of it AFTER a major terrorist bombing which - you would think - would put Starfleet on high alert) effortlessly PARKS THE FLYING ATTACK CRAFT RIGHT OUTSIDE THE WINDOWS, and proceeds to blow the fuck out of the room and everything in it FOR SEVERAL MINUTES without being engaged by any Starfleet or otherwise earth-bound security forces at all. Pike is killed, several others are killed and although Kirk does super-cool Kirk stuff to stop the attack (WITH A FUCKING FIRE HOSE), Harrison gets away clean, with Kirk ultimately vowing revenge, and swearing he will bring Harrison down, no matter what.
"Two more Admirals and I'll beat my HIGH SCORE!"
Lets have a look at that combination of events for a moment:
So, all the starships in the area are brought into orbit for this meeting, and we decide that by far the most secure place to assemble the most important people in Starfleet is in an unarmed, unsecured, undefended office building that any surface craft can fly right up to without incident? During a high alert? Why not meet in a ship? In orbit? Anywhere else?
Speaking of the other starships in the area, where the hell are they? Didn't some of them just lose their captains too? Wouldn't THOSE crew members be pissed and out for blood like Kirk is after losing his mentor/captain, Pike? Wouldn't THEY be on high alert? Nope. No biggie, I guess, and keep this in mind: WE NEVER SEE ANOTHER STARFLEET SHIP NEAR EARTH OR AT ALL FOR THE ENTIRE FILM. Not one. Nobody is fucking home, gang. The centre of the Starfleet universe, our homeworld, where, again, every important Starfleet official is living, and at a time where (as the film supports through dialogue) The Federation is on the brink of war with the Klingons, there is NO OTHER SHIP NEARBY TO HELP DURING THIS SUPER SHITTY INCIDENT OR THE FINAL BATTLE AT THE END OF THE FILM. Later, the bad guy's ship just cruises on into Earth's orbit and nobody seems to give a shit. PEOPLE WALKING AROUND ON THE GROUND are surprised by the appearance of the ship only as it breaks through the clouds like that's the first anybody could have possibly noticed it. That is some seriously dumb shit. We'll get to even more of that dumb shit later.
Like I said, Pike dies. In one final scene with Greenwod's muttonchops, Bruce Greenwood does the classic "gurgling death while being cradled by another character" scene proud and knocks it out of the park on his back with his eyes wide open. Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine are even good. It's a solid scene and even I wept for the muttonchop loss. And let me say this: the franchise just got shittier for killing off Bruce Greenwood. Of course, we've already established that anybody can be brought back from the dead in this new film universe, but never mind that. We are about to go warp speed with the LINDELOF FASTER THAN LOGIC DRIVE.
We see a quick scene of Harrison being TELEPORTED onto a hostile looking planet. Remember that.
"Well... THAT was easy."
So anyway, Scotty figures out (are you sitting?) that, to get away, Harrison has used a (and I quote) "PORTABLE TRANSWARP BEAMING DEVICE" TO SEND HIMSELF SAFELY, DIRECTLY, FROM THE SURFACE OF EARTH, TO THE KLINGON HOMEWORLD. Remember the dufflebag? Yup. Poof. Who the fuck needs a clumsy spaceship? Ships are for suckers, suckers. All you need is a device the size of a fucking dufflebag. From this point forward in this rebooted franchise, anybody can beam anywhere, at any time, when the writer needs that to happen. Magnetic fields you say? Fuck you, says Lindelof.
Back to Starfleet at FTL speeds. Kirk crashes the next meeting of Starfleet top brass. Interestingly, it looks really similar to the last one, but with fewer people and OBVIOUSLY in a different room, so Starfleet learns fast, folks. Kirk just barges right in. NO SECURITY! I mean what are the chances that would happen AGAIN, right? Exactly. Lindelof.
Kirk confronts Admiral Marcus and tells him the bullshit story of Harrison escaping to Kronos and demands to be given permission to follow Harrison to fuck him up. Why Kronos? With things so strained between Starfleet and the Klingons, there's no way anyone would pursue him there, right? Wrong. Have you MET Jim Kirk? By the way, this is a planet that, throughout canon within the Trek franchise, has always been called Qo’noS. Now it's “Kronos”. Why? Because Lindelof don't give a shit and that was hard to spell.
After asking to be reinstated as the Enterprise captain ( I mean why not? It's like going into the late night variety and buying 100 useless things so you can slip in a nudie magazine without the clerk realizing you're too young to buy it. Right?), and requesting permission to go after Harrison, Kirk actually says "Starfleet can't go after him, but I can."
Can somebody tell me what the hell that means? You want to be reinstated as captain - an officially awarded rank within the Federation Starfleet Forces and then you want to take the NEWEST, SHINIEST SHIP IN THE FLEET into enemy space, but that, in your mind, is somehow NOT connected to or related with Starfleet in any official way? Are you SURE the Klingons are going to see it that way? You sir, are talking UTTER HORSEHOCKEY.
So the top dog of Starfleet, Admiral Marcus, played by none other than the original Robocop himself, Peter Weller starts to open up: he admits that the bombing site in London wasn't just a harmless archive building, but a top secret facility known as "Section 31" where all kinds of awesome new weaponry and surveillance technology to spy on the Klingons is being developed. He says that Harrison was "one of his top agents". Kirk says, "Well, now he's a fugitive and I want to take him out" because these days Star Trek characters talk like they just stepped out of Grand Theft Auto. They also state that the province of Kronos where Harrison is hiding is UNINHABITED. Yup. Then Marcus divulges (this is a lot of exposition folks. Not a sign of a great script) that Section 31 had just developed a brand new photon torpedo. "Long range and untraceable. Invisible to Klingon sensors" (for some reason we won't get into right now). Marcus agrees to Kirk's requests and gives him his orders: "You park on the edge of the neutral zone, lock onto Harrison, fire, kill him and haul ass". Admiral Marcus also plays Grand Theft Auto and watches a lot of Sam Jackson movies.
Everybody scrambles back to the Enterprise to embark on this "black ops"-type super secret mission to kill Harrison. On the shuttle ride up to the Enterprise Kirk and Spock argue morality and the inherit problem with firing torpedoes at another race's homeworld. Kirk don't care. They are introduced to blonde bombshell Carol "WALLACE" and she shows him her credentials. That's not a joke. Yet. She's a Lieutenant and specializes in ADVANCED WEAPONRY. Got it? The story is that she was assigned by Admiral Marcus. Got it? Good.
These torpedoes smell like bullshit
On board, Scotty is freaking out about these weird, secretive torpedoes (From Admiral Marcus) that are being loaded onto his Enterprise. In short, Scotty, for safety reasons, won't let them on-board unless he's told what their nasty payload is made of. It is here that we discover Admiral Marcus has sent over SIX DOZEN (72) OF THESE SECRET PHOTON TORPEDOES. Seventy-fucking two! For one dude! One, single man. See, because we want to avoid starting a war with the Klingons, so the best way to do that is to FIRE SEVENTY-TWO PHOTON TORPEDOES AT THEIR HOMEWORLD. Sure. Whatever. You're the boss, Robocop.
No-one will say what's in the torpedoes. They're "classified". When Kirk tries to "Kirk" Scotty into signing for and authorizing them anyway, SCOTTY QUITS. WHAT? That's right, Montgomery Scott walks away from his rank and duties on the Enterprise. Why? Because Lindelof needs him elsewhere later! NO TIME TO EXPLAIN!
Then, on the way to the bridge, Kirk and Uhura talk about her relationship with Spock. Yup. It's pretty lowbrow and unfortunate for fans of Uhura. It's funny, but it's dumb. On the bridge, Chekov is reassigned to replace Scotty and they're off!
Kirk addresses the crew and tells them that (due to Spock guilting the shit out of him) he has decided to GO DIRECTLY AGAINST CRYSTAL CLEAR ORDERS BY ADMIRAL MARCUS, and actually capture the outlaw Harrison instead. This will involve taking an away party down to the surface of the Klingon homeworld, arresting Harrison at gunpoint and fleeing without detection. WITHOUT DETECTION.
Now we're in the bowels of the ship. We see Lt. Carol Wallace messing with one of the secret torpedoes. The camera rotates to reveal Spock standing there looking unimpressed. He calls her out, asking what she is doing on the Enterprise and states there was never any order assigning her to the ship. Then he rips off her head. Sorry, no, that was just in my mind. THAT would have made more sense. What actually happens is that Spock deduces that she is Admiral Marcus' daughter and she has been using her mother's maiden name as a cover to slip on board. It's just that easy. Because cruise director Julie McCoy (no relation to Bones) on the fucking Love Boat TV series did a better job at security and properly identifying passengers boarding than anyone on the Enterprise. DUMB AS SHIT. But FASTER THAN LOGIC strikes before they can resolve anything and...
Now we get to another really annoying trick that director JJ Abrams and Lindelof have now mastered: You know the horror movie device known as a "JUMP SCARE"? Forever it's been a cheap trick employed by Horror movie writers and directors who don't know how to otherwise create tension, in an attempt to make their shitty films seem scarier. They're annoying. But up until now, they've only been used in horror films. However, at several points during STID, jump scares are employed at the tail end of quiet, reflective scenes after actors spit out a ton of exposition, or do a little character work, or whatever. The viewer is taking a breather from the RELENTLESS FASTER THAN LOGIC SPEED OF THE ACTION, enjoying some witty banter amongst the characters and suddenly WHAM!!!!! something loud and shocking happens! The camera jerks, there is a huge bang, or clang, or explosion of some kind and we are suddenly at 100 miles an hour and heading for danger. It's exciting. And it's a cheap trick. And it's annoying like it's always been annoying in lesser horror movies too. Does anybody actually enjoy jump scares? Not this guy.
So BANG! Right at the end of the Carol (Webber) Marcus/Spock conversation, the warp drive breaks down explosively and the Enterprise spins out of warp. Did I mention, BANG?! It looks cool, though, of course.
So, plan B. Kirk's new plan is to disguise his away team as "traders" or "arms dealers" or some other goddamn thing. He leaves the bridge and puts Sulu in charge, racing off to shuttle bay 2. As he leaves, he says "Mr. Sulu, make sure that Kanorvian (or something like that) ship is ready to fly". Sulu sits down in the captain's chair, gets on the comm to the shuttle bay and says my favorite shitty line from the film -the flimsiest fucking string of absolute shit ever "Get the trade ship we confiscated during the Mudd incident last month fueled and ready. Captain Kirk is on route to you now." Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !!!!! It's the ultimate "No time to explain/don't question what I'm saying/ignore the man behind the curtain bullshit line ever. It was awesomely dumb. I mean OF COURSE they're cruising around with a confiscated alien ship. Right? I mean what they REALLY need is an unmarked, unregistered NON STARFLEET, NON-HUMAN ORIGIN spaceship that holds just the right amount of people and can go really fast and is super-maneuverable. Right? Like most "trade ships." Right? PAINFULLY, CONVENIENTLY DUMB.
In truth, the explanation of the ship's presence and the entire "Mudd Incident" is detailed in the STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS PREQUEL COMIC BOOK, but even WITH that additional information - which 99.99999% of viewers in theatres won't have - it's bullshit. And even the comic only features Mudd's DAUGHTER, not even the man himself. It's a lame shout out to fans, referring to the immensely popular Trek character known as Harry Mudd. Harry Mudd is the character responsible for introducing the fuzzy Tribble aliens to the Trek franchise way back during the original series, and this little BS injection is the only reason that a TRIBBLE is appearing later in this film as well. More on that horseshit later. It's all an utter throwaway and having that ship available just when they need it is total Deus ex Machina. Because LINDELOF!
Then, of course, everyone dresses in black, they get on the Mudd ship, and they fly down to the province of Kronos that is suspected to be hiding Harrison. A region, I have to point out again, that is UNINHABITED. That's right. Humans breed like rabbits and ran out of room on Earth long ago, but "Kronos is huge, yo! Klingons have got tons of huge space they don't even use! Like the southern hemisphere is their unfinished basement they just store old sports equipment in. Either that, or there really aren't that many Klingons, or something? I have no idea. It seemed really dumb to me, but the exploded moon featured in the shot as they descended towards Kronos COULD explain it. In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), the Klingons are forced to pursue peace when their homeworld's moon, Praxis, explodes catastrophically, crippling energy production and tearing apart Kronos' ozone layer. Maybe that's happened already in this franchise. Thanks for filling us in. And if it is a shitty inhospitable wasteland now, what is Harrison surviving on? Fruit Roll-Ups? Harrison is probably beaming in food, clothes, swanky furniture Netflix and anything else a swinging bachelor would need with his portable I-can-do-anything-machine, so no big deal.
Which franchise is this again?
Following that, the film goes full-on Star Wars and there is a chase scene involving the Mudd ship and several clearly military Klingon ships that chase it through the derelict regions of Kronos. See, it's empty NOW, but at one point, it was hopping, so there are tons of cool architectural obstacles that we can fly through and around and recreate the scene in Return of the Jedi where the Falcon barely makes it out of the Death Star before it blows up. Sort of. Or the First film's Death Star attack with the X-wings. You get the idea. Star Trek is now Star Wars. Hey, fun fact: Damon Lindelof is a HUGE and self admitted FAN OF STAR WARS. Probably just a coincidence.
"I used to bullseye Wamp Rats in my T-16 back home, they're not much bigger than two metres"
Now Sulu, from the Captain's chair, as directed by Kirk, "radios" ahead and warns Harrison that if he doesn't play nice and allow himself to be arrested, he will be torpedoed directly to hell with the 72 special, super-secret photon torpedoes sent by Admiral Marcus. Got that? Good. Because there'd be no WAY that this broadcasted message just sent AT an unfriendly terrorist NOT using a specialized Federation frequency or some other sort of plot device to explain how it couldn't be picked up by ANYONE ON KLINGON, right? It wouldn't immediately alarm the Klingons that either a ship is coming down to a specific area to capture a renegade human and take him away, ignoring and ultimately insulting an entire race of hostile humanoids, OR that 72 photon torpedoes are coming instead. That's not gonna be noticed, right? Probably not. Why would the locals care about that? It was probably just COINCIDENCE that these Klingon security ships appeared and hounded the Mudd ship/away team almost immediately. What's super dumb, is that THAT IS EXACTLY HOW THE FILM EXPLAINS THIS TURN OF EVENTS. Just bad luck. !!!!!
And here we have the second "Jump Scare" thing. Kirk, Spock and Uhuru, on the Mudd ship start bitching at one another and Uhuru tries to tear Spock a new one for being cold and insensitive. Yes. it's amusing and really inappropriately dumb. But it's a fairly distracting and quiet scene, so we need a BANG! to wake the audience up! BANG! KLINGONS! HOW DID THEY DETECT US? Well, they aren't as dumb as humans are apparently, heard Sulu's transmission, saw them coming on space radar, or some completely reasonable thing and reacted in a completely reasonable way. So tough shit, idiots!
So... do you work out?
Anyway, Uhura, being the only person that speaks Klingon, steps out onto the Kronos surface to confront a Klingon security party, who are now holding Kirk's Mudd ship/away team at gunpoint. She says some Klingon jibberish attempting to justify their presence and their mission to arrest the universally dangerous Harrison by using KLINGON HONOUR as her leveraging point, but incredibly, it doesn't work. BUT, we do get to see the new, updated Klingons, and like everything else visual in this film, they're pretty cool.
Cool helmet. Cool face. Klingons are back!
Next, all hell breaks loose, the Klingons attack the away team and it looks dire until... dum dada-dumb! Harrison jumps into the action and kicks six kinds of ass, leveling the entire Klingon security group including several SHIPS, using Cumberbatch coolness and a big-ass gun that shoots bolts of Cumberbatch. Kirk then confronts Harrison. Harrison asks how many torpedoes he was threatened with, Kirk says seventy-two, and suddenly, Harrison surrenders. Just like that. But.. Kirk, being just filled to the brim with Kirk, freaks out at the sight of the man who killed his mentor (Pike) and tries to give Harrison a serious beat down, punching and kicking him for about 30 seconds before becoming winded and giving up. Harrison is not phased. Doesn't bleed, doesn't blink. Harrison is ice cold and built like a brick shit house. Got that? Good.Because previously we were told by Admiral Marcus, he was just another human Starfleet agent. Maybe not. DUM DUM DA DUMB.
Even Jesse Ventura would be jealous of that gun.
Back on the Enterprise, Uhura kisses Spock on her tippy-toes and skips off like a schoolgirl, Harrison is put into a cool-looking cell with a force field door and most of the crew's attention returns to repairing the Enterprise (still damaged from some mysterious failure during warping towards Kronos), and getting Harrison back to earth. That all sounds pretty reasonable right? Sure, but...
Remember that the Klingons have just been invaded on their home turf. Twice if you think about it: once by Harrison and the second time by Kirk's away team. They've had a good number of ships destroyed and fellow Klingons killed by Harrison and Kirk's away team. They've got every reason to be pissed and we've seen a bunch of them act really pissed already by justifiably attacking the human invaders. The Enterprise is still wounded, without warp capabilities, and close enough to Kronos to send messages back and forth and to even 'hail" Harrison on it's surface during Sulu's "stand down and surrender" scene, right? So... the Klingons are pissed, the Enterprise is wounded, anyone with eyes could have watched the Mudd ship return to the Enterprise and followed it there to retaliate... and... what do the Klingons, a fiercely proud, warring race of warring warriors who love war, but hate humans, do? SWEET FUCK ALL! WE NEVER HEAR FROM OR SEE ANOTHER KLINGON OR KLINGON SHIP AGAIN! Take that, common sense! Why? Because Lindelof put a button on that shitty subplot the second it got in the way! Bam!
Smell my finger.
After being put into the security cell, Kirk demands to know how it's possible for somebody else to be cooler than he is, so BONES TAKES A BLOOD SAMPLE from superman Harrison. OK. Now give that a second. have you EVER in any episode or film within the STAR TREK FRANCHISE EVER, I MEAN EVER, SEEN BONES DO THAT? TAKE A BLOOD SAMPLE? I don't recall that. Doesn't he just SCAN the subject with the tricorder, or a medical scanner or one of those cool back-and-forth scanning beds or some such shit? I mean, Harrison is now on the ship, in custody, in a cell, is it impossible to think that some such resource wouldn't be available to Bones from almost anywhere, knowing they can scan and identify people and living shit ON THE SURFACE OF A PLANET WHILE IN ORBIT? Holy "jump the shark, Batman". But... keep in mind, this NEEDED to happen, because Lindelof.
Harrison starts saying vaguely ominous-sounding things to Kirk, eventually stating boldly that if Kirk doesn't listen to him, that all of the Enterprise crew will die. Spock tells Kirk to ignore the guy, but Kirk doesn't. Kirk does what Kirk wants, and Kirk wants to listen to the bad guy. So Harrison starts to really open up. And this is where the gigantic reveal of who John Harrison really is happens. And I really do need to reiterate for the record that, "John Harrison" is truly the worst, dullest, most mind-numbingly boring bad guy name that I can remember. It could have been ANYTHING. They invented the name from scratch for this film specifically and then used it as the crux of their marketing campaign and that's the best they could do? John Smith wasn't available? I can guarantee you that trying to promote this film using the name John Harrison, instead of the character's true name, KHAN NOONIEN SINGH was a fucking dumb idea. For a bunch of reasons. So that's the big secret: Balsemic Cummerbund is playing this franchise's version of one of the greatest Trek characters ever written. And it's a bad idea, poorly executed from start to finish.
You must go through a lot of Windex around here.
Let's explore that for a bit. Let me start by saying that I love Benadryl Slumberparty. I make fun of his name, but I'm a huge fan and I think he's one of the best actors working today. He's fantastic. And he was given a particularly thankless job by this big dumb, movie. Here, Khan does uncharacteristically (compared to the original TV and film series version of the character) dumb shit, runs around a lot, punches and smashes things, sits and stands very still in a borderline creepy way and generally growls out a ton of exposition in an attempt to give the character and his marginalized story some desperately missing gravitas. And it's only because he's so good, that it even works at all. However, there is NOTHING to this character aside from Cumberbatch's considerable skills. He's paper thin. I can see really clearly why Javier Bardem turned down the role. That's right: Javier Bardem was offered the role first and turned it down. And Javier Bardem would have make a hell of a lot more sense. And so would have Benecio Del Toro who also went to talk to JJ about playing the role. And he also saw it for the shit it is.
Knowing that the role was originally played by Ricardo Montalban, it makes perfect sense that they went after Bardem and Del Toro. But they knew the role - as written - was hollow and dumb and said no. Hiring Benedict Cumberbatch to play the role was a huge, lazy mistake. He's all wrong for the part. He's awesome, and he does great work in the film, but hiring him to play this sad representation of such a previously great character is like pouring jet fuel into a vespa scooter. It's not going to make it perform any better. It's going to fuck it up. If anything, it makes seeing what this role really is and all of it's shortcomings even easier because he sticks out like a sore thumb. Benedict Cumberbatch is not Khan Noonien Singh. Not even close. It's not his fault. I, of course, blame JJ and fucking Damon Lindelof!
It's like they were separated at birth!
Khan Noonien Singh is of Mongol ancestry. He's an Asian Sikh, formally played to perfection by a Mexican actor in said actor's role of a lifetime. The Wrath of Khan, the second Star Trek film ever, even now, even after the existence of Into Darkness is still considered the finest Trek film of all time, and for good reason. And Montalban's Khan was voted one of the top ten greatest film villains of all time by a ton of people and film fan groups including The Online Film Critics Society. And this big, shiny, dumb movie doesn't even get close to matching that legacy.
Cumberbatch's voice and on screen presence are magical. But they're all wrong for this part. And hiring one of the whitest men who ever walked the planet to play an Asian Sikh is a joke. Whitewashing? Of course it is! It's fucking lazy! It's BORING! And no matter how cool Cumberbatch is, he can't even get close to the regal, majestic savagery that Montalban oozed in every frame of Wrath. Montalban's Khan was a brilliant and insane lion. A powerful, savage killer with the brain of a genius. He made you nervous if you even got close because you knew instantly you were in the presence of someone way smarter and crazier than anything you'd ever seen before. Khan is a king! Khan is a Mongol warlord with a rich, multi-ethnic ancestry that SHOULD look proudly, profoundly different than every other Caucasian actor on screen. This franchise is painfully white. Apologies to Zoe Seldana, but even she has been marginalized and
forced to play a seriously disappointing and neutered Uhura this time out. Think about it: their best solution for an actor to play Khan is Whitey McWhiterson? Sorry. That's horseshit. That's not just dumb. That really is an insulting and ignorant choice that turns this incredible opportunity into yet another culturally monotone Hollywood role and film.
forced to play a seriously disappointing and neutered Uhura this time out. Think about it: their best solution for an actor to play Khan is Whitey McWhiterson? Sorry. That's horseshit. That's not just dumb. That really is an insulting and ignorant choice that turns this incredible opportunity into yet another culturally monotone Hollywood role and film.
What do you mean I don't look Asian?
There isn't even an attempt to make this version of Khan LOOK interesting. He wears the same boring black cloths and long, black coat that every goddamn movie villain would wear in a thousand different films. Despite having an awesome voice, it's obviously and clearly "the Queen's English" so he doesn't sound the least bit exotic or diverse either. He's got the same fucking accent that Carol Marcus in her underwear has. The incredible legacy of Khan Noonien Singh has now been reduced to just another white, generic, snarling, fist-clenching black hat. SUPER. FUCKING. DUMB.
What's even dumber is that this film doesn't even need Khan at all. It's not a story about him. He SHOULD be the focus of any film or episode he appears in, but he's not here. And this incredible character with so much built-in love and adoration is just jammed clumsily into STID to very little effect. This story already had a villain (I haven't got to the real villain in my critique yet - hold on). It didn't need a second one. They just threw Khan into the mix in a lazy attempt to win over fans and give themselves some more credibility and marketing cache - which they also screwed up.
Can you imagine having what is considered one of the greatest movie villains of all time to drawn on and absolutely throwing the opportunity away by forcing him to share main antagonist duties with a better defined and more clearly motivated character? Holy shit! What a mess. If Khan is going to be your bad guy, THEN GIVE HIM SOME FUCKING ROOM TO WORK! Don't you DARE strip him of everything that makes him special and memorable so that he can fit nice and tidy-like into your meandering mess! Are you kidding me?
Anyway, back to STID. Harrison Khan is in the shiny cell and he tells Kirk to open one of the mysterious photon torpedoes and also to check out some coordinates, near earth, so that he will understand what Harrison Khan has done and why.
Flash back to Earth. Scotty in a bar getting shitfaced with his little cauliflower-faced minion. Strangely Beastie Boys music is not playing. Kirk calls him on his communicator/iPhone. That's right, because we can call iPhone to iPhone anywhere in the galaxy, in real time, with no lag and best of all... it's totally free. Fine. Whatever. Kirk actually has the balls to ask Scotty, who, based on his performance at the Starfleet massacre, should be working for Interpol solving the world's greatest mysteries, to go out near Jupiter and check out the coordinates that Harrison Khan just gave him. Yeah. Scotty isn't an active member of Starfleet at this point, remember. He's a civilian. But, he's also Montgomery Scott. So... no sweat?
OK. Back to the Enterprise. Bones, Spock and Kirk are all talking about how to open up one of the secret photon torpedoes as per Harrison Khan's request. The only qualified crew member was apparently Scotty. (*Think about that) As they bitch at each other, suddenly it strikes Spock: Carol Webber (Marcus), the extra science officer supposedly assigned by Admiral Marcus, is a WEAPONS SPECIALIST. Now what's really screwy about this is that, although Spock saw right through her ruse to get on board almost immediately, and despite having several conversations with Kirk and others since, HE HAS YET TO TELL ANYONE AN UNAUTHORIZED PERSON IS ON BOARD. Until right now. And she just happens to be a weapons specialist. A SEXY WEAPONS SPECIALIST. And although every starship in the fleet is armed with hundreds if not thousands of photon torpedoes, only the chief of engineering (and hot blonde women) are capable of opening them up for any reason. Sure. Sounds reasonable. Lindelof.
So Kirk goes to Carol Marcus and she opens up about being the Admiral's daughter, about sneaking on board to further investigate these mysterious torpedoes and admits that despite her dad usually giving her access to anything, she was denied any information about these particular weapons. She also found out that they had DISAPPEARED FROM ANY OFFICIAL RECORDS BEFORE BEING BROUGHT ON BOARD. Suspicious, right? OK. That's another shitty exposition-filled monologue, but Alice Eve does a nice job. But then it goes right into deep end of dumb: As they walk towards the weapons bay or wherever the secret torpedoes are, she diverts Kirk into a shuttle craft. For absolutely no reason. In theory she would have quarters somewhere, but we instead go into a shuttle. So she can change her clothes. Because I guess she's very much like Mrs. Howell from Gilligan's Island ("What does one wear to an explosion?) who has a different outfit for every occasion and obviously she never unpacked her suitcases from the shuttle that brought her to the Enterprise, right? But, wait. Wasn't she on the same shuttle as Kirk and Spock? NO TIME TO EXPLAIN!
So, yeah, she pulls Kirk into this seemingly random shuttle, tells Kirk to turn around, and strips down to bra and panties. We never see her finishing the switch into another uniform because... well, who gives a shit? The point was to get Alice Eve into her bra and panties. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. For real. And even Damon Lindelof has admitted this was stupid and even apologized publicly for it:
- I copped to the fact that we should have done a better job of not being gratuitous in our representation of a barely clothed actress.
- We also had Kirk shirtless in underpants in both movies. Do not want to make light of something that some construe as mysogenistic.
- What I’m saying is I hear you, I take responsibility and will be more mindful in the future.
- Also, I need to learn how to spell “misogynistic.”
Thanks for reading. I'm amazed anyone would read this entire thesis-like epic post! It's pretty long, and might take longer to read than to watch the actual film. So thanks! I was compelled to write it for some mysterious reason and I appreciate your time.
I'm the Sighthound... and that's how I see it.