What you should like about Star Trek – Into Darkness

Driving home from watching Prometheus, my dearest turned to me and asked – Why on earth did those two bitches run in the same direction that the gigantic wheel was rolling? I did my best to try to think up an answer to this question, but anything that came forward only lead to more and more plot and story holes. Why did they drink black goo to tear their DNA apart only to have it come back together and form DNA? What is the point of doing that if there is enough genetic similarities to be able to make a tie to human beings, but not include the fact that they are also extremely tightly coupled to chimpanzees and bonobo’s, let alone snails? Why did they introduce black goo when they have a second black goo later that is a polar opposite, instead of creating new life by tearing apart the DNA of the creator it creates new life in itself in the form of vagina snakes that are complete and total assholes?

Seriously, I can probably make an entire full length movie of just these complicated and ridiculously obvious story holes. If you like movies like this, which are at best interesting to watch because you like explosions, but you aren’t looking for a story that makes a lick of sense, you will utterly love this movie. If you care for the fact that your media has been slowly dumbed down and re-purposed into a mess of lens flares, explosions and gravitational misdirection, you will be sorely disappointed.

J.J. Abrams has been given the keys to a Bugatti, parked on a private island where the rules are moot, and has been asked to not drive above 35. Surely any child with a pair of pants is going to jump behind the wheel and try things out in as a forceful way as possible.

From the beginning

Star Trek began as a show, under the guidance of Gene Roddenberry, that highlighted human strengths, weaknesses and paranoia, putting racial divides into the limelight in a way that can only really be called provocative, given the time period and mentalities of the time. It evolved through The Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space 9 and even Enterprise, into a show about human ingenuity and the complexities of relationships across cultures. They are all shows about the human experience, illustrating complicated discussions – as when discussing whether an android is a human, or what role a more advanced civilization should play when it chances upon a less advanced civilization.

Of course all of them took similar creative liberties as their respective franchises matured. TNG played with Time travel and the cast put together episodes that didn’t support the flow of the show overall. If you look up Deus Ex Machina you will find a montage of the final episode of Voyager. Enterprise was notorious for having the ship go up against all odds, only to have a vulcan or as yet unknown, at the very least non-introduced, alien race drop in and save them from the brink of death and DS9 turned into a universal war, and after that what can you do – all of the shows up to that point were about diplomacy.

In 2009, Abrams released the Reboot. Star Trek is no longer about these things, it is now about action and adventure, which as my new favorite game reviewer has rightly put it –

There is a brief note that it self identifies as an action adventure, but that’s like saying it belongs to the people moving around doing things genre. That doesn’t tell us shit. Identifying as an action adventure is basically saying we didn’t know what the fuck we were playing at with this and neither will you. – Zero Punctuation

The reboots are really more in line with other reboots, where the history of the franchise is thrown out for the sake of repackaging things to be more palatable by the common man. Imagine my disappointment when i found out that the common man is a complete idiot, more interested in explosions than understanding or insight. A quick glance around at the landscape of films, and games, from the last decade or so clearly highlights the lack of sophistication and depth. Holding the hands of the viewer/player is now common place, and because designers aren’t willing to take the training wheels off I loathe them.

Titles like Assassins Creed are now a series of Quicktime events on rails, where they used to be open world expansive games and movies have evolved away from letting people think and leave a movie like E.T. wondering how accurately the movie depicted our populous reacting to the arrival of an alien, or 2001 where you are more focused on the fact that not only is all of the technology already attainable, but the goal is not as lofty as one may expect (ignoring the monolith).

I disliked the reboot for one key reason – Throwing out all of the background that Star Trek is, destroying a race as important to the franchise as the Vulcan’s, and turning the Enterprise from a ship of discovery and exploration into a mini war machine with hundreds of torpedo tubes and phaser banks that could easily rival anything under the sun… Turning the captain of the enterprise into a character who gets his face pounded in by a Vulcan every half hour like clockwork and then gets into his chair and says stupid shit like “Fire Everything” or “Punch it” is fucking horrible. If they had simply started a new branch – the star ship Columbia for instance, and did a proper star trek movie without crapping on the shoulders of the giants that they stood on, or started their own franchise that has nothing to do with the star trek universe… this would have been great. Shallow, useless overall, but it would have been pretty and by extension – great.

Problems with Into Darkness

Pulling cake out of the garbage

Following the 2009 disposal of the Star Trek Universe, Into darkness has decided to retell the story of Khan, a story arc that started in a half hour episode of the original Star Trek, where Khan’s physical prowess is used to test Kirk’s, and ends in a full length movie where Kirk is again tested, only this time it is a psychologically motivated and frustrating endeavor. The question is, if you care so little for an existing franchise, as detailed above, why would you have your second movie be a retelling of the story from the actual second movie, only worse?

The Wrath of Khan was a story that highlighted the hubris of both characters, to a fault, allowing us to see Kirk falling apart on the bridge and later realizing how to beat Khan at his own game, and Khan believing in himself so much that it costs him everything.

The new movie puts Kirk and Khan together for about an hour, during most of which they are working together. At the end of the hour Kirk has khan knocked out and then everything falls apart. In the space of another ride on the Matterhorn, Kirk is dead and Spock is pissed off, blaming Khan for it in spite of the fact that it was actually the admiral who caused the damage to the warp core in the first place. Spock gets pissed off enough that he hollars out Khan, which yes it is a call back to the actual second movie, but the problem is… why did he do this?

In the original, Kirk has 30 or so years of built up frustration for the Khan character, and has just spent an hour learning about what is going on, and having to listen to Khan’s diatribes in iambic pentameter. That will piss most anyone off. If it were done today, Kirk would have yelled out “Khan! You self centered fuck!” cut to Khan ramming a torpedo up Kirks ass.

This movie highlights another observation that has bugged the shit out of me since i started watching star trek – why is Warp Speed X equal to the exact speed needed for the enterprise to get to the next point where the story moves along, never a meter/second faster? The enterprise hops into warp, and almost immediately has her core shut down, tumbling to the edge of the neutral zone. Surely if the Klingons are only 20 minutes away from a punch it call they would be interacting a lot more than just having 180 of their guys and 4 ships blown to bits in a province they don’t inhabit, but patrol quite well with drop ships worth of dudes that they don’t care about. Surely a report came in saying that humans were found, wouldn’t that lead to a war?

Here is a question – When did the Enterprise receive 72 torpedo tubes? Surely, if i have 72 torpedo tubes and a gigantic ship, one that just happens to be black and sharp pointed, comes into view, why the hell wouldn’t I shoot at it immediately? Even if you argue that they are loaded with the trans-phasic-super-warping torpedos – what about loading one or two with regular torpedos? What on earth was the point in having 73 pods initially, couldn’t the whole thing be simplified down to 4 and be equally, if not more, compelling? What if it was just Khan’s Wife, Son and Cell Mate?

Let’s back up for a moment though. That thing in the front of each ship in Star Trek, it is a deflector dish. It is supposed to be used to project the warp bubble, deflecting dust and shit out of the way for the ship, and occasionally it has been leveraged to communicate with aliens way the hell out there (the Borg) and i think on one episode it was used to help with inertial dampening. It is not an intake. Why on earth would a Gun with a hose tied to it be sucked into an deflector dish, and moreover, why would it then pull in a bunch of hose, followed closely by the wheel it was connected to.

Let’s say that we designed a star ship based on the vision of some military mastermind. Let’s ignore the fact that he is basically taking the design of our flag ship and saying “Bigger! Blacker! Sharper! More Automation!” What is the point of making this larger ship have a larger deflector dish that has doors on it that partially close, even when in battle? Surely a battleship would have more weapons, but when your flag ship has 72 torpedo tubes and the ability to fire enough phasers in a moment to point to every star in the universe, twice, you would want to focus your efforts of closing doors a bit more. If it is supposed to be an intake, wouldn’t closing the doors down a bit mean less flow of particles in space? Why not just turn it down or off? Bernoulli’s Principle anyone…

Back to the ignored point though, what on earth would the point be of making a larger ship when it is manned by fewer people. Why would it include long landing bays for people to come flying through doors into? If it is indeed larger, why wouldn’t there be more cameras and AI based security? You know the kind that would detect a stupid dinky ship sliding into place along with a convoy of ships that paid him no mind. Why were there so many ships coming into that space dock, when only 8 dudes were needed to man the ship? Why not just have all of those dudes get on board. Clearly there is space, if for nothing else – to jog.

Better question, why on earth would “protocol” be to have the highest level star fleet personnel, all 10 of them, meet in a building with all glass windows in light of a terrorist bombing that clearly took out a whole city block. Why would that be published and why would no one else think it pertinent to bring that up until just before the shooting starts? Why couldn’t Kirk and Spock just grab two more warp-transporters and go get Khan without having to take the Enterprise, have it be destroyed and ultimately have it be nearly destroyed? Surely the people of earth would wonder what the fuck happened to that ship with a couple hundred of their husbands, wives and crew mates, and what is this larger, blacker, and sharper ship doing in orbit? And why does it have doors that partially fucking close around the deflector dish / intake!?

The largest, most ridiculous, trope drops in our laps only a couple minutes into the movie. Spock is standing in a volcano, and has just recently activated a cold fusion device, which quickly explodes in blue fire and solidifies the surrounding magma, from the top down, creating a plug and killing the volcano. Not only is this not what cold fusion does, if this is indeed what they wanted it to do, why wouldn’t the reaction continue through their entire planet, solidifying its mantle? Prime directive or not, this was fucking dumb. They may as well have used blue or purple matter and saved anyone who has been alive in the last 30 years from having to frown.

Closing

When I watch a movie I expect to have to suspend my disbelief for a couple of hours, fall into an interesting plot, where compelling characters are used to paint a picture that is meaningful, interesting and includes some measure of insight, allowing me to at least pretend that the author meant to give me a ride through a roller coaster. Instead I sat next to my wife wondering how long it was going to be before my wife pats me on the shoulder and asks me what the hell cold fusion has to do with solidifying a volcano, or why a ship that is in orbit around the Moon suddenly falls into the Earth – flat, even though the cast of the ship needs seat belts and is running on walls and falling sideways into a compartment that only minutes earlier had a hole the size of the superdome carved out of it. This movie has taken the heartburn and indigestion i had from the first movie and turned it into a full on ulcer and acid reflux. It makes me really regret being excited about either of them, and only wish more that Gene would come back to life, because even as a fucking zombie he at least knew how to write science fiction for an audience that demands respect. Maybe in the next one (yes there will be a third) we will see whales and transparent aluminum. Only now it will be a full ark, probably including a penguin or velociraptor.

Maybe it will be a Jurassic Park cross over. Hold onto your butts.