Flashback! To “Star Trek: Into Darkness…!”

I will finish this thing if it kills me.

But, it isn’t really about Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Because that movie’s just garbage, and you shouldn’t see it. Somewhere in a file on this very computer is a twenty-page dissection of everything that’s wrong with ST: ID, that no doubt is still growing and growing all on its own now, and will eventually claim all the available memory on this machine…because if you want to know what the real problem with ST: ID is, I will tell you:

The problem with it is EVERYTHING.

Spoilers follow.

*

Weren’t we just talking about bad sentences? So often the truly terrible is used to prop up the merely bad, to distract from it enough that it can slip its cynical incivility right under your radar. The truly terrible, in a movie, is something we’ve all gotten adjusted to…it may annoy, it may even offend, but it remains “disposable crapness” at its heart. Just another dumb thing; unimportantly awful. But the merely bad stuff…

That can be so much worse.

For example (and believe me the examples just keep coming with this movie, but this is my favourite one), while watching ST: ID with a friend who genuinely loved Star Trek 2009 — I didn’t love ST: 2009, but I did tolerate it — a posture I am coming to regret — anyway as we kept pausing the thing more and more to complain, question, and mock, I found myself thinking of something that you really shouldn’t expect to find yourself thinking of while watching a Star Trek movie, which was:

Isn’t it sickening how people continue to furrow their brows over whether or not it would be defensible to have recourse to Josef Mengele’s alleged “research” IF there was something in there that would help cure cancer or whatever? I mean, I’m not saying we shouldn’t have Phil 100 topics, but we can’t possibly be this hard up for them, can we? Can’t possibly be so hard up for them that we need to ask if our opinion of senseless acts of torture would change if it turned out they weren’t senseless after all?

Do we really think it such a fun game to imagine that the only thing holding back the cure for cancer is all this bureacratic red tape that makes it socially-unacceptable for us to be sadistic monsters?

There’s an equation here that we should be ashamed of being willing to tolerate, even hypothetically. Because Mengele wasn’t doing science. What Mengele was doing was equivalent to firing a bunch of newborns out of cannons to see how aerodynamic the different races are. And then if a Jewish baby had flown the straightest he would’ve done the experiment again and again until it showed the Jewish baby was actually the least aerodynamic. That’s about the level of “science” we’re talking about.

But, what if it could save lives?

Okay, it can’t save lives. It was just fucking torture. It was the senseless torture of innocents (redundant!), in an attempt to extort information from their unwilling flesh, that said flesh just didn’t ever possess in the first place. Because there was no information like that. This was seventy years ago, that this happened, and it wasn’t even science then. What can one really hope to learn, from a vivisection of identical twins that was performed a lifetime ago?

That sometimes the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many?

Or that “it’s complicated”, or something?

NO. That’s actually what we don’t learn, from the example of Josef Mengele. One might as well suppose that what we learned from Mao is that you shouldn’t wear white after Labour Day. The real Phil 100 topic, in fact, ought to be “is it right to reason on the example of Mengele as though he had been doing science”…don’t you think? Well, I just ran someone over with my car, and then went back to make sure I got their dog too; perhaps that was science.

Yet the idea is out there. Just a thing, a dumb water-cooler thing, a pop-culture reference: “Mengele’s experiments”. Like that thing where you only use one-twelfth of your brain, or how the Eskimos have 500 words for snow, or how Mussolini made the trains run on time, or Galileo was locked up for saying the world wasn’t flat, or any other stupid “meme” from which a perverse narrative of causation may be assembled. Just consider for a moment what it would mean for us if the lesson of Mengele was that sometimes the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many! Jesus Christ, but what a frighteningly obtuse moral that would be! We think it’s bad to say that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, but actually the reverse formulation is just as bad, and we should be careful we don’t get stuck with either of those things…

Or worse: with both of them. How does one begin to argue for the idea that “torture is sometimes okay”? One begins, Clarice, by wanting it to be okay. By assuming it is okay, already.

And that’s called begging the question. Not just asking it!

Begging it.

But, what does this all have to do with Dr. McCoy, you ask?

I was recently reading a bit of Film Crit Hulk on the subject of convolution — the movie that is all plot-mechanics, in which characters never make choices but simply react to inexplicable happenings all around them — but I think I’m disposed to be a little less merciful than Hulk, and conclude that the love of convolution doesn’t so much indicate an overwhelming interest in one thing, as a disinterest in others. My generation of SF filmmakers has a lot of good qualities, but they also have a lot of bad ones, and one of the worst is their breezy nonchalance when it comes to politics. “The Dark Knight Rises” toys with the French Revolution as though it were just another pop-culture touchstone, hey remember the French Revolution, everyone? That’s the one where Spock had a beard? The new TV show Agents Of SHIELD plays the same distasteful game with — and I can hardly believe this wasn’t just a dream I had — NINE-FUCKING-ELEVEN, as though referencing 9/11 was simply something a competing show had done to great effect, whose popularity they wished to emulate. So the politics gets stuffed into the hat, but the magician can’t pull it out again because apparently he doesn’t know it wasn’t just another rabbit…c’mon you guys, doesn’t it make sense that the events of the Avengers movie would’ve been just like another 9/11, and then in the wake of it a covert black-ops team would be operating without oversight to black-bag American citizens off the streets of major American cities in order to…

…What?

Why are you all looking at me like that?

Sigh…okay, okay, you’re right…we need more comic relief

And just like that, Grant Morrison starts looking a bit more like Bill Moyers, doesn’t he?

I don’t know how long it may take Illogical Volume to get around to watching Agents Of SHIELD, mind you; just as I’m advising all of you to avoid ST: ID (hmm, there’s a joke in there somewhere, isn’t there?), I’ve already advised him that Agents Of SHIELD is something he may not wish to get in on the ground floor of…but, what the hell, I also figured maybe I can tempt him by teeing off on the new J.J. Abrams Star Trek, which also bandies the name of 9/11 around a wee bit…and just as incompetently. “Convolution”: it’s a term I like quite a bit, but it’s a bit like naming the absence of a thing rather than naming the thing itself: looking at the compensation for a lack as though it had been a positive choice to have the lack, a matter of studied craft or ambitious theory, rather than pure necessity and plain old brass tacks. Hulk points out that for a passive moviegoer (which is a fine thing to be, don’t get me wrong) the replication of a thing is good enough to be considered the thing nine times out of ten, and maybe that’s true…but what excuses a filmmaker being so passive that he or she doesn’t seem to notice the difference either? Watching this movie, my friend and I (and he LOOOVED ST: 2009, I’ll say once again) didn’t just hit the pause button over and over to discuss why it sucked, but also how it sucked. All those shout-outs to the Seventies…

“Run, Indy!”

“Hell, the fall‘ll probably kill ya!”

“Never tell me the odds!”

(Remember in Mystery Men how Ben Stiller’s character just kept on meaninglessly harping on old Partridge Family episodes and Laugh-In catchphrases? Sort of like that but with Steven Spielberg…)

…Right down to the truck from Duel bumping the Enterprise from behind at Warp 15,000 or whatever plus twenty miles an hour, you know? And these are things that perhaps one expects from committee-thunk pieces of crap like the remake of Total Recall, where it’s pretty certain that the alleged writer didn’t know what the hell do they put in these “story” things anyway?…but where Christopher Nolan shits the bed pretty bad in “TDKR”, here J.J. Abrams seems to be insufficiently aware of the location of the bed (in the fridge? under these magazines? could it be in the bathroom, or the garage?) to be capable of shitting it with any efficiency to speak of, and in my opinion that’s something that really does cry out for an explanation. Because you heard it here first, folks: ST: ID doesn’t have a story.

Doesn’t have a story!

It only has a bunch of myoclonic twitches, masquerading as a plot!

And what’s the reason for it all, is what I bet you’re wondering…so we’ll get back to that directly, hopefully in no more time than it takes to freefall from the Moon to San Francisco, but FIRST…!

It’s Dr. McCoy’s turn, at last.

So there’s something funny about Benedict Cumberbatch’s blood, and McCoy idly wonders what it might be…so he does what any medical man would do, and jams a great whack of it into a handy Tribble that he has lying there on his desk. Oh, you bet your sweet bippy he does! Because why wouldn’t he, right? After all, Reader, if I jammed a bunch of my blood into you, you’d…uh…

Well, you’d probably die, but never mind that right now, the Tribble isn’t you, it isn’t a human being for heaven’s sake, it’s just a…

Uh…

Totally alien life-form from another planet! Whose pint-sized body you’re only jamming about eight ounces of extra fluid into, so don’t worry about it having an allergic reaction, because it’ll probably burst before the blood affects it…

Hell, the fall‘ll probably kill ya…

…And besides, as anyone who knows anything about Tribbles is well aware, it’s really easy to make more of them, so WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF THE FUTURE!! where we do lots and lots of super-harsh animal experiments that aren’t scientifically valid in the slightest, because the good of the many outweighs the good of the few — or the one, sorry Mr. Tribble — I capitalize your race’s name because it’s clear no one else will bother to do so — and in just a little while we will badly need for nothing to happen in this movie, and as always someone has to stay in the plane. Besides, Trekkies like Tribbles; they’re cute.

And anyway we’re going to save it!

So it’s win-win!

HRM. There’s a lot I’m not saying, here. I’m not talking about how if you feel your G.I. Joe guy doesn’t have a big enough gun, then you can just take away the gun that comes with him using pliers, and then glue a big old Oh Henry bar into his hands…and then suddenly budda-budda-BLAM, Klingons! Behold, I teach you the Superman! And I’m also not talking about how uninterested I am in whatever similarities or differences there may be between Khan and Kirk, or Khan and Spock, or really Khan and anybody, because okay maybe it’s true that Spock has lost all but a handful of his people and he’d do anything to protect those that are left, and Khan is in the exact same position, but you know what I like to do with Neapolitan ice cream? I like to melt it in the microwave until it’s just a sort of pinkish-grey slurry of sugar and guar gum that all has the same trivial, unnameable flavour and wouldn’t it be cool if Khan fought Spock

I am, in fact, not saying a whole bunch of stuff like that. Because that’s why the first draft of this goddamn review went to twenty pages in a heartbeat. Because there is no story, and EVERYTHING IS WRONG. If one thing were right, the whole movie would collapse. If the truly terrible things were taken out, it would only reveal the merely bad things. This movie can’t afford to be good!

This movie needs its shittiness!

Because without it, something about its makers is bound to be revealed. So forget the “cold-fusion device” about the size and shape of a screwdriver set that upon exploding apparently freezes all the magma in a planet’s crust…forget all that! And forget that no one gathers together their entire operational command in one well-known place with windows when there’s been a major terrorist attack…forget that too! Because that’s only truly terrible, and thus easy to forgive or ignore…because it simply isn’t very important. Concentrate on the essentials, not the details. Like:

McCoy tortures that Tribble.

Don’t you think?

And also:

Leonard Nimoy loads and aims New Spock just as surely, and in exactly the same way, that Admiral Marcus loads and aims New Kirk.

Does he not?

This is going to be really hard to finish in the time it takes to freefall from the Moon to the Earth, at least in the time it takes to do that in the Abrams Star Trek universe…Star Trek: now with less science than Lost In Space…but I’m going to press on, Bloggers, and I hope you’ll come with me to the end. I’ve already made it fabulously short, and I’m about to make it shorter, but the ride may be slightly jumpy and it’ll all be just a bit incomplete. It all comes down to politics, and the inability to handle politics that leads to “convolution” in my generation’s SF filmmakers, sheerly for the want of any better option. For characters and the stories they reside in to have political dimensions is a very common thing, and ST: ID is obviously a movie where politics is not only included but employed…but it’s employed with an ineptitude so extreme that you wonder how the people putting it in didn’t know that they were going to fuck it all up.

Until, that is, you realize…

…That they may not have thought there was anything to fuck up. In every scene, as Hemingway might say, motion is mistaken for action…Uhura and the Klingons bellow the word “honour” at one another for a couple of seconds, but then before anything can actually happen it all just goes budda-budda-BLAM, and I’m just not sure that’s only a matter of craft, you know? Or even philosophy. I may not have loved ST: 2009 as my friend did — may not have been successfully snowed by it, is what I mean — but there were choices in it, that were made, that I could occasionally agree with. I’m damned if I can see the choices in ST: ID, though. I am beginning to think there just weren’t any…

And therein lies — as promised! — the crux of the matter. That our assumptions can be dangerous is something everybody knows, but not everybody knows when they’ve picked one up from somebody else, and that’s twice as dangerous; for the most part these little bugs ride along with us harmlessly, but out there in the larger environment they sometimes run into other bugs they can connect to, and from these connections a narrative can grow. And maybe it seems harmless enough, when that happens!

But if you don’t understand politics, you’re not going to be in a very good position to evaluate the “harmlessness” of its narratives, so how it seems doesn’t really fucking matter. I saw McCoy pick up a Tribble, and thought of Josef Mengele’s undeserved reputation as a scientist. Should that have happened? Honestly, should it have? I saw Kirk break the Prime Directive and create a vassal state for Starfleet because it was easy…and it’s played for laughs. Does that seem right to you? So, sure, it’s primally shitty when Spock yells “KHAAAN!”, but it’s still only “truly terrible” — in other words it’s stupid, okay, but it doesn’t reinforce superficial and illiberal narratives while flying a false flag.

Not to mention: while claiming ignorance that any of this might be going on, anywhere but in the mind of a “bad fan”.

A non-passive moviegoer?

Is that what being a Bad Fan is, now?

Here’s me, from the twenty-page first draft, because if I’m just going to point this out again I might as well cut-and-paste it:

“…We have the Superman, but notably he is NOT a eugenical superman, being instead a product of good old-fashioned couldn’t-make-a-superman-if-we-tried genetic engineering. There are assumptions bundled up here that Space Seed never suspected, but perhaps it would’ve been most surprised by the assumption that no one would really want to see Khan’s superiority interrogated — that no one would be interested in knowing about the dichotomy between Khan and Kirk, or Khan and Spock, or even Khan and Scotty or Khan and Sulu for that matter. In part, this is made hard to get at through Khan being made simply a technological product instead of an ideological one…and his past never really comes into conflict with the future he finds himself in. He’s been here for years already, by the time we meet him; already has acquired a mastery of society and technology that surpasses that of the future-native Kirk…who, hmm, actually is a technological product himself, if you think about him as being an alternate Kirk generated by time-travel meddling? But you know, I wouldn’t even bring this up if they didn’t keep harping on it…

…And more on that in a minute, as a variation on our theme, but first there’s the little matter of there being no conflict of perspective between Khan and Kirk, and no perceptible differences in the way they engage with the environment of the future. Khan is also far more (and far less!) than he’s ever been, here: a scientific genius whose genius has simply been built into him, and a murderous asshole because it’s his nature to be a murderous asshole. I’ve talked before about how a belief in biological determinism is the antithesis of everything the Star Trek franchise has ever stood for, and you can sort of see how even this Khan might make an interesting dialectic with even this Kirk…or Spock…on this basis, but even that Kevin Sorbo show with its “Nietzchean” (gah!) human subspecies made a better stab at that symbolism than ST: ID does. Everyone here just accepts everything about Khan, right down to the ground, and even when it looks like they may be slightly inclined to question the smallest part of it all, out pops Leonard Nimoy to remove all ground for doubt, really in exactly the same manner that Admiral Marcus attempts to encourage appeals to his own authority in order to justify his warhawk ways and his notions of collateral damage and political expediency. But, this kind of politics — though it definitely sucks, and we will definitely get to it — isn’t the most important politics on display, here. Technology — all technology — is simply supreme in the environment of ST: ID, never questioned because never noticed, and Khan is part of it so of course he clicks with it, and even adds on to it himself. Khan is technology, in a sense — the spirit of a greater technology — by being what the power of the Golden Age looks like in a world where technology is all the philosophy there is. Admiral Marcus treats him just this way, unthinkingly: he needs Khan because Khan is better, purer, more efficient and inventive. A better tool. BETTER.

The movie never questions this either. Kirk never questions it. Spock never questions it. The genetically-engineered Superman is superior to Saturnian alien races, too, you’ll notice: Spock and Khan meet as two dangerous skinny guys, not as advanced purebred vs. exotic mutt, and so in the bankrupt logic that eschews engagement with politics because it would taint the sweet escapist fun of pretending that Admiral Marcus was our only problem after 9/11 and now that he’s gone we’re fine…why then, naturally the bad guy was set up to win because he’s BETTER and STRONGER and SCRIPTWRITING 101 and also NOW BLOW THIS THING, KID, SO WE CAN GO HOME. Of course the stubbornness of this construction isn’t helped by there being so many aliens around the action of ST: ID — why should Spock, or the Klingons, represent anything in particular to us besides “the history of that Star Trek show”, if they’re so far behind the curve of “unusual” as to even have five fingers? Hell, fuck Spock, Starfleet’s LOADED with aliens that could probably squash Khan like a bug! Kirk should’ve been friends with THEM! But, who am I kidding, it isn’t that it doesn’t happen because it’s made structurally difficult; rather, that structure isn’t created because the movie doesn’t care about what could come from it…”

No, I dont think it’s enough to claim ignorance. A certain eschatalogical promise suffuses these new Star Trek products — that Kirk will achieve his Kirktastic destiny no matter how the new timeline has changed things, that nothing can stop it! — and it seems the filmmakers don’t believe it’s even necessary to support this. And, you know…maybe they’re right!

Because that contention really isn’t supportable, is it?

But don’t look at me! Because I sure as hell didn’t fucking put it in there.

And don’t get me started on the title.

This was lazy, careless garbage with no story and no clue…but on the plus side, it comes MST3K-ready pretty much out of the box, so actually I shouldn’t not recommend it, should I? Still: fuck this ship, and all who sail in her. This is my generation of SF filmmakers, the ones with all my background and all my interests and twice my talent and they’re fucking up royally.

It’s a goddamn embarrassment.

(sudden crash as something flies through the window)

I shall become a bricklayer.

18 responses to “Flashback! To “Star Trek: Into Darkness…!”

  1. I wonder if the problem is not that the future isn’t what it used to be. In the 1960s, the distant future looked like Star Trek, like the Legion of Super-Heroes, like the Jetsons. It was going to be a nice place to live.

    Now? Well, there are still people who think of it like that, but mostly we’ve got the near future hanging over our heads like the lightsaber of Damocles and we don’t even think we’re going to make it to the distant future. There’s sure not a lot of optimism about it. So how’s anyone supposed to make a movie out of it?

  2. True, Matthew…there’s a dreary de rigeur contemporary dystopianism about our mass-market visions of the future these days, it seems. Maybe it’s just the precise mixture of anxiety and complacency and apathy we’ve got, that leads us to it? Outside of Person Of Interest (and I live in fear that they’re going to screw that show up!) I can’t think of a Big Media SF production that dares to put its hand on the hot stove of “what the hell are we going to do about it all?” The new Star Trek environment is one in which everything is falling to pieces at Warp 11 (though of course they don’t have warp numbers anymore), it ought to be a very serious and very scary place, yet it’s all about New Kirk’s Grand Destiny? Not that you can have Star Trek without topicality, but this may be like a cake made entirely of icing — in the original Star Trek and even in its inferior clones, I think one could imagine what kind of future they were all trying to get to, at least — a Californian Promised Land of peace and possibility. The time after the Cold War, maybe? I don’t get much of a sense of what this new Trek’s own possible future is supposed to look like, though. What is it, that the average citizen of the Federation hopes for?

    Unconsciously, I think they’re doing a good job of setting up a symbolic dynamism that’s at odds with what they think they’re saying — Kirk just made a vassal world of Earth-worshippers, Starfleet’s human command just tried to fill the political-influence gap left by Vulcan’s destruction. This says to me, since Starfleet and the Federation are actually different things, that Earth is in danger of not seeing a reason why the United Federation Of Planets shouldn’t just become the Terran Empire. As well, Starfleet now so radically outclasses all the other alien empires in terms of militarily-relevant technology — transwarp equations and instantaneous teleportation across the galaxy — that it all must be going a bit Dr. Manhattan out there. If I were the Klingons I’d attack NOW, you know? I’d call up the Romulans and say “we’re about to get stomped, let’s team up”, and I’d invade New Vulcan and capture Old Spock for his dangerous knowledge of future technology from a different timeline, just GET THAT STUFF OFF THE TABLE…

    But excuse me a moment, for it is the Hour of Coffee.

  3. I think there’s a combination of things. I think a lot of people just don’t believe that anybody can do anything about anything, and so the future is not something worth hoping for, because how can it possibly be achieved? And there’s also a nonzero group of people for whom the future involves God bringing the curtain down on the world; Star Trek and the Legion and the Jetsons are basically blasphemies to such people.
    I haven’t seen STiD so I can’t comment informedly on it.

  4. Also have not seen it (I didn’t care for the first one either), but I was distressed to hear Peter Weller (who was the one reason I would consider seeing this) say this about his character in an AV Club interview:

    “By the way, everything Marcus says in the film is true, which people forget. People go, “Bad guy! Bad guy!” But why is he a bad guy? Everything he says is true: The Klingons are coming, they do need Khan, and that’s that. It’s just that he’s going to sacrifice the entire Enterprise to get the job done, because the Enterprise started to believe Khan. But if the Enterprise had not believed Khan and had done what Marcus said, then there’d be no movie, and everything would be cool. [Laughs.] But the great writing in this is that the Enterprise wakes the dude up and listens to his game, and then everything goes to crap. But that’s the Enterprise’s hubris. That’s them. They screwed up, not Marcus. Anyway, sorry to go off there. I just hate that.”

    Maybe this is An Acting Thing I don’t know about, but…I know they say a good villain thinks he’s the hero or whatever, but shouldn’t the actor PLAYING him know he’s the bad guy? Like Ian McKellan (still harping on this) plays Magneto as a guy who thinks he’s in the right and who’s a Holocaust survivor and all, and yet is demonstrably a villain.

    Anyway, sorry, the actor pulling the “Oh, but IS HE so evil?” card is a weird, useless pet peeve of mine. But it was a weird, unsettling thing to hear from someone in a Star Trek movie, right?

  5. What really soured me on seeing it, though, is that the dude was so OBVIOUSLY going to be Khan but nobody would just admit it. Just like in TDKR where they were very insistent on “Ha ha, no, Marion Cotillard is not going to be Talia, she’s an original character…psych!”

    And I don’t think you get to say “Well, we didn’t want to ruin the surprise” if you’ve made what’s essentially an adaptation, right? I mean, you don’t make a Romeo and Juliet movie and be coy about “Well, maybe those kids turn out okay, you never know.” It’s a problem with the reboot and superhero movie set that they want surprises but they don’t want to come up with something new. In that Spider-Man reboot they were being all mysterious with Norman Osborn, I mean! That’s not just nerds like me who know the score, everyone in North America saw Willem Dafoe do that like ten years earlier! This is just wasting time!

  6. Eerily reminiscent of Mark Millar saying he’d totally be on Iron Man’s side in Civil War, Justin! Though every signifier in that mess of a story indicates Tony Stark & Co. have done a Very Bad Thing, still Millar laughingly points out that if superheroes really existed we would TOTALLY round them up and operate on their brains…

    To which I reply: yes, and some of us would think that was awesome, too, eh Mark?

    Of course Peter Weller is a bit full of shit, here — but I like that he’s basically said “it was just an abandoned province and so nothing would’ve happened and everything would’ve been fine”, because some of the Internet folks who are working a bit harder to make everything all right propose that part of Marcus’ plan was that it wasn’t an abandoned province at all, and making it go boom would’ve started a war. So I like him saying “no, it was just abandoned”…but it’s a bit rich, the idea that “if only they hadn’t woken Khan up and listened to him”, as though there really is a story here. And I promise you there isn’t, you know? Which is why Matthew need not fear being able to comment intelligibly on ST: ID without having seen it, because if Peter Weller can’t and he was in the movie, then what odds? How now?

    This movie can’t be fixed, as I’ve said, but I can think of one or two things that would make it a bit less shitty, beyond the best one

    Like:

    Maybe the site on Cronos was abandoned because it had been Ground Zero in a Klingon civil war, and Harrison can survive there because of his magic biology but everyone else needs medical treatment on returning. That’s why the Klingons are armoured, and why it’s a dumb thing the lead Klingon does for Honour when he takes off his mask…although we shouldn’t have seen his face if Harrison was going to attack, because unless there was something significantly mindblowing under there then that should’ve been the tease…and that’s why McCoy is interested enough in Harrison’s blood that he even forms the notion of torturing a member of the medical-experiment slave race known as Tribbles.

    And also there’s another thing I can think of to do, but just let me post this first…

  7. So here’s the second thing that would make it all slightly less shitty, and it’s a bit more involved but I think it could be gotten across okay:

    Kirk is a young guy who entered Starfleet on Tuesday and was made a Captain on Friday…obviously he’s no more ready to command the Enterprise than Ensign Kirk of the previous timeline would’ve been at twenty-five or whatever, and even less so since Ensign Kirk would’ve at least had some experience under his belt. So he’s a fuck-up and he knows it, but he can’t let on…the only person he confides in is McCoy.

    Then there’s Spock, who is suffering massive Vulcan guilt over his, y’know, whole planet getting destroyed. Bit of supposition here: Vulcan has nothing left but its extreme technology, and maybe a very great deal of that was Not For Starfleet even before the destruction of Vulcan and before Papa Spock showed up with his future-knowledge, but now a LOT of stuff is Not For Starfleet. That includes the Makita box with the “cold fusion device” in it, which we might guess is something that could’ve been quite useful on Vulcan but which could also be weaponized in a fairly terrifying way. And anyway Spock’s sworn an oath to not interfere in the development of other sentient life-forms or whatever, so it all shouldn’t be an issue. But then Kirk — deperate, not-waving-but-drowning Kirk — goes to work on depressed Spock with a little “you couldn’t save your own people, but you could save these people”, and gets him to go. Yay, Kirk’s gonna be a hero, and keep his sanity another day! Be the big man he’s pretending to be!

    But Spock — in my version — is not planning on coming back from the volcano. Because Vulcans don’t break their oaths, so the only way he can do this thing is if he doesn’t survive it. Kirk doesn’t realize it, but he’s talked Spock into committing suicide — going “into darkness”, if you like.

    Kind of makes Uhura look a bit less like a silly Relationship-Talk girl later on, eh?

    But Spock’s problem is that he doesn’t really understand that Kirk has problems, too. And to Kirk, break one part of the Prime Directive, there it’s broken, doesn’t matter if you break it again…so he saves Spock.

    And Spock despises him for it. And Spock is in shit with Starfleet. And Spock is in shit with New Vulcan, too. And it’s all gone horribly wrong, and it’s all Kirk’s fault. So he’s happy when Pike breaks up the crew, and really unhappy when the crew gets put back together…at Kirk’s insistence, who on a surface level still thinks he’s Spock’s pal, but on a deeper level knows he has something pretty fucking serious to atone for.

    So then at least when Kirk dies, it can mean something to Spock, because Spock can forgive him…but just a little bit too late. Oh, Spock has also been told by Papa Spock (who he’s in shit with) that it’s his DESTINY to be with Kirk, so that adds more layers of irritation, failure, self-doubt…

    And then a little side-point of all this is the “vassal-creation” thing, which is basically something very dangerous to the Federation that the Prime Directive stops…the Prime Directive of Starfleet is probably taken from something like Article II (iv) of the Treaty Of The Federation, which probably says something like “if you’re going to make first contact with a race that might be suitable for membership in the Federation, or even that might not be, then you’re not allowed to cultivate them in any way for your own planet’s relative gain…you have to give them up to the Federation itself, they can’t owe you anything, you can’t make things so that one day you think you could count on their potential future vote or so that one day they might hate you or so that one day you could raise conscripts from them or any other thing that might disrupt the balance of power between member-states of the Federation and make your Federation partners think you’re competing with them and trying to consolidate power you might use against them”…stuff like that, and THAT’S what Kirk’s fucked with…

    …Because deep down, he knows he’s no good, and knows he can’t ever be the guy Pike expects him to be, much less can he be the “original” Capt. Kirk, and he knows damn well he doesn’t have a Great Destiny so he can’t live up to…well, to who he’s supposed to be…

    And I think all that would make it maybe a little bit better, in a small way, but it wouldn’t be enough to make the movie not a piece of shit.

    • Also I don’t know how they could’ve missed that it would’ve been better to have a version of Pike in a life-support system after Khan’s attack, who could only communicate with Kirk by some sort of gnomic beeping, so when Kirk goes to him for “what should I do, Chris?” — man, they keep in one reference to The Menagerie, but they leave this one out? — he can’t get any help, advice, or absolution. God’s absent, you see? Like the parents and the father figure and the “original timeline”.

      This could’ve been further amplified by Khan’s ambush being because of some inattentive fuck-up that Kirk is in some way responsible for…

      And still the movie would’ve been garbage!

  8. Oh yes, and the bullshit of teasing something so obvious…well, my friend didn’t know it was going to be Khan, so after Cumby shouts “KHAN” I paused the movie and said “how long did it take you to figure this out” and he said “it just kind of came up gradually, there wasn’t really an OH SHIT moment…it didn’t matter to me, except I was kind of thinking why bother, and then he says “KHAN” and I’m like YEAH I KNOW.”

    Earlier in the movie, in London, he’d paused the movie and said “who the fuck are these people, and why should I care about them”, to which I replied “never mind that, people who love all London’s new fancy architecture must see this movie as some kinda validation…just look at the size of those fucking skyscrapers! Bet all the pubs look like tanning booths now…”

    “Who the fuck’s THIS guy supposed to be?”

    “They explain it more later.”

    Seriously, though, who even remembers how this movie started.

  9. Plok, I like the idea of your Kirk-who-isn’t-destined-to-be-THE-Kirk, but it wouldn’t fly. As soon as you step out of the fourth wall, there’s an army of lifelong ST fans who know Kirk is/was/always/will be THE Kirk. So any pretence that he isn’t, or thinks he isn’t, falls victim to Justin’s ‘this is just wasting time’. It might make the movie more logical, but popular expectations mean it wouldn’t fly. It’s Peter giving up as Spider-Man or Jean Grey dying. Nobody buys it.

    But it can’t remember the beginning, end or very much of the middle of it. Something about Sherlock Holmes blow up London with missiles full of superhumans, I think.

  10. It’s unfixable, I agree — the spectre of THE Kirk, the one who was never really on TV or in a movie, is too entrenched. Kirk can’t even believe he’s unworthy, he can’t be humble, he has to be Kirktastic or it isn’t really Kirk…and in Wrath Of Khan, Old Spock could die, but in Into Darkness can New Kirk die? Obviously he can’t die for more than a minute, that just isn’t THE KIRK WAY…!

    What the suspiciously-familiar people of Nibiru (ugh) do to the image of the Enterprise, these movies and their fans must do to their lead character.

    And that is why they fail.

  11. It’s been several months since I watched this, and only then because a coworker was insistent they not go see it alone, so I will probably flub details. My general feeling was “crappy attempt to do Wrath of Khan”, and that Cumberbatch was far too reserved in his portrayal of Khan. Montalban knew how to do grandiose, make me feel his anger/anguish, the new guy not so much.

    I did like the sound effects in the chase sequence, though I think they were some of the same ones used for the Id Monster from Forbidden Planet, and I liked that Kirk did not take Marcus’ suggestion to just blast Khan’s location with the torpedoes. Does that make Abrams anti-drone strike? I’d hope he is, but I don’t know if that was any sort of comment on it. I just like that Kirk opted to arrest the guy and bring him to trial (though he badly undercut that with wild attempt to punch Khan out when they found him).

    Other than that, I guess I liked Scotty, but that’s a general enjoyment of Simon Pegg as an actor. I have something about the opening sequence, but I’ll put it in a different comment, in case this one’s running long.

  12. Those people they saved, how far away are they from being a spacefaring people? By the time they make it into space, will they even recognize the old story about the gleaming silver thing that rose from the sea ages ago was a starship? Will they even remember that story, and if so how much will it have changed? How much have our myths, fables, and religions changed, until we have to guess at what they really refer to? The Federation may not even exist by the time they reach space (especially if the Klingons and Romulans take your advice).

    Regardless, I don’t mind the Enterprise saving them. The Prime Directive sounds good, but I draw the line at letting people die when you have the power to prevent it. It’s a questionable future to me, where the more technologically advanced societies sit back and watch the less advanced get exterminated in the name of noninterference. Great, the dead appreciate the Federation’s commitment to neutrality from their graves.

    The simple answer would have been to leave it out of the film entirely, since the end result was splitting up the crew, which didn’t go anywhere since they were all together again 10 minutes later. But since it was in there, I’d much prefer the Enterprise work to save people than sit idly by, unless Abrams doesn’t want me to root for them.

  13. Oh, yes, I agree…what harm does it do to save a bunch of people? That’s a Prime Directive much more brutal than we’ve seen before, and it doesn’t feel very Star Trek at all.

    That said, Kirk’s exposure of the Enterprise still ought to be a big deal — by the time the people on that planet develop FTL travel it probably won’t matter, just as you say, but agents of Starfleet could certainly go to that planet tomorrow and start the process of raising an army! We’ve never seen such an egregious violation of the Prime Directive before, either: all that shock and awe, my goodness.

    And if you didn’t like Cumby-Khan, Calvin, be sure to check out that link up above where they fixed him! Elegant stuff…

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