Going into this STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS you need to be aware of a couple of things. One, we’re still not in the STAR TREK canon universe that we grew up in, this is still that alternate dimensional existence where things will not be as they were. Two, that makes this still a time travel story, even if nobody in this film is technically time traveling, but what occurred in the first JJ TREK is still causing ripples through the Enterprise crew’s existence.
NOW – I love Time Travel conundrums. Butterfly effect is in full flap in STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS. Now technically – at the start of this film, after a very thrilling away mission to thwart a super volcano wiping out a very primitive indigenous culture, we return to Earth, where Kirk is anxious to get picked for a new 5 year mission into Deep Space. This was when my mouth started to water. We’re getting closer to the STAR TREK we know and love, but we’re not quite there yet.
Now – I’m going to try to avoid actually voicing specific spoilers, but I will be talking around things that could lead you to assumptions about the film itself, so before I dive in, let me tell you plainly. I love STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS. I love that very much like IRON MAN 3, the speculation has so been focused upon one “what if” character, that everybody has ignored the character that is frankly the real villain of the piece. But again, I won’t say who. Not because of orders from studio folks, but because… the fun of this is discovering it for yourself. Also like Iron Man there’s some pretty spectacular tech on display – and changes that will effect the very nature of how these characters will work after this film. They’re very definitely not afraid of shaking things up a bit, that will always upset some, but it’s time travel – so all bets are off and it is simply not gonna be as it was – that butterfly fucking flapped and shit is going to happen.
Ok, let’s dive in.
We’re going to go to multiple planets and a lifeless moon. Scotty has his own mission separate from the Enterprise. Spock is not serving as the Science Officer on this mission – and that does strike him wrong. We know there’s a New Vulcan home world, though we do not go there. We know that Klingons have become problematic and war like. Kirk and Carol Marcus are not romantically inclined in this film. Spock & Uhura are having communication issues.
However, the real focus of this film is to build the friendship between Kirk & Spock. Kirk is there – he’s making the effort, but Spock is still so strictly adhering to rules and regulations that he has yet to really fathom the meaning of friendship. That changes over the story of this movie. Before the film, Peter Weller told the audience that at this films core, it is a love story.
My mind leapt instantly to Carole Marcus and Kirk… but this isn’t the love he was speaking of, it’s platonic love. The other big theme at play in STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is for Kirk to truly understand the weight of leadership and the responsibility of the “chair”. These two aspects give me the emotional core that the film needed.
How’s Peter Weller in the film? Spectacular. He plays Alice Eve’s father, who is the Admiral in charge of STARFLEET.
What has come of STARFLEET?
Well, that’s where things get really interesting. You see, in our Classic Trek brains – we existed in a really beautiful Roddenberry conceived future where we’d pretty much gotten through the early stages of Space Faring with out waking the sleeping giants in the dark that we couldn’t see. Worlds were not destroyed. You couldn’t transport from star system to star system yet. And there were a lot of Vulcans.
Here… The shit started hitting the fan a whole lot earlier due to that fucking crazy Romulan bastard. By introducing the concept of Planet destruction. By aggressively fucking up the Klingons… he stirred up a hornet’s nest. The political realities of STARFLEET have been modified. STARFLEET is beginning to think about preemptive military tactics as a direct result of losing Vulcan. Vulcans would have been strictly opposed to this, but the reality of their own cultural existence at this point – probably has them taking less of a hand in STARFLEET which allows a degree of FEAR based decision making to take root.
Honestly, that’s what I feel the “DARKNESS” of the title is referring to. This timeline has catastrophic events that have moved forward the time line on certain events that we know differently in the original cast’s established destiny.
Now – if you love your DR. WHO – you’re familiar with the concept of Fixed Points in history. There are things that just kind of have to happen. For me, I accept this as fate. Sometimes when talking about Time Travel and more importantly the residual effects of a change that would ripple forward – well, it would sometimes be referred to as Time trying to right itself. But perhaps the turning of the fates have created a skewed mirror house nightmare of the Classic Trek universe that we know from before.
For example. Spock Prime’s handing over of Mr Scott’s formula for Trans-Warp Beaming of people. That by itself is something that will forever change everything about how to do things in a Universe. It means colonies set up on distant planets would have the ability to trade goods directly from star system to star system. Suddenly Starfleet having to ferry medical supplies to affected regions would simply be a thing that would NEVER happen. Taking a Dignitary on the Enterprise to BABEL… well that entire episode would really never happen, because each of those races would Trans-Beam to those positions.
There is an instance of that Tech used in this film that manages for a rather extreme escape – that instantly puts a person out of reach. I love that they didn’t leave that plot device back to that film, but that tech is now being used against them. That genie is out of the bottle.
Another ripple effect is that Starfleet has begun an aggressive short range sweep – and they have discovered much of what would have been the early STAR TREK classic season episode arcs. You’ll see things in this film that should not be in a pre-5 year ENTERPRISE mission Earth or Enterprise, but they are. There’s evidence that the Federation has already made contact with the Gorns and there’s been time for a funny anecdote to be told about them. Before… in ARENA, that was the first human contact. I’ve the feeling that someone somewhere in Starfleet might have come across Cyrano Jones. There’s all manners of freckles from the universe we know. Icons that WALDO out occasionally, but it’s comforting and it is fun. Very fun.
Out of STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS – there will easily be Tech that simply changes EVERYTHING moving forward. The utilization of an advanced intellect pent on military advancement changes things. But the human biological advancement that by the end of the film is synthesized for human use… Well, from this film forward the meaning of a Red Shirt could have changed. And by the way how great was that scene with Anton Yelchin? You know, when he’s asked to change clothes? Possibly one of the best laughs I’ve had in a while and the look on Yelchin’s face… classic.
You know, I’m getting pretty damn nerdy about this film, and I haven’t really gotten into a cast evaluation, much less the driving plot of the film. The film’s emotional core is being built around the forging of the Kirk – Spock dynamic, as I’ve stated. But, imagine if a future version of a guy you’re pissed at tells you that you and he are lifelong BFFs, and you’re giving it your all. You’re going to bat for the guy, but the dude is just still a complete fucking tool. He just can’t help it. The Kirk-Spock dynamic that we know and love… we saw it come about as that grappled with life and death week in and week out. The Spock we’ve met here, he’s never been in a situation where anyone expected him to be more human. Sure, those kids teased him about it, but here’s this guy actually asking him to think with his human half a bit. In the Classic Trek, how many times did they each die? Only to be miraculously be saved by a convenient plot device? How many times do we see the two men embrace and Spock make a mental lapse for his elation or showing of emotion. These two haven’t had that yet. They have been on a hell-bent vengeance mission. Apparently they’ve toyed with playing God, but each other hasn’t really and truly meant anything to the other. Not yet. But we want them to start acting like that classic Kirk & Spock. William Shatner apparently sent a verbal jab at JJ asking about the heart. This is where their hearts get tested and bond is forged. I love that.
This crew is at an immediate disadvantage. They’re at the start of something, that when Shatner & Nimoy did it… well they were playing it as they had history prior to the events we saw on that show. The characters they played were played to have that bond in place and JJ is exploring how it got there. They see the potential of these characters, but in this film… even moreso than in the first, we see that there is a destiny for this crew, that they are meant to happen.
Two films in, I’m beginning to genuinely love this cast. They are night and day different from the originals, but I love that they’re being written to the actors and how to incorporate the original traits to these new folks. I love Simon Pegg’s Scotty while at the same time missing James Doohan… but I also have just a pure love of the reality of Scotty. He’s a miracle worker. He’s always been Kirk’s go to call to save his ass – and he always will be, Doohan or Pegg. With Simon, absolutely they take full advantage of his comedic skills, it’d be folly not to. As a result a different, yet very different Scotty is coming into focus.
Uhura as played by Zoe Saldana – well, just the fact that we as a civilization creating media have forged a character that was pushing boundaries on Television all those decades ago, Zoe gets to reap the benefits… I may be in the minority here, but I genuinely love the relationship between her and Spock – and getting to be a fly on the wall for some of these What If’s… It genuinely tickles me – even if there’s a bit of Slash Fic to it all. They’re cheap thrills, but really… who doesn’t love a cheap thrill.
Chekov and Sulu definitely are fighting for screen time – but they’re forging ahead. Anton Yelchin’s Chekov gets thrown for a loop this outing, definitely taken out of his immediate comfort zone. John Cho’s Sulu gets asked to man up a bit in this film – and I don’t know about you – but as a SULU fan – Anytime that character even vaguely gets a hint of command… I loved it. Now Cho does not command the absolute adulation that I have for Takei… But I do like him. It is tight though. There just isn’t a lot given to Cho this film.
Now for Karl Urban. Dr. McCoy is played again to absolute perfection from Karl Urban, so much so – that I really want the next film to center on building that great command trio. Put those characters on a mission, have them solve it together. Everytime Urban appears the film is the better for it. That said, it really is a Kirk & Spock movie. That said, the great “invention” of the film belongs to McCoy. The metaphors thrown are zingers – and there’s some fun to be had by the cast playing this with a bit of a wink and a nod to that other parallel universe and a self-awareness that they are… in fact… these characters. It never quite gets DUCK AMUCK, but it is lightly there.
Then there’s Benedict Cumberbatch – The big twist with him – if it has been spoiled for you, do not let that keep you from enjoying the film – because whatever the twist, the characters in the film are not aware that he is anything other than new to the scene. That’s as it should be. In the same way that Klingons were reinvented for The Motion Picture – this character has been thought through. I could write a couple thousand words about this character – what these changes mean, how I think they’re smart, why steering away from anything that we know with the character was the only thing to do. But casting an actor of obvious superior intellect – that’s the key to the character. I love the what if scenarios, I love what his mission is, I love how his story has changed and there’s an awful lot to talk about – but… Let’s do that another time, ok?
By the end of the film – I am so giddy about moving forward. STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS seems to be mark as the last pre-5 year mission storyline. Which seems to indicate that moving forward, we’ll boldly be going to strange new worlds and new civilizations. I do dearly hope so.
I do have this genuine question though. We only went on 3 years of those missions – so… what happened before or after that. There’s a chance for this cast to explore what happened after those 5 years of missions, but before ADMIRAL KIRK? Then there’s the tech changes and what those changes actually mean moving forward. OR perhaps they go to the wrong star and JJ kills this crew. I mean, Nurse Chapel is simply out of the picture and we’ve a new Blue Mini. I’m enjoying discovering how this is the same, but different. Because nothing that this film series does is changing my love for the classics.
Quite the opposite. I find myself revisiting them more often than at any other point in my life. Just as a geek in general, I love comparing different creators playing in different universes – that they made it that way… from the beginning, it was a plot device that I appreciate. It puts everything into the WHAT IF brand of storytelling and as you can tell… it gave me a lot to chew on.
OH – did I mention that there’s action out the wazoo in this movie – and that the 3D IMAX stuff just looked tremendous – It was in the same theater that I saw JURASSIC PARK 3D and while I had a couple of moments of ghosting – that’s just because my head slightly tilted off of the straight up and down axis. Knowing that, I was aware of the problem. Unfortunately due to my own physical issues, the handicap seating makes for a very extremely close IMAX 3D experience. BUT – I bought my tickets for the Fan IMAX screening this Wednesday back in February through the App. That’s because I’m really sold on this new telling of the tale. That it is different is important to me. If you were just lazily going through the motions, I’d be bored, but they’re doing wonderful character things, fun pseudo-science and when they bring a magic tech in, they don’t forget it. That’s going to be very interesting going forward. Hope they continue to shake the boat, it is very fun. Can’t wait to see if JJ comes back for a third time at the helm, he’s made a very visceral Star Trek cinematic universe. The flying vessel that Kirk, Spock and Uhura pilot on a very well known canon alien world… it’s a backwards Millenium Falcon and totally flies elegantly like her. He knows how to make a ship fly exactly like my favorite ship from STAR WARS – so just that makes me excited about his imminent step into that saga – and it’s inclusion in this story – I was fine with. BTW the fan fave villains that appear in this film – seeing them fight each other – MAJOR LOVE. And that race’s patrol ships, I want.
Watching Chris Hadfield’s SPACE ODDITY video while I’ve been mulling this film around in my skull has produced a way of thinking. You see, watching Hadfield sing SPACE ODDITY on the International Space Station made me think, what’s the first thing I’d do after all the space sickness and the tears that would’ve clung to my cheeks from just being there – Mainly I want to watch 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY as I floated. It perhaps isn’t the most original thought, but it is something that I’d have to do. With JJ – and perhaps even more with Orci, Kurtzman & Lindeloff – they’re getting to play with these characters with infinitely cooler resources than any geeks have ever played with these characters before. The spectacle on display here… The VOLCANO scene? The PRIME DIRECTIVE violation – and it’s instant result. I just love this stuff. I do. I really really do. I love PIKE spanking Kirk on this. And I love finding out that Pike’s mentor was Carol Marcus’ dad, PETER WELLER! Watch this STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS – and ask yourself what you’d do with them next. There are seriously endless possibilities, but most of all, I hope they boldly go where no Trek has gone before. Dare to blow our minds, not with just smart and fun reinvention, but to have that BORG moment from NEXT GENERATION – where JJ and company would give STAR TREK something completely theirs. Show us that new civilization and make us look at the night sky and dream of getting there. That’s the best Trek.
It would be amazing to have JJ leave the series creating a desire for whoever is next to pick up this crew – and then like JAMES BOND – let different A-directors take us on their adventures. There’s a great big universe of stories out there for this crew – and we’ve seen that the characters themselves have an intrinsic value. If I were Paramount, before the next film – I’d sign very very long contracts with this team of actors – the STAR TREK brand is stronger than it has ever been. I do want them to dare to shift out of the EARTH in danger mode. It is enough that we care about the crew of the Enterprise, the ship itself. These characters can have a film that takes them to an infinite variety of imaginary civilizations that perhaps never invented Earth like building materials. They can do anything. They need only dare to continue to make us dream. I believe in man’s destiny in the stars. STAR TREK gave that to me. And it still makes me ponder the possibilities of the future. Every step that any country or corporation makes in that direction, well, it’s to be applauded. I love that science fiction is on an upswing – it’s just so damn cool.
Let me know if y’all want a post release Harry Geek Out piece on the spoiler aspects of this film – I kinda have an urge to write it. There’s so much more to talk about, you’ll see.