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Friday, September 13, 2013

Abrams' Star Trek


I watched the Blu Ray of Star Trek: Into Darkness the other night and I want to revisit the review I posted right after seeing the movie in the theater. Minor spoilers ahead.

I love two main things about the two Abrams’ Treks. One, the cast is fabulous. They’re charismatic, obviously having fun, and really stand on their own in their portrayals of these iconic characters. Really, I can’t say enough about how great the cast is, not only the seven main characters, but the supporting cast as well, including Bruce Greenwood who is fantastic as Christopher Pike. Without this cast, I doubt the movies would have been successful.

The second thing I love is the scale of the two films. The budgets are obviously higher than the original cast and Next Generation movies and it shows. We see sprawling Earth cityscapes, beautiful space views, and lots of fun technology. There’s a vibrancy to the Abrams’ movies that’s missing from the rest. What’s more, the effects generally serve the story rather than the other way around. In short, this doesn’t feel like second-rate Star Trek.

The big problem with both movies is also two-fold. One, there is an appalling lack of understanding of basic space science. In the first one, Prime Spock tells the story of a supernova that “threatened the galaxy.” That’s scientific nonsense as supernovae are local phenomena. Then there’s Romulus’ “unexpected” destruction by a perfectly predictable shock wave, one that would have been continuously monitored by a sophisticated space-faring race like, oh, the Romulans. This scientific ignorance is repeated in Into Darkness when a character beams from Earth to the Klingon homeworld (something they can’t do even in the Next Generation’s time). Later, the Enterprise travels from the Klingon homeworld to Earth in literally two minutes. The producers just don’t seem to understand that space is BIG. This may seem like nitpicking to some, but it undermines believability and the willing suspension of disbelief. And that’s a problem.

The second, bigger, problem is stupidity of plot. Characters overlook obvious solutions, motivations are murky, and contrivance is frequent. In Into Darkness, the plot needs to get a group of specific characters into a specific place so someone can attack them. But rather than have the attacker be clever and figure out where the meeting is taking place, they actually say there’s a Starfleet regulation requiring them to meet in that specific room. That’s a ridiculously contrived and silly way to explain something easily explained. In another example, at the start of the movie the Enterprise is sitting underwater as they help a primitive culture survive a volcano. Only thing is, there’s no reason whatsoever for them to be underwater rather than in orbit. They just do it because otherwise the natives won’t see the ship and take it for a god. Contrived.

The plot and science flaws stood out even more for me on this second viewing. I’m disappointed. Still, I find both movies very entertaining and look forward to the next one, hoping the story will be the equal of the great cast and production.

3 comments:

Eric Haas said...

Then there’s Romulus’ “unexpected” destruction by a perfectly predictable shock wave, one that would have been continuously monitored by a sophisticated space-faring race like, oh, the Romulans.

Maybe the Romulan parliament was dominated by science-denying Republicans.


This scientific ignorance is repeated in Into Darkness when a character beams from Earth to the Klingon homeworld (something they can’t do even in the Next Generation’s time).

Well, the transporter itself is a scientific impossibility, one that we're generally willing to overlook. In this case, the problem is they’ve ignored limitations on the technology established in earlier generations of Star Trek. More of a self-consistency problem than one of scientific ignorance.

Ipecac said...

I think that paragraph may have been inartfully constructed.

The transporter complaint was actually meant to be tied to the complaint about them warping to Earth in two minutes, both of which lead to the conclusion that they don't understand that space is big. That was the scientific problem I was highlighting.

Although you're absolutely right, it's also a continuity problem.

Good point about the Republican Romulans.

The Democrats believe we should do something about the huge expanding plasma wavefront heading towards Romulus! Don't they realize that would cost jobs? That plasma will actually give us a longer growing season. Plus, what plasma wavefront?

ahtitan said...

Oddly enough, Patty rented this tonight and I watched maybe half of it with her. I saw it in the theatre by myself. I think there are great things about this movie, and I loved the first one, but there were several things that bothered me. One is tied to my love of the original WoK. I understand that this is a parallel retelling of that story, but did they have to so closely try to copy one of the most poignant scenes in all of film, at times verbatim? Did Spock have to yell KHAAAANNNN!!!? And why was Spock reduced to repeated punching the bad guy in the face. I have big problems with all of this, enough to sour me on the movie. Still looking forward to the next one, though. The cast IS very good.