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.