Star Trek: Into Darkness finally opened in Portugal two days ago, and we just got back from seeing it. Neither of us expected much more than a shoot-em-up, but at the end we concluded that we hadn’t set our bar low enough. I’d expended considerable effort avoiding spoilers, but that turned out not to matter because the film was so predictable, and so heavy-handed in its foreshadowing, that almost nothing was a surprise.
Oh, except for the lovely female crew member stripping down to her underwear and being filmed in a full-body eye-candy shot for no discernible reason. That was a surprise indeed, because Star Trek is supposed to take place in a post-sexist future. Then again, the fact that Starfleet now issues miniskirts and knee-high boots to its female officers should have been my first clue that for J.J. Abrams, “reboot” really means “regress.” (And this is the same guy who produced Fringe, one of the best science fiction shows of all time. What happened?)
Everyone strips down to their underwear before putting on a space suit, don’t they?
Besides the predictability and the sexism, we also had the Queasy Cam to a ferocious degree — there were times that I could not look at the screen, and this was in 2D — and to top it off, there was the bad science and the logic holes. The last two were the ones that gave us our biggest laughs.
Warning: Spoilers ahead. (Not that you really need to worry about them…)
There is no way I can cover all of the things that were wrong with this film, so I’ll just hit a few highlights.
We start the movie with Spock inside an active volcano, apparently in the Most Heat Reflective Space Suit Ever, watching magma surge and splash around him while he sets off a “cold fusion bomb.” This freezes the magma in mid-splash and the imminent eruption is halted in its tracks, saving a village of primitives, yay! While the music soared triumphantly at this accomplishment, I was choking on my M&M because first of all, cold fusion is supposed to run at room temperature, not -2000 degrees Celsius. Second, by all rights Spock should have frozen right along with the magma. And third, what happens when you plug up a volcano that wants to erupt? You turn what might be a relatively gentle eruption of lava happily rolling down the mountain flanks into a GIANT FREAKING EXPLOSION. Unless that “cold fusion bomb” somehow froze the magma all the way down to the planet’s mantle, that volcano was going to erupt one way or another.
Then Kirk is sent out on a manhunt to find one man and kill him with 72 torpedoes. No, seriously, he’s loaded up with 72 torpedoes to kill a single man hanging out on a planet’s surface. Either Starfleet wanted this dude really, really, REALLY dead — as in, not even torn apart to constituent atoms but actually down to quarks and gluons — or those 72 torpedoes Aren’t What They Appear.
Thus, when the subject of the manhunt informs Kirk that he had 72 reasons to surrender to him, it’s already obvious that he’s Khan. The Big Reveal, when it comes, is more like a Little Burp. And this is the thing that the movie studios contractually bound all reporters not to reveal? Did anyone in the studio think to contractually bind J.J. Abrams? Because he totally blew it.
We have a moment where Kirk goes to the med lab to sternly speak with Khan, and in the middle of the high-tension conversation he interrupts himself to ask Bones what the heck he’s doing. “Oh, injecting Khan’s blood into this dead tribble,” says Bones, who adds that the blood has amazing regenerative properties. At that moment, I got a headache from being clouted over the head by the ham-handed and extremely obvious foreshadowing. So when Kirk dies from the radiation poisoning, Spock is crying and the violins are swelling, I had not even the slightest twinge of sympathetic emotion because I was just waiting for Bones to come along with some Khan blood. And when Bones unzips the body bag to expose the dead Kirk, sighs manfully and sits down to ponder his loss, I was already laughing at the fact that the dead tribble just happened to be sitting on a counter next to him. And right on schedule — OH LOOK! THE TRIBBLE JUST CAME BACK TO LIFE!
Then there’s the issue with the space battle. When the Enterprise is knocked out of warp by a bigger, badder Starfleet ship and goes tumbling into normal space, we’re told that their location is now 250,000 kilometers from Earth. Hey, we’re home! 250K kilometers is within the orbit of the moon. And yet, somehow an entire space battle takes place with two Starfleet ships shooting the hell out of each other in Earth’s front yard and nobody notices. No other ships call in to say “Yo, what the effing eff are you doing??” and most of all, no calls come in from Starfleet Headquarters threatening immediate court-martial of every officer on those ships if they don’t knock it the hell off and stop atomizing extremely expensive Starfleet property. This is the equivalent of a couple of destroyers blowing the decks off each other in San Francisco Bay and nobody even glancing up from their coffee.
There are many, many more examples, but who wants to read all that? I’ll just say that the CGI was truly outstanding, and we both agreed that J.J. Abrams knows how to blow stuff up real good. The ship crashing into San Francisco was awesome, and the space battle was loads of fun. If you want to see a film with lots of macho action, don’t care about logic, continuity or physical laws, and don’t get sick when the Queasy Cam is bouncing you all over, this is a fun film. But if you’re a Trek fan who expects this reboot to carry on the tradition of cerebral science fiction, I’d suggest renting “The Wrath of Khan.” That is, after all, what this film tried and failed to be.