Star Schlock

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?)

Trek babe

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.

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About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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14 Responses to Star Schlock

  1. After that “star schlock” movie I was so… well… PISSED with how bad it was, that I watched “Silver Linings Playbook”. Damn, what a great movie! Managed to wash my eyes and clean my brain.

    Life feels balanced again. (I bet you felt the same after writing this post.)

  2. Liam Donnelly says:

    You two are perfect for each other. Why do I hear the same voice in post and comment? Sorry the movie sucked, but I swear to God Fletcher needs to have a “tell it like it is and why” review of all things show.
    What the hell is Silver Linings Playbook?
    This is the best anti-review I have read in my entire half decade on this planet. I am going to share the hell out of it. And I’m not going to see the movie. Can we have a You Tube video of Fletcher sharing these opinions with all the emotion implied. It would go extensively viral. I was going to see the movie, but I can see now how useless that would be. Apparently this would be best viewed on dvd with friends to tear apart and laugh hysterically at.
    At least the M&Ms were good, right?

    • oregon expat says:

      The M&Ms were yummy. And I think viewing this on DVD with friends to laugh and make sarcastic comments would be the perfect way to go. There could probably be a drinking game, too.

      • Mormonator says:

        No Mormon drinking..though I am drinking on July 3. When I hit 5-0. You need a masked you tube for rants. Just no to Guy Fawkes mask as that has been a tad overdone.
        I was at the provincial universal health care card office and the woman says to one is next cubicle “You have to see he Star Trek..” I of course say I heard it was a let down. I used your entire last post. Who knew I had that good a memory. She said “Oh pffft (she actually made that sound and did the hand away thing), you need to suspend your disbelief.”
        I pressed advantage with my friend has a science background and got a stare. “Sir, that is her problem. Got to leave that at the door. Movie had great cgi nd the bad guy? Sherlock from British swries…”
        “The Cumberbatch lad?”
        “Yes! He made you feel like you were dead. Go see it.”
        I used your tribble/regenerative p powers..alive just as Kirk is lamented?
        She considered. “Point there. It was really obvious.”
        “Cold fusion in a volcano? It would never have—-”
        “You want your photo to be nice? Like the movie.”
        She has a huge Benedict Cumberbatch crush. Though girl to my left high fived me and said “tell your friend she is right. Movie sucked.”
        All cubicle girl was on and on about was Cumberbatch and the wicked CGI.

        Did try. You got a vicarious high five on your anti-review.
        Longest comment in five years…I take a bow.

        • Mormonator says:

          Why do I have two log ins…

        • oregon expat says:

          I forgot to mention Benedict! He’s actually the main reason we went to see the film (it sure as hell wasn’t for Chris Pine as Kirk), because we love the BBC Sherlock series and think he’s a marvelous actor. He certainly did Khan proud, and was fun to watch, but he was also rather underutilized, becoming more of a generic supervillain than the obsessed, passionate Khan who quoted Moby Dick and liked his revenge served cold. It’s as if J.J. Abrams hired the best just because he had the budget, and then didn’t know what to do with him.

          But it was rewarding to watch Benedict act rings around the supposed hero of the film.

          • Liam says:

            Benedict just is Sherlock Holmes. I love that series. Too bad the Brits don’t do more episodes in a year and I see no evidence of more in a series. Underutilizing that kind of talent is movie sacrilege.

  3. joanarling says:

    Did they actually say “2000 degrees minus”? Muhahaaa!

    I am so not going to spend my time watching this one. Thanks for the warning!

    • oregon expat says:

      Well, they didn’t actually SAY so; that was just my WAG give the average temperature of magma and how cold the bomb would have to be to freeze it instantly. At any rate, it sure as heck wasn’t room temperature!

      It’s worth a DVD rental if you have a nice big screen — the CGI really is tremendous, and you can throw popcorn during the corny parts.

  4. HCarvalho says:

    One note, JJ Abrahms may helped series like Lost and Fringe come to fruition, but he had nothing to do with day to day management of those series, he had no input in the direction of the story.

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