Posts Tagged ‘Star Trek’

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Joe Giambrone

Trek v. Trek:  Who comes out on top?

Having been impressed by the latest Trek through the galaxy, Into Darkness, I came back and re-watched Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  Both films are watchable, but the 1982 effort is really starting to show its age.

Now I know some nerds will be trying to hack the site and cause Khan-like havoc with my life for saying it, but Wrath of Khan, by comparison, isn’t really very good.  It reeks of old Hollywood, over the top lines, swelling orchestra, overly-hyped shots of space models, and some sub-par acting.  I mean, let’s get real here.  The actors may be loved and cherished, but beginning with James T. Kirk himself, the acting can send shivers down your spine.  The one-off supporting cast (son of Kirk?) are similarly second rate.  For performances, the new film stands head and shoulders above the original.  Even Ricardo Montalban (Khan) turns in a heartfelt but poorly scripted and staged effort.  His Shakespeare quotes from the bowels of hell routine inspire more laughter than any other emotion.

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Wrath’s clunky plot is hard to ignore, when Chekov and his captain could easily beam back up the moment Chekov discovers that he’s on Khan’s crashed ship.  Instead, they opt to go outside again and face the Khan contingent.  Still, they have time to beam up, but a quick cut erases that obvious solution.  Also, it’s absurd that anyone could survive on that hostile planet for more than a few months.  There’s no water.

Now if I’m going to nitpick stupid plot choices I may as well point out that in the new film (Into Darkness) we have a similar absurdity (or three) that deserves mention.  As Khan’s little fighter ship spins out of control, outside of Starfleet headquarters on Earth, we are supposed to believe that before hitting the ground Khan was able to beam himself accurately to another galaxy in Klingon controlled space!  Two seconds of contemplation renders that laughable as well.

But the new film makes up for its sins with a lot of bang for the buck.  More story, more humor, more interesting scenarios, more movie.  The new film feels like two movies compared to the old.  It’s also a hell of a lot funnier.  Into Darkness functions as a comedy as much as a drama, with slick references and inside jokes coming almost constantly.  Wrath, in contrast, contains long boring dead spots.  The first film could be seen as a blueprint for the second to expand on.

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The younger, sexier cast is also relevant.  In Wrath, we have an aging Kirk rotting away and waiting to die, longing to fly on a spaceship again.  In the new version, we have a false-flag covert setup.  Much more interesting on its face.  The warmongers position themselves as the enemies of The Federation, even though they essentially run it!  Count me in.

The new film’s plot, with Khan a wildcard, a partnership to defeat the greater evil, leads to better drama and more internal conflict.  The reversal of Kirk and Spock is also interesting, as we’ve already seen Spock’s ultimate sacrifice – which was the best part of the Wrath film – but now Kirk is constantly playing catch-up to his own legend.  He has to prove himself time and again, and the odds are always stacked nowadays against him.

Lastly, Star Trek Into Darkness brings out its theme about the values we hold dear and which form the foundation of civilization.  This powerful guiding principle of the story sews it satisfyingly together, giving it a consistency that Wrath of Khan just doesn’t share.  Into Darkness is a superior film in nearly every conceivable measure.

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Well I was pleasantly surprised by this one, certainly a great popcorn movie, more comedy than drama.  But, I was wrong on which direction they were heading from the initial teasers.  Seems JJ and crew managed to pull it off, and even left some simmering issues to ponder over.  Thumbs are up (thanks Roger Ebert, maybe I’ll use this distinction in the future).

So, let’s get spoiling!

But wait – a lot of my gripes are just sort of dumb scenes, perhaps hastily written in order to milk the character developments that occur later on.  I get that.  It’s more Fi than Sci.  As a space comedy it’s up there with Spaceballs and Galaxy Quest, and so the added perspective on war and vengeance is delivered with even more resonance.

 

SPOILERS

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“To make Kirk relevant again Abrams has reinvented him as what he wishes Obama could be. Kirk is an Obama trying to lead a recovery from a time of darkness and defeats.”

Abrams’ New “Star Trek” Loaded with Political Parallels: Kirk as Obama

There’s not a lot to go on, I suppose, until Friday.

I will say I’ve been seriously dreading this new “edgier” and “darker” turn in Star Trek, just like every other “franchise” out there making big money.  The old complexities and sci-fi concepts that made the original Star Trek interesting have been replaced by white male revenge fantasies.  It seems the only ideas Hollywood has left to offer the world are how to kill bad guys in new and more explosive ways.  I don’t expect much from studio projects, but I was hoping that Star Trek wouldn’t devolve into the same jingoistic imperial propaganda, masquerading as space opera.  Friday, the verdict will be in.

Of course Hollywood loves the Obama image without even understanding real geopolitics on the ground, at all.  H’weird is a land of great ignorance, like the rest of America, and it reinforces this ignorance with simplistic good v. evil formulas.  Hollywood is a symptom of a sick culture as much as it is an illness driving the race over the cliff.  A people so ignorant, so nationalistic, and so one-sided, who trade rights for false promises of “security” and trade their own morality for empty vengeance — in real life* — can’t remain a functioning democratic republic for long.  That is the natural result of the accumulation of illegitimate power and unaccountable militarism.

America had it all.  And lost it all.  In the end perhaps Americans were too fat, lazy, selfish and stupid to even keep up with the state of the world.  They shirked their responsibility to keep their own government in check and they succumbed to mass brainwashing.  They weren’t the first, and they were warned.

 


* “More to the point, two-thirds of those in the current poll still believed the war was justified even if we didn’t find weapons of mass destruction.” -Boston Globe, June 26, 2003