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Review: Star Trek: Into Darkness 514

Posted by Soulskill
from the to-boldly-flare-where-no-lens-has-flared-before dept.
J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot of Star Trek was wildly successful. It raked in hundreds of millions at the box office, and revitalized the Star Trek franchise, which had languished for 7 years without a new film and 4 years without a TV presence (after 18 consecutive years of new shows). It also did something no Trek movie had done before; it made Star Trek ‘cool’ in the public consciousness. Combined, those factors ensured Abrams would get another turn at the helm of a Trek movie, and sooner rather than later. With today's release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, that trend is very likely to continue. It's a movie with all the same strengths and weaknesses of its predecessor, and if it worked before, it'll work again. Read on for our review.

Spoiler level: minor. This review contains character and actor names and a couple references to scenes without going into their content.

Let’s get this out of the way up front: Star Trek: Into Darkness is a very entertaining film, and you will probably enjoy it.

Into Darkness hits the ground running, quickly reintroducing the rebooted crew and the Enterprise in all its glory. The opening act reminds us of everything we like about the 2009 Star Trek; snappy dialog, direct references to important parts of the original TV show, and cinematography that shows off the power, grace, and majesty of a Federation starship. It also highlights many of the differences between classic Trek and Abrams Trek.

*

In Abrams Trek, everything is fast. Kirk runs fast, Spock talks fast, crewmembers are always scrambling about the bridge and engineering at top speed, and as soon as a decision is made, action is taken. Tension and conflict arises with immediacy, and is resolved at the same pace. In Abrams Trek, no screentime is wasted. If a section of dialog is a bit technobabbley or it’s just providing background, something shiny will appear to keep your eyes and your attention engaged. In Abrams Trek, the lens flare deserves its own billing. Oh my, the lens flare.

But the big question about the Abrams films, both in 2009 and 2013, is: are they Star Trek? It’s a complicated issue, but one that's worth answering to fans of the various Trek TV series. Let's start by answering a somewhat simpler question: are they sci-fi? Not really. They fit the Hollywood definition of sci-fi — after all, they're flying spaceships and talking to aliens — but of course sci-fi is more than that. It's about ideas; it's about taking some part of life and changing it, then seeing what happens as a result. That's why Leguin, Dick, and Vonnegut are celebrated as sci-fi writers alongside Bradbury, Asimov, and Niven.

Into Darkness and the 2009 Star Trek before it aren't about ideas. They're unrepentantly character-driven. They're space operas. Perhaps more importantly, they're action films. I say this not to be exclusionary, but so we can evaluate in the proper context: as a Trek-themed action movie, Into Darkness is fantastic.

But Trek isn't about action (space opera, sometimes — action, no). It has certainly incorporated action; Kirk didn't get the reputation for always having a torn shirt for nothing. But in the TV shows, the action was punctuation; it was the set-up to the plot, or a way to resolve it once a moral issue had been defeated. In Day of the Dove, we were constantly shown fight scenes, but their purpose was to show the exaggerated hatreds of the characters, and to set up the we-must-work-together ending. And let's be clear: Abrams Trek isn't the first time the movie franchise departed toward action, either. Star Trek 2, widely regarded as the best of the films, was certainly a space opera, and you could make the case that it's an action film. The last three Next Generation films tried to be action films and failed. Abrams Trek tries and succeeds.

So, is it Trek? Well, it doesn't pass the sci-fi test, but let's look at the characters. Christopher Pine's Kirk is an exaggeration of Shatner's Kirk. All the characteristics of Shatner's Kirk are present in Pine's Kirk, but magnified tremendously. On the TV show, Kirk had a reputation as a womanizer. In Abrams Trek, Kirk is shown waking up in bed with space-babes and hitting on almost every female he comes in contact with. A lot of times it's for comedic effect, and succeeds at being funny, but it also feels like a caricature. Zachary Quinto's Spock felt much more natural to me this time around, in some ways. He pulls off Vulcan stoicism well. The only downside is that his emotional control feels like a simple prop; he maintains his facade until the writers need to show how important some event is, then it breaks.

The other familiar crew members each get a brief moment in the spotlight, but the limitations of a two-hour movie prevent any significant depth. Bones exists to crack jokes and repeat his catchphrases. Chekov exists to run around looking overwhelmed. Scotty exists to solve whatever problem is keeping the plot from moving forward. Simon Pegg's Scotty is still jarring, to me. His role as comic relief doesn’t mesh well with my perception of Scotty. (People unfamiliar with the original series probably wouldn't notice, or care; he is funny.) Doohan's Scotty was funny sometimes, but not in such an intentional way. It seems odd to have that character cracking wise. Sulu's screentime is brief, but it's good.

The one character I truly lament is Uhura, though not because of any complaint with Saldana. She serves to highlight one huge difference between Abrams Trek and classic Trek: Abrams Trek is a guy-movie. The majority of Uhura's role in Into Darkness is to be Spock's love-interest. She has one brief moment of being her own person, showing her own strengths — and (very minor spoiler) she fails and has to be rescued by men. Aside from Uhura, there's only one other significant woman character in the film, and her main purpose is to be both eye-candy and a bargaining chip for the men. In fact, thinking back, I'm pretty sure Into Darkness fails the Bechdel test. It bothers me that this happens in a Star Trek film. One of Trek's driving principles is a future of equality; a future free of the sexism and racism and classism we deal with today. It's not always an easy thing to write into a story, especially one limited to two hours — but we should at least try.

*

But let's step back to the more mundane aspects of the film, for a moment. The visuals are absolutely stunning. The alien planets, outer space, and a futuristic Earth are all fascinating to see. More importantly, Abrams shows us the Enterprise as we've always wanted to see her. Whether it's tearing off into high warp, diving through the atmosphere of a planet, or having the hull torn open by phaser fire, the ship looks amazing. The inside looks amazing, too — engineering looks much more like the belly of an enormously complex spacecraft than ever before. The special effects budget was well spent. ...Mostly. Abrams is known for his use of lens flare, but rather than toning it back, it seems like he's doubling down on that reputation. There are also a few action sequences where camera shaking and flashes of light get a bit excessive. I get that moving the camera really fast around a completely CGI environment helps to mask the imperfections, but there are times where you'll know a whole lot is going on without being exactly sure what. I'd happily take a slightly-less-crazy chase scene if I can get a clear look at it.

The scoring is solid. Into Darkness takes its main theme from the 2009 movie, with a few improvements. It doesn't get in the way. The acting is generally fine, as well. The regulars are more comfortable in the roles; this time around, they're playing themselves as much as they’re playing the original crew. Benedict Cumberbatch brings his talent to a leading role, and he does well with what he was given, but he could have been utilized better. His character exists in two modes — complete stillness and furious action. There’s very little in between, and I think that middle-ground is where Cumberbatch thrives, as on BBC's Sherlock. Still, his character made a far more compelling opponent for Kirk than 2009's Nero.

*

There were a few points where the acting did strike a discordant note for me. To explain why, I'm going to step back for a moment and discuss one of the major themes of the Star Trek reboot. J.J. Abrams and the others running the show constantly use aspects of the original show — props, plots, attitudes, and characters — to inform the reboot. However, they’re very, very consistent about re-interpreting all of those aspects. Everything is close enough to be familiar, but different enough seem new. In most cases, it works; new phasers just look better than old phasers. New Spock is different from Old Spock, but not in a bad way. In Into Darkness, we meet a familiar alien race, and the re-interpretation makes them feel a bit alien again. But it doesn't always work, and this leads me back to the acting. Without spoiling the content, there are a few scenes that are much more direct adaptations of old Star Trek scenes than we saw in the 2009 movie. It is a really interesting and cool concept, but the execution felt very odd, for me. I'll try to describe it: knowing how the scene was "supposed" to go, it felt as though the actors were trying to recreate it, but failing. Obviously, this is not the case; it was clearly planned, scripted, and shot with painstaking care, until they got exactly what they wanted. Still, the similarity hit an uncanny valley between original and re-interpretation. Fortunately for most viewers, anyone who isn’t much of a Trek fan isn't likely to notice or care.

As a long-time Trek fan, Star Trek: Into Darkness occupies a conflicted spot in my mind. At the most basic level, I went to a movie and really enjoyed it. I don't regret the $10 I spent on it, and I suspect most people would feel the same. At the same time, I'm a bit troubled by the direction the franchise is taking. There are a whole generation of kids who are now growing up with a very different perception of Star Trek than I did. To them, it's going to be just another Transformers-style action flick with no lasting importance. There's none of the idealism, optimism, or broadmindedness that was inherent to classic Trek. It's not hard to see why that is; stories like that are much harder to tell on the silver screen, and even when done well, they don't make as much money. They're much better suited to episodic TV. Unfortunately, if we see a new Trek TV series (more likely: when we see a new Trek TV series), you can bet it will be done in the style of the Abrams reboot, and I worry that the true sci-fi stories and the thought-provoking allegories will be subsumed by over-the-top action and relentless special effects. At the same time, I think some Trek is better than no Trek, and the two Abrams films make a better legacy for the franchise than Insurrection and Nemesis. I almost envy non-Trek-fans for not having to resolve the conflict of What Trek Is versus What Trek Isn't.

Bottom line: go see it.

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Review: Star Trek: Into Darkness

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  • not a fan (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    i prefer the older star treks. didn't care for the last one by Abrams and not seeing the others.

    • Re:not a fan (Score:5, Insightful)

      by i kan reed (749298) on Friday May 17, 2013 @03:37PM (#43756195) Homepage Journal

      Yeah, I know how you feel. Star Trek was a rare bastion of (semi)intellectualism on television, technobabble aside. To see all that removed in favor of violence, pretty colors, and snappy writing, makes me feel sort of depressed.

      Of course, the reality is that everyone who likes the non-Abrams Trek's tone has options. The current incarnation of Doctor Who on BBC has exactly the same mix of high-concept, technobabble, silliness, and mystery uncovering plots that Star Trek used to have.

      • Re:not a fan (Score:4, Insightful)

        by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday May 17, 2013 @03:41PM (#43756237)

        Now all they need to do is bring Tennant back. Matt Smith is decent, but not that great.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Nemyst (1383049)
        Can you tell me what's wrong with pretty colors and snappy writing? Those are the kinds of claims that infuriate me. Would I want to have more science-fiction in Abrams Trek? Yes, of course. Why would it need to come at the expense of good visuals and snappy writing, though? All it does is reinforce the idea that modern "cool" movies or TV shows can't possibly have depth, or that deep movies and TV shows need to look shitty and have wooden, sluggish dialogue.
        • Re:not a fan (Score:5, Insightful)

          by i kan reed (749298) on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:16PM (#43756747) Homepage Journal

          It's not that it can't be. It's that it isn't. Name one intellectually interesting occurrence in Star Trek(2009), that raises questions of any sort.

          • by slinches (1540051)

            Red matter raises tons of questions! Too bad most of them are inquiries about the sexual proclivities of the writer's mothers.

          • Re:not a fan (Score:5, Insightful)

            by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@NOsPAM.gmail.com> on Friday May 17, 2013 @06:42PM (#43758313) Journal

            That is because both Abrams and Bay can't seem to write any character but differing levels of douchebag and for the love of God will somebody PLEASE make him stop with the damned lens flares? I don't know which is worse, Abrams making everything bright and throwing lens flares in all over the place or bay's ultra fast cuts but they are both annoying as hell to set through.

            At the end of the day though lets face it, its all about marketing. you'll never see a film "Wrath of Khan" quality from either director because its not about telling a good story, or making a great movie, its about turning out a product that can be slapped on everything from t-shirts to mouse pads and selling the hell out of that. While this can work the movie has to come first but if the second one is anything like the first the whole thing felt like an excuse to get scenes that would work in the trailers.

            And maybe its just me but do these movies have this undercurrent of cynicism to anybody else? I watch films by Abrams and Bay and get this "Meh, it'll be good enough for the sheeple" feeling when I watch them, it just feels to me that its done with the absolute minimum of effort required to make a marketable product, like filming by focus group.

            • Re:not a fan (Score:5, Interesting)

              by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Friday May 17, 2013 @08:26PM (#43759049) Journal

              Actually, Simon Pegg (Scotty) had this [collider.com] to say about the Lens Flare:

              [Interviewer:] Who made the first joke about lens flares?

              [Pegg:] Probably some film student who wanted to demonstrate his or her knowledge of film terminology, thus elevating themselves to an assumed level of critical superiority, which gave them the kind of smug, knowing smile that indicates a festering sour grape, fizzing in the pit of their own ambition. It’s become a sort of communal stick to have a crack at JJ with, mostly by people who didn’t know what the fuck lens flare was, until someone started sneering the term all over their blog. It demonstrates JJ’s supreme talent as a film maker that the main means of knocking him is to magnify a throw away artistic choice, into some sort of hilarious failing. Lens flare is essentially an anomaly caused by light hitting the lens and creating refracted shapes. Because it draws attention to the fact that we are looking at a filmed event, it actually creates a subliminal sense of documentary realism and makes the moment more vital and immediate. In the same way Spielberg spattered his shots with bloody seawater in Saving Private Ryan, JJ suggests that the moment we are in is so real and alive, there just isn’t time to frame out all the light and activity. The irony is by acknowledging the film’s artifice, you are enhancing the reality of the moment. It’s clever and I love it. On set we call it ‘best in show’ and our amazing director of photography, Dan Mindel has a special technique to achieve it. To the detractors, I offer a polite fuck you and suggest you find a new stick to beat us with, if being a huge, boring neggyballs is necessary for your personal happiness.

        • Re:not a fan (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ToadProphet (1148333) on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:33PM (#43756987)

          Can you tell me what's wrong with pretty colors and snappy writing?

          Because it's Star Trek, and we expect some depth. The franchise that provided thought provoking (though occasionally asinine) entertainment. That's the core of the franchise, not snappy-but-shallow dialogue and big action. The only thing retained are the characters, or at least a one-dimensional simulation of them.

          Change the characters and the name and it's a fine popcorn movie.

          • Re:not a fan (Score:5, Insightful)

            by flayzernax (1060680) on Friday May 17, 2013 @11:06PM (#43759815)

            This is infuriating to me. Because you old farts are conflating nostalgia with story. With meaning and message.

            The movie is targeted at younger audiences. But it had plenty to say about loyalty, friendship, duty, honor, integrity. Humanity. In a modern and satirical way.

            It was plenty god damned Star Trek. Gene would have been proud. But maybe annoyed as much as you at the format.

            Get past your hang up that they were duking it out on floating space barges. That was there to entertain you and the people funding the real movie behind the movie. You obviously zoned out and lost interest because the format wasn't what you were use to, wanted, or were expecting.

            This is a classical dilemma with cinema as it develops over the ages. Look at good movies Charlton Heston movies from the 1950s. They wouldn't sell shit today if re-shot and re-done in the same style and format. It does not support fantasy very well. Masume Shirow had this same problem with Ghost in the Shell and decided to take a break, or get out of cinema because of that same problem. He griped a lot about Innocence this way.

            • Re:not a fan (Score:5, Insightful)

              by martinux (1742570) on Saturday May 18, 2013 @11:52AM (#43762425)

              Bravo. I wish I had mod-points.

              I saw a movie that explored:
              The potential effects of interfering with an early-stage civilization. (Prime Directive 101)
              The needs of the many and the one.
              Xenophobia and the militaristic response to it.
              The relative nature of ethical decisions.
              The fragility of the utopian Federation image.
              Humanity's ongoing battle with it's base drives.

              It may have been heavy-handed in places but all of this is pure Trek. I've much more sympathy with those who compained that it revisits old territory a bit too often. This is Trek with a new coat of paint and an adrenaline shot to the heart. Silly, brilliant, thought-provoking and exciting. It leaves the door open for new fans and has enough intellectual fodder for those who want to wonder about the aforementioned issues.

        • Re:not a fan (Score:5, Interesting)

          by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross.yahoo@ca> on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:44PM (#43757101)

          You mean the scene where Kirk says, "oh it will fit..." is classic? How many times have we seen a scene like this? Only now it has lens flare and 3d effects! Yes that is just wonderful!

          The problem is that Abrams took it in the wrong direction. Lets compare this to say Oblvion? At least there some interesting questions were asked with kick ass graphics! IMO this is the direction of SciFi. Or what about even Cloud Atlas! Not the fastest moving of things, but pretty decent actually. No Abrams is selling us the crack in movies we know as Transformer-ietes. In about a decade the Star Trek movies will be dated like Miami Vice is today! Compare that to Magmum Pi. Same era and pretty darn dated, but it is a good watch even to this day.

        • by Livius (318358)

          Pretty colours and 'snappy' writing are not themselves bad, the bad part is when they are used instead of rather than in addition to actual storytelling.

          The last Star Trek movie did not have any interesting conflict driving the plot, it was bad guy who was essentially mentally ill and in possession of advanced technology. Not a lot of complex decision-making involved, and the resolution was a time travel deus ex machina.

      • by paiute (550198)
        I'd like to see what Steven Moffat could do with Star Trek.
      • by farrellj (563) *

        It's the "Blockbuster" mentality...Give Trekkers a good story and they are happy...but to attract the Mundanes (What SF Fans call Muggles), you need flash rather than substance...and this film delivers flash in excess.

        And is it just me, but does anyone else read Christopher Pike when the see Christopher Pine's name written?

      • Re:not a fan (Score:4, Insightful)

        by PCM2 (4486) on Friday May 17, 2013 @05:55PM (#43757935) Homepage

        The current incarnation of Doctor Who on BBC has exactly the same mix of high-concept, technobabble, silliness, and mystery uncovering plots that Star Trek used to have.

        Couldn't disagree more. Stephen Moffat seems to have decided that the best way to write Doctor Who is as a series of fairy stories for young girls. Thus, you have a very young actor playing the Doctor as Harry Potter, the Sonic Screwdriver is his magic wand (just what does it do, anyway? everything?) and nearly every episode ends with a deus ex machina, where the Doctor claps his hands together and everything going back to normal, the whole thing explained away with some timey-wimey gibberish. It's almost nothing like Star Trek and it's barely anything to do with Doctor Who. As a fan of the original series, the current one has gotten so bad that it's nigh unwatchable.

    • by TWiTfan (2887093)

      I don't consider these movies Trek. Trek was about societies working together to solve problems and striving to become better--not about action scenes and explosions.

      • by Wheely (2500)

        I guess it depends on your age. My perception is that originally star trek was indeed about flying around, shooting the crap out of things and being faintly rude to each other.

        It was next generation that started all the peace missions and transporting elderly statesperson from planet a to planet b stuff as well as the "well we have this horribly beweaponed space ship thing but it hurts us more than it hurts you if we have to use it for anything other than being serene". Jeeez, they even had a councillor! on

    • Re:not a fan (Score:4, Insightful)

      by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@NOsPAM.gmail.com> on Friday May 17, 2013 @06:29PM (#43758215) Journal

      I have to agree, the ship looked like a hipster coffee bar and the movie could have been subtitled "lens flare" thanks to how damned much he used that stupid ass effect.

      Abrams and Bay are frankly the two worst directors I think we have today, both are cynical as fuck and care about the marketing more than the films they make but have learned how to appeal to that lowest common denominator to make the big bucks. God I dread seeing what he is gonna do to Star Wars, I want to say he can't be worse than prequel Lucas but then I look at that bridge and how every 5 minutes there is a lens flare...ugh.

  • by BenSchuarmer (922752) on Friday May 17, 2013 @03:30PM (#43756115)
    If I wanted to watch attractive, young people doing exciting things, I'd watch sports.
  • Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by beelsebob (529313) on Friday May 17, 2013 @03:31PM (#43756125)

    You're trying to claim that the original StarTrek wasn't a chauvinistic, womanising series in which Uhura was portrayed as an independant woman?

    Seriously... What?

    You can many points about how this differs from the original StarTrek, but that sure as hell isn't one of them.

    Personally, I think this StarTrek is probably the most StarTrek that StarTrek has been in a long time.

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by BenSchuarmer (922752) on Friday May 17, 2013 @03:43PM (#43756261)
      It was the 60s, Star Trek TOS was very progressive for its time. Gene Roddenberry had Majel Barrett playing the first officer in the pilot, but the network made him change it.
      • by beelsebob (529313)

        Sure, but "progressive for its time" is not the same as "uhura was an independent woman".

      • Another Uhura story that I heard was that there was an episode where all of the senior officers were down on the planet and Uhura was left in command. The network nixed that one pretty quick: "A woman?! A BLACK woman!? In charge of a starship!? I don't think so!"

    • by Zeromous (668365)

      Yeah I'm fairly certain JJ noticed this and is playing it up. It wasn't until next gen and later voyager that we see equality TRULY take hold in star fleet. I even see DS9 as a transition between the two, the idea that women can be soldiers and fight as hard as any man on the station. Next Gen was still very much in the lip-service to equality phase....

      Again, more of an element that Star Trek reflects more of current culture than some imaginary future culture.

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:01PM (#43756515) Homepage

      The problem is that you're comparing Star Trek (1966 - 1969) to television from this century.

      Seriously, compare the role of Uhura to anything else that was on the air or in the theatres at that time.

      She wasn't the mom or the maid. She wasn't blonde. She was a female character in a position of responsibility, even if her job was just to repeat everything the computer says, and did things which were more important than baking cookies for the male characters or screaming whenever the villain showed up.

      You didn't see much of that on "The Lucy Show", "The Jackie Gleason Show", "The Beverley Hillbillies", "Hogan's Heroes", "Hawaii Five-O", "Casino Royale", "Thoroughly Modern Millie", or "Lost in Space".

      But don't listen to me, listen to what Dr. Martin Luther King had to say about it [npr.org].

      • Re:Really? (Score:5, Funny)

        by Sponge Bath (413667) on Friday May 17, 2013 @05:30PM (#43757723)

        She wasn't the mom or the maid. She wasn't blonde. She was a female character in a position of responsibility...
        You didn't see much of that on ..."The Beverley Hillbillies"

        Miss Hathaway was all that. Of course, TBH paralleled TOS in many ways, with the characters mapping closely:

        Jed Clampett - Kirk
        Jethro - Generic red shirt
        Granny - combination of McCoy and Scotty
        Elly Mae Clampett - Nurse Chapel
        Miss Hathaway - Spock
        Mr. Drysdale - Kahn

        If you can't see this connection, you are probably sober.

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fermion (181285) on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:18PM (#43756773) Homepage Journal
      Uhura was a major character, she was black, and she was a telephone operator. So take the good with the bad. The woman who is and will always be Uhura, Nichelle Nichols, has, evidence suggests, had a great impact on the self esteem of young black women. So take the good with the bad.

      The first episode of Star Trek, The Man Trap,certainly reflected women in a negative light, as demon who will suck you dry as quickly as they say they love you. Predators who are only interested in what they can get, and will give only as much as they have to bleed you dry. When they are done with you they will just find another, and when they are done with them, and you are rejuvenated, they will deal with you. Yes very misogynistic.

      But Star Trek changed with new episodes and new series. While this is called the reboot, really ST:TNG did that, by advancing time and creating a new reality in line with what we in the late 80's saw our hopes to be. Then DS9 and Voyager continued to match Star Trek to out expectation of a universe accesible to everyone.

      Though they were criticisms, the series and film continued the story, until Enterprise. I think that they messed up on Enterprise because no one really wants a starship that is broken, we saw that from the films, and the earth that was presented certainly wasn't the earth that would be expected given the very rich and varied mythology of the show. The way to deal with the past was not to go to the past, but to jump to another future, as was done with TNG.

      That said what Abrams is doing is not a reboot. BSG was a reboot. The new Doctor Who is a reboot. What this Star Trek is more akin to the new Charlie's Angles, a brazen attempt to generate huge amounts of cash based on old ideas. This is, as some characterized the remake of Indiana Jones, purely physical and sexual assault.

      There would have been so many ways to use these actors in different characters. What would, god help us, the children of Riker and Deanna look like and do? The DS9 timeline is not popular, but there were some interesting life forms. Everyone is complaining about the mythology and timeline, but that is not the problem. The problem is the characters of Star Trek is stuck in the 60's. Trying to make them fit what we have today is not rational. The black woman is not automatically the telephone operator. The white man is not automatically the leader. It seems that the movie is made to promote the nostalgia that so many feel, that the 60's, when everyone knew their place, was better.

      • That said what Abrams is doing is not a reboot... The new Doctor Who is a reboot.

        In what sense is Trek not a reboot, but new Who is?

      • by hibiki_r (649814)

        I remember watching an interview of Nichelle where she talks about how she was unhappy about how she was still getting a relatively uninteresting part, and considered quitting. Apparently she changed her tune when MLK told her that, even if her part was not equal to most men in the show, it was still far better than anything else a black woman would do back then in television. I guess that when MLK tells you that keeping your job is helping black women everywhere, you'd have to be a big jerk to quit.

      • The first episode of Star Trek, The Man Trap,certainly reflected women in a negative light, as demon who will suck you dry as quickly as they say they love you. Predators who are only interested in what they can get, and will give only as much as they have to bleed you dry. When they are done with you they will just find another, and when they are done with them, and you are rejuvenated, they will deal with you. Yes very misogynistic.

        Manage to fast-forward past the scene where the creature assumes a male form in order to try to put the drop on Rand and Uhura, did you?

        Thanks for playing!

    • by bitt3n (941736)
      I agree with the OP, this movie almost entirely shirks its responsibility to subvert the patriarchal hegemony. I award it two out of ten burning bras.
  • Very thoughtful, and respectful of the original series. The treatment of women was mixed in the original series, but I always looked forward to an Uhuru, Nurse Chapel, or Yeoman Rand story, because they were more than sex objects. Heck, even when being treated as sex objects (e.g., Plato's Stepchildren), there were depths to it beyond the obvious.
  • Guy movie? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 17, 2013 @03:33PM (#43756157)

    I think it's an interesting comment about the women in the film.

    This is one of only a handful of sci-fi movies that many of my female friends and acquaintances have actually enjoyed recently. I've received so many good reviews of it from women that I was hesitant to go and see it myself because I thought it was going to be too targeted towards the female audience.

    Soulskill (i'm presuming) is a guy, so I find it interesting that you're offended on their behalf and yet a lot of women don't seem to mind it at all.

    Note that I'm passing no judgement there, it's just an interesting observation for me.

    • Re:Guy movie? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 17, 2013 @03:59PM (#43756499)

      > Soulskill (i'm presuming) is a guy, so I find it interesting that you're offended on their behalf and yet a lot of women don't seem to mind it at all.

      You are doing a common mistake here: You assume that a society to be given men power over women is backed by men and opposed to by women.

      While usually such social norms are usually enforced by both genders. Sometimes mothers will be the force behind their daughters being chaste and neglecting their interests. And behind their sons prefering stupid helpless women. In groups with a chauvinistic culture I experienced that it are usually the women that bully any men into chauvinistic behaviour, by ridiculing those not "manly" enough to behave disrespectively towards women.

      It's not "men" against "women". It's people wanting a 19th century role model against those that want a fair society.

    • Re:Guy movie? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hkmwbz (531650) on Friday May 17, 2013 @08:02PM (#43758891) Journal

      This is one of only a handful of sci-fi movies that many of my female friends and acquaintances have actually enjoyed recently.

      Then again, most females seem to enjoy the blatantly misogynistic stalker-rapist fantasy that is the Twilight Saga...

  • by denzacar (181829) on Friday May 17, 2013 @03:34PM (#43756159) Journal

    See "The Wrath of Khan" instead.

  • by Punko (784684) on Friday May 17, 2013 @03:35PM (#43756177)
    Science Fiction is always rooted in what it means to be human. Usually by exposing something that is not human, and trying to make sense of it. Its about making you think.

    Star Wars does not do that. It is fantasy happening in space. Abrams will do a great job with that franchise. To be honest, I hope the next Star Trek series is a long time coming (if its too soon, we'll get the Abrams treatment - which would suck), so we can go back to the best of Trek : true science fiction with multiple plots going on in a single episode.
    • by jedidiah (1196)

      Star Wars is mythic fiction set in space. You could even call it a space western. Calling it fantasy is probably something that fans of actual fantasy works would find objectionable.

      Much of Trek is also little more than space western and this is exactly how Roddenberry originally sold it too.

      A lot of this usual sort of "our fiction is better than your fiction" is mostly nonsense. It's empty pretense.

      • by mikael_j (106439) on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:16PM (#43756739)

        Much of Trek is also little more than space western and this is exactly how Roddenberry originally sold it too.

        While it was pitched that way it actually dealt heavily with various political and ethical issues. That was what made it great, sure there was technobabble and bits of "space western" mixed in but overall it was speculation about the future and the present.

        The "new trek" is just action movies IN SPACE which makes it "sci-fi" in the eyes of Hollywood.

  • There's a very easy way to avoid all sorts of "conflict[s] of What Trek Is versus What Trek Isn't" - don't watch it.

  • by Jerslan (1088525)
    I'll wait until it's on Netflix.... "Generic Sci-Fi Action Thriller" just isn't something I'm willing to pay to see in the theaters. Not worth the time or money.

    I would rather have no Trek for ~20-ish years than bad Trek. Bad Trek lowers the standards and takes a shit on the legacy of TOS, TNG, DS9, etc..

    IMHO The best two of the "Main Universe" movies were Wrath of Khan and First Contact. Both had a lot of tense action and fantastic (for the time) special effects, but they still had fantastic writing
    • Re:meh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday May 17, 2013 @03:43PM (#43756265)

      Watch TOS again. Most of the episodes were truly terrible. TNG was not too bad after season two, and DS9 was fine until the last season. The TOS movies however were much better.

      • Watch TOS again. Most of the episodes were truly terrible. .

        Yes they were. The acting was terrible, the sets and special effects were cheap and cheezy, but somehow, that was part of the charm. The new Star Trek, just like the new Dr. Who, is too slick and polished and lacks the quirky character of the original.

      • Re:meh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 17, 2013 @03:52PM (#43756385)

        I *am* watching the original series again (on hulu) and to the contrary, I'm surprised on how well they hold up.

        Yes, they are a bit cheesy, but for example 'the enemy within' made a pretty good point about good and evil - that the distinction is false - that we need the animal half of our nature in order to be effective.

        Or the menagerie, with its central take-away that truly immersive VR is a drug, and that with it we may face destruction of our civilization from ppl wanting to retreat back into it and letting the world go to hell. We are probably going to be facing *that* particular dilemma in the next five years, if we aren't facing it already, here in america.

        so lay off on the original series - for its time, it put up on the small screen a great deal of philosophy that otherwise would not have permeated popular culture.

        • Re:meh (Score:5, Insightful)

          by coastwalker (307620) <{acoastwalker} {at} {hotmail.com}> on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:23PM (#43756843) Homepage

          There is a good reason that the middle ages spoke Latin and that we still teach Greek plays. Once something has been done well it is difficult to beat it. 60's idealism driven Star Trek is very unlikely soil for our miserable in-looking times to beat.

        • for example 'the enemy within' made a pretty good point about good and evil [...] Or the menagerie, with its central take-away that truly immersive VR is a drug

          Spock's Brain. Whenever somebody brings up the nobility of Star Trek, I just remind them of "Spock's Brain."

          There are a few great Star Trek episodes, with meaning and purpose. But there's also Spock's Brain, Return of the Archons, Operation: Annihilate!, Catspaw, Friday's Child, Who Mourns for Adonais, Gamesters of Triskellion, Omega Glory, Bread and Circuses, The Enterprise Incident, Spectre of the Gun, For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky, All Our Yesterdays, etc.

  • I was hmmm-ing and hawww-ing over the 2009 movie, right up to that point, beyond which I started throwing things at the screen and demanding my money back.

    I seriously doubt I'll see this new atrocity in the theatre. I may just wait for someone else to rent it so I don't have to pay a penny. J.J. Abrahms and associates make pretty good television shows (liked Fringe very much) but I am dubious at best about their movies.
  • The Star Trek movie, although it may have been a financial success, was a failure in several key areas, like believable physics (Red matter?), faithfulness to Trek canon (Spock and Uhura? Spock is mated to T'Pring), cinematography (lens flare overkill), and most especially, franchise continuity (it's been four years, where's the new TV series? We should be waiting on the third movie by now)

    JJ may have made a popular movie, but it wasn't Trek, and it wasn't a successful reboot.
  • ITT: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 17, 2013 @03:44PM (#43756275)

    -- science fiction is defined so narrowly that pretty much the only thing that qualifies is technical documentation;
    -- old guys whine about the "perversion" of Star Trek into some sort of "jocky action film"
    -- People miss the fucking point by 3 country miles.

    News flash: Star Trek was never as good as you remember. It was never about "ideas," it was never "sci fi" in the narrow definition presented above, it was never NOT a caricature, and the reason it was never "cool" is because it was a plodding, meandering mess with shitty dialogue and poor production values.

    If you don't like the new movies, that's fine, but stop pretending like the old Star Trek was some sort of masterpiece. It wasn't. The fact that geeks like it is more a testament to its imaginative world building than to its rigorous scientific accuracy, devotion to ideas, or fair & balanced treatment of characters. Maybe the reason you liked the boring old series so much and can derive no joy from a departure from the original formula is because you're boring, too.

    And full disclosure: I watched the original & tng, and have seen most of the movies. I'm quite familiar with Star Trek, and I always enjoyed it - but I never reached the level of zealous worship apparently required to be a "fan." Christ, people. Get a grip. It was fine entertainment, but it was far from perfect, and wasn't as good as you like to remember it - that's nostalgia at work.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by coastwalker (307620)

      My you do enjoy broadcasting your superior view of the world and how we should just be getting on with being entertained. The original trek does have the reputation for taking an idea about humanity and throwing it into a fantasy scenario where we could see the idea evaluated. So enjoy your empty action movies by all means but some people would like to see a bit more than that.

      • The problem isn't people not liking the movie, it is people hating on it, often without even seeing it, because they feel like they SHOULDN'T like it. It is similar to the hipster attitude: Star Trek can't be good because it's popular and popular can't be good. The Onion had a hilariously spot on piece on the first one called "Trekkies Bash New Star Trek Film As 'Fun, Watchable'." There was plenty of that happening. Trekkies hating on it as being "not Star Trek" or getting mad because it was "mainstream" wi

    • Old trek fan here. I recently watched Star Trek 5 to some Plinkett and Rifftrax commentaries, and got a good laugh at it. Yet, to me, that cheesy movie, arguably the worst of all the star trek films, embodies the spirit of trek whereas the 2009 version does not.

      It was about the collective drive to explore the unknown (and well, fly around in cheesy rocket boots) whereas the 2009 trek was about punching a bad guy in the face (and the enterprise being powered by beer brewing tanks). Mind you, I had a good tim

    • by quantaman (517394)

      Dealing with false gods, pacifism vs fighting (the "The City on the Edge of Forever" time travel to pre WWII ep), environmentalism (The Devil in the Dark, ie 'Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor not a bricklayer!'), oh, and the friggin prime directive (colonialism anyone?).

      Yeah it had crappy production values but to say it wasn't about 'ideas' really misses a lot.

  • No doubt, the 2009 Trek reboot was rollicking good action fun with a bit of insider snark thrown in. What I've never understood, though, is how Spock managed to turn out so differently - clearly the "new" Spock has little control over his emotions, and apparently, little desire to control them. It was always that tension that made the half-breed human more human than the real humans in some circumstances. And although the new Kirk is a bit over the top, he was always meant to be - Roddenberry intended hi

    • No doubt, the 2009 Trek reboot was rollicking good action fun with a bit of insider snark thrown in. What I've never understood, though, is how Spock managed to turn out so differently - clearly the "new" Spock has little control over his emotions, and apparently, little desire to control them. It was always that tension that made the half-breed human more human than the real humans in some circumstances.

      Anyway, it seems Spock's lust handily outstrips his logic, and we're left with the most improbably romance in history. (In the immortal words of the Trek take-off Galaxy Quest (which may well be the best "StarTrek" movie yet), "That's just *wrong*...)

      My thought is that that we will see a story arc where Spock is highly emotional (now), experiences Pon Farr for the first time where something bad happens, this pushes him to fully embrace logic, then he gradually realizes that there has to be a balance. My guess, having yet to watch Into Darkness, it that we will see this over several movies.

  • I haven't seen Into Darkness but a lot of this review covered what was painfully realized in the first movie: no longer is Trek about philosophy, ethics, tolerance, gray areas and real world problems. It's mostly absolute good versus absolute evil. I think the driving force behind the bad guy in the first movie was largely a misunderstanding ... which is incredibly boring. His motivation was confusingly laughable.

    Unsurprisingly I'm pretty sure I heard JJ Abrams tell Jon Stewart that "he never liked Star Trek" [thedailyshow.com] on The Daily Show. Well, now he's had a chance to kill it by turning it 100% into a modern day blockbuster action flick and shirking any attempt to tackle an interesting philosophical or ethical dilemma as the main plot. As the modern reemergence of comic book and super hero movies have shown, those films are a dime a dozen that anyone can do. Tackling something deeper while still holding our attention is the hard part. The Watchmen was a good candidate for it but fell short. I'm sure JJ Abrams would rather cover up the complicated parts that question good versus evil with another lens flare.
    • JJ Abrams tell Jon Stewart that "he never liked Star Trek" on The Daily Show. Well, now he's had a chance to kill it by turning it 100% into a modern day blockbuster action flick and shirking any attempt to tackle an interesting philosophical or ethical dilemma as the main plot. As the modern reemergence of comic book and super hero movies have shown, those films are a dime a dozen that anyone can do. Tackling something deeper while still holding our attention is the hard part. The Watchmen was a good candidate for it but fell short. I'm sure JJ Abrams would rather cover up the complicated parts that question good versus evil with another lens flare.

      Where are the mod points when you need them? You hit the problem squarely on the head with the JJ Abrams reboots. Star Trek has been reduced to an action flick. Something that will be forgotten in a month. A lot of action, pretty visuals, with a big fat void in the middle. I've seen both now and they are utterly forgettable.

  • sci-fi is more than that. It's about ideas; it's about taking some part of life and changing it, then seeing what happens as a result.

    So this movie count as science fiction. Took something i enjoyed in life, like the philosophy [themcluster.com] of Star Trek (i'd say, most of the series had plenty of it) and changed it to a mindless action flick. Some transmutations could turns lead into gold, but others go in the other direction.

  • Fail (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Friday May 17, 2013 @03:54PM (#43756411)

    "It's a movie with all the same strengths and weaknesses of its predecessor, and if it worked before, it'll work again."

    It is nothing of the sort. They went a long way toward throwing away the tremendous gains of the 2009 "new" Start Trek movie.

    The first movie took great pains to give them a brand NEW Star Trek world with all the possibilities that implies. It breaks all necessary ties with the past, and gave them a new start.

    So what did they do? They made the second movie a blatant derivative of "The Wrath of Khan".

    With all that possibility, they came close to throwing it all away. As it is, it was WAY too similar to that other Khan movie.

    Pardon me, but I go to movies to see new things. This wasn't it. My rating: FAIL.

  • WTF?! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Libertarian001 (453712) on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:23PM (#43756833)

    Why do people keep saying that JJ Trek 1 was a good movie? No, no it wasn't. Ignore whether it was Trek or not. Ignore whether it was SciFi or not. It was a bad movie. The casting was great (except for Chekov), the performances were great. The sets were... like watching how Apple would design something...

    But the plot. Ugh. The entire time I was thinking about how I saw that exact scene in some other movie. Hey, JJ, you know the Spinning Blades of Doom (TM)? Yeah, Galaxy Quest was making fun of you with that, not encouraging you. Sure, make Kirk the youngest CO ever. I'm cool with that. Right up until, apparently, there's not a single officer on the entire ship... except for Spock... and you can just bring up his mommy issues to take command.

    I'm not a Trekkie. This isn't about not liking how things are now. I find much of Old Trek to be unwatchable. That was just a crap movie, and I saw absolutely nothing to make me want to watch this new one, and every reason to just skip it.

    Pass.

  • by msmonroe (2511262) on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:24PM (#43756849)
    I think the comparison between the Star Trek of Today and the Star Trek of yesteryear is vastly unfair. The world of today is very different. The original Star Trek was set in a time that was practically before manned spaceflight; The concepts of space travel as well as technology were new except to the select few original nerds and geeks that read sci-fi by the masters or followed comic books. If the original Star Trek did anything it was to try and bring these ideas of technology and space flight to the masses. Some of the ideas are rather anachronistic and taken from old westerns, don't get me wrong it's great stuff. It also dealt with some social issues of the day, which was pretty common back in the day for classic sci-fi. Now everyone knows about technology and spaceflight nothing really wows anyone so it's really pointless to try and push that button; people are pretty jaded. Westerns are gone, for the most part anyway, and most of those concepts are long gone and if you tried to make a series with those concepts people would probably laugh and think it was kitsch. The awesome thing about the reboots is that it brings back to life for today's generation and it IS more of a space soap opera but that is what is popular today, like westerns were at the time of the original trek, and to bring people in you have to film something that is marketable and sell-able. If you want to see something classic like Star Trek, go watch the masters; the original crew, love those guys. I love the new crew as well, their just freaking awesome; I just realize that this is a different time and a different world. Besides I wouldn't want a line for line reboot anyway, I want to see something new.
  • by roc97007 (608802) on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:30PM (#43756939) Journal

    I don't think it's a matter of how Abrams' Trek compares unfavorably to the scientific and philosophical "Old Trek". This is not an entirely accurate characterization of Old Trek, and completely ignores the substantial difference between Old Trek and Middle Trek. Whereas Original Kirk often resolved things with a directed phaser burst or clunky fight scene, the series of the Berman era, starting with ST:TNG, went too far the other way, preferring to move the plot forward with endless meetings and discussions and existential crisis and long meaningful stares. (Side note, I think this was primarily because meetings are cheaper to film than fight scenes, but feel free to disagree.) This is where the technobabble reached a peak, as babbling nonsense to get out of a predicament is viewed as somehow more cerebral than kicking ass. Or actually coming up with a plausible predicament with a plausible solution.

    And as we know, Berman's Super Talking Trek eventually collapsed in upon itself. Personally, I've seen every single episode of TOS several times, but I stopped watching each of TNG, DS9, and Voyager before they played out. And I only ever saw perhaps four episodes of Enterprise. (Of which, one was the arguably decent follow-on to "mirror mirror".) Why? Because with a few exceptions, it was boring as hell. The same endless discussions scored by the same eight bars of cello and viola until you want to claw your eyes out. It was an exercise in frustration.

    I submit that Abrams' trek was meant as a direct counter to the Super Talking Trek of the Berman era. It's not necessarily TOS reinterpreted as a space opera, because, let's face it, a lot of TOS *was* space opera, just with less money and lower technology. Abrams' Trek takes the action qualities of TOS and gives it a huge boost of technology and caffeine, without losing sight of TOS beginnings: Horatio Hornblower in space. I haven't seen Into Darkness yet, but noticed the "wooden ships and iron men" feel to the battle scenes in the trailer, which Previous Trek had seldom been able to convey. I really don't have a problem with that.

    But the lens flare, that has to go. What idiot thought that up?

    I mean really, if Roddenberry and Coon and Fontana and the rest had access to something that looked like a decent space suit and the ability to film EVAs and descents into volcanos and small vehicles dogfighting in space, and the Enterprise in atmosphere, don't you think they would have used them?

  • by CosaNostra Pizza Inc (1299163) on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:34PM (#43756995)
    Wrath of Khan...the best Star Trek movie, to date...even though the special effects are 30 years out of date. Get off my lawn!
  • by AmbushBug (71207) on Friday May 17, 2013 @05:16PM (#43757571)

    This isn't a review of the latest movie. Its just a rehash of the same arguments everyone had when the 2009 movie came out. News flash: its still not like the old trek you (think?) you knew and loved. Its still just an action movie in space. It still has lens flare. Its made by the same guy so why would you expect it to be any different?

    If you do like action movies in space, Into Darkness is an excellent movie. Personally I found it very entertaining and worth the ticket price. (Although I thought the "KHAAAAN!!" moment was weak sauce compared to the original.)

  • by Rob_Bryerton (606093) on Friday May 17, 2013 @06:58PM (#43758403) Homepage
    Warning: some foul language ahead, and no, I do not advocate violence towards women. All right, then.

    TOS was pretty good and the remasters are pretty cool to watch if for nothing other than how tacky they are. That being said, about half of the episodes are really, really cheesy. Some of the costumes are downright hilarious, like they raided the Hollywood studio equivalent of a Goodwill store. But hey, it's the original, and still quite watchable. We all know the characters, no need to go into that.

    TNG was really very good in it's time, but I DARE you to watch it now. Wow, just horrific stuff. Bad acting, all the "men" have vaginas, way way overly PC, and the episodes flog you non-stop with the fucking morality angle. Ugh. Almost every actor way overacts, including Patrick Stewart, who is the star of the whole ordeal. He's excellent, if a little preachy and theatrical. But again, I just dare you to watch it.

    DS9 is probably my favorite these days, as it's not too ancient, doesn't get too high & mighty, and the Ferengi presence makes for some good comedy. Still, the Bajor angle wears you down, and you just want to smack Kira around with her Bajor this Bajor that, Bajor...SHUT UP!!!!. You almost start rooting for the Cardassians. Sisko, and especially Quark and Garak steal the show. Keiko, Julian, and Odo are mostly annoying. The Cardassians are delightfully evil; I love me some Gul Dukat.

    Voyager: Holy shit, this is a frickin' train-wreck in space. Like a train-wreck, it's a terrifyingly horrible thing to witness, but hard to look away. Being Trek, I have to watch it. It's really an unintentional comedy, and even watching it alone, I end up howling with laughter. Usually my dog will start biting me because I'm scaring the hell out of her as I'm doubled over in fits of laughter. You've got a helium addict for a captain (as I type this I'm laughing my ass off), the spastic half Klingon woman as the engineer, the 1st officer Tonto, the Hologram Doctor you just want to kick in the nuts he's so annoying, the Neelix cook dude (what the fuck is that?), and his Carol-Brady-hairdo sporting girlfriend playing the ???, fuck, I don't know what. This series is the very height of technobabble, and the plots and scripts are just downright ludicrous. I'm going to watch one after I post this, because they're funny as all hell.

    Now there's Enterprise, which is pretty good actually. It takes a while to get rolling, and the last several episodes are for shit, but overall, it's pretty good as long as the T&A doesn't offend you: it's really blatant. The stars of this series are definitely the Vulcan science officer T'Pol's breasts and her ass, as this is what the camera is usually focused on. Could be worse. The doctor, Phlox, is excellent: actually, he's my favorite character. It's not without its share of annoying characters, however. Here we go: The WORST has got to be Hoshi, the Korean actress cast as a Japanese (of course) communication officer. At first you think: "Hey, at least she's kind of cute." But then the whining starts. And the pouting. Oh the pouting. Please just STOP IT, HOSHI. Ugh, she is such a bummer. Malcom, the security officer is OK sometimes, but definitely neurotic. Then the hotheaded engineer, who again, grows on you, but is mostly annoying. I liked Scott Bakula (for the most part) as the captain, but the fatal flaw is that NOBODY LISTENS TO HIM, and he rarely kicks their asses, electing to let it slide. Some really cool alien species show up here and there.

    So, there's my take on the Star Trek series. Which should really be called Time Trek, because it seems half of the episodes are about time travel. I liked the 1st reboot for what it was (mindless action in space), but really people, ALL of the Trek iterations are pretty bad, so take off those rose tinted glasses and lighten up.

If a camel is a horse designed by a committee, then a consensus forecast is a camel's behind. -- Edgar R. Fiedler

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