A bit different post this time…More of a rant! Sorry, it goes on forever!
Having grown up with the original Star Trek, I can only watch the newest assault on the Star Trek franchise from the perspective that it is an alternate universe from the original Star Trek Gene Roddenberry created. Taking such a point of view allows me to watch the new crew of the Enterprise take on the Universe without grimacing [much] at their antics, relative to the well established history and timeline of the original Star Trek.
I found that I could accept the cast and revised crew, and I tried really hard to like what I was seeing on the big screen, but what I was seeing made me feel that the movies were built around the action and special effects and not much more. In this day and age you need more than the visual shock and awe, you need a storyline behind the visuals that ties everything together in a way that doesn’t leave the viewer pondering if what they just saw makes any sense.
Case in point: The first Star Trek movie shows us a youthful Jim Kirk racing headlong toward a precipice in his step-father’s vintage Corvette Stingray. We watch as he jumps out of the car when it is about 40 feet from the edge. We all know that Kirk manages to slide to a stop, but we all also know that this is physically impossible and just ridiculous. So right at the beginning the director insults our intelligence by trying to get us to believe this is even plausible. Why not have Kirk jump out 300 feet before the edge? You still get the car going over, but you also get a scene that is at least plausible. Or better yet, have the officer on the air-cycle pull Kirk out of the car just as it goes over the edge. (I found it interesting that the beginning of the newest movie we find Kirk once again racing toward a precipice, but this time he goes over the edge. I’m still trying to figure out what that symbolizes.)
There’s another bug I have about Sci-Fi series and that’s jumping through time—and they all do it. I have always contended that when a science fiction show starts to use time travel to propagate the storyline, they’ve run out of ideas and are scrambling for something to continue the show. The television series Enterprise used this plot device in it’s pilot episode. It lasted only 4 years, with a mediocre following. The premise for the show was good, the cast could do the job, but the material that was produced for the show was dismal. The first new Star Trek movie used the time traveling ploy and, as far as I’m concerned, turned out a movie that was extremely disappointing.
Star Trek Into Darkness tries to remake the original Wrath of Khan movie, but with the alternate universe twist in full force. That could work if the story wasn’t full of holes and inconsistencies. It seems more and more that movies are built around the neat special effects that are thrown in here and there, regardless if they make any sense or not—let’s do it for the WOW-factor.
If you’re still with me, hang on a few more minutes and I’ll explain. Note: If you haven’t seen the movie yet, be forewarned that there are many spoilers to follow.
- Opening scene: Why is the Enterprise underwater?? Were they trying to sneak up on the natives of Nibiru? Did somebody forget that they have transporters on board? While it looks really spectacular coming out of the water, it makes absolutely no sense to do this other than the wow-factor. Plus it ignores the fact that a vessel that is designed to operate in the vacuum of space is not optimized for the pressures placed on it being hundreds of feet under water. A submarine would make a better spaceship than a spaceship would a submarine.
- Scotty doesn’t want to fly over the volcano to rescue Spock because it’s too hot? Lava is about 1200°C or 2200°F. The NASA space shuttles routinely handled temperatures of almost 2500°F. Spock was sitting on a block of basalt in the caldera in his spacesuit! I would think that the technology of the 23rd century would be able to handle those temperatures and more for their starships. And, don’t they have shields? Heat is just infrared electromagnetic radiation.
- Khan wipes out the Data Archive (Top Secret Section 31) with a ring that explodes when placed in water. Impressive! But, he proceeds to shoot up the conference room with an assault vehicle reminiscent of a Huey Cobra helicopter with a 50 caliber machine gun! Extremely inefficient since he didn’t manage to kill the guy he was after. Why not beam in a bomb? Use a phaser? Hell, with his capabilities he could have walked into the room and killed them all without breaking a sweat! (See number 12 below.)
- There is no security force at Star Fleet headquarters to take on this assault vehicle? (They better hope the Klingons don’t hear about that!)
- Khan then trans-warp beams to Kronos. (I won’t even get into the trans-warp beaming!) Why Kronos? Why didn’t he just beam to the new starship which was hanging out in orbit around Jupiter and take it over? (See number 12 below.)
- Admiral Marcus then gives Kirk a special new photon torpedo to take out Khan—72 of them! At this point we and Kirk don’t know that they are shielded with a body inside in cryogenic suspended animation (Khan’s friends). Hmmm, seems like the Admiral may have wanted to do serious bodily harm to these frozen people. Wouldn’t it be easier to just phaser Khan’s crewmates and be done with them? I’ve got to wonder why would anyone authorized the work to build a torpedo that had a cryogenic life-support system in it? And, of course to make sure you kill Khan you can’t shoot just one torpedo, you’re directed to shoot all 72 of them? That didn’t raise a flag in Kirk’s head?
- Scotty quits when the new torpedoes are brought on the ship because they’re shielded and he needs to know what’s inside. But wait, isn’t Scotty the chief engineer? Or did I miss something and his real job is the ship’s cargo master? Doesn’t the ship of this size have a weapons officer, or an armorer that would be looking after these weapons?
- Scotty resigns, so Kirk (Did Kirk even finish going through Star Fleet Academy?) assigns Chekov, the navigator, who’s been shadowing Mr. Scott, to head up engineering? (He gets to wear a “red shirt”! Oh no!) Didn’t Scotty have a subordinate that helped him in engineering who would be the next logical chief engineer as opposed to a navigator just out of Star Fleet?
- Uhura and Spock on an away-team? Okay, that’s fine…but wait! Really? You want two romantically engaged, personnel, who are obviously having a lover’s spat to attend an away-team on this critical mission? And, they then argue on the way down to the planet, pulling Kirk (the Captain) into their quarrel? Is this Star Trek or an episode of The Office? It’s a humorous moment, but if you think about it, it’s just all wrong! It’s like the writers/director can’t decide if they want this to be a comedy or an action movie.
- Shouldn’t Spock stay on the ship in command in case the Captain gets in trouble? (Really, the Captain should have his butt parked in the chair and the first officer should be leading the away-team.) Nope! You give command to your helmsmen! Go Sulu!
- Then they want to disassociate themselves from Star Fleet by wearing civilian clothes and flying a civilian ship…Ah, excuse me…what about that federation starship (Enterprise) that is floating derelict in Klingon space? I would think that might be a red flag to the Klingons that these people are probably not your average family out for a Sunday drive.
- Then of course the Klingons are so inept or Khan is so superior that he takes out the compliment of 3 Klingon Birds of Prey, plus destroys two of their ships. Gee, no one on any of the Klingon ships thought to just blast him to smithereens using their ship’s weapons?
- Back to the photon torpedoes: Of course, the chief medical officer on the ship is the logical choice to accompany the science/weapons officer in opening a mysterious photon torpedo to see what’s inside? I guess there is no one in sickbay that needs his attention…Oh, that’s right! They needed someone with the steadiest hands on the ship…How many surgeries will be done in the 23rd century with a handheld scalpel?
- Back to our solar system: Scotty just flies up to the top secret space base in orbit around Jupiter where they are building the newest star ship – USS Vengeance? Nobody is watching the radar screen? No identity challenges? No security? (I hope the Klingons don’t hear about this!)
- Okay, the Vengeance beats the tar out of the Enterprise, which manages to jump into warp, thanks to Chekov’s amazing engineering efforts. The Vengeance knocks the Enterprise out of warp and they end up 137,000 km from Earth (85,000 miles from Earth). Note that the Moon is 235,000 miles from Earth on average, so they are really close to the planet. Doesn’t Earth have any defense systems monitoring local space? Star Fleet headquarters is in San Francisco and they have no defensive systems that pick up these two ships and go and investigate? Where’s NORAD—or its 23rd century equivalent?? You’ve got the Enterprise still getting beat up by a ship that’s twice as big—that’s almost 2000 feet long! No one on Earth notices this? There are no radio transmissions from Enterprise? A call for help? Standard telemetry that tells Star Fleet—“Hi honey we’re home?” (I hope the Klingons don’t hear about this!)
- Well, lets talk about the Vengeance. (The impression is that Khan was involved in designing it. Pretty good for someone who technology background is 200 years old!) Why is it so huge if you don’t need a large crew to a man it? It was designed to be run by a minimal crew and built for combat, then it would make sense that it would be as small as possible—just crew, engines and weapons. It seems to be another case of applying the WOW-Factor!
- I just loved the flame-throwing thrusters (very retro!) on a starship that uses antimatter for warp drive and has anti-gravity devices on board. The gurneys in the hospital had no wheels, apparently using an anti-gravity system! I’m just glad that someone filled the fuel tanks for the Enterprise before they left space dock.
- And Scotty, bless his heart, has stowed away on the Vengeance and survives running the entire length of the empty engine room to open the hatch for Kirk and Khan. But, unfortunately, Scotty is caught in his attempt to help them. Luckily, though, the person who catches him had to be the most stupid security officer in Star Fleet!
- Excuse me! Detonating 72 photon torpedoes, inside the engine room of the Vengeance does not obliterate the starship? Of course not. You have to keep Khan alive…
- The Enterprise is in free-fall to Earth and there is no gravity on the ship because the power is out and gravity systems are failing. Then why isn’t everyone floating?
- The Kirk/Spock switch at the end from the original Wrath of Khan ending is almost comical, as is the resurrection of Kirk. If you didn’t watch the original Wrath of Khan then the demise of Kirk would have been a much more serious scene.
- The Federation, again defenseless does nothing as the Vengeance crashes into San Francisco…
- They can’t beam up Khan and Spock as they are fighting on the vehicle flying through the city, because they keep moving and they can’t get a lock on them. But, in the first movie Chekov beamed Kirk and Sulu up while they were in free fall to the planet Vulcan. And, they can beam someone down to the vehicle that’s moving?
- And lastly, (Finally!) there are no security people on the Enterprise to beam down and tell Spock not to kill Khan, as well as provide a little help, so they have to beam their communications officer down?
- Whoops! One more: Of course, let’s just refreeze Khan and his crew for a new movie somewhere down the road!
There’s more, but I’ve taken enough of your valuable time. I’m sure that everyone involved in the production of Star Trek Into Darkness worked hard to produce the final product and I commend them on their efforts. But, if you are going to spend $200 million to make a movie, how much more does it cost to get a script that gives the audience a cohesive, plausible storyline, with plausible characters, action and effects? Probably nothing. There are many excellent writers out there who have written intelligent stories, filled with action, intrigue and adventure that would be happy to provide the script for the next Star Trek movie.
Till next time,