So yeah, Star Trek into Darkness.

Spoilers ahead, Kids!

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And we’re back.

There’s a lot to like in the new “Star Trek” film.  The acting is top-notch.  The visual effects are outstanding, and the set pieces and dialog all have the same clever, pop-corn selling flair they had in the last movie.  But they all add up to a film that is less than the sum of its parts.

Let me put it to you this way:  if you hired a Philharmonic Orchestra to make a Ramones tribute album, and recorded it in high-definition surround sound, it would sound better.  The music would be clearer.  The musicians would have more craft.  But it would miss the point entirely.  “Star Trek Into Darkness” is the Boston Pops playing “I Want to be Sedated.”

Most of the films problems lie with the overall plot structure of the film, which sets up conflict and complete forgets about them rather than using it to further any character growth.  Case in point:  The opening scene of the movie is the crew engaging in a dangerous heist to stop a volcano from blowing up a planet.  Which is maybe a thing that could happen, I guess.  For reasons that aren’t really well explained The Enterprise is submerged in the planet’s oceans rather than in orbit.  Something bad happens, and Kirk is forced to choose between saving Spock’s life, and breaking the Prime Directive.  If you aren’t a big Star Trek fan, the Prime Directive is the rule that says you don’t fuck with a developing culture.  Cut to being back on Earth, and we see Kirk being woken by his alarm after a night with a full on PAIR of ACTUAL CAT-GIRLS!  He’s excited, because he assumes that he did SUCH A GOOD JOB, that Star Fleet is going to give him a big promotion.  It turns out he lied about breaking the Prime Directive, and he’s being fired and sent back to the academy.  Now, all this would be reasonable, and a good set up if the movie were in any way, shape or form about Kirk growing up and learning to lead rather than just kicking the shit out of your problems.

But this is about where Space-terrorist Benedict Cumberbatch shows up, and Kirk is called back up to help deal with one guy on the other side of the planet, because there are twelve people in Starfleet, apparently.  Inside of ten minutes, Kirk’s mentor is dead, he’s got a burning thirst for revenge, and he’s back in the captain’s chair having learned nothing.  The Prime Directive, or the fact that Kirk RUINED A CIVILIZATION is not discussed for the rest of the film.

This is a mistake that is repeated throughout the movie.  A problem is brought up, not really confronted, and forgotten about to make room for another contrived reference and action sequence.  And while the action sequences are all pretty good, nostalgia is not nearly so good at holding a movie together as a logical plot structure.  The fixation on references is so blatant, it has nostalgia for the 2009 Star Trek movie!  There is literally a scene in which two characters are talking in a bar, and one of them says ‘Remember that awesome bar fight from the last movie?’

Most of the references are to Khan, of course.  If you haven’t already heard, Cumberbatch is really Khan.  This has the affect of not only being problematic from the standpoint of, well, racism, but completely derailing the movie.  The last glimmer of hope that J. J. Abrams is making a serious film that questions Starfleet’s role as a military force in a Utopian society is swallowed up by Wrath of Khan II:  Lens Flare Remix.

The movie goes so far as to do the tragic death of Spock from the original movie, but in THIS TIMELINE, it’s KIRK that dies!  Cue dramatic sound effect here.  And of course, since it is Kirk fixing the warp core, the solution to the problem is for him to, wait for it, kick the living shit out of it.  That’s right.  Kirk beats up the warp core until it comes back online.  And then he dies, sending Spock into a screaming rage where he runs Khan down and beats him up on a flying car or something.  That’s right.  This wasn’t a movie about Kirk learning to step back and lead.  It’s a movie about SPOCK LEARNING TO KICK THE SHIT OUT OF STUFF!

The lights dim, the orchestra prepares, and the first strands of “Blitzkrieg Bop” drift over the audience.

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