The long awaited part 2! The Abrams-ing!
So Star Trek got a big kick-start in 2009 with the release of the new film directed by J.J. Abrams. I really enjoyed these movies but at the same time they felt more action-oriented and a bit lacking in a certain something. So I don’t hate them like many other Trek fans do, nor do I feel they’re the best thing to happen to Star Trek since the Next Generation. So here they are kind of at the mid-point of the list.
Speaking about the Next Generation though, Amazon had the blu rays on sale this week which I snatched up and good lord are they beautiful! The Enterprise looks gorgeous and its amazing how much detail is actually in the model itself. I mean, I’ve seen photos of them online but nowhere did I see the amount of detail you see here. This only made me pine to see Deep Space Nine, my favorite Star Trek series, given the same treatment on blu-ray. I almost despaired thinking it would never happen, not only because it lacks the fan following of TNG but also because I figured the 3D files for the series intensive use of CG has been lost but then I saw this. OH MY GOD! I have no idea if CBS is pursuing this but if the rumors of them working on a blu ray release of the Animated series is true, then I can’t imagine them NOT doing DS9 (and to a lesser extent, Voyager). I’m just afraid that by the time they get these done and ready to release, blu ray will have been replaced by a new 2k format or something. I just want all my beautiful Star Trek on one format, dammit!
anyways, back to our regularly scheduled programming!
The “reboot” that brought Star Trek back to mainstream attention. I thought their approach to the reboot, having characters from the original, or Prime, timeline venture back into the past, thus shaking up the timeline we know. The movie is a fun actiony romp but unfortunately it doesn’t hold up very well to close scrutiny over the continuity. For example, at the very beginning, the captain of the USS Kelvin is wearing a Starfleet badge when, on the original series, they’d established that each ship used a unique assignment patch instead and that Starfleet would adopt the Enterprise’ assignment patch as the standard for all uniforms. This small detail was recognized by Star Trek: Enterprise, which was set before the Original Series. Its not a major detail but its somewhat indicative of the lack of attention to detail present in the Abrams films that had become a welcome part of prior Star Trek productions. The other major effect of this lack of attention to detail was in the size and scale of the ships.
Ships on other Star Trek productions were meticulously designed at a set scale (with some exceptions and confusion here and there) but at some point the Enterprise on this film, though designed to roughly match the original Enterprise in size, was scaled up enormously, making it about as large as the massive Galaxy-class Enterprise. The rest of the ships were similarly scaled, with the survey ship USS Kelvin holding about 800 people, twice what the original Enterprise held and nearly as many as the Galaxy class.
Little of this really does anything to make the movie itself unenjoyable and only really becomes an issue when you want to reconcile this universe with the rest of the canon.
“Let’s call him Jim…” – Whatever technical or continuity issues the scene may have had, its impossible to deny the effectiveness of the opening scene with Kirk’s father laying down his life to save his wife and son against impossible odds set to Michael Giacchino’s fabulous score.
“I feel like I’m leaking…”- The film introduces its new Enterprise, unites the remaining bridge crew, and sets up a major plot point in this extended scene which sees McCoy sneak Kirk aboard the ship by infecting him with a disease. Kirk reacts negatively to the infection and the cures and its quite fun to see it all happen. Karl Urban was also one of the film’s stand-outs as Doctor McCoy and this is a fun collection of scenes. Like so many of the better parts of this film, there’s a good deal of humor in these scenes.
The death of Vulcan-The Vulcans have been a major part of the Star Trek universe since day one. Spock is the series’ most beloved characters and the Vulcans have been established as vital to humanity’s development, having been the first alien species we made contact with and then shepherded us through our early galactic exploration. All these reasons and more set up the importance the destruction of Vulcan has on the Star Trek universe as we know it. It was also at this point that the rebooted universe really made its mark on the continuity.
Into Darkness is, unsirprisingly, a rather dark film. Star Trek has been built on a rather optimistic future for humanity. It has been mentioned that war, poverty, illness, and hunger have all been eliminated on Earth and Benjamin Sisko describes Earth as Paradise. Star Trek Into Darkness reflects a world where humanity is still angry, still paranoid, and still anxious to turn to war and violence in the face of fear. I really enjoy the film on that level as it is always interesting to see how the Utopian future of Star Trek responds so such chaotic and destructive aspects of humanity which, despite how much we would like to believe otherwise, will always be a part of us.
Into Darkness is an interesting film but it is also incredibly flawed in many ways. The story makes several illogical jumps and introduces some incredibly damaging material into the canon. The transwarp beaming from the previous movie was bad enough but this time around its miniaturized so that it can be carried in a duffel bag, which allows our antagonist to warp from Earth to Qo’noS in seconds…why do we need starships now exactly?
The film eventually becomes Wrath of Khan, complete with a dear character sacrificing themselves to save the ship and a mighty roar of “KHAAAAAAAN!” For many people, myself included, the film begins to lose much of its emotional impact because of its reliance on the feelings we have from Wrath of Khan without successfully setting up an emotional foundation of its own. In addition, Kirk’s sacrifice doesn’t have anywhere near the impact Spock’s did in Khan because unlike Spock, who was left dead at the end of the end of the film and future films not being a foregone conclusion (and still having to wait 2 years for the eventual sequel), Kirk was brought back to life only minutes after dying and was well enough to give a big speech at the end of the movie.
“My name is…Khan” – Though it makes little impact within the context of the film alone, Khan is a name that carries significant weight in the Star Trek universe and Benedict Cumberbatch delivers a performance full of all the anger and malice that Khan deserves. Though I can’t say that the character was put to its best use here, he does have all the presence to make an impact.
USS Vengeance: Despite any objections I may have to its size (its over a mile long if you accept the larger estimate for the length of the new Enterprise) I really like the design of this ship. I think it really embodies the distorted version of Starfleet it could become if it gave into the negative side of humanity that something like a terrorist attack could bring out. The massive black ship is wholly imposing and intimidating and has the teeth to match.
Freefall: After the Enterprise’ engagement with the USS Vengeance both ships are severely damaged. The Enterprise plummets to Earth, leading to all sorts of gravitational fluctuations within the ship. The free fall is only halted once Kirk sacrifices himself to save the ship in a scene ripped from Wrath of Khan and the Enterprises rises heroically from the cloud cover. The success is short lived as Khan orders the severely damaged Vengeance to crash into Starfleet headquarters in San Francisco as a final act of retribution. What follows is the Vengeance wreaking a swath of destruction through San Francisco as its great mass rips through San Francisco.
So two more movies down! Not sure if this is much real progress but we’re getting there! Next time will see the conclusion with the last films on the list. Not any surprise what we’ll see but at least there’s the order to consider!