Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Ghoul Versus Star Trek: Into Darkness (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1!

To set up a drinking game for this movie, Shippus Interuptus happens AGAIN as Sulu hails Kirk with news a ship is approaching them fast. Kirk worries it's the Klingons, but Khan tells him he knows EXACTLY who it is. Kirk runs to the bridge in time to witness the Star Destroyer from Star Wars arrive- oh wait, my bad. It's the most ominous looking Federation ship in the history of ever, made of dark metal and probably the size of a small moon.

Admiral Marcus hails Kirk, dropping all pretense at being friendly the instant Kirk calls Khan by name. Marcus asks for Khan back, Kirk agreeing but it's all a front. After Marcus ends the call, Kirk orders the ship to warp to Earth against Chekov's advice, as the ship's core is still unstable from the leak. They take off anyway, Marcus able to follow them in his advanced prototype ship. Carol runs to the bridge and begs Kirk to let her talk to her father, as he won't destroy the Enterprise with her on board. This comes on the heels of Marcus opening fire on the Enterprise, blasting holes into it and sucking dozens of the crew into space to their death.

Kirk quickly opens a line to Marcus, the assault stopping the second Carol identifies herself. She makes a plea to her father to stop his madness or else he'll have to kill her, but he responds by casually beaming her to his ship. DAMN PETER WELLER DON'T PLAY! Kirk frantically yells at Marcus to spare his crew, taking full responsibility for everything that happened.

The admiral considers this sincere speech for a long moment, and then is all “Nah, see ya wouldn't wanna be ya!” and deploys the biggest damn cannons this side of the Death Star on the Enterprise. Kirk turns to his frightened looking crew and apologizes, but suddenly Marcus' cannons power down. SCOTTY TO THE RESCUE MOTHERFUCKERS! ...although it would have been nice if he'd done this the second Marcus appeared and saved dozens of lives on the Enterprise, but whatever. He powers down the entire ship's weapons and shields, wanting to be beamed aboard the Enterprise but Kirk can't comply because of the ass kicking the ship just took. Portable transwarp device? Anyone?

Kirk cooks up a plan to ally with Khan and beam over to Marcus' ship to take it out because Khan has detailed information of the ship, Spock trying to talk him out of it but to no avail. Khan agrees to help Kirk in exchange for the safety of his own crew, as they would also die if Marcus destroyed the Enterprise. There's also a strange scene of Bones injecting Khan's blood into a dead Tribble, as he notes it has borderline magic regenerative qualities. I'm not even going to ask why he had a dead Tribble or why he's putting HUMAN blood into it, that's small potatoes in the grand scheme of everything else. We all know this is going to lead to Khan's blood saving someone's life, but come on... could they have found a more blatant way to introduce this? LAAAAAAAAAAAAZY. Also, wasn't this one of the main plot points in Kurtzman and Orci's script for the Amazing Spider-Man 2?  Super regenerative blood that could work miracles? BAH!

Since the Enterprise's teleporters are down due to the attack, Kirk and Khan make a space jump to Marcus' ship in a scene that's shockingly similar to the space jump from the first movie, only horizontal. It's really exciting and tense, but they really couldn't have thought of something else? This movie has enough problems with originality as it is, thank you very much.  Scotty opens a hatch for them to enter the ship and the assault is on! Their journey through the ship is cut with scenes back on the Enterprise, where Spock has contacted future Spock on New Vulcan for information about Khan. This scene is HILARIOUS because Spock says something to the effect “You KNOW I can't tell you anything about your future, but ahhh... just this once!”. Future Spock is pretty damn inconsistent in these new movies.
We don't get to see what this information is, but Spock begins cooking up a plan that involves Bones opening up a torpedo again.  That also ends Leonard Nimoy's cameo, which added NOTHING to the movie.  Yeah, I think we already knew Khan was dangerous, thank you.  The away team bursts onto Marcus' bridge and takes everyone out, Kirk giving Scotty the signal to stun Khan as well. Oh, he's not going to like that when he wakes up. Kirk places Marcus under arrest, the admiral going on to give a VERY obvious speech about how HE has to be the man in charge when the war happens. Guh, that was painful to watch.

The tension is broken up by Khan, who shockingly isn't in the best of moods over Kirk's betrayal. He easily takes out Kirk, Scotty, and Carol before CRUSHING MARCUS' FREAKING HEAD WITH HIS BARE HANDS! BLOODY HELL, Star Trek what happened to you?! I thought Tom Hardy impaling himself on a spear in Star Trek Nemesis was bad, this is some Quentin Tarantino shit right here. Khan hails Spock and demands his crew in exchange for the away team, Spock complying after Khan threatens to destroy the Enterprise's life support. However, both men start using “torpedoes” in place of “cryopods”, so you KNOW Spock had Bones remove all the frozen humans beforehand. Nice of the film to hold all of its card so we can see them, I guess.

Khan upholds his part of the bargain, teleporting the away team over and then proceeding to open fire on the Enterprise. This only lasts for a few seconds, as we see Spock had the torpedoes armed and they all detonate, taking out Khan's newly jacked ship. Khan didn't defuse them before putting his friends in there?! Or maybe he did and Marcus rearmed them? The cryopods, sure enough, are still safe on the Enterprise because killing 72 people like that would have been going too far for even this movie.

They're not out of the woods yet though, as Khan's attack on the Enterprise was still enough to severely damage it to the point it begins to lose power and start hurtling towards the Earth. Spock orders everyone on the ship to evacuate while Kirk and Scotty race to engineering to try to restore power. Just like the previous film, this scene REALLY shines due to the use of real sets and not green screen bullshit, as the ship keeps flipping over and inverting gravity, forcing the officers to constantly alter their path. At one point the bridge they're on tilts to one side and is about to send them falling to their death, but Chekov shows up to save them. I really hope they reveal Chekov is secretly genetically engineered himself because he just caught two grown men in free fall without even straining himself. Still, nice Chekov moment as sadly he's been nonexistent in the movie.

By the time they get to the core there's a NEW problem: it's misaligned. Kirk wants to go in to fix this, despite Scotty's protests that the radiation from the core will kill him. Kirk punches him, FINALLY scoring a knockout in the series! Yay! He heads inside, kicking the core back into place before the Enterprise burns up in the Earth's atmosphere. Scotty calls Spock down to engineering, the Vulcan finding Kirk on the other side of the radiation door near death in a complete inversion of the scene in Wrath of Khan. I guess this is a clever twist as we all expected Spock to sacrifice himself to save the ship again, especially since the whole movie has been beating us over the head with Spock not understanding the meaning of friendship, but on the other hand this just feels like change for change's sake.

Kirk and Spock exchange their goodbyes, Spock TRULY understanding Kirk's friendship as a tear runs down his face. They hold their hands up against the barrier as Kirk succumbs to radiation poisoning and dies, Spock ruining this amazing scene by doing the “KHAAAAAAAN!” scream that I never dreamed they'd do in a million years. I've given a huge pass to them rehashing lines from the previous movies, but this was just too much.

Cue the credits- huh? What?! KHAN IS STILL FUCKING ALIVE?!? Ohhhh no. Yeah, for all of those keeping score at home this is the moment the entire movie went off the rails for good. Oddly enough right after they got done remaking the ending of the INFINITELY BETTER Wrath of Khan nearly shot for shot and word for word, but I'm sure that's just a coincidence. Khan's ship goes plummeting into Earth's atmosphere, set on a collision course with Starfleet HQ.  Once again, all the questions I had from the first movie go completely unanswered as there is absolutely NO form of planetary defense whatsoever to shoot down the ship. Either Starfleet is as cocky as Kirk thinking they're invincible, or the writers put no thought into any of this stuff. You'd think after being the victims of a vicious attack just one year earlier, Starfleet might have put SOME kind of safeguards in place, but nah. DRAMA!

The ship crashes right in the middle of San Francisco, easily killing thousands of people in the process. Khan survives without a scratch, jumping down into the city while the Enterprise monitors him. Vengeance Spock, not even TRYING to pretend he's a Vulcan at this point, orders Chekov to beam him up. The prodigy tells him he can't because the ship is too fucked up, but he CAN beam Spock down because... God, who cares? Khan starts running through the city, stopping to pick up a stylish trench coat because Benedict Cumberbatch MUST LOOK AWESOME AT ALL TIMES.

Spock beams down after him, and the chase is on! We cut back to the Enterprise where the crew is mournfully looking at the body of their fallen captain when Bones notices the dead Tribble has been brought back to life thanks to the power of MAGIC BLOOD. A futuristic looking space light bulb appears over his head.  Khan and Spock end up on a hovering platform and begin beating the shit out of each other, as the movie has utterly devolved into action bullshit at this point. I love the tone a few seconds ago was loss and sorrow, now it's just endless punching. Bones realizes he's out of magic blood to save Kirk, calling the bridge to have them beam Khan up.

This scene HAD to be written by Lindelof, as we see Bones put Kirk in one of the cryopod to preserve his brain functions until the blood arrives, which I can't help but remember earlier when he said he had no idea how to OPEN one of said pods. What did they do with the body of the super person inside of it? Why couldn't they just use his or her blood to save Kirk? Sulu asks Chekov if he can do this, despite a few minutes ago being told the teleporters couldn't beam people up. Chekov forgot this too apparently, because he responds he can't get a lock on Khan and Spock because “they keep moving”. Portable transwarp device, yeah? Maybe? No? Oh.

GOOD GOD every line of dialogue is pissing me off more and more. You know, I wonder if one member of the Kutzman/Orci duo is really smart while the other is really stupid and THAT'S why their movies are so damn inconsistent. Remember that little scene in the first movie where Kirk and Sulu are free falling to their deaths and Whiz Kid Chekov is able to “lock onto them” with no problem whatsoever? Or how about in the same movie where Scotty proved he's also an ace with the teleporters by beaming three people from two different locations at once?

But no, instead we get Uhura beaming down to their location... despite the fact they're on a platform that is moving VERY fast. She turns the tide in the battle, allowing Spock to get the drop on Khan and just start smashing his face in repeatedly. Noble and logical Spock, hammering a guy's face in. Classy. The next shot is of Kirk waking up, Bones telling him he saved his life thanks to a serum he made from Khan's blood and there better be NO DEATH WHATSOEVER in the next movie with this new magic macguffin floating around. Kirk and Spock have their moment, Spock's arc completed as he has mastered the magic of friendship finally.  After a quick shot of Khan frozen in a cryopod with the rest of his people in the same warehouse the Ark of the Covenant is being kept, we go to one year later at a Starfleet ceremony remembering all the lives lost in this movie. Kirk's speech is as follows:

“There will always be those who mean to do us harm. To stop them, we risk awakening the same evil within ourselves. Our first instinct is to seek revenge when those we love are taken from us, but that's not who we are. We are here today to rechristen the U.S.S. Enterprise and to honour those who lost their lives nearly one year ago. When Christopher Pike first gave me his ship he had me recite the Captain's Oath, words I didn't appreciate at the time. Now I see them as a call for us to remember who we once were, and who we must be again. And those words?
“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Her five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before”.

Not who we are? Wasn't literally EVERY SINGLE ACTION our heroes took soaked in revenge? If they hadn't engaged in revenge, Khan would still be walking about blowing up people! Kirk boards the newly repaired Enterprise, getting ready for their new deep space five year mission. We see Carol has joined the crew, because YEAH they're already so busy under-utilizing the core characters let's just add some new ones. I guess that T and A has got to come from somewhere though. The iconic Star Trek theme begins to play as Sulu blasts the ship off into the great unknown, where hopefully a MUCH better movie lies in wait. Wait, Roberto Orci is writing AND directing the next movie?! FML.

Cue the credits. Hey, what was the point of the subplot regarding Kirk's mystery illness? Remember that?

I do believe I have a new definition of the word “polarizing” after seeing this one. On one hand, I can see why people liked this movie but on the other I can see why they really, REALLY hated it. If this had just been a generic summer movie with the title of, oh I don't know, “Benedict Cumberbatch Fucking Rules”, you would have had one of the greatest popcorn movies of all time. But they didn't, and it wasn't.

Positives first, although it's just going to be a copy/paste of my review of the first film. Great acting, direction, pacing, editing, special effects, blah blah blah. Honestly, Abrams is such an elite action director at this point in his career these things are pretty much guarantees when you sit down to watch one of his movies, but I'll always give them props because they are rare as hell nowadays. Unfortunately, a good story is almost never a guarantee with his work, especially when time after time he keeps letting his friends write his movies. I've already covered a lot of what's wrong with this movie, but we're going to go into some deeper analysis here.

In 2258 the planet Vulcan was destroyed by Nero, which was enough to convince President George W. Bush- I mean Admiral Marcus that the benevolent Starfleet HAD to go Department of Homeland Security and start being proactive instead of reactive. This is where everything starts getting confusing, but I THINK his plan all along was to manufacture a war with the Klingons, although if that's the case the way he went about it is yet ANOTHER example of a movie character being able to anticipate the future to such a degree he makes Jigsaw from the SAW franchise look like amateur hour.

He went looking for the frozen super people with the goal of reviving Khan and forcing him to build him a tons of advanced weapons in exchange for unfreezing the rest of his people, and letting them live their lives in peace presumably. Again, we're just going to ignore why he thought a man nearly 300 years old would be able to build super weapons, and instead wonder why Khan agreed to this. He HAD to know Marcus couldn't be trusted, but no, he just goes along with it like an idiot. Super intellect, indeed.

This movie REALLY makes it seem like Marcus knew Khan would betray him and flee to Kronos, because when Kirk comes to the admiral asking to capture Khan, he already has a plan in place to turn Kirk into the pawn that'll start the Klingon war. This gets even more unbelievable because Marcus ALSO knew Khan was going to kill Pike because only Kirk would be stupid enough to accept the assassination mission. Although Marcus taking the Enterprise away from Kirk was a completely pointless subplot that was counterproductive to his plan, but luckily for him this lasted all of a few minutes so he dodged that bullet.

With Scotty's help, Kirk is able to figure out where Khan is hiding and takes off in pursuit of him, unknowingly in a sabotaged ship that would break down in the Neutral Zone so the Klingons would eventually catch him and start a war with the Federation. In yet another example of Marcus' future vision, he knew Scotty would resign over the torpedoes and Kirk would put an inexperienced Chekov in charge, which worked out GREAT because Scotty could have fixed the coolant leak in a few seconds and ruined everything.

The plan goes to hell when Kirk doesn't fire the torpedoes and captures Khan instead, which now leads us to the superman's own master plan. After agreeing to help Marcus, he schemed to smuggle his friends out in the photon torpedoes... somehow. Why didn't he just use his portable transwrap- aww, fuck it. Hell, why didn't he just WAKE THEM UP if he had that much access to them? Khan single handedly took out several ships full of Klingon warriors, I seriously doubt Section 31 would have posed much of a threat to SEVENTY-THREE super people.

The admiral discovered Khan's deception, forcing Khan to flee... to a nearby hospital in San Francisco where he recruited the desparate father for his revenge plan, as he believes Marcus killed his friends afer discovering the failed smuggle atempt. He "hid" right in plain sight, which is made ridiculous when early on in the movie we see Starfleet has cameras crammed into every available square inch of the city. The father blew up the hidden Section 31 facility, which in turn caused all the senior officers of Starfleet to gather in an easily accessible room so Khan could kill all of them in retaliation for the assumed killing of his friends.

Khan then planned to escape to Kronos and do God knows what for the rest of his days, but this all changed when he discovered the Enterprise had 72 torpedoes which somehow instantly confirmed to him his friends were still alive. I guess he figured Marcus was too dumb to take the frozen people out first or something. Khan allows himself to be captured, which is yet another sticking point for me because somehow this lets him know Marcus' entire plan as he knows all about the warp core leak. Unless this entire thing was planned out by Marcus from the beginning, or- RHAARGH! My zombie brain can't take anymore of this.
Every scene only seems to call a previous one into question, which is a TRADEMARK of all the writers of this damn thing. After Khan's psychic revelation of Marcus' plan, the film does get incredibly predictible and straightfoward to the point that even if I'd never seen Wrath of Khan, I still would have known EXACTLY what was going to happen. Except maybe Khan surviving the explosion of his ship and not dying like he did in the orignal movie, but that was a middle finger to common sense instead of good writing. I already said how Kirk dying instead of Spock was just a swerve, and it's not like it meant ANYTHING since they went out of their way to awkwardly shoehorn MAGIC BLOOD waiting in the wings to save the day.

That's the plot, so what was it ACTUALLY about? You know, all the depth and social commentary Orci alluded to in his message board rants? The film has two larger themes to it: friendship and the ramifications of terrorism, one of which is a straightforward as humanly possible while the other is just a mess of concepts that don't work. Wanna guess which is which?

I'm not going to even bother going over the friendship storyline, because duh. The rest of the film was a "subtle" allegory for post 9/11 America, with Marcus a stand in for President Bush and Khan taking over the role of Osama bin Laden, a man enabled by the government he'd eventually turn on. You even had him hiding in caves in the land of a military enemy just to REALLY hammer that point home. Marcus' goal is to turn Khan's attack on Starfleet soil into a war with another country that had nothing to do with said attack, which also might sound a tad familiar. Going further, the photon torpedoes were meant to be drones as they were capable of killing over great distances with no risk to Starfleet officers.  The movie tells us how wrong all this is, as evidenced by Kirk's speech in the end (probably meant more for the current White House administration than us), that we can't give in to our fears of being hurt again and becoming the demons we're trying to fight.

Now on the surface this is fine, as I've mentioned before one of Star Trek's strongest suits has always been its parables to modern day events. Even something as played out as terrorism COULD be intriguing if handled with the right kind of subtlety and depth, but I don't think the guys who wrote Skidz and Mudflap were the guys to do it. Instead of having anything to SAY about the ramifications about Marcus' actions, the film just had our heroes solve everything with their fists. That's right, you can just PUNCH terrorism in the face until it goes away. What about all the other people that were helping Marcus build up Sector 31? They just instantly stopped being zealots when he got his head crushed in? Guess so, because the movie skipped over all of this to give us a nice and tidy ending where everyone lives happily ever after!

That's Into Darkness in a nutshell, people punch other people in the face until they get a happy ending. It's a thrill a minute ride that never lets up until the credits, full of great acting and slick action. As long as that's ALL your looking for, I give this one of the highest recommendations ever. But if you want something even slightly more deeper than that, this probably isn't the movie for you. It REALLY wants you to think it has a lot to say, but it's just the same "Overreacting to terrorism with war BAD" message we've seen in a few hundred movies since 2001. It probably won't ever occur to you the first time you watch this how ridiculous the story is thanks to the breakneck pace of the movie, but this is one of the flimsiest scripts to come out of the Hollywood machine since, well... the last Kurtzman/Orci one. Can we PLEASE get some new people to write these summer blockbusters already?!