When the Jar Jar Binks version of Star Wars came out, I was in the middle of a lot of traveling, and so I missed it in its initial run. By the time I got home, the collective opinion was that the movie was garbage, but somehow I was determined that I was going to be the one who realized that in fact the movie was actually great. It wasn’t! But I went to a second-run movie theater with the same level of anticipation that I had before hearing what other people thought of it, only to leave the movie theater feeling forced to acknowledge that they were right. (A very similar thing happened with the Matrix sequels!) So you can imagine the hard set of my teeth when, before seeing the new Star Trek movie I mentioned at lunch that I was going to go see it that afternoon, at which point my cousin wavered his hand back and forth to say that he thought the movie was so-so. Why would you do that? What is the point of doing that? Ugh, guys, aren’t families THE WORST? The only time I can imagine waving my hand to say that a movie was so-so to someone who hadn’t seen the movie yet would be if they announced that they were about to see it and if it didn’t live up to their expectations they were going to fill their pockets with rocks and walk into the ocean. Then I would be like “so-so.” Then I would be like “let us temper these expectations of yours.” I don’t have a good poker face. If someone says they are going to see a movie that I didn’t like, I’m not like “OH COOL!” But I can keep my shit together. In any case, Star Trek: Into Darkness is better than a hand-wavy so-so. It’s good! It’s not quite as fun or as good as the first one, but what is, and it’s certainly good enough that you can LET SOMEONE ENJOY THEIR PRE-MOVIE LUNCH FOR GOODNESS SAKE. OK. I’m done. I’m ready to move on. Let’s all move on:
In Star Trek: Into Darkness, Captain Kirk is OUR generation’s Maverick, while Spock is his Goose. These guys don’t play by the rules! Well, actually, Kirk doesn’t play by the rules. Spock ONLY plays by the rules, LOL. They put an ice computer inside of a volcano so that the weirdly future-racist “people” of Planet Music Video can worship the spaceship God. This gets Kirk and Spock into some pretty hot water (although not as hot as that volcano AM I RIGHT?) and they are separated onto two different ships except not even because ten seconds later they are back together on their old ship, so I guess that wasn’t that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. Anyway, there is a sick little girl and a stranger heals her by putting his blood into her blood, but in return he makes her dad blow up a library with an Alka Seltzer decoder ring. Then the stranger shoots everyone at Space Headquarters until Kirk throws a fire extinguisher into his engine (five million years in the future, there are portable teleportation pods, and 300 year old Super Humans, and hover-beds, but we still use hose-based fire extinguishers built into the walls) and chases him to the Klingon planet with a bunch of secret torpedoes and a pretty blonde lady. It turns out that the torpedoes are made out of people (Soylent Torpedoes) and the people are friends with Benedict Cumberbatch. The rest of the movie is, like, is Benedict Cumberbatch our friend now? Or is he still our enemy? Will Simon Pegg get the little door open in time? Everyone keeps talking about how war with the Klingons is inevitable even though the Klingons actually don’t seem to be doing anything so where are the Klingons, though? And is a nuclear-based warp drive engine really so fragile that it can simply get bumped off of its axis but then to get it to work again you can just kick it really hard? It’s fun! Fun movie.
There are a couple of things that fall apart when you think about them too hard, or also at all. The movie commits one of my big action movie pet peeves, which is when a bad guy is established in the beginning to be invincible, able to withstand impossible levels of physical abuse without batting a titanium eyelash, so that you are like how are they even going to be able to beat this guy, but then in the final scene he just gets beaten up and it turns out it’s pretty easy. I hate that! And, like, the evil George W. Bush guy wants to start a war with the Klingons by performing a drone strike so that he can become some kind of totalitarian hero, but as soon as Kirk breaks protocol and takes Benedict Cumberbatch as a prisoner and opens up the drones to discover they’re full of dudes, George W. Bush decides to kill all of them so that he can go ahead with his war, but so why didn’t he just start a war in the first place if he didn’t even need them it turns out? Also, when Simon Pegg opens that little door it just gets very windy somehow, and his eyeballs don’t even boil in his skull right before his head doesn’t even explode from the sudden pressure of the vacuum of space. You know, stuff like that. But whatever! So just don’t think about the movie very much!
The banter between Kirk and Spock is very fun! Love those guys! And Benedict Cumberbatch is very good at acting. I like to watch him act in movies and on television. I also like in these movies when stuff is blowing up and stuff and then there’s a shot in space with all of the debris and the fire and explosions and stuff but it’s super silent because of how it’s space. They did that great in the first one and they did it a little bit in this one too and I like it very much.
Also, uh, when the ship was falling out of the sky? Yeah!
Probably the biggest problem with the latest installment of Star Trek is just that it doesn’t really seem to take us anywhere. At the beginning of the movie, Kirk is excited because he thinks he’s about to get assigned on a five-year exploration mission, and at the end of the movie, that is exactly what happens. OK, good for him. I am seriously very happy for Kirk and his career. But I don’t want to watch a movie about a five-year exploration mission, which, incidentally, doesn’t even seem that different from what he was already doing, which is ruining volcanoes and warping all over the place. I guess Spock has a feeling now, or something. So that’s cool. What I’m saying is that this movie was fun, and I enjoyed watching it, but what keeps it from being great is that it doesn’t really set up anything for the future. The movie started with the crew of the Enterprise being pretty solid and enjoying each other’s company, and it ends that way. For two seconds in the middle it seemed like the Earth was in trouble, but actually I think it is fine. With these types of franchises, the very best middle-installments are the ones where the world is changed in a meaningful and often times unpleasant way. You’re not sure what’s going to happen to these characters, because they’ve changed, or whether they are going to get back together, because they are now apart, or find what they are looking for, because they still haven’t, or whatever obstacles still remain in their paths. Not here. Here, we end basically where we began. Fair enough.
It’s possible, of course, that this has more to do with the Star Trek franchise itself, which maybe doesn’t lend itself to major upheavals or darker inter-relationships between the characters. Which might also be why I never really liked the Star Trek franchise before these movies. HOW DO YOU LIKE THEM SPACE APPLES?
Fun movie, though. Right? Guys?