Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Critique of "Star Trek: Into Darkness"

Warning: Spoilers follow.
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I've been a Star Trek fan for as long as I can remember, so devout a fan, in fact, that the first time I heard of the JJ Abrams re-boot, I thought it was sacrilege. And then I watched it. In light of the cancellation of Deep Space Nine and the failure of Enterprise, 2009's Star Trek brought a breath of fresh air to the franchise.

After the vacuum in which there was no new Trek after the original series ended, I looked forward to the first Trek movie with anticipation. After watching it, I didn't know what to make of it. Any new Trek is good Trek, I argued, but I loathed calling the new Trek good Trek. Then the second movie premiered and I went, in spite of the first, and was blown away. The Wrath of Khan was the best epic epi of Star Trek ever. I think I must've seen it a dozen times or more in the emptiness between it and The Search for Spock, only to be disappointed once more. The third movie in the franchise was too short and too proscribed. A mistake had been made in killing Spock and the purpose of The Search for Spock was an ends to a means--to put the canon right.

By contrast, The Voyage Home shined because it was a return to the two things Trek does best--the buddy relationship between Kirk and Spock (made better by Spock's newfound struggle with humanity/vulcanry) and time travel. After movie number four, the original flavour of Trek would not return until movie seven, Final Contact. This movie, capitalizing on the popularity of The Next Generation series, was a winner as it was as good as TNG's best television episodes. The movies that followed never, in my opinion, recaptured the camaraderie and adventure that made the series such a hit.

On the heels of TNG movies came a slew of television series linked to the Trek franchise. Deep Space Nine played out in mediocrity alongside a bland Final Contact and lacklustre Andromeda, followed by a struggling Enterprise, and it seemed like the franchise--and Gene Roddenbery's future ideal--had petered out.

Then came the 2009 re-boot, followed by 2013's Into Darkness. I went to see it because, like all other Trek movies, it was Star Trek. The reviews were mixed, everything from amazing and that it was a must see to nothing special, and that it recycled several episodes of the original Trek. While the movie does recycle many original Trek ideas, such as the characters of Khan, and Carol Marcus, as well as a conveniently placed zombie tribble, Into Darkness is amazingly fun. In it, the crew is sent to kill the character we later learn is Khan Noonian Singh in a deserted area on Kronos, the Klingon home world, without starting a war. Talked out of the hit by Spock, Kirk and crew are targeted by Marcus' father as a part of a cover-up to hide the fact that Khan had been working with The Federation to develop a type of photon torpedo. It turns out the torpedoes disguise stasis pods for Khan's eugenically engineered mates, and Kirk and his gang emerge victorious, thwarting the evil Marcus senior, and securing Khan and group back in their stasis pods, ready to be set afloat on the SS Botany Bay where they will be found by Kirk et al in the original Trek timeline.

I enjoyed the re-invention of the Khan character, seeing the start of Kirk's relationship with Carol Marcus, and the cameos by both the tribble and Leonard Nimoy as the elder Spock. It is interesting how the roles of Kirk and Spock are switched for the retake of Wrath’s critical warp core scene. This time it is Kirk who asks about the status of the ship and Spock who answers "Out of danger," as well as shouting "Khan!" with more emotion than you’d think a Vulcan could ever muster. I know Kirk is supposed to be the star of the series, but the Spock character, pioneered by Leonard Nimoy and wonderfully interpreted by Zachary Quinto, in my mind, has become my favourite and most important Trek character by far. I love the chemistry between Spock and Uhura as well. Though Kirk still has a lot of growing up to do, this movie helps the character travel down that road by miles from where he was at the end of the first movie.

Into Darkness is a fine addition to the popular Trek canon. I look forward to seeing it again when it comes out on DVD as well as where JJ Abrams will “boldly go” with the franchise in the next movie.

About the Author
Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.

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