After last night's hand-wringing, I did see Star Trek: Into Darkness today. And my fears were relieved, in some respects. This is not a re-hash of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
It is a summer blockbuster. Kudos to the team that put this movie together for trying to put some semblance of a theme into the movie. Kudos for trying to take Star Trek and use it as a reflection of our attitudes towards terrorism, and what we do when we face an existential threat. I thought about my own attitudes towards Boston being on lockdown after the events that transpired around the Boston Marathon bombing. The best Trek tries to do this, and the argument about safety is some of the best parts of the movie.
It fails unless you consider it an action flick, however. Each and every one of these characters has a legitimate motivation for revenge--Khan for being used by Starfleet, Kirk for the murder of Admiral Pike, Khan for Kirk betraying him, Admiral Marcus for trying to keep the Federation safe from another Nero-style attack. Carol Marcus for seeing her father have his head crushed, Spock for having Kirk die. The movie fails in the simple art of storytelling from there. No character steps back from those emotions to show how we should respond, the appropriate response to having someone you loved murdered. No one is wise enough to lecture the crew. And that is very bad for Gene Roddenberry's vision indeed. A speech at the end, after using people was the only thing that kept them alive, does not a theme make. This movie is about exactly what NOT to do when someone wrongs you.
Carol Marcus is the only one who doesn't seek revenge. And her reaction is cold as if nothing happened. I know if I saw my father's head crushed, I would be emotional. Stepping away from the emotion, as Spock suggests on Kronos, is not the way to handle this situation. You must deal with the emotions and choose the right course of action.
Kirk's speech about how he "doesn't know what he should do" is what this character is all about. He doesn't have the training necessary to be Captain. His love for Spock is never explained, as a mind-meld transference from Prime Spock, to his sympathy over losing his mother, whatever. We are left to guess. The relationships--the loyalty, love, and comradery among the crew--never hinted at, never given a character-building scene. They just are loyal and we are to accept it.
There are no good guys in this movie, it relies on lore and sentimentality of the past to explain who we are supposed to be cheering for. They don't do anything noble. Kirk isn't concerned about anyone else in that room except the one he cared about. He's selfish.
Spock is willing to push away emotions but can't do it when it counts. Nyota never says "Stop Spock. It's wrong." She says "Stop Spock, we need him."
Scotty is the only redeeming figure in the whole movie. He is capable at his job, tries his hardest to do what is right, and has training to handle these situations. And he gets busted off the Enterprise for it.
Now, for the nit-picks:
--A pack of Klingons--sure we can take them on. One Vulcan, oh, I'm too weak and will lose.
--No need for Prime Spock at all. Happy to see Leonard Nimoy, no need to show him.
--All the business about the ships in Marcus' office. Who cares? With or without it, it wouldn't make the movie better or worse.
-- Apologies to the people who claimed the Enterprise wasn't the ship crashing into San Francisco. You can break down the images better than I can.
--Section 31 is no longer a secret? It goes away simply because an Admiral dies? Can someone say plothole?
--76 Khans are still alive.
--I had no emotional reaction to Kirk's death. Zero. A little boy was crying behind me. It was anti-climatic and it's been done before. Way before he looks at the tribble, I am muttering "Khan's blood." There wasn't enough of a battle with Khan, a real space battle, for me to feel this was the only way to save the ship and to have some emotional connection to it. Left me flat.
All in all: A for effort, D for execution. C overall. Questioning if I want to see Star Trek XIII.