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Old July 1 2013, 10:17 PM   #3
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Re: Star Trek Into Darkness review by Steve Burgess

It's all relative. After a second viewing, Into Darkness has become my favourite Trek film (I have them all and have seen them each multiple times, lest anyone doubt my "experience"). I don't begrudge people who don't like it, but I find this review far more in keeping with my own thoughts on the film.

In particular (from that review) these points, for me, stand out:

However, in ways large and small, epic and intimate, Star Trek: Into Darkness breathes fresh life into the franchise, and makes it relevant to today’s world. Although the narrative concerns the future of the 23rd century, the movie is really about today -- the world around us -- and its message is transmitted in the way that contemporary audiences can best receive it: in 3-D, with lots of lens flare, and in J.J.’s preferred mode of expression: pastiche.

The film’s story is not -- as I had feared and fretted -- all about a revenge-mad terrorist armed with a weapon of a mass destruction, but rather about the ways that heroes respond to acts of terror, and fear.

In short, Into Darkness is a spell-binding, thrill-a-minute film that accomplishes the one thing that the 2009 reboot did not, and which I desired to see more than anything else in a sequel. Star Trek: Into Darkness restores the Gene Roddenberry franchise as a vehicle for social commentary by noting that the bad guys win when we go “dark” in response to bad deeds.

Accordingly, the film plays as a recap of the difficult "War on Terror" years since 2001, years in which America condoned torture, holds suspects in perpetuity without trial, launched a pre-emptive war, and has relied on advanced, push-button technology to destroy enemies from afar, in violation of law and perhaps morality. Into Darkness is about who we have let ourselves become…all out of irrational, overwhelming fear and anger.

But, as Star Trek has long suggested, the best way to battle darkness is to bring it into the light…to expose it for what it is. To my delight, this J.J. Abrams film understands and transmits that notion in a fashion that a dozen interchangeably “dark” superhero movies simply do not. Kirk in this movie is angry about his loss and looking for vengeance, but because of his friendship with Spock, Scotty, and others, he is soon able to see that revenge cannot be the quality that defines him. He's better than that.

We should be better than that too.

The purists will complain -- just as they complain over Gatsby, and just as they complained when The Next Generation first premiered in 1987 -- but in their stubborn refusal to accept the passage of time and embrace modern audience appetites and movie techniques, these folks will also miss out on the best and most relevant Star Trek movie in possibly thirty years.

In Star Trek: Into Darkness, Captain Kirk accepts John Harrison’s surrender, and then spends the next minute-and-a-half beating him, attacking his prisoner for his murderous deeds in London and San Francisco.

But Harrison is stoic, and endures the abuse without pain, or even expression. Finally, Kirk must stop. He has achieved absolutely nothing through his display of brutal and primitive violence. He has not weakened Harrison, and he has not learned anything whatsoever about Harrison’s motives or plans.

Again, this moment in the film is very clearly a corollary for the on-going debate about the use of torture on “enemy combatants.”

Notably, Kirk only succeeds in hurting himself -- embarrassing himself, too -- in physically attacking his prisoner, a man in his custody and therefore under his protection. This brutal physical assault has the effect of making him look weak, not Khan.

Worse, it makes Kirk lose the moral high ground for a time.

And again, that’s exactly what happened to America at Abu Ghraib and in covert CIA bases the world over. Instead of living up to our ideals about how to treat prisoners, we sacrificed our ideals out of fear and anger.

The only thing that can defeat this powerful villain, is the combined force -- and friendship -- of Kirk and Spock. In the canon universe, it is Spock who dies to save the Enterprise. In Into Darkness, it is Kirk who goes into the warp core to face his own death.

This is not a blind, empty repetition of Star Trek lore, it is an outright assertion of the importance of the Kirk/Spock relationship, and its value in the face of villainy.

Those viewers who see Into Darkness as merely ripping-off the Wrath of Khan are missing the point entirely. Instead, the “mirror” scene of Into Darkness at the reactor core is a beautiful statement about Kirk and Spock’s connection in any reality. They will always be friends and they will always be willing to sacrifice themselves for their family: the Enterprise crew. Khan will never win, in any universe, because he lacks the special bond that Kirk and Spock share.

Quite frankly, we could not get to this vision of a friendship that spans universes without Abrams’ penchant for pastiche, without his willingness to appropriate sign-marks and symbols from Trek history and re-purpose them for today's audiences

The very thing that some Trekkers complain about as a weakness is, in fact, a strength of the film, and also of Abrams’ vision of Star Trek. He is not repeating what has happened before, he is revealing to us how, in the face of a “mirror” universe, some values such as friendship -- and Starfleet Regulations -- endure.
He makes a cogent criticism of the marketing and title of the film and acknowledges a number of other shortcomings as well. But his overall assessment fits well with my own views. YMMV
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