Khan #1 Review

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Villordsutch, Oct 15, 2013.

  1. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

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    What makes the digitizing of Epsilon 9 so chilling was that the Starfleet crew on the Enterprise had just finished watching the footage of V'ger destroying the Klingons and now it was happening again - live! - to friends, relatives, colleagues. And all they'd done wrong was a scientific scan.
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I don't see that logic. The Klingon incident was a replay of a past event. Showing a second "attack" helped drive home that this was an ongoing, approaching threat. The first attack was against an alien power, an enemy; but the second was against fellow Starfleet personnel in a Federation facility. It struck closer to home, both literally and figuratively. The emotional impact of that should be self-evident. Think about how much more strongly Americans were affected by Pearl Harbor than by the invasion of Poland.

    Escalation is important to drama. In the first and second acts of a story, you need to show not only that a threat exists, but that it's ongoing and intensifying. If there had been no illustrations of V'Ger's threat between the Klingon incident and the Enterprise's encounter, the stakes wouldn't have felt as high. Moreover, it was necessary to show two separate attacks in order to demonstrate that the Intruder wasn't just targeting Klingons, but was targeting anyone that got in its way, Starfleet included. Without that, it wouldn't have been as clear that the Enterprise was heading into danger, and that Earth itself was under threat.

    So yes, the Epsilon 9 attack was absolutely essential to the story.


    But that's just the problem -- lately, the two seem to have become interchangeable. Movies are playing on 9/11 imagery, but not to make a statement, simply to indulge in spectacle. 9/11 wasn't just about buildings falling down, it was about the human cost, the shocking emotional impact. And that's what was all but missing from STID aside from a token acknowledgment at the end, and that's what was completely and utterly missing from Man of Steel. And so if those were attempts to comment on 9/11 in some way, they failed profoundly. By contrast, the Marvel Cinematic Universe got it right -- the human impact of the attack was acknowledged during the climax of The Avengers, and the aftermath has been addressed in two subseuqent installments of the franchise, Iron Man 3 and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It's more than just empty spectacle there.

    (Note that I do expect the makers of the MoS sequel to include some belated acknowledgment of the human cost. But since it was so cavalierly ignored in the film itself, I don't think that will entirely redeem it. At least in the MCU it all feels like it's of a piece, like it was planned that way all along rather than being an afterthought or patch job.)
     
  3. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    I'm reminded of THIS interview with Damon Lindelof, about the current mentality of blockbuster screenwriting.

     
  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    But they already had stakes that affected multiple worlds -- the villain was trying to start an interstellar war. That's a much bigger threat than a ship crashing into San Francisco. So that explanation doesn't make sense.
     
  5. Ovation

    Ovation Vice Admiral Admiral

    To a general audience, an interstellar war that might happen is an abstract threat that has no visceral effect on the audience. The ship crashing into San Francisco is much more relatable to the casual viewer. Was it done well? Obviously there are many views on this subject. But if the aim is to rouse the casual viewer, the threat to San Francisco is far more clear than suggestions of a war that was never going to be on screen.
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I don't refute that. My point is that it has nothing to do with Lindelof's attempt to explain it in terms of movies requiring the fate of the entire world to be at stake. How does a ship crashing into San Francisco represent a bigger danger than Lex Luthor causing California to fall into the ocean? Lindelof is contradicting himself.
     
  7. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

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    Out of the current Trek writers/producers, Lindelof strikes me as someone who doesn't really care about making sense and just wants to write what he thinks is "cool". He's the one who pushed for Harrison to be Khan, isn't he?
     
  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Yes.
     
  9. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

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    So isn't it maybe too much to ask to have him make sense on his logic there?
     
  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I'm not asking him to make sense, I'm pointing out that he failed to.
     
  11. Kruezerman

    Kruezerman Commodore Commodore

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    I disagree completely, Into Darkness was there, even for a few moments, in the streets as we watched the people look in terror at the scene developing in San Fransisco. The "token" acknowledgement at the end was an entire speech about remembering the best part of us, the deaths a year (movie time) earlier were remembered in that speech. Was it a long, protracted exposition? No, and that would've killed the message they were trying to convey. It wouldn't have fit in the movie.

    But while we're on the subject of spectacle, why would Into Darkness be special in that regard? First Contact showed a massive space battle in which at least dozen ships were shown to have been destroyed. Hundreds more could've been lost and God knows how many people dead. Where was the acknowledgement then? Or Romeo and Juliet where people died and a city's security compromised because of a blood feud and a piss poor romance?

    Spectacle is something we are used to and something we as a civilization has enjoyed for many, many years. You say that the attack on San Fransisco was done just for disaster porn and at least insinuated that it was done in bad taste. I say otherwise, the attack could've been fleshed out more but it would not have been conducive to the message Bad Robot was trying to convey.

    One last thing, 9/11 is still fresh in our minds, they do not need to remind us of the pain, but power through the message that yes, the world is going to get better if we act for it, not if we are angry or rash.
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Yes, and there were in Man of Steel as well. But the point is that neither event contributed anything meaningful to the story. Both massive cataclysms could've been removed from the films without altering the story beats in the slightest. If the Vengeance had splashed down in the Bay and missed the city, nothing of any plot relevance would've played out any differently. If Metropolis had suffered far more limited and constrained damage, it would've actually made more sense in the context of the film's events and dialogue.


    In fact, one reason I dislike space battle scenes as a rule is because of all the unacknowledged mass death, the cavalier disregard for life. But at least in FC the destruction served a plot purpose by establishing the danger to the characters, the risk that what happened to the other ships could happen to the Enterprise as well. In STID, the city destruction was just going on in the background and had no effect on what the featured characters were doing.


    Man of Steel's climax was in bad taste. STID's was just unnecessary and exaggerated to the point of being hard to take seriously. It felt tacked on to the climax, a token event to fulfill the studio's demand for a suitably cataclysmic finish.
     
  13. Kruezerman

    Kruezerman Commodore Commodore

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    Obviously not in the movie itself, these lines tell us why the attack happened. Because Vulcan was like an attack on Britain, hit hard but it wasn't a hit at home. San Fransisco was the hit at home. Just as 9/11 was, the attack was the end of our security. It goes to prove that even the most powerful military on Earth (or in the galaxy) could not put a stop to a madman, and many lives were lost. 9/11 was more than an attack, it was a blow to our thoughts of safety. It was an attack on our peace of mind where people were convinced that it wouldn't happen here, but it did.

    It could never happen on Earth, much less Starfleet Headquarters, but it did.
     
  14. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^Which would carry more weight if the movie had actually paid attention to the attack and its aftermath as anything more than a bunch of CGI spectacle. It wasn't what the climax of the movie was about; it was an afterthought. You're absolutely right that that was the intent of the sequence, and indeed that was obvious from the start. But my point is that it didn't work as a commentary on 9/11 because the execution was far too superficial. The intent is clear, but the result fell vastly short.
     
  15. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

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    I feel like "intent is clear, but result fell vastly short" is pretty much true of all of the allegorical elements of STID. A lot of the post-9/11 parallels etc. felt contrived and weak because it was all the result of a rogue agency. The "people with good intentions going into evils from trauma" thing is undermined when one of the characters is revealed to be a genocidal madman from the past. Stuff like that. That's just symptomatic of the entire movie, so the CGI disaster porn is well, gratuitous but fit in with the rest of the movie.
     
  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    "Genocidal madman?" "Space Seed" made it clear that there were no massacres under Khan's rule, that he was the least brutal of the "supermen" who seized power. And the only time he was ever portrayed as a madman was in TWOK, as a result of 15-plus years of desperate hardship and the loss of his wife. Both SS and STID portray Khan as a very sane, intelligent, calculating antagonist; it's only the climactic ship-crash sequence that he's portrayed as vengeance-crazed (yet another reason I feel the film would've been better without that sequence). Other than that, I felt the film portrayed Khan rather sympathetically -- an aspiring conqueror with a ruthless streak, yes, but genuinely caring about his people and acting in the name of their survival and freedom.
     
  17. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

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    Spock was quite surprised that anyone could admire Khan in "Space Seed" and described him as a "Ruthless Dictator". Whether or not Scotty was accurate to say there were "no massacres" or that McCoy was right about there being "no wars of aggression" is up to interpretation. People say things like that about everyone from Alexander to Bonaparte, but they're only half-true. What Alexander did to Thebes for example, or Bonaparte's treatment of the slave rebellions in the Caribbean are by our standards today genocidal. That they're not described as such often speaks more of their historical romanticism inherit in European narratives of their leaders than the reality. I'm pretty sure there's an element of that lurking in what the human members of the Enterprise crew were saying.

    The evidence we see from Augments and the horrors of the Eugenics Wars as described in every episode, like Spock noting that whole populations were bombed out of existence, and that Khan himself was going to be tried for war crimes.

    And being "the least brutal" of a group of aggressive genetically engineered dictators isn't much of a qualifier. I'm inclined to trust Spock's word on his description as a dictator and a ruthless one at that, over that of the fawning humans.
     
  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    But the point is, Khan was not written as a "madman" in either "Space Seed" or STID. The intent was not to portray him as some one-dimensional monster. He was clearly written as a nuanced villain with sympathetic motivations. Of the two main villains in the film, Khan was shown to warrant more of our sympathy than Marcus was. So I don't agree in the least that the film portrayed him as a "genocidal madman." Marcus was the one who was trying to start a war that could kill billions. Khan was trying to save his family, essentially, albeit willing to go to extreme measures to do so. Both were bad guys, to be sure, but Khan was the more sympathetic one.
     
  19. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

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    That's fair enough. My point was more that I think "Starfleet super agent held hostage by Marcus" thing would've made for a more sympathetic character if he weren't a former dictator. I admit that "genocidal madman" is hyperbole.
     
  20. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Oh, I agree -- I would've been happier if he hadn't been Khan. But there's some consolation in that this is the one canonical Khan story that I think made the best use of the character.