Tag Archives: Star Trek

Before I go see Into Darkness…

EnterpriseI need to get it off my chest how horrifically, unbearably, atrocious the reboot of Star Trek was.   I’m not being hyperbolic, if you tracked down every single copy on DVD, Blueray, the original film and any other form it may exist in and launched them into the sun, the world would be a better place.

UglyassEnterprise

It’s bulky, clunky, disproportionate. It’s just ugly.

However, before I go into why I loathe this reboot, let me state a few things.  First, as far as I can tell the general rule seems to be that anyone who grew up first with the Original Series of Star Trek rightfully hates this abomination of a film—whereas the culturally bereft among you who grew up first on The Next Generation (or god help us Voyager or Enterprise) seem to be okay with mockery of all things Star Trek.*   Second let me say that I’m sure that even if I hadn’t seen all the Original Series before The Next Generation came out; by the time I was 6 I’m sure I had seen most of the Original Series (and all the movies that had come out by that point).  I’m a Trekkie.  Always have been, always will be.  My early teens were a bit more obsessive about the show than I am now (I have been to one convention 20 years ago, and I have no intention of ever going back, unless I have a booth selling copies of Destiny’s Knights and other fiction novels).

So that’s where my biases come from.

However that does not mean I was meant to hate it.  I could have easily loved the new version.  I liked the Tim Burton Batmans but I acknowledge that Nolan’s vision was vastly superior, and Daniel Craig’s more serious Bond is a major improvement.  If the Star Trek reboot had been better, or even on par with the original, I probably would have liked it…but it wasn’t. This film was inferior on every level.  And not just because it was from the writers who brought you such horrifically bad movies as The Island, The Legend of Zorro, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen…not to mention having been writers for Hercules and Xena (depending on when you grew up you might have some fond memories of the campiness of those shows, the writers of this movie didn’t write the episodes you have fond memories of).

Okay some people have covered some of the major reasons why this was a dumb film… but let’s cover some of the reasons not covered there.

StarTrekposter

Are they all trying to look evil or is just bad acting?

So three-quarters of the film is spent drilling holes into planets (let’s just ignore why a mining ship has more firepower than the entire Star Fleet).  A lot of time is wasted drilling holes.  Why?  So they can drop this plot device called red matter that creates a black hole wherever it is dropped.  So why not just drop the red matter on the surface?  A blackhole will still suck the entire planet in whether it’s on the surface or in the core of the planet.  And in general this is a major problem throughout the whole movie.  Star Trek has always skirted the laws of physics, but it has done it in such a way you usually don’t notice until the second or third viewing.   Usually the story of a Star Trek episode or movie (I’m not counting anything from Voyager) was good enough that you could suspend your disbelief enough to not notice the glaring errors in science.  Here you couldn’t do it.  Not in their crappy understanding of black holes, or theoretical time travel (yeah going through a black hole doesn’t send you through time it only crushes you…this isn’t an advance theoretical physics concept, this is high school physics), or even throwing out your own rules of how transporters work (yeah let’s beam them onto a ship with shields up going at warp speed…why?…because our crappy writers put us in this situation with no way to get us out beyond that little bit of insanity).  One of Star Trek’s long standing virtues was that it tried (tried didn’t always succeed, but it tried) to have a loose understanding of science…but not with this crappy reboot.

SpockandChapel

Do you see this woman? The character’s name is Christine Chapel. If Spock is meant to end up with anyone it’s her.  Might as well write Moneypenny out of Bond or Lois Lane out of Superman.

Oh and then there was the fact that every character is different.  EVERY CHARACTER (except Bones for some reason, way to go Karl Urban for actually doing some study of the character).  And what had changed?  Some captain no one ever heard of died and so did Kirk’s dad.  Yes I understand Kirk’s dad, played by Chris Hemsworth, is Thor, god of thunder…but even that strains belief that he would change how everyone turned out.  Let’s run down some of the differences.  Chris Pike has gone from a man who considered leaving Star Fleet and selling Orion Slave Girls to a sage like father figure who is a couple of magical powers short of Obi Wan and Gandalf.  Spock suddenly became hyper emotional, illegally marooning cadets, assaulting people on the bridge, kissing Uhura (WTF?)…so everything that people loved about Spock, the cold logic, the wry sarcasm, the only hints of emotion…all gone.  Uhura developed a personality.  Chekhov developed some useful skills.  Scotty turned into a comedian…with an ugly Ewok as a sidekick.  Wow, even if you believe in the butterfly effect, it’s a little hard to believe that Kirk’s dad had that much of an effect on the universe.  (Let’s also realize that this reduces all life to nothing more than a B.F. Skinner ideal of all there is is the conditioning of our environment, hell there isn’t even a genetic component to your personality, only the environment…and don’t even get me started at how this implies there is no soul, only a malleable thing conditioned by circumstance…thematically it comes off a tad cold and meaningless when compared to, well, any other incarnation of Star Trek.  Of course really you’d have to have a theme before we use the word thematically, something this movie lacked).

NewKirkSpock

I feel a battalion of tribbles could take these two down.

Oh and let’s talk about Jim Kirk.  The rebel without a cause, purpose, plan, brain, or clue.  And the punchline of numerous jokes throughout the film.  Part of what made the Original Series so good (beside the writing) was that the character of James Kirk (despite questionable acting at times) was, on the whole, an admirable figure.  Like the character of Horatio Hornblower whom Roddenberry used as a model, was a strict and disciplined commander, whom despite his appearance of bravado only cared for his ship and his crew.  This little punk was all ego.  And how the hell do you go from cadet about to be court-martialed one minute and, like a week later, promoted to Captain.   I’d follow him, how about you?  Quite frankly when I first heard Benedict Cumberbatch in the new trailer say he was better than this Kirk in everyway I rolled my eyes and said, ‘well, yeah, it’s not a high bar to reach.’  Nothing about this character makes him admirable, nothing.  You can like Shatner’s acting or not, but you have to admit when the script and directing were good Kirk was an admirable, likable, virtuous character.  This cocky little punk just needs to be punched in the face, often.  (Oh, by the way, Chris Pine will also be playing Jack Ryan later this year…yeah thanks for ruining another of my favorite characters.)

IntoDarknessCumberbatch

“I am better than you…in every way” No shit, Sherlock. Janeway and her bunch of losers were better in every way compared to this lot.

And then, of course, is the relationship these films had to their source material.  Nicholas Meyer (writer of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country…otherwise known as the good ones) said one of the first things he did when given the job of writing and directing Star Trek II was he sat down and he watched all the episodes of the original show.  Doing this he not only discovered the heart of the show was the friendship of Kirk, Spock and McCoy (utterly nowhere in this movie).  Was the original series inconsistent in quality and have some really bad moments?  Yeah.  If a Trekkie can’t admit that “Spock’s Brain” may have been the dumbest episode in the history of science fiction, they’re not looking at things rationally.  But the original series also had some of the best moments in science fiction history as well.  And what made the good movies good was that they respected and took from the best of the series, paying little homages to the source material all over the place.  Meanwhile I’m not convinced anyone associated with this film has seen anything beyond Futurama’s parody of Star Trek.   Nothing.  There is no connection to the original beyond a couple dead red shirts and Pike ending up in a wheel chair.

And before I end this let me talk about the preposterous villain for  a second.  So we have Nero, a Romulan commander.  But not the cool, cold, calculating Romulan Commanders we have come to love…no he’s in charge of a mining vessel.  But don’t worry his mining ship has more firepower than the entire Star Fleet…I knew the Romulans were a paranoid bunch…but really?  So his genius plan is to wait 25 years for vengeance, and apparently this guy, whose command skills were only good enough not to get him assigned to a garbage ship is able to keep his entire crew also hellbent on his personal madness for 25 year and nobody mutinies.  You believe that don’t you?

There is so much more that pisses me off about this movie, from horrible directing, bad acting, truly lazy writing, production values that think you should be blinded by light in every scene…I could go on.  It’s not really that I’m upset that they tried to reboot Star Trek, I’m upset they did such a poor job at it.  Just ask yourself this, if you took away the name Star Trek and changed all the character names…would you call this a great film…or would you compare it to other such sci-fi jokes as Wing Commander or whatever original movie is on SyFy this week?

*I’ve never actually met someone whose first exposure to Star Trek was Deep Space Nine, so I have no way describe their feelings toward the reboot

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The Best Patriotic Films #19 Star Trek—The Original Series: The Omega Glory

Jim Kirk, Constitutional Scholar

Now some may find this an odd choice.  Isn’t Star Trek a fairly liberal show?  No, as shown here, here, and here it understood conservative principles quite well.  But nowhere is it more conservative and more patriotic than the episode “The Omega Glory.”

Remember how when talking about comedy films, and I picked out the Star Trek episode “The Trouble with Tribbles” that original series Star Trek episodes tended to fall into one of two categories: Category A (mainly in the third season) crap beyond the telling of and Category B some of the greatest moments of science fiction television ever.  But there are some rare middle ground episodes, not spectacularly great, but with one or two really redeeming qualities…the patriotism of this episode is its redeeming quality.

The plot of the episode revolves around Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise finding a world that developed with the exact same history as Earth but with only a few differences (that might be a cool topic, if it wasn’t like the fourth time they used that plot…Star Trek may have been groundbreaking in many ways, but original plot points weren’t always their strong points).  On this planet, after an apocalyptic war between Chinese Communists and Americans most of the world has been destroyed.  Kirk, Spock, and McCoy come in just to find the final victory of the Communists, or Kohms, by the American Yankees, or Yangs.  And the most holy of holies to the Yangs is a document that over the years they’ve slurred the meaning of…luckily for them Kirk came just in time to explain what it really means”

KIRK: This was not written for chiefs. (general consternation) Hear me! Hear this! Among my people, we carry many such words as this from many lands, many worlds. Many are equally good and are as well respected, but wherever we have gone, no words have said this thing of importance in quite this way. Look at these three words written larger than the rest, with a special pride never written before or since. Tall words proudly saying ‘We the People’. That which you call Ee’d Plebnista was not written for the chiefs or the kings or the warriors or the rich and powerful, but for all the people! Down the centuries, you have slurred the meaning of the words, ‘We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution.’ These words and the words that follow were not written only for the Yangs, but for the Kohms as well!

CLOUD: The Kohms?

KIRK: They must apply to everyone or they mean nothing! Do you understand?

CLOUD: I do not fully understand, one named Kirk. But the holy words will be obeyed. I swear it.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.  In fact, did you know that there are legitimate college courses out there that use this scene to help teach the Constitution? 

“So he quotes the Constitution, what’s so patriotic about that” I’m sure some liberal out there is saying.

First it puts the primacy of the Constitution over all other attempts at democratically-republican government, “Many are equally good and are as well respected, but wherever we have gone, no words have said this thing of importance in quite this way.”  Unlike some of our dumber Supreme Court Justices, the writers of Star Trek, realized that for all of it’s flaws and places where it could be improved (let’s start by reaffirming the sacrosanct nature of property and contracts or maybe the limited nature of government, we seem to have forgotten those), the U.S. Constitution is one of the greatest documents ever produced.

It is patriotic because the writers understood that “They must apply to everyone or they mean nothing!” “We the people” through our representatives at the Constitutional Convention may have created this document for this nation in 1787, but its principles were not meant for just the citizens of the U.S.  The posterity they saw wasn’t just the future generations of the U.S. but hopefully for the world, that we would be the beacon for all to learn from so that all may have “secure the blessings of liberty” (or are you so foolish and closed minded as to think blessings, which the Declaration clearly points out come from God, are only for America.)  No, it was meant for all the people.  Liberty is a right, not just for Americans, but for all people.  Which is why in this episode Kirk skirts the Prime Directive and shows the people of this planet what the words mean.

Of course, as science fiction is best when used to make a point to the audience, one must ask to whom this episode was being directed at.  I would say it would be the bigoted, small minded, worthless excuses for Americans who say such unquestionably evil things like “our obligation is to defend Americans, not people under a different flag. Let those people fight for their own freedom and establish their own government” otherwise known as taking the side of tyranny and thus being morally guilty of all the evil which you choose not to stop when you have the power to do so.  Nowadays we call them liberals and Paulbots, and make no mistake they are as opposed to what makes the Constitution worthy of admiration as it gets.

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Greatest Moments of Comedy in Film #9 & #8

#9 The Trouble With Tribbles

“Most curious creature, Captain. It’s trilling seems to have a tranquilizing effect on the human nervous system. Fortunately, of course, I am immune to its effect.”

Okay, technically not a movie…although I’ve included TV episodes on my lists before. But this is the only standalone episode of any show to make it on this list…true there were some very funny episodes of the other Star Treks, some great moments of X-file humor, and I am still looking forward every year to The Closer’s Flynn and Provenza episode. But while almost every show has a great moment in comedy, I think only the “Trouble with Tribbles” really rises to the bar of the Top 30 comedies (if I did a top 40 there might have been an X-file episode or two, “Bad Blood” & “Jose Chung’s”, but I figured 30 was pushing it as it was.

Tribbles are possibly the cutest prop ever developed. A purring ball of fur. How can you not love a purring ball of fur? But it’s not just the tribbles that make the episode.

I will be the first to admit there were some pretty low moments in the original Star Trek. Episodes of bad writing, bad directing, bad special effects and yes bad acting. And when it was bad it was really bad (see “Spock’s Brain”)…but, oh, when they had a good script and a good director then the actors would bring up all the talent they had and everything worked into some of the finest moments of TV history. And “Tribbles” is one of those truly great moments.

Near perfect comedic timing from both Shatner and Nimoy in almost every scene in dealing with a situation that is beyond preposterous.

Looking for a quick 45 minutes of nonstop laughing The Trouble with Tribbles never fails.

#8 Duck Soup

“Remember, you’re fighting for this woman’s honour, which is probably more than she ever did.”

I love the Marx Brothers. Mad cap wit and pure insanity. And Groucho as the Prime Minister of a nation is just more insane than you usually get even in a Marx Brothers film. (And there is the sad fact that he’s a better leader than a lot of the world’s current chief executives). I will admit that this has a much weaker plot than some of the other Marx Brother films…but why are you watching Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo for plot? But the mirror scene, the war scene and a dozen others I find this perhaps the funniest of the Marx Brother movies…but only by a small margin.

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