January 05, 2014

Contrivances in Star Trek into Darkness

Another Facebook discussion about Star Trek into Darkness--this time focusing on its central conceit.

** spoiler alert **

On to the second third of Star Trek into Darkness, Brad. And...it's better!

The Khan/Marcus scenario has a huge number of flaws. But at least it's an adult plot involving political and military intrigue. It's not just slam-bang action for the kiddies.

If the whole movie were like this, I'd put it on a par with the first movie. Which was a 7.5 of 10. But we'll see how much the ending hurts the whole.Uhura's character is weak and obnoxious.

My take was the first third was rather slow and clumsy. The second third was actually very good and interesting. Unfortunately, the last third is a complete disaster and pretty much wrecks any progress they made in the rest of the film.
There you go. The second third is the best!

All the characters are pale reflections of the originals. Alas, Scotty and Chekov have been changed beyond recognition.

The others have potential, especially the big three. If Abrams were doing Trek right, I'd still cast those actors. I can see hints of the real characters lurking in their performances.

Who's stupider: Kirk or Marcus?

Let me see if I have Star Trek into Darkness's basic conflict right.

Marcus: Fire torpedoes at the Klingons to kill Harrison. Nothing bad will happen.

Spock: Don't do it. You'll start a war.

Kirk: I trust the admiral so much that I won't verify his order with the civilian authorities. I'm sure the entire government supports the order to execute Harrison.

[A few revelations later.]

Marcus: Ha, ha...fooled ya! I wanted you to fire torpedoes at the Klingons to start a war. No one else knew about my incredibly sophisticated and subtle plan.

Spock: I told you so, stupid human.

Kirk: Wow. Somehow I missed the implications of firing torpedoes at the Klingons when I undertook the mission. Fortunately, I changed my mind for no reason.

Kirk (pondering the lesson learned): Firing torpedoes at an enemy...not a good idea. Got it!

Marcus: Now I'll kill you for disobeying my illegal order. Despite the tens of thousands of people who must know about the departure of the Enterprise and the super-Enterprise on secret missions, I'm pretty sure I can spin this as an accident.

Marcus: "We just happened to be in the Neutral Zone for an unrelated reason when we bumped into the Enterprise. Alas, it was destroyed by a strange new kind of meteor that resembles phaser fire. Tough luck!"

Marcus: "My crew will back me up on this because no one in Starfleet has a conscience anymore. We all want to kill Klingons dead!"

Marcus: "Neither they nor our computer logs will verify an unprovoked attack on the Enterprise. And you can't prove differently. Because science!"And, oh, it gets SO much worse.To be fair, this last bit is commonplace. Cop discovers plot, villain hunts cop. Because no hero in the history of fiction has ever told his friends what he discovered, alerted the media, or uploaded it to the Internet. If the villain can kill the cop with the secret that only the cop knows, the villain will be in the clear.And I'm not sure that's entirely unrealistic either because history (and daily life) is full of criminals who have completely convinced themselves that they could never possibly get caught.Villains may be stupidly arrogant, but heroes shouldn't be. If I discover a government or corporate secret, I share it as widely as possible. Kind of like Assange or Snowden did. You can persecute--I mean, prosecute--me, but you can't put the secrets back in the safe. All you have left is petty revenge.

Suppose Kirk uses his super-transporter power (revealed in the first movie) to send his ship's logs to the governments of every Federation world. Heck, to all the Klingon and Romulan worlds too.

Now Marcus threatens to kill him for "harboring Harrison" or whatever. Kirk responds: "Well, I probably can't stop that, but you've already lost. You might not want to add hundreds of murder charges to the hundreds of treason charges you're facing. And you might not want to waste time killing me while they're launching a hunt for you."

Check and mate, Marcus.

So many cop shows and thrillers have to come up with pretexts for why people don't call 911 immediately. And their pretexts are usually lame.

The rest of the movie

I could go on and on with the semi-picky flaws. Like:

  • Marcus somehow sabotages the Enterprise's engines such that Scotty, Starfleet's greatest engineer, thinks everything is in perfect order? I wonder how he did that.

    Even better, Marcus sabotaged the engines so they'd fail as the Enterprise was approaching Kronos. Even though Marcus didn't know Kirk would disobey his order and launch a capture mission. Precog engineering...more science magic!

  • A weapons base apparently covers a moon of Jupiter, but no one knows about it? It looks so big that an amateur astronomer could see it through a low-end telescope from earth. Apparently the media no longer exists in the future, because no one has questioned a moon swathed in machinery.

  • My live comments while watching the rest of the movie:

    Maybe Kirk could use the Corbomite maneuver to get away from Marcus?

    Oh, good! Scotty used his portable super-transporter to cross the galaxy and singlehandedly disable the super-Enterprise. His new nickname is Deus Ex Machina.

    Wow, did Abrams just insert a completely gratuitous tribble reference? I believe he did.

    McCoy's doing pure scientific research while the Enterprise is seconds away from destruction? That's dedication!

    Gratuitous Nimoy cameo!

    Given his warning, I guess Khan will take over the super-ship. He'll probably say he has to conquer the Federation to keep it from going rogue, or something like that.

    The Enterprise is caught in the earth's gravity? Oh, I forgot that it came out of the warp tunnel within the Moon's orbit. I wonder why the Federation hasn't launched a fleet to investigate why the Enterprise is battling the super-Enterprise in earth orbit.

    I'm trying to figure out the mechanics of the gravity as the Enterprise falls. The ship either has artificial gravity, in which case people are attracted to the floor, or it has no gravity, in which case they float.

    What's the scenario in which they go sliding down the floor into a bulkhead? You're not really claiming there's an up and down in space independent of the ship's artificial gravity...are you, Abrams?

    Back up a sec. Didn't Khan warn Spock not to try any tricks with the torpedoes because he'd be able to detect them? Khan missed the fact that 1) his compatriots weren't on them and 2) they were armed. Oops! Not quite as bright as you claimed to be...eh, Khan?

    Seriously, the Enterprise falls through the cloud layer...but not a word from Starfleet or anyone on the earth? Not to mention the possibility of blowing the Enterprise out of the sky so it doesn't disintegrate the earth in an antimatter reaction.

    I guess everyone on the planet was busy with other things. Maybe watching the season premiere of Downton Abbey!I hear season 246 is REALLY engrossing!Kirk is dying? Break out the Genesis machine and perform fal-tor-pan! You can save him!

    Are we supposed to watch this death scene and not think, "This is a bizarre homage to the original death scene"? Did anyone get caught up in the moment and take this seriously?

    Yay, Kirk's dead!

    Starship crash = no biggie

    But Khan isn't? His ship just happened to fall within a stone's throw of the Enterprise? Neither the Enterprise nor anyone on the ground noticed its approach? And it's still intact enough for Khan to steer it?

    I guess when giant starships hit the earth, it's totally different from when small meteors hit the earth. There's no explosion equivalent to many multiples of an H-bomb. No giant crater a mile wide left in its wake. Just the ship's bouncing across the water and land like a skipped stone.

    Silly Sulu! If the ship remained mostly intact after falling from almost 200,000 kilometers, why would Khan be injured? He probably put on his safety belt!

    Terrorist on the loose! Now would be a great time to call 911, Spock. Get the entire city's security force to help you with your pursuit!

    Back to dead Kirk. Oh, wait...here's the point of the silly tribble thing. Inject Kirk with tribble/Khan blood and new cells will multiply like tribbles!

    Tribbles also will be known as Deus Ex Machina from now on.Spock's too angry to call 911! He wants his revenge!Illogical! And why wouldn't someone on the Enterprise call for him? You know, "We almost crashed. We need help. We're probably leaking radiation and other environmental catastrophes. Also, terrorist on the loose."

    Kirk lives! And recites the "oath"! That won't replace the Shatner or Picard versions anytime soon.

    And...the end.

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