I just watched Star Trek Into Darkness for the second time courtesy of the newly released DVD. (Side note: because we’re still rocking DVD instead of Blu-ray, we shrugged off the controversial marketing ploy of spreading the extras across multiple vendor-specific Blu-ray releases and just bought the cheap DVD.) Being hardcore Trek geeks, my daughter and I had attended a 3-D midnight premiere back when it hit theaters. We came down on opposite sides of the fence on the film, which you can hear us discuss on our podcast, Generations Geek, Episode 9, “Into Geekness.” The kid loved it and went back to it a couple times in theaters, but I was not highly enamored of JJ’s second film after finding the first one an entertaining joyride (even if the script was in need of a coincidencectomy or two or three). I was in no rush to see it again. [Spoiler alert: the rest of this post contains spoilers.]
As often happens in these situations, I found the second viewing much more entertaining because, knowing what was coming, I wasn’t as put off by several key what-the-huh moments of the screenplay (e.g., hiding a spaceship from a nonspace-faring race not in space where they couldn’t possibly see it but instead offshore right by them where it’s quite possible they will see it). I touched upon some of those moments and the increasingly bizarre backlash against fans who didn’t like the film from fans who did in a couple of previous blogs, “JJ Trek’s New Clothes” and “Deja Vu(lcan).” To recap, my objections to the film are not a manifestation of some sort of subconscious problem with everything beyond the 1969 cancellation of the original series; in fact, my problems with STID often have little to do with Star Trek as such (certainly nothing to do with judging whether it’s “really” Star Trek…I find that notion as annoying as judging whether someone is “really” a geek); rather, my problems are frequently with issues that I would be critical of regardless of the specific film in question or the genre to which it belonged. In a nutshell, plot points that make no freaking sense, like the parenthetically aforementioned hiding of the Enterprise underwater. It’s kind of like Batman telling Robin, “No, we’ll hide the Batmobile outside of the Batcave. No one will think of looking for it there.” Or when the Enterprise gets shot to pieces over the Moon causing it to fall almost immediately into Earth’s atmosphere. I’m no rocket scientist, but I believe there’s this little thing called “about a quarter of a million miles” between the two. If I trip on my doorstep in St. Paul, Minnesota, I don’t land outside of a pub in Warwickshire, England. I wish I did, but gravity and space and time behave in largely predictable ways, as Newton and Einstein might tell you (if they weren’t in fact still dead). I don’t like my movies to disregard all common sense or matters of scale. If JJ Abrams made a movie about climbing Everest, would the lead character start out in L.A., get on a bus, and an hour later get dropped off at base camp? Would the mountain be five miles up but only two miles down? These things matter. A story that makes sense matters. That’s the difference between a well-crafted screenplay and just a series of exciting set pieces that barely hold together under the weight of all the details being ignored to make them happen.
All that said: Scotty. He kinda steals the show. Simon Pegg is just brilliant in this role. And I noticed one line he has that I missed the significance of the first time round. Complaining about having the Enterprise underwater, he says that they’be been there since the night before, which implies they went underwater under cover of darkness, which is a nice detail. Still no explanation of why they’d go underwater in the first place, but still a nice detail that also implies they were thinking of leaving under cover of darkness as well.
Other quick thoughts: I want to write fan fiction about that navigator with the shaved head, because she looks like she could kick some serious ass. I hope she’s back in the third film.
Dammit, I miss Pike already. Greenwood nailed that role to the wall and then hit it with three bull’s-eyes, if I may mix metaphors, and I believe I just did. Although many people didn’t like how Kirk’s a bit of a dickweed in JJ Trek, I didn’t mind it, especially while watching him get his ass chewed by Pike. Of course, that fabulous scene in STID is undercut by the fact that Kirk almost immediately gets the Enterprise back again after Pike, once again, gets attacked by a vengeful madman. If I were Kirk’s superior officer in that universe, I would never punish him, because you’d know within moments you’d be getting eaten by a Gorn or something, and Kirk would suddenly be a hero again. Just let the dickweed do what he wants, admiral, it’s not worth the risk.
After the torpedoes detonate aboard the Vengeance, I know things got pretty hairy aboard the Enterprise, what with there only being about a mile and a half between the Earth and the Moon, but maybe if someone had told Khan that they still had his crew alive, he wouldn’t have plunged the Vengeance into San Francisco, killing untold thousands. Or maybe he would have, because, you know, vengeful madman.
Concurrently with seeing the film again, I was reading the novelization by Alan Dean Foster. He tried to cover up lots of plot holes with a geeky spackle of technobabble and a fresh coat of retcon, but there’s only so much you can do with some of these things. He didn’t touch the Enterprise underwater. I mean, come on.
But anyone who loved the movie should read the book…there are bits here and there where I don’t know if they’re Foster’s work or represent scenes in the script that didn’t make the final cut—maybe they’re in some of those deleted scenes you may or may not get to see by tracking down all the versions of the Blu-ray—but they are some nice little touches. I won’t spoil them with examples, you can look for them like Easter eggs.