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Sunday, June 2, 2013

'Star Trek Into Darkness:" Abrams into Dorkness

Each year, a summer crockbuster so spectacularly fails to meet its potential that it warrants diverting from this site's focus on TV (and an occasional film) on DVD to warrant a public service review. Not-so "Magic Mike" earned this distinction last year, and "Star Trek Into Darkness" is the subject of this year's review.

Before getting into this, I would like to invite folks to follow this site on Twitter at @tvdvdguy.

"Mike" and "Trek" evoked memories of the very talented "best brains" behind the late '80s - early '90s basic cable series "Mystery Science Theater 3000." That show aired really horrible films accompanied by hilariously vicious riffing. The fairly well publicized criteria for selecting a film for that treatment included undue delusions of grandeur by the filmmaker. Mssrs Soderbergh and Abrams definitely would have qualified regarding "Mike" and "Trek."

The fact that "Trek" was more "The Hangover to the Stars," than "Wagon Train to the Stars" as Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry envisioned the original series was part of the problem. Both incarnations had the jock, the uber-nerd, the arrogant egotist, the sarcastic hothead, and even the extraneous Asian guy. The difference was that Roddenberry added real substance to these characters and their universe.

"Trek" would have made a watchable big screen space opera but simply did not achieve the quality that continuing the most successful television franchise of any time deserved.

One reason that the real Trek universe is so important to so many is that we discovered it in several terrific ways. Some folks were blown away with its cerebral and truly groundbreaking tone in the mid-60s, others discovered it watching syndicated reruns in their buddy's basement rec room, folks like me got hooked during "Next Generation (which I recently reviewed) or other subsequent Trek shows after failing to "get" the original series, and still others discovered it via the original big-screen films.

On a lighter note, a scene in "Trek" that (perhaps inadvertently) depicted a background building that looked like the Skypad Apartments where the space-age cartoon characters the Jetsons lived was hilarious.

The only thing that would have been better would have been if Kirk would have responded that he wanted to probe Uranus when Spock asked him how he wanted to start the crew's five-year mission to explore space.

Watching "Trek" was like moving to a once vibrant city just as it was entering an economic downturn. It is still a fairly nice place to visit, but you really would not want to live there anymore.

Before addressing Trek-related flaws, ripped from the headlines aspects of the plot deserve mention. A terrorist bombing in London set the story in motion and an American city came under attack later in the film. This warranted the same criticism as similar plot points in "Iron Man 3." They simply hit too close to home, considering the London bombing and fairly recent New York attacks that occurred before the film began production.

As the "Iron Man 3" reviews and this site's primary focus on the "unreal" escapist aspect of television shows and film state offerings that are designed to primarily be entertainment should not come very close to depicting actual unpleasant aspects of real life. This is particularly true considering that Roddenberry's vision is of a relatively Utopian universe after a period of very violent war on earth.

Additionally, the film treated Trek legend, well-respected actor, and righteous dude Leonard Nimoy unforgivably shabbily. Having Spock prime appear only in one scene that Nimoy likely filmed alone in a studio ala Suzanne Somers was forced to do when contract problems with "Three's Company" resulted in Chrissy moving to her aunt's farm and calling Janet at the end of each episode warranted exiling Abrams on a deserted planet that barely qualified as Class M.

Rather than focus on other plot points, which countless reviews have covered, this post will largely address the numerous ways that "Trek" violated the prime directive of being inconsistent with the lore of the Trek universe. Before doing so, I will remark that stifling references to "rich Corinthian leather"  (Google it millenials) for three weeks in response to a desire to not share any spoiler alerts was almost physically painful.

First of all, "Trek" utilized transporter technology that exceeded even that of "Next Generation," which was set roughly 75 years after the original series.

Another plot point had a female human member of the Enterprise crew engage in diplomacy with a group of Klingons. Trek 101 teaches us that Klingons almost universally have very little regard for humans and for any women who do not prove that they are as fierce a warrior as a Klingon male. True Klingons would have at least beaten the crew member senseless the second that she approached them.

Third, another segment had the Enterprise's warp engine become disabled. This supposedly left the ship dead in space despite it still having impulse engines that would have allowed it to to travel at a relatively slow speed. Similarly a later wide-spread power failure caused all manner of chaos but supposedly did not affect the ship's gravity-plating. That would have been one of the first things to go.

The many unaddressed flaws in the plot points and the other lore violations in the film simply show the veracity that Abrams merely did not make a film that was worthy of adding to the "Trek" legacy.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding any aspect of "Star Trek" is encouraged to email me.