I gave up reviewing movies about a year ago, mostly because everyone else on the internet is doing it, and with rare exception I’m not really bringing that much to the party. But occasionally I stumble across a film so remarkable that I want to let people know about it, to share the wealth I have uncovered.
This is not one of those times. I have not come to praise JJ Abrams, but to bury him.
Let us all be fully aware that without the 1981 film Wrath of Khan that there would be no Star Trek as we know it. After the lackluster initial Trek film, Khan was envisioned as a TV-movie, but somewhere in the making of the film someone realized that they had a good movie on their hands, and they released it in the theater; it went on to save the franchise. Without a movie franchise there would have been no TV resurgence, and we would never have had Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, etc. Whether or not you like Star Trek, you have a lot of it solely because Nicolas Meyer wrote a great script and Ricardo Montalban gave the performance, literally, of his lifetime.
Because Trek fell into the hands of imbeciles, the TV shows became less engaging and sputtered out, and someone at Paramount handed the franchise over to JJ Abrams, whose films have made a lot of money, but then Bill Gates made a mountain of cash and he never created anything you’d want to look at either. Abrams made a passable first Star Trek film, a few good casting decisions, but the thrust of his movie was to wrest Star Trek away from the nerds and make it something that normal people could enjoy. He succeeded wildly, but in doing so he dumbed down Star Trek, which was at least initially one of the smarter and more socially-conscious science-fiction shows. But because he made a lot of money on his reboot, they let him make another one. Understandable, but wrong.
Star Trek: Into Darkness isn’t a Star Trek film, it’s an action film that features characters with names we recognize. They bear no resemblance to the characters we have come to know and love (except for Karl Urban’s Dr. McCoy), and it borrows concepts from any number of films and rearranges them in a simple-minded mish-mash. In brief, Peter Weller plays an evil Starfleet admiral who awakens Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) from a long slumber so that he can help them in a war that Weller wants to start with the Klingons. Even this flimsy premise could have been executed in an interesting fashion, but the lazy, unoriginal writing of Orci and Kurtzman – the geniuses who foisted the Tranformers movies on us – renders what was already a weak structure an embarrassing wreck.
Star Trek always prided itself on being an intellectual franchise; Roddenberry used the original series to comment on society, and even the more recent iterations dealt with lofty topics sometimes. Here we have a film that willfully ignores that legacy, striving to be as moronic and thoughtless as possible. Exposition is given sloppily, usually in monologues that sound like cut-and-pastes from a Trek Wiki page; at one point they even ask Leonard Nimoy if Khan is bad or not. Holy Jesus Christ you lazy sons of bitches, there is fanfic written by twelve-year-olds that tries harder than you do. Go back and look at Nick Meyer’s original script – you have Kirk and Spock tossing Dickens at one another, Spock quotes the Bible to Bones, etc., there is a nod to a larger cultural heritage as well as Trek’s history; but here, the only requirement is that you don’t think as we have not one but two foot chases and a couple of fistfights in what is arguably the most advanced science-fiction setting ever.
It’s probably not worth my time or yours to list all the bad writing and laziness in this movie –they forget about the villain for about a half-hour in the third act, for example – but what makes it even worse than being a mindless stupid film is that they are mining Trek’s finest hour and the moronic asstards can’t even do that right. In the original, Khan has a very specific and understandable if misguided grudge against Kirk; here he turns evil just because, there’s no reason whatsoever. The whole plot is like that; things happen based on some nitwit narrative need rather than for any common sense reason. Look, I’m not asking JJ Abrams to approach this material like Roddenberry did, or even to have much respect for it. But that doesn’t mean he has to dig up its corpse and willfully desecrate it. It doesn’t even look like a Trek film; most of the Starfleet people in the movie wear freaking Nazi uniforms, what the hell is up with that, and no one else in the entire film other than the crew of the Enterprise have the wonderfully gaudy colorful 60s-era outfits (the girls still in mini-skirts).
Before this film, the movie I hated the most on this planet was Wanted, which actually insults its audience in dialogue; I can’t say this was the worst movie I’ve ever seen, because, hello, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Spring Breakers. But this is the movie that I’ve hated far more than any other for its laziness and stupidity, and its assumption that its viewers will be stupid as well. Look, you fucked up the Klingons, you fucked up Khan, you don’t understand anything about the very idea of Star Trek; I’m no Trek purist but this movie is the science fiction equivalent of the devil taking a shit in a church. And this is the guy you handed Star Wars to. He shit all over this franchise and you people are excited about what he’s going to do to Star Wars? If there were any justice in this world – and there isn’t, not a shred – but if there were, Ricardo Montalban would rise from his grave and dispatch of JJ Abrams (and Orci and Kurtzman) before they could commit such cinematic atrocities again. But he wouldn’t eat their brains, as it’s obvious they’re simply empty.
23 August 2014
Someone else noticed she played Annamaria in the first Pirates movie. Cool.