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  1. In Topic: Star Trek Into Darkness

    Posted 11 Oct 2013

    2.5. I missed this in the previous post but near the beginning of the movie, Khan coerces a Starfleet officer into committing a terrorist act by way of an exchange - he will save the life of the officer's daughter and the officer will blow up the headquarters of Section 31. The problem I have with it is that Khan did his part of the deal first, which meant that the officer could have easily reneged on his part. The man's daughter had been saved already so there was no need for him to blow up anything. He could just have easily walked into Section 31, explained what had happened and arranged protection for his family on the chance that Khan tried to pay him back for reneging on the deal. Instead, like an idiot, the guy walks into the place and blows it up. Plausibility be damned! On with the plot!

    Okay, now where were we?

    6. I really didn't like the way Kirk punched Khan repeatedly after the man had surrendered. This is not what respectable leaders do in any situation. It wasn't quite as bad as the extended edition of Return of the King when Aragorn killed Sauron's emissary perhaps but that's not saying much.

    7. Khan's background. The second time I saw Star Trek into Darkness, I understood that the backstory of Admiral Marcus finding Khan and his people frozen in stasis and reviving him mirrored the original series episode Space Seed where Kirk found Khan. Now, in the original series, the fact that Kirk and Khan have that shared history makes their conflict in The Wrath of Khan more meaningful. But in this movie, Kirk and Khan have no history. And this is a problem. It seems that J.J. Abrams is taking a shortcut. He wants to have the feud between Khan and Kirk but he doesn't want to take the time to establish a reason for it. He wants the payoff without putting in the setup and it doesn't work that way.

    8. Carol Marcus' underwear scene. A lot has been said about this already. By many people. Now, I could talk about the cringe-worthy treatment of female characters in this movie or how gratuitous this particular scene is. But I'll keep it short. This scene was presumably intended to be sexy but instead, it was just flat-out embarrassing.

    9. Admiral Marcus. This character didn't work well for me in my first viewing. In my second, he was just unwatchable. Not only was he a completely cardboard character, he was also just generally loud and annoying, shouting basically every line of dialogue he had. And I don't know exactly how he thought his plan of blowing the Enterprise up was going to work without repercussions when he was attacking it in plain view of Earth, which brings me to my next point...

    10. Distances. Do they mean anything in this movie? When the Enterprise flees Admiral Marcus and heads back to Earth from the Klingon homeworld, the trip takes fifteen seconds. And this isn't fifteen seconds of movie time. This is actual time within the movie we're talking about here. The ship goes to warp. Carol Marcus tells Kirk that her father's ship can still catch them and the moment the words are out of her mouth, Admiral Marcus' ship does catch up with them. Several shots are fired and then... viola! They're right next to the moon.

    Then, when torpedoes blow up on that big dreadnought later in the movie, the Enterprise is knocked all the way from the moon into the Earth's gravity well and it plummets into the atmosphere. Now, I'm no astrophysicist or what-have-you but I've always been under the impression that the moon is far away from the Earth. Further apart than New York and Boston even. So how in the hell does a blast knock the Enterprise from the moon to the Earth?


    And at this point, I gave up on the movie. The thing was just turning into a massive frenetic action sequence without pause. Ships falling. Ships crashing. Spock pummelling the hell out of Khan. It was tiring. And it was then that I realised that J.J. Abrams is really no better than Michael Bay. He peppers his movies with a bit of characterisation out of some sense of obligation to doing the right thing but really, deep down, he'd rather just have two hours of fighting and explosions.


    Now, that wasn't all I found wrong with the movie but I think that's enough. The bottom line was that I really didn't like this movie much the second time round. At all.

    There's something I haven't addressed yet though and that's about the transition from watching it on a big screen to watching it on a small screen. Basically, the point I wanted to make was that a lot of the things that worked on the big screen didn't work after the transition. I remember really enjoying the scene where Kirk and Khan are soaring through space to land in the hangar of the dreadnought for instance but it did nothing for me the second time around. For a little while, I wondered why. And then I figured out the answer. J.J. Abrams clutters the screen. There's just too much in the frame and it's an eyesore. This isn't as bad on the big screen because there's more room for everything but on the small screen, it's fatal. The battle debris that Kirk and Khan fly through wasn't that distracting in the cinema but on the small screen, there was no space for... well, space. The scope of all that emptiness between the Enterprise and the dreadnought was completely lost on my TV screen. But it doesn't have to be that way. For a comparison, check out the asteroid chase in The Empire Strikes Back. I've seen that on the big screen and the small one and both work well.

    Another problem is that individual scenes are too short. This isn't a problem specific to Star Trek into Darkness - it's a problematic trend in a lot of movies - but J.J. Abrams is certainly guilty of it here. The problem with short scenes is that you can never really get invested in them. They never have time to get interesting. Right before they do, the movie skips ahead to another scene and the feeling I personally get from this is one I liken to channel surfing.


    Final thoughts:

    One might ask then whether Star Trek into Darkness still works on the level of a brainless action movie. However, because the screen's frequently too cluttered and the action scenes drag on too long, wearing the viewer down instead of entertaining them, I'd argue that it doesn't.

    One might also ask whether it's at least interesting seeing an attempt to bring something new to Star Trek but honestly, I can't see anything interesting being brought to the table. Sexing the franchise up? Well, that's nothing new. The original series was full of gorgeous women and that was continued through all the later shows. Making Star Trek more action packed? That's nothing new either. The cartoonish Voyager had Captain Janeway and her crew blowing up practically everything in the Delta quadrant, along with the increasingly neutered Borg. Enterprise is pretty action packed - and it also seems to be designed to cater to the same demographic that J.J. Abrams is aiming for, which makes his new movies even more redundant. And as I've mentioned earlier, Deep Space Nine has a lot of action... and it's a great show too, which is an added bonus.

    So it's hard to see what the point of the Star Trek reboot is. It's not modernising the old series with updated production values. It's not charting new territory. So what's the point? Why don't the filmmakers follow the established precedents of the TV series and just make new stories about a new group of people. If they want action movies, maybe they could have a squadron of ships sent to the Delta quadrant, with the crew in hibernation. Then when they get there, they can wake up and embark on a mission to completely eliminate the Borg. Far-fetched, sure, and very possibly stupid but at least it'd be something new. What J.J. Abrams was up to with his reboots however is anyone's guess, possibly including his.

    However, giving credit where credit is due, Star Trek into Darkness got me interested in Star Trek in general and led me to discovering the old movies and the awesomeness of Deep Space Nine. So I am grateful for that.

    And also, it gave us these great videos:

    How 'Star Trek into Darkness' should have ended

    Honest Trailers: Star Trek into Darkness (featuring 'How it should have ended')
  2. In Topic: Star Trek Into Darkness

    Posted 10 Oct 2013

    Now, the second viewing... Shall we begin?

    1. The opening act. Kirk and Spock save a primitive culture from an erupting volcano. Spock goes into the volcano to set off a cold fusion bomb or something like that. Kirk leads the members of the culture on a merry chase to get them away from the volcano. The Enterprise is hiding under the sea. It gets seen by the locals because Kirk takes it flying in to rescue Spock when something goes wrong. And so on an so forth.

    The first time I saw the movie, I'd clean forgotten about Star Trek transporters - beaming people and things up and down to planets. Sure, Spock is beamed to safety at the end of the sequence but the movie largely got away with it because of my ignorance of that technology until that point.

    This time around, there was no such luck. So throughout the entire sequence, I knew that the Enterprise could have remained in orbit and a cold fusion bomb could have been beamed down into the volcano, sparing us all the shenanigans. The only reason for any of the opening act to exist was to set up the plot point about Spock not understanding human emotions.

    2. ... and that was daft, I now realise. Having seen the original Star Trek series and movies, I rather get the impression that Spock understands humans quite well. He just thinks they're a bit illogical sometimes. This allows the writers to use Spock to make interesting observations on humanity and it's pretty cool. However, the inability of this new J.J. Abrams TM Spock to understand human behaviour just makes him seem dumb.

    3. Khan's magical transporter that whisks him all the way from Earth to the Klingon homeworld instantly makes space travel rather redundant, doesn't it? Also, if the technology to transport a person all the way there exists, then Section 31 (which has the technology under wraps as well) could presumably transport a whole lot of nuclear warheads there as well and end any potential Klingon threat. This technology is over the top.

    4. When Kirk and friends go to the Klingon homeworld, Kirk takes great pains to make sure the Klingons don't know that a Starfleet vessel is behind their borders as this could provoke a war. It's a good idea but unfortunately, it's completely undermined when Sulu, on Kirk's orders incidentally, sends a hailing message to Khan, clearly identifying himself and his ship as Starfleet. Presumably, no Klingons intercepted this transmission but still... that didn't strike me as a clever way of keeping a low profile.

    5. And Klingons... I thought Klingons looked stupid in the previous version of Star Trek but compared to what J.J. Abrams turned them into, they were the height of style. But then again, I suppose that's to be expect after Abrams turned the intelligent and highly cultured Romulans into tattooed thugs in Star Trek 2009.


    My second viewing of Star Trek into Darkness was not off to a good start.

    Watch this space for the next lot of points, coming sometime later today.
  3. In Topic: Quantum of Solace

    Posted 3 Aug 2012

    Got another Forbidden 403 error trying to post a reply - a nice reply too. But it definitely wasn't copied and pasted. It was composed entirely in the little window provided. I think there's something definitely wrong on the Chefelf end of things with regard to these errors. When this happened to me before, I got that error more times than I can remember - well and truly in the double-figures territory.

    Anyway, the gist of my reply was that I agreed with most of what you said and that you raised some interesting points. Maybe later, I'll see if I can post it in full or not.
  4. In Topic: Quantum of Solace

    Posted 3 Aug 2012

    I'm glad you liked most of the review. It's been a while since I wrote that... actually, it's been long enough that I've made a 180 degree turn with my opinion on Robert Ludlum's Bourne books in the interim, which I had re-read and then vowed never to read again. Perhaps reading them the second time was the problem.

    With your comment regarding Le Chiffre, I'm afraid you'll have to explain that one to me as I don't quite follow. I figured he had already fallen out with his friends when he'd lost all that money to begin with. If Bond captured him before the card game then he would have no way to recoup his losses anyway and would have to cooperate with MI6. Ah, well. Maybe MI6 had an ulterior motive of getting some more funding. Perhaps there were government spending cutbacks that weren't mentioned in the film. But I'm all ears... or all eyes, given that we're communicating in the written medium.

    As for the shaky cam comment, yes. You're absolutely right about what you said. I may not have realised that it wasn't shaky cam when I wrote that review or I may have placed fast cuts and shaky cam under the same label as I don't like either of them.

    When I initially saw the film in the cinema, those cuts in the opening car chase were really too fast for me. I could follow the action all right but it was such a visual assault of flashing imagery, I ended up looking at the floor occasionally to give myself a break. It also could have been to do with where I was sitting. However, as I mentioned earlier, I don't have any problem following it when I'm watching it at home.

    Glad you agreed about Mathis. That character was too good to throw away like that.

    I wonder what Skyfall will be like. I've seen the early trailer but it really is one of those trailers that show absolutely nothing. Now, obviously from my comments in the Prometheus thread, you'll know that I don't want trailers to show us one minute summaries of the movies they're advertising - but I do like some hints about the story to pique my interest. As it stands, I know that Bond is going to be in the film and there might just possibly (spoiler ahead) be some action scenes in it... but I kind of expected that already.
  5. In Topic: The Amazing Spiderman

    Posted 2 Aug 2012


    Just for anyone's interest if they encounter this issue, I don't know why the post initially didn't work but I think the problem in subsequent attempts was due to me copying and pasting the reply from Word. What I did just then was save my word document as an .html file and copy the text from that.

    All right. I feel better now.

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