“CHARACTERNAAAAAAME!!!”

[With many sorries to Ashwin Pande. But look, no spoilers!

(That title is totally a spoiler)

(The rest of this post will also contain spoilers. I can’t imagine anyone cares about this)]

 

Star Trek Into Darkness. Bullet points, because bullet points seem to be how I always talk about blockbuster-y movies on this blog and also because I am lazy.:

  • I suspect the writing process for this movie went something like “Who’s the most popular Star Trek villain?” “Ah, right. What actors are popular right now?” Which is why this guy is playing this character.
  • He says this line (except the bit about not being a terrorist, because he kind of is), and he says it straightfacedly. Unless JJ Abrams was doing an SRK shoutout on purpose?
  • The last movie had Uhura randomly stripping down to her underwear. That doesn’t happen in this movie and at one point they even give her trousers. So that’s an improvement?
  • … except there’s an entire scene engineered for the sole purpose of having Alice Eve’s character in her underwear. Apparently it is necessary to do this before changing into a suit to go outside the ship. Other people we see leave the ship in special suits: Kirk, Spock, Khan, Bones. Of those, we see the following in their underwear:
  • To be fair to Abrams (but why should I?) with the image of Montalban’s Khan in our heads Cumberbatch’s chest would merely have seemed blindingly white. Because Cumberbatch is white. He is about as white as it is possible for a major actor in Hollywood (most of them are at least quite tanned) to be.
  • One way of solving that problem would have been to maybe cast a reasonably buff brown person. Other people have written very lucidly on the politics of this casting decision; I’m a fan of N.K. Jemisin’s clever comparison of casting within a racist system with the Kobayashi Maru.
  • When the 2009 movie came out I witnessed a number of discussions in which fans tried to retcon reasons for Kirk’s eyes being brown in the original series and blue in this alternate universe. I look forward to the theories that Khan’s newfound whiteness generates.
  • Uhura is very competent in her first scene, and in general right up until she starts discussing her relationship with Spock in the middle of a delicate mission that could get them all killed because that’s what girlfriends do Reasons.
  • Quinto and Urban remain the best things about this cast, despite the painfully uninspired things the script gives them to do. Such as chase Benedict Cumberbatch on foot through future London.
  • Cumberbatch appears in an early scene on a London street with his coat collar turned up and we thought of this and giggled a bit. Then, in the middle of the abovementioned chase scene he stopped to pick up and put on a long, swooshy coat so that he could then swooshily sherlock his way through the city. The young men sitting in front of us turned around and glared.
  • The movie’s first scene is an attempt to prove Von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods.
  • In Abrams’ dubious defense: the last movie went straight for pretty/shiny/smouldery. This one manages a half-hearted attempt to examine the ethics of Starfleet, of Starfleet captains, of the organisation’s real purpose. By “examine” I mean “mention”.
  • Many things are mentioned. As this review puts it: “Old Spock explains why Khan is a guy to be feared. Pike explains Kirk’s character to Kirk, and also throws in a detailed explanation of the lessons Kirk must learn in this movie. Khan explains his own history to everybody, and the evil admiral explains his evil plan to the entire crew of the Enterprise. The film breathlessly rushes from action scene to action scene, stopping only to have a character deliver leaden exposition almost directly at the camera. It’s as though all of the set pieces were conceived first and then a trio of subpar writers had to fill in the gaps. ” (Actually, just read all of that review, it’s entirely accurate)
  • Wrath of Khan has a few iconic moments. Spock dies (spoiler: he comes back!), Kirk howls “KHAAAAN!!” STID does something supremely stupid; it rehashes and reverses the death scene. Now Spock has to watch Kirk die, their hands separated by a clear screen. Even now the scene might have retained some emotional resonance, until Spock howled out the name of his enemy. In that moment it became clear that the only emotion this film was interested in evoking was “I see what you did there”.
  • Kirk’s emotional trajectory over these two films has been entirely linked to his loss of his father, then his loss of his mentor. As Jonathan McCalmont said yesterday, daddy issues within daddy issues. Spock’s emotional trajectory has been illustrated in its entirety by Gingerhaze here. I wonder if Alice Eve’s Carol Marcus gets to have parental issues–she did just see her dad start a war, try to kill a bunch of people, and have his head crushed.
  • And finally, props to the movie for having Cumberbatch recite a series of terrible sexual innuendos in a (even by Cumberbatch standards) Very Deep voice. Since the movie gave him little to do as a villain, it was nice to see him breathily say “Oh, Captain!” in a shocked voice and ask Kirk if he was going to punish him some more. Should Abrams decide to make Star Trek III: Carry on Trekking, it’s nice to know he has something to draw on.

Short version, for anyone whose eyes have glazed over by now: This was a very bad film.

8 Comments to ““CHARACTERNAAAAAAME!!!”

  1. Thank you, yes, oh my god it was such a bad film. Also: “let’s be topical and talk about drones, except barely”, segueing into a finale of “extrajudicial killings are bad, but only because the villain is more use to you alive, rather than for any ethical considerations.”

  2. I love your bullet-point posts on blockbuster-y movies! The previous one on Iron Man 3 was really enjoyable, because the only thought I had with that film was, “Iron Man as Wisecracking Drone”, over and over. Iron Man 3: The Wisecracking Drone and Pepper Potts’ Abs. (Though what they did with the Mandarin was interesting, at least, and now I TOTALLY GET your crush on Rebecca Hall and when you look the other way I will steal her from you, etc.)

    Anyway, I am here to confess to you and to you only that I have never watched Star Trek so I know not a thing about it. I don’t know? How this happened? Who to blame? Can’t blame capitalism. :(

    Still, I really loved this. “To be fair to Abrams (but why should I?) with the image of Montalban’s Khan in our heads Cumberbatch’s chest would merely have seemed blindingly white.” “One way of solving that problem would have been to maybe cast a reasonably buff brown person.” (Also, never has John Cho turned me on as much as in this gifset: http://www.racebending.com/v4/featured/star-trek-whiteness/)

    I’m gonna go catch up on the series, then I’m gonna watch the Abrams films. Then I can discuss this hilarious and bad film with you! I’m thinking next yearish.

    • With you on John Cho’s sudden increase in attractiveness in that gifset. Between him and Rebecca Hall I worry that you and I will spend much time competing futilely.

      I came to Star Trek comparatively late, and my knowledge (and fandom) is sporadic. But I do love the original series, and there’s a fundamental niceness to the whole franchise that I will always like. If you do decide to watch some of it, I hope that works for you too.

      (I am glad someone likes the bullet points! I’m not very movie-literate, so I’m never sure if I should talk about films at all.)

  3. Such a bad film. A perfectly cromulent action film which entertained me no end (and which I will watch again, because bad action films with reasonably snarky dialogue are WHERE I’M AT, BRING THE POPCORN), apart from the decision to cast Cumberbatch – he does have those very alien English cheekbones and good screen presence, but this is not enough reason to cast him as Ricardo Montalban! – but oh, such a bad film.

    And yet. I will watch it again and laugh at the Kirk death scene again, and applaud Zachary Quinto playing the best Leonard Nimoy he can play again.

    • This made me wonder if I would watch it again, and I realise (depressingly?) that I will probably end up buying it on DVD anyway. Cumberbatch does have fantastic screen presence (and cheekbones) and if they’d written him a better villain I’d have been sold. To make him Khan and also fail to do the character justice seems such a waste.

  4. It was a bit of a waste. But I’m not sure Hollywood knows *how* to do good villain these days.

  5. My heart swelled with John Cho saying what he did. (My people!!!!) Friend suggested Cumberbatch should have been Q, if they were going to plunder canon. That would have been EVEN BETTER and more Sherlock-y :p i know it’s ST:NG, but whatever, more people would remember that.

    I haven’t seen the movie, but I had just assumed Cumberbatch was Khan, cos who else would he be, honestly???

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