Star Trek: Into Zero Dark Thirty

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The new STAR TREK film met with our approval — it’s very silly, on the one hand, and on the other, very neatly worked out. So unlike PROMETHEUS, which is ponderous and nonsensical, and which also flowed in part from the pen of Damon Lindelof. TREK seems aware of its own daftness — the suggestion that a “cold fusion device” is what you use when you want to make things really cold may well have been thrown in just to annoy the kind of people who get annoying by things like that.

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It’s also unexpectedly moving in places, mainly because it concentrates on Spock, and he’s such an intriguing concept for a character. The movie sort of treats him as an Aspergers person. Zachary Quinto is excellent in the role, but Chris Pine’s Kirk delivers a lot of the key scene too. And, in my gruff, manly way, I just love Karl Urban as McCoy.

In this movie Kirk battles Sherlock Holmes and Robocop, which I didn’t know going in.

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I felt Simon Pegg’s Scottish accent had deteriorated a bit since the last film, where he was actually convincing. It’s weird, as I think he has a Scottish wife, and the film’s first assistant director is Tommy Gormley, who has the broadest Glaswegian accent I’ve ever encountered on a living human being. Pegg does throw in some nice bits of observational Scottishness, and I get a warm glow around the cockles, as if they were being beamed up, when I hear somebody use the phrase “hud oan” (translation: “Hold on”) in a Major Motion Picture, but the fact remains he is now a less convincing Scotsman than James Doohan. Which is a bit like being a less convincing echidna than Wallace Beery.

No explanation is given why Peter Weller talks like a cowboy while his daughter, Alice Eve, has a cut-glass English accent. Probably something to do with cold fusion. The show’s other new cast member, Benedict Cumberbatch, is pretty good value, striking dynamic poses and being cold-blooded in a way that’s distinct enough from the Vulcans to register.

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Director JJ Abrams layers on the lens flare as usual, but manages to simulate the confusion of combat without his action sequences degenerating into actual incoherence, which I appreciate. He also does a few of the nice tie-in shots which made MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III quite pleasing in its set-pieces — a crashing craft pulls the camera down to a foreground character, who leads the camera onwards in a kind of relay. In an age when many directors seem unable to conceive of a shot which has more than one thing happening in it, this is refreshing.

On the whole, this is a kind of pumped-up remake of THE WRATH OF KHAN, but some aspects of it actually improve on that movie, so I’ll give it a pass.

It’s always been interesting, the way Star Trek reflects America’s view of itself and the world. In the original series, the Federation represented both a united mankind, and the USA, with the Klingons obviously standing in for the USSR. In this movie, with the Enterprise dispatched to retrieve a terrorist from the Klingon homeworld, they seem to be the Middle East in general and Pakistan in particular. And thus the movie seems to point with hope towards eventual peaceful coexistence with alien empires, while (perhaps, mildly) criticising Obama’s death squad incursion and drones policy.

Oh, there’s also a great segue involving a swearword and a sliding door — the sound effects gag of the season.

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23 Responses to “Star Trek: Into Zero Dark Thirty”

  1. Far too kind.

    As a card carrying geek, I’ve never been so angry at a film or its writers in a long time.

  2. Tell me more! Was aware via Facebook that you were infuriated, but could only guess at the causes.

  3. Not sure it’s possible without going in to spoilers. But the Wrath of Khan connection you state made my blood boil. And an appalling plot contrivance seemingly thought up at the last minute to save the day and therefore remove any risk or tension. Which in itself was stupid as there were 72 other “contrivances” that oucld have been used. Pointless, lazy, cannibalistic writing. Only glad those writers are nowhere near Episode 7. JJ can direct well when he has a better script. But this fell prety to the worst kind of lazy fanwank. A new timeline, infinite new possibilities, and they do this.

  4. It could be seen as unfortunate that the new timeline has been embraced as a way of basically remaking the old stories. I was aware of this as I was watching, but was also enjoying the fireworks so I decided not to let it bother me.

    Let’s declare this the spoiler line — anything below MAY contain plot giveaways, and those who have not yet viewed should beware.

  5. Will have a think and post later. Got to get through some work I’ve fallen behind on. but I have a fair bit to say about the new Star Trek. :)

  6. Words cannot express how little I care about any of this. Go see Margarethe Von Trotta’s Hannah Arendt when it opens in a few weeks.

  7. Different strokes for different folks, Mr Ehrenstein. That and other cliches. Fact is it still matters to other people and the wide variety is one of the reason I love movies. :)

  8. As a non trekkie I enjoyed it v much tho I agree the Simon Pegg’s voice was somewhat lacking in authenticity.

  9. I guess his accent was no more unconvincing than the physics.

    The Von Trotta does look very interesting. That cinema contains both goody sci-fi and profound political and artistic statements is part of what I enjoy about it.

  10. Would that it were possible for me to enjoy the cinema as I used to. Today’s “Mainstream” is a gigantic mind-suck.

  11. That said there are occasional surprises from unlikely sources. Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing is a total delight.

  12. Whedon, actually, is the TV-born talent who should have been put in charge of the Trek franchise. He’d have been a natural fit, more so than with The Avengers.

    I recall staying up late (7:30!) as a tyke to see Star Trek reruns on BBC1, so I *should* have a nostalgic devotion to it and perhaps a purist view of the characters, but I think mainly I just want the films to be amusing, and this one was.

  13. couldn’t agree more with the idea of Whedon on Star Trek — one of the great missed opportunities in pop cultural history

  14. I’m not as upset as all that. A Whedon Trek would have been an improvement, but an Abrams Avengers would be worse.

    I will gladly direct a Doctor Strange movie if anybody asks me to.

  15. They’d better get the contract ready and start building the Bleecker Street mansion! An Abrams Avengers would’ve been dire indeed

  16. THIS JUST IN !


    Ann Coulter Walks Out of Star Trek, Claims ‘Too Many Minorities’

    Conservative commentator Ann Coulter walked out of a screening of Star Trek: Into Darkness last night, saying that the science fiction adventure had “too many minorities.”

    According to witnesses at Regal Cinemas in New York, the controversial author was seen cursing out the screen and exiting about half an hour into the picture.

    In an interview on Sean Hannity’s radio show today Coulter defended her actions saying that liberal Hollywood had lost touch with average Americans.

    “Apparently in the future the liberals have extinguished all the white people,” Coulter explained, “I mean they got a black girl running the communications, an Asian guy driving the ship and a pointy-eared alien doing pretty much everything else.

    “I guess we’re supposed to just accept that minorities will be the new majority. This isn’t an entertainment film – it’s nothing but a pro-Obama, multicultural piece of propaganda.

    “And of course its not even realistic. Since when have black people been able to speak foreign languages? And shouldn’t Sulu have crashed the ship into a quasar by now?”

    The Star Trek franchise has a long history of promoting multiculturalism since its inception in the 1960’s. It broke ground with a multi-racial cast and notably featured the first television kiss between a black and a white character.

    The current film, which opened yesterday, is a reboot directed by J.J. Abrams featuring the characters from the original series. Critics have praised the film, but rarely mentioned its politics – a point which also confused host Sean Hannity.

    “Now Ann, you know I love you,” a puzzled Hannity said, “but I’ve seen the film, and although there were minorities, there were also plenty of whites. So I guess I don’t see your problem.”

    “Sean, the only other white people are foreigners,” she retorted, “you got one Communist from Moscow and a lazy, socialist engineer from Scotland. There’s only one red-blooded American white person in the whole movie – and thank god he’s the captain. The ship would fall apart in minutes without him.

    “And Spock? The actor’s gay, and the character is ‘Vulcan’ – which is code for Jewish. But its not just the characters. The whole Star Trek thing is a socialist plot to brainwash our children.

    “I mean no one actually owns the ship, no one gets paid any money, everybody’s ‘equal’. And they’ve been flying up there for years and still haven’t seen God yet. Karl Marx would have been proud Sean.”

    Coulter is known for her controversial views on race, and is the author of the recent book Mugged: Racial Demagoguery from the Seventies to Obama”

  17. I love it when you cast your gaze on the blockbusters, David.

    After seeing this in big bombastic 3D yesterday I felt as if i’d had a velvet lobotomy. I can understand Trek fans (especially those brought up on the humanistic intelligence of Picard’s Next Gen) getting angry at the sheen of dumbness that these films drape over the Trek story. All I could feel though was that this was the ultimate, glorious realisation of plunging into the imagination of a young boy playing with his toys. And your Aspergers Spock comment is spot on. Quinto is the best thing in the film. He gives it a dignity that the film hasn’t earned (especially the throwaway sops to unsanctioned state killing and torture).

    I also loved the “hud oan” moment. Reminded me of Chewin’ the Fat’s Carnoustie Starfleet; “Captain, there’s a right big hoor o’ a spaceship comin’ right towards us”

  18. And another thing…
    Joss Whedon’s Firefly showed how to visually update SF for the modern screen. His sudden zooms to arcing spacecraft have replaced the stately glides. Into Dumbness used a lot of his techniques in the action sequences. Wouldn’t it be great if the Culture novels of Iain M Banks were franchised as much as Marvel? I’d love to see Whedon’s Use of Weapons or Player of Games.

  19. I think Banks’ work would make better TV than Game of Thrones, that’s for sure. I tried watching that but the dialogue. and the fact that nobody could say the dialogue without looking awkward (except the mighty Dinklage) put me off.

    Avoided the 3D this time as I heard it was retrofitted and feared that velvet lobotomy.

    The Coulter story is from a satire site, right? So hard to tell with that woman.

  20. david wingrove Says:

    David E…

    My lifelong loathing of Star Trek may finally be starting to crumble. That Ann Coulter pastiche actually makes me curious to see the new film.

  21. Everything stated in that piece was basically true of the original series… which also stirred fans into deliria of homoerotic imaginings. The casting of Zachary Quinto must have sent the slash fiction scribes into overdrive.

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