Thoughts on Star Trek Discovery

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This article will contain spoilers for the first four episodes of Star Trek Discovery. If you don't want to have the first four episodes of Star Trek Discovery spoiled, please, y'know, read something else for a while. 

So. Star Trek Discovery. 

A summary

It's good. It's enjoyable. It's entertaining. It's not a bad television show. I'm not sure that it's Star Trek, but it's fun.

What terrified me about the idea of a new Star Trek series is that there hasn't been a true Star Trek story for 13 years. The last proper Star Trek stories were told in the last few episodes of Enterprise, which concluded in 2005. 

A "proper" Star Trek story is a story with a moral compass, a dilemma of conscience, a difficult human decision told through the peculiarities of an alien species or culture, and a resolution from which we all learn something and grow up a little bit more. 

Since the end of Enterprise, there have been no Star Trek stories. There have been blockbuster action movies with Star Trek characters in them, but there have been no Star Trek stories. 

(I lie -- there have been Star Trek stories, and they've been told by the talented and passionate fans and Trek alumni who have created fan series such as Star Trek: Continues and Star Trek: Phase II. Unfortunately, these stories are obviously not canon, but they filled a substantial and lengthy vacuum of quality Trek narratives.)

The story of Discovery, so far, is not a Trek story. Perhaps it may become one, who's to know at this stage. We've never experienced Star Trek in a long-form presentation, where episodes link constantly together and a growing story arc emerges. Perhaps the whole, rather than the parts, will be where the moral tale lies.

Starfleet is not an organisation of war

Starfleet is an organisation of peaceful exploration and scientific discoveries. It's not a military operation -- except when it is. There are two sides to war, and if the other guys want to fight you, you have little option whether to fight or back down. Starfleet is well equipped to fight a war, and given the need, will obviously do so in order to regain and maintain peace. That's how it works.

If anything, I find it interesting that in the Discovery timeline (for lack of a better description at this point), the war itself has resulted directly from the Federation's efforts at peaceful encounters.

The Klingons have changed (again)

Yep. They've changed. Again. They changed before, and we didn't care. Why do we care now?

I have no issue with the appearance of the "new" Klingons, nor the changes to Klingon culture. I just think the Klingons are a bit dull. This may be partly by design, perhaps it's partly the fault of the actors. I find they have little charisma.

The Klingon language, once rich in guttural grunts and coughs, seems now a repetitive barrage of equally spaced and monotonous syllabic sputters, with little to no emotion from the actors who seem focused entirely on remembering which phlegm noise comes next. T'Kuvma, the key Klingon in the pilot episode (or as I like to call him: "We couldn't afford Idris Elba"), speaks all of his lines in stanzas of three syllables, as if the actor could memorise the weird sounds only in triplets.

Also, the new Klingons have noses inside their noses. Just saying. Can't be unseen.

Breaking Gene's rules

Gene Roddenberry stipulated that in any of "his" Star Trek series, there would be no interpersonal conflict between Starfleet officers. By the 22nd century (or later), humans had achieved a kind of inner Zen, and no longer fought with each other -- only with aliens of differing cultures and moralities. 

This is why, when Deep Space Nine was developed not long after Roddenberry's passing, the decision was made to team Starfleet characters up alongside Bajoran militia officers. If we can't fight amongst ourselves, lets force ourselves to get along with a war-like super-religious group of individuals, and let the conflict write itself. And it worked.

Since then, however, interpersonal conflict has gone crazy. And it's okay. Just because Gene made the universe of Star Trek doesn't mean that others can't come along and break the rules. It's okay. I promise.

Shifting gears to a competing franchise, don't forget that George Lucas made the Star Wars universe, including the prequels. If Disney and JJ Abrams hadn't broken George's established rules and made something new and exciting, we'd be stuck with green screens, awful acting from amazing actors, a duck-like creature with floppy ears, and "the high ground".

So, in short

Discovery is good. Star Trek is back on TV. It's a good time to be alive.

Oblivious: Thoughts on Oblivion (2013)

Yeah, spoilers. And stuff.

Oblivion.

It's very pretty, but not very good. The story is poorly paced, awkwardly revealed and thoroughly confusing. It also has Tom Cruise in.

The story, such as it is, is set in a post-apocalyptic future where the Earth has been ravaged by the final blow of a war with an alien force. We "won", having scorched the planet with atomic hellfire, repelling the aliens but leaving our planet barely habitable. The surviving humans fled to a bizarre pyramid-shaped space station in orbit, leaving a few of the invaders scattered about, doing what they can to survive on the surface. Meanwhile, the future of humanity is assured by giant machines that float over the oceans, sucking up the water to use, ostensibly, as fuel for a trip to the nearest habitable rock -- Saturn's moon of Titan.

Tom Cruise is Jack Harper, a technician who lives in a peculiar house on top of a pencil-thin tower with a vacuous British redhead that operates a talking table all day long. His job is to fly his mechanical dragonfly down to the surface to repair security drones that patrol the ocean-sucking machinery, keeping it safe from the aliens.

From here, it all goes to shit. Big spoilers to follow, for more than one film. I don't care. I like to live dangerously.

Tom ultimately discovers that he's a clone, apparently designed after one of the only two surviving humans, and his purpose is to continue to maintain the technology of the "humans" aboard the pyramid in the sky, which is not manned by humans at all, but by the alien invaders. Alien invaders who aren't harvesting the oceans for fusion fuel for a trip to Saturn, but simply raping the planet of all its remaining natural resources.

So, Tom's a clone. That sounds familiar. How did he find out he's a clone? He discovered a duplicate of himself, doing the same job he should be doing. Still sounds familiar. Why does it sound familiar? Oh, yeah. Moon. Sam Rockwell did it so much better.

After this reveal, the rest of the film falls roughly into place, following two additional reveals that really didn't take me by surprise. I have to admit, I was a bit taken aback by how blatantly the key plot point from Moon was "borrowed", and I lost a bit of enthusiasm for Oblivion's remaining twists. The biggest plot hole still revolves around the clones-of-Cruise idea, though.

The original Jack, imaginatively labeled "Jack 49", meets up with a duplicate of himself in the middle of the desert, attempting to repair a drone. They proceed to beat the crap out of each other, ending with Jack 49's revived wife being shot, and Jack 52 (the other Jack) being crudely tied up and left in the desert while 49 rushes the shot wife to a nearby cave and steals 52's helicopter-dragonfly to go get her some magical fixer-upper drugs from 52's pole house. This is all fine and dandy, except:

Jack 49 apparently borrows Jack 52's clothing (they have numbers and colour coding on them) in order to convince Jack 52's own version of the cranky British redhead that he's her colleague and not some clone of him. He then somehow swaps back to his original 49 uniform before the story continues, which is fine. Well, sort of. It'd be fine if Jack 52 himself didn't up and disappear entirely until the unsatisfying end of the film. I don't know if the changing number on the jacket is a continuity error or an intended thing, or what. If it is a continuity error, it's a fatal error because the story relies on very subtle hints about what's going on, and the number and colour of Jack's uniform is pretty significant.

Jack 49 also steals Jack 52's helicopter-dragonfly for the remainder of the film, and proceeds to fly it -- while wearing his 49 regalia, again -- into the alien mothership masquerading as a human space station (did I mention spoilers?). Do they not notice that he's a 49, and it's a 52? Actually, I suppose they don't. Their scanning systems can't even tell the difference between a frozen Russian woman and a frozen black man.

Also, the alien mothership? Independence Day. Big triangular doorway. Massive internal corridor with foggy crap in it. All it needs is an army of marching insect creatures on the floor.

Final verdict: Very pretty, a bit boring, and very confusing. Taking a simple, mysterious story and trying to make it more mysterious by going all David Lynch on it is bad decision. Just tell the story. And maintain your continuity. Please.

Thoughts on The Wolverine (2013)

Why does a man with built-in blades need a sword?
Why does a man with built-in blades need a sword?

This review will be brief. Regardless, it still contains at least one spoiler. So, if you don't like spoiled things, read elsewhere for a moment.

I figured after my articles on V: Graphite, the energy drink tie-in with The Wolverine, and  5 Gum Adamantium, that I should at least make an effort to see and assess the movie.

The Wolverine. It was alright.

Wolverine, as a character, does not work very well solo. He works well as part of an ensemble, with the rest of his mutant teammates to bounce his personality off. Without having established characters around, he's a bit flat. There's no one to offer a predictable response, or to provoke him in a predictable way. I'm in favour of trying new things, but sometimes a little bit of familiarity can go a long way.

Also, does every film these days need a giant robot?

Loopy: Thoughts on Looper (2012)

Loopy doopy.
Loopy doopy.

Much like a refrigerator that isn't set properly, this article will probably spoil things. If you don't like spoilers, don't read it. Simples.

Looper is a time travel story. I'm a sucker for time travel stories. I'm a sucker, especially, for original time travel stories. Looper, unfortunately, isn't really one of them.

Well, it is. And it isn't. It's original in that there's a high-concept, back-of-a-napkin, one-sentence elevator pitch storyline. It's not original in that the plot devices and events of the film are largely lifted from other sources. None of this is surprising when you discover the film was based on a story originally developed as a short, which was then greenlit as a feature film.

It's not, though, in the sense that most of the supporting plotline seems to have been borrowed from elsewhere. I don't have a problem with writers pilfering things from other writers. All of the best stories are built upon the stories that came before them. As a great many people have supposedly said, "Good artists borrow, great artists steal", and so be it.

Some specific parts of Looper that I felt were extremely reminiscent of other works:

  • man from future returns to kill child who will grow into future significant figure (The Terminator series, fitting as Garret Dillahunt from The Sarah Connor Chronicles appears as one of the Loopers)
  • time travel in weird, claustrophobic capsule (The Jacket)
  • Bruce Willis in peculiar time travel story (12 Monkeys)
  • character levitated by telekinesis, then exploded (one of the X-Men films, cannot recall which one)

There is one scene which is very original, quite gruesome, and ultimately completely illogical. In the scene, the future version of Seth, played by Paul Dano, who has traveled back in time to the present, attempts to reach his younger self, who is being tortured. As he approaches his junior, who is having parts of his body amputated, the elder Seth's limbs begin to disappear, leaving him a crippled, useless hulk at the door to the building. While the scene is effective and disturbing, it makes very little sense upon consideration. Each change to the younger character should affect the entire timeline of the older version. Old Seth may have lead a very similar life to this point without -- say -- a finger, but it's unlikely that he'd have survived for 30 years, travelled back in time, and made it to the door of the building without both legs, though.

All time travel movies have their paradoxes, though.

While it had a very slow and borderline b-grade start, Looper soon picked up pace and ended up a pretty cool movie. The makeup on Joseph Gordon-Levitt, applied to give him a more Bruce Willis-like appearance, was frankly disturbing, though.

Be more Pacific: Thoughts on Pacific Rim

I shall summarise: It's awesome. This probably contains spoilers. If you're not into having things spoiled, then, uh, stop reading. Or don't. Your choice.

It's like Real Steel meets Transformers meets The Abyss meets Cloverfield meets other stuff.
It's like Real Steel meets Transformers meets The Abyss meets Cloverfield meets other stuff.

Pacific Rim is one of those films that takes an utterly ridiculous premise and puts all its chips in, producing something completely enjoyable. The premise, such as it is, is that there are a bunch of gigantic electric dinosaurs emerging from a hole at the bottom of the ocean, and man has built a bunch of enormous robots to fight them with. Because nothing else worked. Because there can't possibly be a simpler solution than gigantic super-complex machines that mimic the human form. It's a bit like The Core in this regard, in that it takes something ludicrous and plays it for all it's got.

I think the entire film can be summed up in one scene from the trailer: The giant robot walks calmly out of the ocean into the streets of Hong Kong, dragging behind it an ocean liner, whilst the enemy dinosaur grins at it from the far end of the street. After raising the ship like a baseball bat, the robot then swings the boat at the dinosaur's face -- all of this occurs to the film's theme music (all six notes of it), and they properly chose to play it, for the only time in the movie*, on guitar. Proper, old school, heavy-ass guitar. This is robot violence porn at its finest.

Everything about the film is massive, awesome and fun. It goes boom, and it goes boom a lot. There're explosions, missiles, electricity, dinosaurs, alien entrails and whacky scientists. The heroes are appropriately heroic, and the villains are massive and hideous.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film.

I feel bad, but I can't help it. It's expected of me. I have a couple of nitpicks. They're not big deals, though.

Hollywood is currently drowning in Australian actors. Everyone who's ever appeared in Home and Away or Neighbours seems to currently be starring in a superhero franchise (except Alf Stewart, who should be). Somehow, the creators of Pacific Rim couldn't find any actual Australians to play their Australian characters, so they settled for an American and an Englishman, both of which proceed with the most embarrassingly atrocious attempts at the Australian accent I've heard in a long while. There's also an "Australian" newsreader and interviewee, both of which sound terrible. Surely it wouldn't have been too hard to cast a couple of Australians as the Australians.

I also found the two whacky scientists were a bit too whacky for my liking. A good comedy duo has an idiot and a straight man, but these two were both the idiot. Sorry.

Also, the bends apparently don't occur in the future.

* until the end credits, but y'know.

Thoughts on The Lone Ranger (2013)

Lone, lone on the range(r).
Lone, lone on the range(r).

This may contain spoilers. Your mileage may vary. You've been warned, I guess. Don't get me wrong, I like Johnny Depp. Unfortunately for The Lone Ranger, there are times when he can ruin a movie. Mr. Depp has a well-known history of playing weird and whacky characters, from Edward Scissorhands to Willy Wonka to Jack Sparrow to the Mad Hatter. They're all much of a muchness, it's Johnny with a painted face and a twitchy personality. You could interchange them, and no one would notice. He's not a bad actor. He's a scene stealer.

In The Lone Ranger, Depp's Tonto thoroughly overshadows Armie Hammer's titular ranger -- admittedly by intention, as the story is based more around Tonto's history than Lone's -- unfortunately leaving the rest of the cast gasping for recognition. Among those you might not have noticed: Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner and Helena Bonham Carter. A personal favourite underrated actor appears also, Leon Rippy as an ageing ranger.

I found the film enjoyable, but suffering from confusion as to what it intended to be. Parts of it are flat-out, blatant and hilarious slapstick. Some are built around fairly blunt insult humour. Certain scenes divulge into basic toilet humour. Others are thinly veiled commentary on racism and the treatment of the Native American people. Surrounding all of this is a simple story rooted in some pretty serious drama.

It's difficult to take a character like Tonto seriously when his dialogue switches from lighthearted conversations about the stupidity of a horse to lines like "Blood has been spilled, and the rivers will run red", all the while as he attempts to feed a dead bird some corn. This wouldn't be so bad, were it not for the scenes that set up his character's behaviour coming at least half way into the epic 149 minute running time.

There're also a few dischordant moments where an idea is set up to be quite sacred or respected, only to have the piss pulled out of it a few scenes later, usually by Depp's peculiar character. While it's hard to call any action "breaking character" for someone who's clearly not the full quid to begin with, it's a little awkward as a viewer to be fed what seems to be a subtle moral concept, then have it jerked away disrespectfully.

The Lone Ranger is enjoyable, chaotic, action-packed and a bit disjointed. It could certainly have been worse, and I don't feel like I wasted either my time or money by watching it.

Sharktopus: A work of genius

...yeah.
...yeah.

This is going to be a remarkably brief review, but I'm still going to do my best to convey exactly how bad this film is. It's presented by its producer, Roger Corman -- famous for some semi-bad things like Death Race and the 1960s version of Little Shop of Horrors, and a film I've mocked previously, Time Under Fire.

Sharktopus has a fairly loose storyline, governed largely by the instruction to show, as often as possible, a literally unbelievable creature eating as many people as possible.

Eric Roberts (older brother of Julia) "stars" as Sands, the father of Nicole, reluctant creator of the Sharktopus. The creature is a military creation, intended as a tracking device, or at least that's the best I can figure from the film's limited exposition. It's given the code name "S11", by which it's constantly referred to, probably due to the realization that "Sharktopus" is the stupidest word ever coined.

Toss into the mix a Lara Croft knock-off news reporter and her stereotypical Mexican camera man (complete with inconsistent Sharpie tattoos that change from scene to scene), and a few scattered bit parts by terrible actors, and you have the closest thing to a story that Sharktopus has to offer.

I'm going to bullet-point some of the highlights, in no order in particular:

  • The majority of the film's intro and establishing shots appear to have been lifted from the holiday home videos of the crew. Every single one features dodgy hand-held camera shake, and several shots dim and brighten under auto exposure. Nice!
  • The bulk of the "actors" were clearly hired for their physique, and not their acting talents. With a couple of notable exceptions --
  • The bikini-clad young lady with the metal detector who gets dragged down the beach by the Sharktopus may possibly not have been born a woman.
  • Roger Corman's daughter makes an appearance as a bungee-jumper. It's worth noting that she was probably not hired for her looks, and definitely was not hired for her acting talents.
  • Some of the Shaktopus visual effects are decent, if let down by the ridiculous design of the (ridiculous) creature. Other shots, though, look like they've been rendered out on a Nintendo 64.
  • Eric Roberts (Julia's older brother) spends most of the film getting progressively drunk as a means of dealing with the ludicrous situation. I suspect that this may not be acting, and I can imagine Mr. Roberts probably had similar feelings about the ludicrous film he was making. I do hope he was paid well.
  • Kerem Bursin spends most of the film confused as to why his shirt keeps disappearing and reappearing, as continuity had clearly taken the day off while his scenes on the boat were filmed.
  • The spectators at the inexplicable dance scenario toward the end of the film are apparently totally blind to the shark/octopus hybrid that climbs atop the pavillion until it begins to eat people.
  • Almost all of the Jaws-style scenes in which a random beachgoer is killed by the monster are completely disjointed, and really serve no purpose to the storyline (although I'm willing to accept that they are the storyline).

All in all, I don't feel my time was wasted watching it, as it was entertaining for all the wrong reasons, but I'm afraid I can't, in good conscience, recommend it to anyone, as quite frankly it's a stinking pile of bilge, and shouldn't be cast onto the retinas of a human being under any circumstances. That said, I'm sat prepared to watch another Roger Corman entry tonight: Camel Spiders. I can only imagine it'll be awesome.

Hasta la vista: Fake Lego Terminator toys

I like Lego. Lego is awesome. I also like that Lego, the company, has made a moral decision not to create military-based playsets. This decision has left the market open for Lego’s opposition to fill the void, which has lead to such things as Mega Bloks’ Halo playsets, Kre-o’s Transformers and Star Trek licenses, and Brickarms, a company dedicated to making authentic Lego-sized weapons for your minifigs. A company I’ve never heard of, Best-Lock, has now produced a small series of military sets based on the Terminator franchise (possibly as a result of the franchise’s ownership being in a state of phenomenal flux as we speak). They’re not the greatest quality, but you can’t get any other Lego clone products with the Terminator name on the box, so let’s give them a chance.

Before I tear them apart, I’m going to be kind and point out that they were very cheap. I paid no more than three dollars for each set. Admittedly, this was from The Reject Shop, where all good products go to die, but I can’t imagine the retail price for them was significantly higher. Even at double the price, they’re dirt cheap for the quantity of Lego-compatible pieces they contain.

The (very) unassuming package.
The (very) unassuming package.

The box is unassuming. I picked up two models, the Hunter Killer, and the Hunter Killer aerial. The company’s logo is quite disappointing. The choice of Arial Rounded as a font is questionable at best. The design of the package, in general, is chaotic and uncoordinated. It’s also not particularly colourful, which while appropriate for the franchise, is questionable for a toy package design.

Multiple Hunter-Killers.
Multiple Hunter-Killers.

The box for the Hunter Killer (the non-aerial variant) features a couple of artificial red laser beams.

Inside. (Jesus Christ, I'm doing an unboxing.)
Inside. (Jesus Christ, I'm doing an unboxing.)

Inside the boxes, the pieces are packaged in plastic bags with some stickers on a sheet. The instructions are loose inside the box.

Pieces. So many pieces.
Pieces. So many pieces.

All of the pieces in the set are cast in the same colour, a kind of gun-metal grey.

It's like IKEA, but with less allen keys.
It's like IKEA, but with less allen keys.

The instructions are easy to follow, but are far from the quality standard of Lego instructions.

It's so close to Lego, but yet so far.
It's so close to Lego, but yet so far.

The pieces are interesting. They’re similar to Lego. Most of the pieces serve the same function as a comparable Lego piece. Many of them have slightly differing engineering, such as the round plate pieces, which have additional reinforcements on the underside. The small 90-degree fold pieces with two studs on each side seem unique to Best-Lock.

If nothing else, Lego’s competitors often stand a chance of producing a random significant piece that serves a purpose no official Lego piece was created for. The odds of this are decreasing daily, as Lego makes more and more unique pieces, particularly for its licensed sets (Lord of the Rings, The Lone Ranger, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc, and -- of course -- Star Wars).

These pieces will be handy if you ever need to build a tripod-mounted gun cylinder...thing.
These pieces will be handy if you ever need to build a tripod-mounted gun cylinder...thing.

Here are some of the unique pieces you won’t find in Lego -- the gun turret comes in three parts, a tripod, the gun itself, and a small ammunition belt that clips on in a similar style to a minifig’s gripping hand. The round piece with the flared bottom connects to a piece with an upright, making a large, spinning turntable piece.

GET TO DAH CHOPPAH
GET TO DAH CHOPPAH

The Terminator figure is quite detailed. It’s also quite fragile. The arms are articulated at the shoulders and forearms, the legs only at the hip. The head rotates. The hands don’t grip anything particularly well, and placing the awkwardly shaped minigun into its pincers is more of a balancing act than a satisfying job.

I don't think he'll fit inside.
I don't think he'll fit inside.

Here’s a size and quality comparison of the Terminator figure alongside a genuine Lego Creator set. While the creator set was never intended to be the correct scale for a minifig, you can still get a reasonable idea of the size of the scrawny Terminator in comparison to Lego pieces.

I think the Terminator is aiming at his own plane..thing.
I think the Terminator is aiming at his own plane..thing.

This is the completed model of the Hunter Killer aerial, with the terminator swinging his minigun alongside. The pieces have a mottled sheen to them, as evident on the sloped pieces that make up the HK’s front end.

Quality workmanship.
Quality workmanship.

You can see here that some of the pieces connect together quite poorly. Some of them simply don’t like each other, while some of them have obvious flashing problems from the way they’ve been moulded. You can see numerous moulding problems in this photo.

There's a certain level of "number five is alive" to this model.
There's a certain level of "number five is alive" to this model.

This is the other Hunter Killer. The non-aerial one. If nothing else, the track system is very cool. It looks good, and within reason, it works as you push the thing along the table. The dog-leg in the tracks at the bottom, where it tucks up between the main wheels, is a bit of a design flaw. The piece holding the track up is simply a small cylinder with a cap on it, and it has a tendency to fly off when the track moves, or simply fall off periodically from the tension of the rubber track. The little cones that make up the turrets on either side of the machine don’t seem to click in particularly well, and fall off often, also.

The kits come with stickers to add panel detail and markings to the vehicles, but I haven’t added them as I’ll probably be taking the units apart again when I run out of shelf space. I’m quite confident that the stickers are actually intended to be structural, and will stop a lot of the connection problems with the main components of the vehicle bodies. I’m fairly sure Lego’s official sets do not employ load-bearing stickers as part of their design.

Final verdict for the Terminator Best-Lock construction kits: They were very cheap, the quality is no better than “okay”, and they’re a piece of licensed Terminator merchandise. I don’t feel that I’ve wasted my money.

Thoughts on Star Trek Into Darkness

j-j-abrams-discusses-star-trek-into-darkness-villain-124454

I've now seen Star Trek Into Darkness, and I've had some time to collect my thoughts together. This collection of aneurysms is likely to contain mucho spoilers. If you haven't seen Star Trek Into Darkness yet, and you don't want to know what it's all about, stop reading. Click the jump for the spoily spoilers.

I'm just going to bullet-point my thoughts and observations. You wanted an essay? Write your own.

  • I find the new character of James Kirk to be a bit hard to take. Chris Pine does a spectacular job of the acting, and the character is certainly real and likeable as far as the films go, but I have some issues with the way the character has been written. Captain Kirk was always the captain. He was always large and in charge. He was the shit. Now, he seems to be the kid who's constantly in the right place at the wrong time to somehow accidentally assume command of the Enterprise. If the third Abrams Trek film -- and there'll inevitably be one -- pulls the same trick, I'll be of half a mind to write a cranky letter.
  • I liked the planet full of red plants and weird flaky white people with four nostrils and peculiar eyelids. I can see a potential sequel based on their worship of the bizarre thing that came out of the water, but that's probably unlikely.
  • Spock inside the volcano -- I understand it was symbolic shorthand, but I don't believe Spock's resignation to death would have him on his knees with his hands in the air.
  • Admiral Marcus's collection of starships seems to have codified the NX-01 from Star Trek: Enterprise as part of the Abramsverse. Joy.
  • While the idea of a starship functioning underwater seems ludicrous at first consideration, they're designed to take quite a beating. Whether the engines and what-have-you would benefit from being drenched in brine is another story, though. Scotty did start to say something about the salt water causing problems. It looked pretty cool, though.
  • I rather liked the Earth-based Starfleet uniforms, with their little cap. They're an unfortunate blend of the Star Wars Imperial Navy and Nazi SS uniforms, but you can't win them all.
  • Admiral Robocop.
  • Harrison's drop-ship thing apparently eats the firehose/rifle combination Kirk throws at it, then shits it out of its rear end. I do not know if this was intentionally slapstick, but it was both awesome and awkward simultaneously.
  • Absolutely gratuitous underwear shot for Alice Eve as Carol Marcus, with Kirk glancing at her, despite the fact he didn't even remain on the mission as McCoy took his place!
  • Why the heck was Carol Marcus in this film, anyway? She served no purpose apart from the very brief scene in which she pleads with her father not to destroy the Enterprise and its crew -- something that anyone could have done, considering he didn't listen to her anyway. Then she gets her leg broken and just hangs around for the rest of the film for no useful reason. The fellow in the blue shirt with an iPhone in the back of his head served more of a purpose to the story. I find this particularly curious and frustrating, as her character was established in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan to be Kirk's former love intererest (and indeed, mother of his son), and there was zero chemistry between her and Kirk in Star Trek Into Darkness, given that Kirk will hump anything that's not bolted down. She was also written to be a mysterious character of questionable intent from the moment she appeared, and nothing whatsoever came of this. I don't mind something being set up to seem predictable, then the writers turning it on its ear to startle the fans, but taking something so established in canon and leaving it utterly lifeless is a bit disappointing. Maybe something will happen in a sequel. If it does, that's great, but it doesn't help Carol's limp character arc for Into Darkness.
  • There's really no reason that Spock (Quinto) needed to punch in the cheat code and phone home to Spock (Nimoy) to ask for a hint on the final level. This scene was very obviously shoehorned in to get Nimoy into the film, presumably while he's still alive and willing to appear in Trek -- both fair points, I'll add -- but it added no real substance to the film. It's great to see Leonard, of course, but there was no secret given away in his message that Spock (Quinto) couldn't have figured out for himself.
  • Kirk's communicator apparently works aaaalll the way from Klingon space to a pub on Earth. That's some good communicatoring.
  • The Klingons were pretty cool. I appreciate the fact that they didn't stray too far from the established design for their makeup. The contact lenses were a bit more exotic, and I think the jewellery and masks were appropriate. The uniforms were pretty cool, too. I'm also pleased that no changes seemed to have been made to Marc Okrand's Klingon language.
  • John Harrison was an interesting character. I avoided reading any hype about the film prior to watching it, and managed to largely avoid spoilers. I think it's a testament to the film's design and writing that I did actually question Harrison's identity right up to the point that he introduced himself as Khan. Various other possibilities crossed my mind, ranging from him being a Soong-type android to even possibly being a Founder. Obviously none of these things were true, but I'm glad the film made me consider them.
  • Having said that, Ricardo Montalban's scenery-chewing, bare-chested, Melville-quoting, ear-slug-inserting psychopathic nutjob is a hard act to follow. I really had no hope that Benedict Cumberbatch would outdo (or even match) Montalban, so I kinda dismissed it entirely and took Cumberbatch's performance for what it was. It worked. I'm happy.
  • As an addendum to that, however, I found the "bonding" scenes with Khan and Kirk sharing one-liners while completing their mission to board the Vengeance to be a bit out of character for both of them. I fail to believe even young Jim Kirk is dumb enough not to recognise that Khan is up to something diabolical.
  • I've read some unfair criticism of the design of the U.S.S. Vengeance, along the lines of "it looks like a fanboy designed it out of Lego". Y'know what? It's awesome. Because it looks like a fanboy designed it out of Lego. IT NARROWS ITS EYE AT THE ENTERPRISE. The ship has freakin' emotion. And it's angry. I approve.
  • Speaking of the Vengeance, that noise it makes as it overtakes the Enterprise at warp is all kinds of awesome.
  • Scotty strapping himself to a console in the cargo bay and blowing the hatch is reminiscent of the Next Generation episode Disaster, in which Geordi and Beverly do much the same thing to clear the cargo bay of cannisters that are leaking radiation.
  • The Kirk/Spock role reversal as Spock captains the ship into battle, unaware that Kirk is killing himself while saving the ship inside the Death Star's main reactor -- sorry, engineering room -- is a cool idea. Unfortunately, it suffers because it doesn't have the big selling point that the original scene in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan had up its sleeve: in the original, no one knew that Spock was coming back to life in the next movie. It wasn't written yet. Nimoy had essentially quit the franchise. Spock was over. In Star Trek Into Darkness, though, there's really no doubt that Kirk would be brought back from the grave, and rather obviously by the Khan/tribble science experiment McCoy was fooling about with a few scenes before.
  • Was that a 2-1B medical droid in sickbay, or a nurse in a really crazy looking costume?
  • KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN
  • So the Enterprise is falling towards Earth. That's okay. They fall. They manage to get the thrusters to work again. They stop falling. They then rise, but without the thrusters firing any more. While I'm sure there's some kind of anti-gravity-gundulator helping to lift the ship, it seems strange that the thrusters wouldn't be firing to help raise the ship through the atmosphere.
  • They fly starships through the atmosphere a lot in these movies. Hey, I guess they can do that, now. After all, the Abramsverse Enterprise was born on Earth, after all.
  • Spock leaps from one floating garbage truck to another, identical floating garbage truck. This shot is clearly intended to show Action Spock, but smacks of not being able to afford or being unable to care to make another, different CG vehicle for him to leap onto.
  • Starfleet Headquarters people: If you look up into the sky and see that a genetically enhanced madman has stolen a starship and is going Osama Bin Laden on you with it, you should probably run away from the impending catastrophe, not towards it.
  • Until Kirk's resurrection using synthesised Khan blood, I expected the little girl from the opening of the film to reappear, probably in the context of "but wait, there's still an augment!". I guess Khan's blood just heals people, though. He's not a vampire. He doesn't make people into Khans. (Although, Kirk was healed with chemicals that were synthesised. He wasn't injected with Khan's blood directly as the girl was. Maybe there's still hope.)
  • The mission statement of the Enterprise is really awkwardly worded for a mission statement. Cool for the introduction to a television episode. Bad for a mission statement. Just sayin'.

In conclusion, I thought the film was a bunch of fun. It had some quirks, as all movies do, but I'm happy with it. I'd watch it again, and I'll no doubt splurge for the Blu-ray when it comes out. Probably not in 3D, though. I despise 3D. More on that later.

Thanks for your time.

Follow up, August 2013: Comments on some common search queries that lead people to this article:

star trek into darkness nazi uniforms, star trek into darkness uniform nazi, star trek into darkness imperial navy Yes, I may have mentioned that the uniforms the Trek characters wear on Earth look a bit like Nazi uniforms. Who'da thunk anyone would have agreed with me?

League of Extraordinary Guff

leagueofextraordinarygentlemenI wanted to like this movie. Seriously. However, the following things prevented me from doing so. Stupid-looking explosion.

Kenya. Connery and British Dude stand around while, quite obviously, the director yells "bang" in place of a craptacular special effect. Connery and British Dude pivot around unremarkably to see the building behind them burst ineffectually into RED FLAMES that look like they were tooled on with Paint Shop Pro. BRILLIANT START TO THE FILM.

Hyde.

Having watched the DVD special features and what-have-you, I'm willing to marvel at the technological wizardry involved in creating the Hyde suit. However, as great as it is, it still looks like Mr. Flemyng is wearing half a Silly Sumo suit.

The car.

I'll grant you, for entertainment purposes, for the sake of suspension-of-belief, that an internal combustion engine could have been invented in 1899. Also, I'll even go as far as to say it's not totally ridiculous that it could have been put into a four wheeled vehicle. Sure. Why not.

However, having spent a moment contemplating the Nemomobile, one cannot help but realise that on top of the internal combustion engine -- a supercharged V-8 engine, no less -- Nemo and his cronies also somehow managed to invent (and apparently perfect) the building of a chassis, suspension systems, steering -- four wheel, no less, more on this shortly -- a gearing system, air-filled rubber tyres, an ignition system presumably utilising a startermotor and alternator which then powers the lights (which if I recall correctly wasn't invented til near half-way through the next century, as almost all early cars had crank-starts) AND obviously, as Sawyer crashed the thing and survived, some kind of safety systems such as crumple zones and presumably some kind of laminated glass in the windows. Which, apparently, were rigged with winding mechanisms just like 20th century cars.

ALSO, as the producers pointed out in the special features, it'd be completely and utterly impossible to make a four-wheel-steer car complete a 180-degree turn, or, indeed, negotiate the narrow streets and cornering of Venice. ON COBBLED STREETS.

AND FURTHERMORE, Mr. Sawyer executes this maneuvre after approximately four seconds of experience driving the vehicle. Which doesn't sound so bad now, but hey. He wouldn't have even known the thing on the floor is what makes it go faster.

GPS tracking from a submarine!

And what's more, Nemo's ridiculous submarine can apparently track the position of the car in question! With what? GPS? Radar? Yay!

Sean Connery's Titanium Feet.

Connery leaps from the car, moving at about..oh..a hundred miles an hour, onto cobblestones, flat-footed, and walks away. Okay, then.

3D Dominos!

Venice is collapsing, so Nemo -- wisest of the wise -- suggests destroying an upcoming link, a building, in the chain of collapsing buildings to save the city. Which would work wonderfully IF THE CITY WAS ONE STRAIGHT LINE OF BUILDINGS. But it's not, obviously. In order for this to work, one would need to destroy an entire RING of buildings around the epicentre of the collapse. Yes.

Really Obvious Bombs.

Wouldn't some overzealous little crewmember aboard the Nautilus have perhaps spotted a dozen SUITCASE-SIZED bombs with AUDIBLY TICKING TIMERS on them? Particularly when they're just "hidden" along walls and behind occasional pipes?

Oh, dear.