Star Trek Into Darkness got solid reviews and banked a healthy, if slightly lukewarm, $226 million at the U.S. box office. But there's one group of fans who are having none of J.J. Abrams' continued retooling of the franchise. Perhaps the most important group of fans, considering that this was a Star Trek film: Trekkies. (Or Trekkers, if you find the term "Trekkie" offensive. Whatever.) This week, legions of fans dressed in 23rd and 24th century costumes assembled in Las Vegas for the Star Trek 2013 Convention, and at one panel they collectively voted to rank all 12 Trek films from best to worst. Guess what film came in dead last? Star Trek Into Darkness.
And you know what? We here at Hollywood.com agree with that. Star Trek Into Darkness is a glossily shallow overhaul of Trek mythos that pays trivial lipservice to fans (ooh, a model of the NX-01 Enterprise? That means J.J. & Co. are just as big fans as we are, right? Wrong!) while striving to become some kind of machine-tooled Bourne knockoff with sci-fi trappings. While other filmmakers, especially those working for one Marvel Studios, increasingly recognize the power of going for a deep cut into geeky mythology that fans will love and bandwagoners will subsequently educate themselves about, Abrams opted for a full-scale whitewash. You get a sense that the filmmakers were so concerned about making Star Trek Into Darkness "cool" that they forgot to make it good. Here are 12 reasons why we agree Star Trek Into Darkness is the all-time worst Trek film.
1. Because The Klingons Have Never Looked Worse — No, I'm not talking about the acting of the thesp who played the Klingon who interrogates Uhura. I'm sure he has skills. I'm talking about the absolutely horrendous makeup job the Star Trek Into Darkness team gave him. Suddely Klingons have forehead ridges that extend around the back of their heads and curl around the ears as if they're cousins of the Ferengi? Abrams' reboot is supposed to rewrite the history from the early 2030s on...not alter the very genetic structure of one of the franchise's most iconic alien species! But that wouldn't even be so bad if the makeup in question didn't look like it was made of plastic.
2. Because Qo'NoS is Just an Irradiated Wasteland — Yeah yeah, I know, Khan only hid out in a part of Qo'NoS that was an irradiated wasteland. But why not show us at least as much of that planet as The Next Generation did 20 years ago? Khan obviously hid out in a dead zone just so Abrams & Co. wouldn't have to engage in any meaningful worldbuilding.
3. Because There Is Absolutely No Reason Why Carol Marcus Should Be in the Film Or Why Alice Eve's Character Should Even Be Carol Marcus — Marcus was established in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan as not just one of Kirk's old flames, but someone with whom he felt he could have a child. Not only are there no such sparks between Kirk and Marcus in Into Darkness, she has nothing to do, period. She places herself onboard the Enterprise so that she can investigate the 72 long-range torpedoes her father has installed aboard the ship. We see her scanning them and she helps McCoy disable one, sure. But she's really just there so we can see her in lingerie. I mean, Trek has given us plenty of eye candy before — but rarely so gratuitously and pointlessly. Seven of Nine wears a skin-tight catsuit...but she's also just about the best character on Star Trek: Voyager, the Spock to Capt. Janeway's Kirk, and their relationship defined the heart of that show. What does Alice Eve's Marcus really add?
4. Because Uhura's a Less Progressive Character in 2013 Than She Was in 1966
When Star Trek first aired, Nichelle Nichols' Uhura was a competent professional who was defined by her intelligence, her skills, and the ambition that saw her serve aboard the bridge of a major Federation vessel. By Star Trek Into Darkness, however, Zoe Saldana's Uhura is defined entirely by her romance for Spock. Not to mention that unlike most other incarnations of Trek, Into Darkness doesn't even pass the Bechdel Test.
5. Because Actually All the Characters Are Reduced to SNL-Parody Versions of the Themselves — Bones is an ornery quote machine. Chekov has difficulty with v's. Kirk's a reckless horndog. Screw logic, Spock's really just wanting to slug somebody. These aren't characters anymore. They're types.
6. Because Abrams Felt He Needed a Star Wars-style Canyon chase — We get it, J.J. We really get it. You like Star Wars more than Star Trek.
7. Because, Um, Why Would a Starfleet Admiral Want to Utilize the Skills of a 300-Year-Old Cryosleeper? —The idea of Peter Weller's Admiral Marcus wanting to have Khan build a new generation of ships and weapons for the Federation to fight the Klingons would be like if we decided to revive Horatio Nelson to help us build up our 21st century Navy. Maybe he'd know something about tactics, but he'd definitely need a years-long technological refresher course.
8. Because the Story of an Evil Admiral Betraying the Federation's Values While Pursuing Its Security Has Been Told So Much Better Before — See Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the "Homefront"/"Paradise Lost" two-parter from Deep Space Nine, and the much-maligned, but sorely underrated, Star Trek: Insurrection for better examples.
9. Because the Special Effects Are as Ugly as Gagh — Somehow the epic space battles in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine were the apex of computer-generated special effects and it's all been downhill since. Abrams is trying to go for the handheld, caught-on-the-fly space battle approach of Battlestar Galactica, but he has none of the appreciation for impressionistic action that showrunner Ronald D. Moore brought to that series. (Oh yeah, Ronald D. Moore also served as an EP on Deep Space Nine.) It just makes the effects Abrams does have look cheap and like he's trying to cover them up with slight of hand.
10. Because It Just Becomes a Silly "Greatest Hits" Album of a Movie — You get the sense of little kids reenacting their favorite movie scenes with action figures. This time, though, Kirk has to die, and Spock gets to shout "Khaaaaaan!!!" Except that when Spock died, Kirk had to spend an entire movie to bring him back to life, and sacrifice the Enterprise, his Starfleet career, and his son's life in order to do it. You know, stakes. When Kirk dies there are no stakes, and a Tribble can revive him five minutes later. If Abrams can't take his own movie seriously, why should we?
11. Because San Francisco Is Destroyed and No One Seems To Care — Man of Steel may ultimately have one-upped Into Darkness in terms of destruction porn, but San Francisco still got pummeled pretty bad when Khan crashed the USS Vengeance into Starfleet Headquarters, destroying much of the city with it. Also, though Roberto Orci may claim they didn't want to cast an actor of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent as Khan to avoid stereotyping those regions' ethnic groups, why did they turn Khan into the 23rd century equivalent of a 9/11 hijacker?
12. Because There Is a Fake Khan and There Is a Real Khan — I leave it for you to determine which is which, though there is obviously only one right answer.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
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If your favorite part of Girls was Andrew Rannells' bitingly humorous Elijah, Hannah's gay ex-boyfriend slash roommate, then your life is about to get a whole lot better. HBO just gave the go-ahead to a project that sounds just like Girls except all of the characters are guys...and gay...and live in San Francisco.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the network ordered eight episodes of an untitled show from producer Sarah Condon (Bored to Death), David Marshall Grant (Brothers & Sisters) and writer/producer Michael Lannan. The show stars Glee's Jonathan Groff as one of a trio of gay dudes who live in San Fran and get up to wacky antics and explore the world of the modern gay man. That sounds like there is going to be a Grindr subplot! The pilot, which HBO obviously loved, was directed by Andrew Haigh who made critically-loved gay indie Weekend, so I have high hopes.
The show doesn't have a name, but I don't think I'll be the first to suggest Boys. Or Gays. Gay Boys? Gurls?
Follow Brian Moylan on Facebook and Twitter @BrianJMoylan
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Scotty once started a brawl with Klingons — and risked a diplomatic crisis — when a member of the warrior race merely called the Enterprise a "garbage scow." What must he think of the baddie who's inflicted this hull-breaching, bulkhead-shattering damage on his beloved ship in Star Trek Into Darkness?
A new poster released by Paramount for the movie (out May 17) continues the tradition of showing the Enterprise in a state of extreme damage that started with those shots of the ship crashing into San Francisco bay in the first teaser last December. Presumably this damage is being inflicted upon the NCC-1701 by villain John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). But this raises even more questions. How is Harrison able to pull this off?
He's a former Starfleet agent — I've been guessing for awhile he's a member of the rogue Federation black ops intel agency Section 31 — so it's possible he could commandeer another ship to launch an attack on the Enterprise. But we've never seen a glimpse in any of the trailers of this mystery ship that seems to be suckerpunching it. In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the Khan-commandeered ship, Reliant, is only able to inflict damage upon the Enterprise via a sneak attack. Kirk & Co. thought the Reliant was part of their big happy fleet, so they didn't even bother to raise shields in time.
But it seems like John Harrison is established as a villain very early in Star Trek Into Darkness, because of the attack on London he launches that apparently sets in motion the events of the film. It's hard to imagine Kirk would be caught off guard by Harrison the way his alternate-universe alter ego was with Khan. So if he's not caught off guard, how could Harrison, having commandeered presumably only one ship, inflict all this damage on the Enterprise? Maybe he hasn't only taken over one ship...maybe it's some kind of fleet-wide mutinee, with the Enterprise having to fend off multiple attackers. That could explain why it's damaged so severely that it crashes into San Francisco Bay. Unless Counselor Troi has traveled back in time, taken the helm of the Enterprise and unnecessarily crashed it just like she trashed the Enterprise-D in Star Trek Generations. I'm just hoping Chris Pine's Kirk is taking a page from Shatner Kirk's playbook and destroying the Enterprise to achieve ultimate victory, like he does in The Search for Spock.
This is all speculation, of course, but I've thought before that Harrison might be leading a faction within the Federation that thinks Starfleet needs to be a military power first and foremost, and not the exploratory and humanitarian organization Kirk and his crew want it to be. Harrison could launch the attack on London as a wake-up call to a Federation he perceives as stagnant, ineffectual, and vulnerable — "You think your world is safe..." — after they don't fundamentally change their priorities following the destruction of Vulcan in the last film. The movie, then, could be about a battle for the soul of the Federation. Will that august interplanetary coalition continue to seek out new lifeforms and new civilizations and boldly go where no one has gone before, or retreat within its own boundaries and become a security state?
That's a theme that Star Trek has touched upon before — especially in the fantastic Deep Space Nine two-parter of "Homefront" and "Paradise Lost" that was based on Seven Days in May — but this could really be a chance to go deeper. Already the trailers for Into Darkness indicate this movie will feature more of Earth than any Trek movie or TV episode before. Originally, writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci had suggested they wanted their sequel to be a true "trek," about Kirk and his crew encountering some mystery, paradox, or threat from the universe itself, rather than just having it be a good vs. evil thriller with a clearly denoted bad guy. Well, the latter seems to be what we've gotten. But maybe some of those more philosophical musings are still in the script. Maybe, amidst all the urban terror that seems to be such a central part of this film, are themes that speak to the very heart of why we should care about the Federation, why the ideals of Kirk & Crew are worth aspiring to. And I maintain that the "threat from the universe itself" angle could still be in play, if some godlike being imbued John Harrison with those superhuman powers he seems to exhibit in the trailers.
No matter what, the Enterprise seems to be facing danger from a source far greater even than that gangly 24th century Romulan mining ship from the 2009 film. Based on that breach landing, it looks like Kirk should be preparing to move into a replacement ship, an Enterprise-A if you will. But he shouldn't worry. As Commander Riker once said, "There are plenty of letters in the alphabet."
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Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
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