Monday, 13 May 2013

How Many Enterprises Can We Destroy?

Star Trek: Into Darkness has everything that both an action fan and a Star Trek fan could want: space battles, fist fights, Klingons, canon characters, aliens, a baddy who is truly threatening and Kirk giving every woman who walks past ‘the eye’.
What more could you want?
Well, for a starters, a storyline that doesn’t end just as it gets going.
One of the great failings of Hollywood producers and writers is their inability to trust an audience with more than just one thread of story – one single thread. Into Darkness was written as though the producers saw the secondary storyline they had presented us with – that of an Admiral wanting to start a war with the Klingons – as too much of a hassle to try to flesh out and incorporate further into the film so decided that it was far easier just to kill it. What we get left with is a bad guy story so standard that you could take out all SF trappings and it would be, at the most, just a second-rate action film.
Warstub, you’re being too harsh. Didn’t you enjoy it?
I certainly did enjoy it. It was action-packed with a story that kept pushing forward, that is, until I realised that it wasn’t pushing forward any more and had settled for the action sequences to wrap everything up with. ‘But, but, what about the Klingons? What about all the death that the bad guy caused while Kirk was on the Klingon home-world? Shouldn’t they be blaming humans for this and deciding to retaliate?’ Heck, with that scenario, the Admiral barely even needed to show up to try to ‘fix’ things and start the war he was after; the Klingons would have been so pissed off that they should have been gathering all Birds of Prey together and initiating a battle in space regardless of what the humans were or weren’t doing. There was this feeling throughout that the writers felt like they needed to fall back on using a canon character to draw in our attention and interest. ‘What else you got writers?’ Well, they said straight back at me, wanna see us destroy another Enterprise? ‘Gee, I don’t know. There seems to an abundance of Enterprises going down in feature length films that it almost seems old hat’ I say back at them. Oh, in that case, we’ll save it then. But just in case, here’s a really, really, big Federation ship crashing into the sea causing a massive wave of destruction and then skidding onto land and ploughing through tall buildings and killing lots of good innocent people!
And it’s not even the fall-back technique in the end – Christopher Pike, Kirk dying for dramatic effect and motivational drive, the attempt at learning human emotion through Spock and Lt. Uhura having a relationship; it’s the fact that none of these things moved together in a fleshed out storyline. Into Darkness did little more than present characters and a bad guy fighting against each other as if to do nothing more than justify itself as back-story. And don’t even get me started on the inconsistencies to canon that seemed to get thrown right out the window for the sake of dramatic effect!*
For the first half, if not even three quarters, this film was really enjoyable and actually quite strong, one I recommend but with serious reservations; and the critique that I’ve bombarded it with is really aimed at the writers and studios who never seem to balance good story with original characters and original plot. On reflection,1 I’m actually disappointed in how much the film falls back on old characters, because if anything, that’s just a sign of not being able to come up with their own wonderful and original script. I find the story parallels to previous Star Trek films and canon actually souring my original enjoyment of Into Darkness.
I guess less Trekkie, more action might be the short story,” Anthony Marcoly told TheWrap.2 And when you look back on the story, it actually does feel short – even at a full two hours!
What is ultimately disappointing is that the writers had an action-packed bear-bones script that could have still remained faithful to canon instead of sacrificing characters that appear later on in The Original Series just for the sake of drama. That’s just poor writing as far as I’m concerned.
Is it too much to expect more in Science Fiction?
Is it too much to ask for better consistencies in extrapolated universes?
I don’t think so.

1This paragraph was written the following day.
*Yeah, yeah, I know... "It's a different timeline" I say flippantly "whatever!" The use of TOS canon characters is what is so souring - they are only being used for dramatic effect, not as potential storylines. Pike being killed off is proof of this. NO ORIGINALITY! 

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