I have to start with the science. All science fiction contains dodgy science, but while I'm quite happy to accept warp drive and transporter beams in the name of PlotTM, there are some things I just can't let go.
First of all, cold fusion. Doesn't mean what they seem to think it means. But, okay, let's say it's not cold fusion as we know it (or wish we did) and maybe the meaning of words has changed over the last couple of centuries. Let's say it now means some sort of device that sets off a chain reaction that can freeze molten lava. Splendid. So you've frozen all this lava (and maybe magma too, who knows?). But you know why volcanoes erupt, right? All that pressure has to go somewhere. If it doesn't have a nice easy hole to escape through, it's just going to build up and explode catastrophically.
I'm sure Spock knows this, which is why there's something in his "cold fusion device" (I can't even type that without wincing) that solves this problem. Lovely. But, er, why did he have to be down there with it? Couldn't he beam it in? At first I assumed maybe the transporter doesn't work through all the ash, but they got him out okay.
Then again, this might be a "why didn't the eagles drop the Ring into Mount Doom?" question. The PlotTM required that Kirk save Spock's life and, hey, that set us up for one hell of a slashfest, so I'm all in favour.
What's with hiding the Enterprise at the bottom of the ocean, though? I mean, really? They couldn't find a quiet, obscure place to beam into from orbit that was less obvious than landing a massive great starship? I know the original reason the Enterprise didn't land on planets was budget and special effects and whatnot, but it's sort of established by now. And it's huge. Entering a planet's atmosphere would cause major issues (but I'll get onto that later), and for what? It's parked, what a few hundred yards from the coast? How the hell did they land it without being seen?
Despite this extensive rant about the Nibiru scene, I actually kind of loved it, and the whole Reboot franchise will be wholly (okay, partially) redeemed in my eyes if they revisit this planet in the future and find they've developed a whole religion out of the monster that rose from the ocean.
So, moving on! I don't even have words for the fact that you can now carry around a nice portable "transwarp beaming device" that allows you to beam instantaneously between planets. They're not even close planets. Doesn't this make the entire concept of starships redundant? Why take the time, expense and risk of sending hundreds of people on a five-year mission when you hop around in the blink of an eye?
This brings me on to the thing that bothered me the most in this movie, which is how close everything is. I know I go on a lot about how big space is, but apparently it needs to be said again: SPACE IS BIG. And warp drive may be pretty nippy, but SPACE IS STILL BIG. Seriously, if you think you understand how big space is, that means you haven't got how mind-bogglingly massive it is. In the last movie, I was a bit uncomfortable with how quickly they got to Vulcan but rationalised it as a timelapse while Kirk was unconscious that we just didn't see. But this time? I really have tried to rationalise it, but seriously, it feels like the entire movie takes place over a few hours and, just, no. I'm not saying I want to see weeks of them sitting around playing chess (although actually, yes, I do). I can cope with indeterminate timelapses if you want to maintain this high-octane action movie pace. Just, some mention that warp drive is not teleportation, maybe?
One more time: SPACE IS BIG.
In a similar vein, two hundred thousand kilometers is a really tiny distance. Specifically, it's about half the distance between the Earth and the Moon. So when they were suddenly kicked out of warp 200,000km from Earth...how much further were they planning to go at warp? We then have the Enterprise caught in the Earth's gravity and apparently plummeting straight down. So at this point, apparently, they have no power, and even the artificial gravity is gone. But do they have their shields up? I hope so, otherwise they're burning to a crisp in the Earth's atmosphere. Let's also pretend there are no transporters on Earth for some reason or another, and all those captains we saw earlier have gone AWOL and can't possibly come to the rescue. So we're in a spaceship that is plummeting to Earth. And the ship is on its side, so they're running along the walls and people are falling all over the place.
Do we need to recap what "gravity" means? If the ship's in freefall, and so are the people on the ship, they should be falling at the same rate. Therefore, they should feel weightless. It's exactly the same as astronauts on the International Space Station. I often hear phrases like "there's no gravity in space" thrown around, but this is nonsense. If there's no gravity in space, why is the Moon orbiting the Earth? Why is the Earth orbiting the Sun? Astronauts on the ISS are not weightless because there's no gravity: they're in freefall at exactly the same rate as the ISS. They're falling towards Earth all the time, they just keep missing. That's what an orbit is.
I'm sorry, but this is such a complete misunderstanding of something really quite fundamental to science fiction (indeed, to real life) that it completely threw me out of the movie.
I'm not even going to get into the "spacejump", or why there's a highly radioactive warp core but no radiation suits (or why they now need the warp core to be online before they have impulse power?). Suffice it to say, this movie hurt my brain, and this is a brain that quite happily accepted red matter. It's going to take a lot of work to come up with a justification for my next KiScon talk...
So let's move onto the plot instead. Mostly, I thought it was meh. Cumberbatch is an awesome villain, obviously (and I can turn a blind eye to Khan suddenly being British, because we know all true villains are). But it was too much of an action film, with too little character development. Lots of eyecandy - explosions, battles, etc. - but my brain felt like it was atrophying. Star Trek's always been at its best when it's about solving problems with words and wits, not fists. We've now had two movies in a row that have shown off the production values - maybe now we can rehash ST4 instead?
Which brings me onto the thing that made me hate the movie on first viewing, which was the obvious Wrath of Khan ripoff. I was completely unspoiled, but the moment we saw he was superhuman in that fight with the Klingons, my heart sank. And when we saw that guy in the cryotube, I knew for sure, and I wanted out. But nothing, nothing prepared me for the death scene. I know it was supposed to be an homage, and I did like the fact that they swapped the roles - that was a nice touch. But they were just quoting TWOK line for line. When it gets to the point where you know exactly what they're going to say next, that kind of dampens the emotional impact. And Spock's "KHAAAAAAAN" didn't work for me at all. It felt like a parody.
Perhaps it would have had a little more impact if they'd at least pretended Kirk was going to stay dead. The thing with the tribble was like being hit over the head with an anvil. We knew Khan had superblood - we saw him save that kid with it right at the start of the movie. I know the tribble was the lightbulb moment for Bones, but it could have been done much more cleverly. There could have suddenly been two tribbles, in the background and unremarked upon. It felt like they assumed the audience was stupid, and they needed big flashing neon lights pointing to how it was all okay and of course Kirk wasn't going to stay dead so no need to worry.
I think I would have liked the whole thing a lot more if they'd just been more subtle about it. There's no need to quote TWOK line for line, we can see what you're doing. Little things like the shot of Khan on his bridge holding on to the console were far more effective than the whole death scene rehash.
The only - only - saving grave for me on that first viewing was that they didn't attempt "I have been and always shall be your friend." They haven't earned that yet, but luckily they knew that and didn't go there.
So, I said I came round after seeing the movie a second time, and this is why. The first time, I was hit by the shock of seeing TWOK played out again and saw it only in that context. The second time, I viewed the story through nuKirk's perspective, and oh my stars that's some slashy goodness.
First of all, we have him break the Prime Directive to save Spock's life. Of course. But that's not enough: he then - even when he's angry with and feels betrayed by Spock - goes out of his way to make sure Spock understands why he did it. They're about to be separated, assigned to different ships, and it's really, really important to him that Spock understands it wasn't just his captainly duty. That he loves him. Did you notice the hesitation in "The truth is... I'm gonna miss you"? Yeah, we all know what he chickened out of saying there. Because if that was all he wanted to say, why does he bring it up again as he believes he's dying? His final words are dedicated to making sure Spock knows he loves him.
So, yeah, in my head this entire movie is the story of how Kirk is pining after Spock like crazy (is it me, or was he downright gleeful when he found out Spock and Uhura were fighting?), and only as Kirk's dying does Spock finally get it. Which means the post-movie fic is going to be awesome. And that's what turned it around for me: the movies are only jumping-off points for fic anyway.
I do have to have one final rant before I call it a night, though. Did you count how many women had speaking parts in this movie? Five, all told. You might even be surprised the number is that high, but three of them only had one line each. Two of them were half-naked and in bed with Kirk at the time, and the third is a random crewmember who gets one throwaway line on the bridge.
The only two women who get actual names and more than one line each are Carol Marcus and Uhura. The former gets gratuitously naked for no apparent reason (a guy at work today tried to justify that she had to change clothes, but WTF, the men changed clothes in nearly every scene and we didn't have to see them in the process) and gets hit on while trying to do her job (okay, I'll admit I found Bones' flirting amusing, but in real life, in a professional context, I would punch him). And then there's Uhura, who gets to keep her clothes on at least, but probably only because we already saw her in her underwear in the last movie.
Actually I really liked Uhura in this movie. They solved a lot of the problems the first movie had by allowing her to show her skills rather than telling us about them, and making her chummy with Kirk was a good move (I completely understood her bitchiness in the last one because Kirk was an obnoxious twat, but it's still hard to warm to a character who's hostile to our protagonist). And she does get some serious Crowning Moments of Awesome. So yay, Uhura. Except when she's being Spock's girlfriend. And I don't just mean from a slasher perspective (really!), I mean the way she completely loses her shit and is almost incapable of doing her job when Spock's in danger, and then acts horrendously unprofessionally in the shuttle. Because women are such fragile, emotional beings? Some are (as are some men), but one who's dating a Vulcan? Really?
But honestly, Uhura simply doesn't have enough free hands to be singlehandedly flying the flag for women. How is it that in 2013, more than four decades after the Original Series, we have a movie that's actually less progressive than the TV show?
It's for this reason that I can't bring myself to be too bothered about Bones being sidelined for the new Kirk-Spock-Uhura triad. It is sad that he had so little to do in this movie, but when there are so few women I guess one has to take centre stage. But seriously, we need a huge influx of major, clothed, named female characters in the next movie or it's going to be a lot harder to continue to turn a blind eye to how sexist this franchise is.
Okay, that may have been a teensy bit ranty. So it's probably hard to believe that I actually, having had the time to process it, like this movie. Or at least its fanfic potential. Bring on the fic :D
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