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Star Trek Into Darkness (Trailers)

For those just tuning in, Paramount blessed us last week with an announcement trailer for the long-awaited and long-in-development Star Trek Into Darkness. You’d think that an announcement trailer would be totally superfluous for such a high-profile film (of course we all know it’s coming), but I digress. The relevant point is that over three years after the franchise reboot, J.J. Abrams and Paramount are finally kicking the series back into gear. In fact, they seem eager to make up for lost time, as a full teaser for the film launched only a few days after the announcement teaser.

Let’s have a look at the announcement teaser first:

I have two things to say right off the bat. Let’s start with the obvious: The Enterprise is underwater. A lot of Trek fans out there will surely find this ludicrous, but I find it perfectly plausible. After all, a heavily-armored vessel capable of taking so many phasers and torpedoes from enemy warships could surely handle atmospheric entry, and I could easily believe that a top-of-the-line ship designed for the harsh vacuum of space could function underwater. Of course, none of this answers the central question of “Why?!”

Well, it seems that huge chunks of the announcement teaser came from the first nine minutes of the film. I know this because those first nine minutes were attached to IMAX screenings of The Hobbit. I haven’t had the chance to see it for myself (yet), but numerous online summaries confirm that Spock’s volcano dive and the Kirk/McCoy run through weird red Truffula plants were both in the film’s opening moments. Ditto for the Enterprise’s visit to the bottom of an ocean.

Without spoiling too much, these plot points are all part of an interplanetary mission that the Enterprise has been sent on. Apparently, the ship itself was submerged for the sake of keeping the mission incognito, thus maintaining the Prime Directive. For those of you who aren’t Trekkers, the Prime Directive forbids Starfleet officers from any action that might interfere with the natural and unassisted development of an alien civilization. It’s basically a list of 47 rules, every one of which is a variation of the phrase “Thou shalt not play God.”

On the one hand, I appreciate that the series is actually seeking out strange new worlds, new life, and new civilizations, and reintroducing the Prime Directive is a very good move. Not bad for the first nine minutes of the series’ second film. On the other hand, the question bears repeating: Why did they hide the Enterprise at the bottom of an ocean?! Unless I’m missing something, getting the Enterprise down there would create a big fucking splash and probably a few tidal waves onto the nearest beach. Furthermore, how the hell did they plan to get the Enterprise out of the water and back into orbit without being noticed?

That said, the initial draft of the original series outline for TOS did mention the Enterprise landing onto foreign planets. This idea was ultimately rejected, since there was no way to do this on the show’s meager budget. As such, it’s entirely possible that old Gene Roddenberry might have approved of this development. On the other hand, Roddenberry also came up with a very clever way around his setback, which is how the teleporter came to be. And really, if we’re talking about a stealth mission, it seems to me that beaming down and back really would be the way to go. This lapse of planning is especially baffling, since the 2009 film showed that the transporters are working just fine. Hell, even a handful of shuttles would have been more inconspicuous than bringing down the whole damn mothership. Just what in science’s name is the logic here?

Moving on, let’s talk about my second gripe with the teaser: Alice Eve. Honest to God, I cringed at the sight of her in this picture. Why in Norma Desmond’s name does Hollywood continue giving roles to this pretty face without a shred of charisma or talent? Didn’t we learn our lesson from Megan Fox? Just get this woman out of multiplexes and back onto magazine covers, and we’ll all be better off for it.

What makes matters worse is that Eve is confirmed to be playing Dr. Carol Marcus. Another primer for those unfamiliar with Trek canon: Dr. Marcus was one of the galaxy’s foremost experts in molecular biology. Her great ambition and scientific knowledge eventually became the foundation for the Genesis Project, which successfully (however briefly) turned a giant rock into a life-sustaining planet. Additionally, Dr. Marcus holds a significant place in Trek lore as one of Captain Kirk’s greatest loves. Though they broke up long before the events of TOS, she did have the distinction of carrying and raising his illegitimate son.

To recap, this ambitious, career-driven scientist whose incredible brainpower could literally give birth to planets… is being played by this girl. Gentle readers, please tell me I’m not the only one who’s tired of brainless supermodels trying and failing to play credible scientific experts (see also: Jessica Alba in Fantastic Four, Tara Reid in Alone in the Dark, Denise Richards in The World is Not Enough, etc.).

Additionally, J.J. Abrams took this role — a very prominent one in TOS lore, easily one of the most pivotal characters in the backstory of James T. Kirk — and he gave it to a woman who’s yet to show any hint of acting talent. I know there are some filmmakers out there who are so great with actors that they can coax a good performance out of anyone, but I feel confident in saying that Abrams is not one of those directors. For God’s sake, just look at this. She can’t even scream and make it look convincing!

I didn’t bother trying to glean any more than that from the announcement teaser. This is partly because according to early reports, there would be a lot of shared footage between the announcement teaser and the full teaser. They were right.

(Side note: Sorry, but I couldn’t figure out how to embed Apple trailers into a WordPress blog. Anyone out there know how it’s done?)

Well, the full teaser didn’t give such a distinctly “Bayformer” vibe as the previous one did. Also, both trailers (and reports from the nine-minute preview) suggest that Abrams has finally scaled back the goddamned lens flares. Both are somewhat promising signs.

Unfortunately, one of the frustrating things about Abrams is that even when he shows something, he doesn’t show anything. The man is so skilled at obfuscation and misdirection that we should all be thankful he’s never run for elected office. Still, we can figure out a few things.

To start with, at least one of the skydiving suits from the previous film makes a triumphant return. For another thing, we can gather that the city of San Francisco (where Starfleet headquarters is located) is in for a world of hurt. London is probably going to become a war zone as well, judging from the nine-minute preview and the poster.

Speaking of which, there’s that peculiar scene of a black man dropping something into a glass of some aqueous liquid. My sources tell me that the item is a Starfleet Academy ring and this man is Noel Clarke, who plays the role of an as-yet-unnamed grieving father. The preview introduces him and his wife at a hospital by their sick daughter’s bedside, right before Benedict Cumberbatch shows up and declares in a Faustian manner that he can heal her.

Yes, we may as well get to this clusterfuck.

After all of these months, we’re still no closer to learning who exactly this movie’s villain is. Speculation has grown so rampant that I’ve developed an allergy to “news” stories that claim or ask or beg or suggest that Khan is the villain of the picture. Folks, I’m calling it right now. Cumberbatch is not playing Khan, he never was playing Khan, and he’s never going to play Khan.

The obvious retort would be to point out that this film has Carol Marcus and a shot of two hands meeting opposite a pane of glass, both iconic parts of Wrath of Khan. Well, the previous film used a mind control parasite that was remarkably like the one Khan used on Chekov. And before that, as I pointed out in my previous blog entry, every single one of the TNG films tried to ape Wrath of Khan in some way or another. After twenty years of trying to recapture that lightning in a bottle, of course they’re going to keep including references.

Far more importantly, this is Khan back when the character was introduced in “Space Seed” of TOS. This is Benedict Cumberbatch from the latest trailer. Note that one of them is wearing a Starfleet uniform and the other has never been in Starfleet. I rest my case.

With that out of the way, what we’re looking for is a villain who 1. was or is currently a member of Starfleet, 2. carries a grudge against Starfleet, Kirk, the planet Earth, or all of the above, and 3. holds some kind of cosmic power that could be used for mass destruction or (assuming the character is being honest) healing fatal illness. By far the most popular candidate is Gary Mitchell, a Starfleet officer who acquired godlike power in the TOS episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” However, one of my correspondents hypothesized that the villain may be Garth of Izar, a decorated Starfleet captain turned criminally insane dictator with healing/shapeshifting abilities and an army of lunatics at his command (see: “Whom Gods Destroy” from TOS).

Either of these villains could fit what we know about Cumberbatch’s character so far, but there’s a catch: In recent interviews and promotional materials, the character has been identified as “John Harrison.” Some have connected the name to Harrison, a redshirt who appeared in “Space Seed,” but that sounds to me like grasping at straws. Others think that “John Harrison” is simply an alias or a temporary name, used until the character takes a more recognizable title later on. It’s equally possible that the name might be fake and Abrams is just misdirecting us.

Personally, I’m inclined to take the Bad Robot crew at their word. Call it gullibility, but it’s really more out of hope. I really do want this franchise reboot to show some of the adventurous and creative spirit we all knew and loved from the original series, and a good way to express that would be for Abrams and company to come up with their own villains and alien races instead of rehashing what’s come before. That said, I will grant that there are some original Trek villains that might benefit from a reinterpretation. The Gorn, for example, is one of them. Khan, however, is not. The Wrath of Khan was a perfect storm of awesome, the like of which is never going to be seen again no matter how many times Paramount tries to duplicate it. The sooner they stop carrying that particular torch, the sooner they can start making the next Trek masterpiece to be milked and imitated for the following decades.

With all of that said, I can confirm there will be one classic Trek villain to finally get the J.J. Abrams treatment: The Klingons. Admit it, this just wouldn’t be Star Trek without the Klingons. Their presence was sorely missed in the last film, especially since their inclusion would have resolved a huge freaking plot hole.

If you watched that deleted scene from the 2009 film, you’d notice that the Klingons are now wearing full-face helmets adorned with forehead ridges. Personally, I thought that was a delightfully clever solution to the reboot’s potential continuity glitch. I bring this up because the helmets are clearly visible as “John Harrison” kicks a ton of Klingon ass in the teasers. Buckle up, folks, because the sequel is taking us to the Klingon homeworld of Qo’noS.

I conclude this entry with a few miscellaneous notes. First of all, the full teaser made it abundantly clear that Kirk would have to start growing up a bit, and I’m very relieved to hear that. I’m significantly less relieved to learn that the reboot is continuing the Spock/Uhura romance. Maybe it’ll make more sense in this next film, though I’d settle for just a spark of honest-to-God chemistry between these characters. All told, I’d much rather Abrams stop treating Uhura like a love interest and more like a strong character in her own right. There’s luckily a chance of that, since the trailer clearly shows Uhura in a rather torn-up environment (probably Qo’noS) outside the Enterprise bridge.

Regarding the greater world of this rebooted Star Trek, it’s important to note that Abrams is reportedly intent on keeping the optimistic vibe of Gene Roddenberry’s original vision. Earth is portrayed as a prosperous and enlightened place, the better to contrast with the overwhelming darkness brought by “John Harrison.”

I’ve also heard reports that the props will all be completely overhauled. This film takes place one year after the original, which is apparently enough time to release upgraded versions of communicators, tricorders, phasers, etc. That kind of logic makes sense, given the accelerated development of technology in the present day, though I’m sure that coming up with a new set of props will be great for toy sales as well. Incidentally, I’m looking forward to seeing what the new phasers look like. The phasers from the previous film were way too “Flash Gordon” for my taste, though the rotating barrel was admittedly a neat idea.

Last but not least, because this is a J.J. Abrams flick, of course there’s a viral website. I honestly don’t know who would look closely enough to notice that teeny little URL tucked away, but I applaud their commitment. Anyway, there was a viral campaign for the previous Trek film, though NCC-1701.com showed nothing more than video loops of the Enterprise under construction. Nothing was really done with it. We’ll see what happens this time.

So far as I know, that’s all the news fit to print on the Star Trek sequel. I wouldn’t count on anything else coming up anytime soon, though we won’t have much longer to wait until the movie is finally released. Star Trek Into Darkness was partially shot on IMAX and will be post-converted into 3D for a May 17, 2013 release.

2 Comments

  1. Comment by Professor Knowby:

    I think the Enterprise was never meant to land on a planet. It was the shuttlecraft that were too expensive to film every episode so they went with the transporter dissolve effect.
    Khan does wear a Starfleet uniform briefly in Space Seed. I too am sick of hearing it’s Khan and I agree completely about TWOK.
    Alice Eve’s scream looks like the OMG IT SPINS guy.
    I’m going to venture that a bright engineer could modulate the warp field JUST RIGHT so that the submerging ship would not create a tsunami. But yeah I’m hoping there’s a much better explanation for the underwater Enterprise than that it looks cool or it’s memorable.
    The last movie’s phasers looked like fucking Laser Tag guns.

  2. Comment by Curiosity Inc.:

    -http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Transporter#Origins
    -I must remember to give Space Seed another watch. Good to hear we otherwise agree about Khan, though.
    -*smacks forehead* Of course Scotty could devise some technobabble to make the whole thing work. Why didn’t I think of that?

    Thanks for reading!

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