Star Trek Into Darkness

I have had the joy of seeing a LOT of Star Trek spoofs. Raised by big greasy nerds and being, myself, a big greasy nerd Star Trek is part of my lexicon. I’ve watch every SNL skit, and way too many internet skits and I’ve memorized the excellent Galaxy Quest in my own grand quest to study the general populace’s reactions to one of American televisions most iconic enterprises (pun intended).

Yet all pale before the shimmering lens flare of J.J. Abram’s ode to cool. This isn’t a Star Trek spoof for a Star Trek lover (please see Galaxy Quest). This is a spoof of a spoof. It’s like the Russian nesting dolls of the general population’s expectations of Star Trek and Hollywood. Only if those nesting dolls were all having vigorous sex while being nested and Benedict Cumberbatch was watching through some of the sexiest and floppiest hair since Christian Slater in Robin Hood Prince of My Heart.

This movie is…a terrible Star Trek film. This is a movie that hates Star Trek. That seeks to escape the trappings of Gene Roddenberry’s world at every turn. It rejects everything that made Star Trek an enduring forty-year old franchise. It is devoid of utopian dreams and optimism. There is a complete lack of witticism or sheer hope for a better tomorrow or an understanding of why the whiteness of our modern world is so destructive. Instead this is the film a casual viewer who makes REALLY entertaining movies would make.

So there is no deft hand. This is no graceful handling of race issues. When Roddenberry made Star Trek he went out of his way to put people of color in his show. He fought tooth and nail to insure Uhura was black, a regular, and had lines. When he did an episode about genetic superiority he rejected the traditional notion of a white super race and purposely made sure the genetically manufactured ideal humans were not white because he wanted the world to know that white people weren’t the be all and end all of humanity.

J.J. Abrams ignores all of that, pushing the whitest of the white people to the forefront. Which makes sense. This is a film out of Hollywood. A film with as big a budget of this one needs to be populated not by a cross-section of the world but by the prettiest of pretty white people.

Except for Uhura and Sulu (John Cho must have gotten big bucks for his five minutes). They’re the two people who aren’t white in this film and only one of them has anything to do. Abrams pushes Uhura to the forefront. Makes her more critical that she ever had the opportunity to be in the past…only she’s still the token chick. A character Roddenberry used in the sixties and purposely tried to eradicate in the 80s with Star Trek: The Next Generation. Uhura is there to show that women can do stuff and to be kick ass in the middle of the film so we know woman can do stuff, and to support the angsty bromance between Spock and Kirk, but never to come between them. She keeps things from getting too gay while Spock and Kirk keep things from being too womanly.

But. BUT, in spite of all the horrors Abrams visits upon the Star Trek franchise, in spite of the massive steps he takes backwards for everyone that isn’t a white dude, he still makes a damn entertaining film. Kirk and Spock have genuine arcs. They grow over the course of the film and learn from the errors they commit early on. They develop as actual characters and the film they’re surrounded by is gorgeous (if stark) and filled to the brim with well shot and, dare I say, exciting action.

Peter Weller and Benedict Cumberbatch both steal nearly every scene they’re in and Cumberbatch in particular manages to be an effective and cruel nemesis. You genuinely believe he’s a supreme badass when he twirls into a group of Klingons with guns blazing or rockets through a debris field in the flimsiest of space suits.

J.J. Abrams can and has made a fun summer adventure film. Only it isn’t a Star Trek adventure.

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