Tag Archives: miguel bernas

Why I hated Star Trek: Into Darkness

19 May

JJ Abrams takes my best memories of Star Trek and then shits all over them in his latest movie

The Enterprise in ruin: a fitting image to accompany this review.

I went to see Star Trek: Into Darkness with much trepidation. JJ Abrams’ first Star Trek film, although pretty decent, was not one of my favorites in the series. In the lead up to Darkness, I was anxious about how the trailers and promotional materials bore little resemblance to the Star Trek I remember. I was bracing myself for a brainless, blockbuster summer action film … and STID did not disappoint.

And that’s exactly the problem. Star Trek was never brainless action material. As a long time follower of the series, I feel like JJ Abrams has taken my favorite Star Trek memories — in particular, scenes from the franchise’s best film, The Wrath of Khan — and taken a giant, steaming, $190 million shit on them.

I’m going to put aside the inconsistencies and the plot holes so big you could fly a Constitution-class starship through them to zero in on Into Darkness‘s core issue: this movie has no soul.

The Star Trek I know asked questions about our place in the universe. It took critical looks at how we treat one another as a species. It reminded us of the consequences of our actions. And it explored the possibilities of science and the vastness of the universe we live in. It was not about laser beams and explosions strung together with occasional witty one-liners. But most importantly, Star Trek — through all its incarnations over the years — was about the relationships between a special group of people who could always find courage and come together to overcome adversity.

That doesn’t mean to say that Star Trek shouldn’t have any action in it. Star Trek‘s most successful films The Wrath of Khan, The Undiscovered Country and First Contact all saw their fair share of action (and blockbuster box office returns). But even the most fast-paced action movies need good storytelling and character development. Into Darkness has neither. Worse of all, Abrams disrespects the franchise because he ignores nearly 50 years of lore and tradition by not delving deeper into the characters’ relationships.

SPOILER ALERT

Most of all, you never get the chance to empathize with the central character: James T Kirk. Chris Pine’s Kirk is a complete dickhead. He is reckless, never follows orders or procedures and is fired from his job as Captain of the Enterprise in the first 20 minutes of the film. Does he show any remorse? Does he reflect on his decisions that put his entire crew at risk and cost him his job? No! Instead, he remains indignant and blames everything on Spock.

Throughout the film, you never get a sense of progress in the relationship between Kirk and Spock, a hallmark of the original series. (This is a shame since Zachary Quinto’s performance is one of the few good things about the film.) On the contrary, you are constantly reminded of how much they dislike each other. Suddenly, in what should have been the most dramatic moment in the film, Kirk sacrifices himself to save the ship (a reverse version of the events famously played out in Wrath of Khan) and suddenly Spock is disproportionately grief-stricken. (“What? They were friends?”)

The rest of the characters are simply wasted. Simon Pegg as Scotty is relegated to providing comic relief. Anton Yelchin as Chekov is constantly frantic and stressed out about … something. And Karl Urban as McCoy is reduced to spouting cliches, like a standup comic attempting a tired “Bones” impersonation. This is another huge waste as Kirk’s relationship with McCoy is one of the richest and most meaningful in the original series.

And what exactly was the point of this scene?

There is a new crew member, Carol Marcus, whose role is to look good with her clothes off and sound British (even when her father is clearly American). Benedict Cumberbatch plays a good Khan but, again, we never get the chance to really hate him. Is he a villain or is he just a captain trying to protect his crew? It doesn’t matter because there are too many phaser beams zipping past and spaceships exploding all over the place.

Most people who never followed the original TV series, their movies, or The Next Generation, etc all seem to enjoy it: big, loud special effects, fast-paced action, a good looking cast … what’s not to like?

Except, it’s not Star Trek. At least, not the one I know and love.

Gene Roddenberry (1921-1991), creator of Star Trek

Gene Roddenberry (1921-1991), creator of Star Trek

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Prometheus: the Grumpy Fanboy review

10 Jun

Prometheus suffers from too many idiotic character decisions and plot holes so big, you could fly the Nostromo through them.

I had very high hopes for Prometheus. Ridley Scott’s much-heralded return to science fiction. A prequel to the phenomenal Alien series. A great cast that includes Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Noomi Rapace, Idris Elba and Guy Pearce. It had every reason to be great. But due to poor character development and puzzling gaps in the story, the film never quite gets off the ground.

The premise is simple: scientists believe they have unearthed clues to the origins of humanity that lead them to a distant planet. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. There they encounter the remnants of an advanced alien civilization and a rapidly evolving predatory species who wants to kill everything in order to propagate. But barely 30 minutes into the film and the series of inane, almost comical, decisions by the characters begin.

The team of scientists enter the alien structure in the middle of what they establish is a hostile environment. Once inside, they notice the atmosphere is  breathable and so they remove their helmets, thus inhaling the air and allowing the fluids from the environment drip all over their faces. Later, part of the same group encounters a living alien species (which remarkably resembles a King Cobra) and their first impulse is to pet it. Needless to say, all of these decisions have disastrous results. In the scifi genre, inconsistencies like this are unforgivable. There were more honest and rational reactions from humans discovering alien life in Galaxy Quest.

The core problem is that you never get a chance to understand the motivations behind the main characters. If you don’t appreciate what motivates them, you can’t root for them (as with great heroes) nor hate them (as with great villains). The android David, played by Fassbender, consciously infects a fellow crew member with the alien DNA in order to impregnate another crew member because … uh, because what again? The only survivor of the “engineer” species (whose DNA is identical to our own and apparently bio-engineered our ancestors) is thawed from a thousand-year sleep. Without explanation, his first thought is to kill everything in sight with his bare hands.

Why did the engineers create humans? Why are they breeding the perfect predator as a bio-weapon? What were they doing on this backwater planet? Why did they leave clues behind on Earth? And what exactly was the point of Charlize Theron’s character? Prometheus raises all kinds of questions but doesn’t provide satisfactory answers. Amid the blood splatter and flailing tentacles I guess we were not supposed to notice.

Prometheus is now in cinemas. Grumpy Fanboy rating: 2.5/5

If you’re looking for a more satisfying movie experience, both the original Alien (directed by Scott) and Aliens (directed by James Cameron) are amazing in Blu-Ray. I watched them both again before seeing Prometheus, which is about the only good thing to come out of this film’s release.

ADDENDUM: My last comment was incorrect. The best thing to come out of Prometheus was the following clip, which was actually a “viral video” issued months before the film’s release. It features Guy Pearce as Peter Weyland, appearing at a fictional TED Talk in the year 2023.

RIP Adam “MCA” Yauch: the Grumpyfanboy Tribute

5 May

I read the news this morning that Adam “MCA” Yauch of the Beastie Boys passed away after battling cancer since 2009. He was 47.

In tribute, I present one of the greatest concert films of all time: Awesome; I F**king Shot That! The film was directed by Yauch (under the name Nathaniel Hornblower) back in 2004 and shot by more than 50 Beastie Boys fans who were provided handycams. It is the pinnacle of User-Generated-Content, filmed before “UGC” became an industry buzzword.

RIP Adam Yauch (1964-2012), a true artist and pioneer.

Read more about the life of Adam Yauch here and here.

You can buy the DVD of Awesome; I F**king Shot That! here.