Disney · Film · Movie Review · Movies · Star Wars · The 602 Club · The Force Awakens · Uncategorized

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens – Review

star-wars-force-awakens-official-posterThere are Spoilers in this review.

2013 was a massive year for the Star Wars franchise as George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney for four billion dollars. Yet the biggest surprise from the deal was the announcement of more Star Wars films in the Skywalker Saga, meaning the long rumored sequel trilogy would finally come to fruition. Since that time, fans have excitedly and trepidatiously awaited December 17th, 2015 for Episode VII. Anticipation built throughout the year as the movie’s coming was heralded by soup cans and action figures alike. The film’s release has seen a maelstrom of emotion from fans and critics as The Force Awakens has become the best reviewed Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back, but the question is, “Is it really that good?”.

Themes and Story

As I have gotten older, one of the joys has been the realization that the Star Wars saga is about more than just good and evil, it was George Lucas’ way of giving a history lesson about freedom. The Original Trilogy was about how freedom is won back from a dictatorship, the Prequel Trilogy was about how freedom is lost as bureaucracy and corruption undermine a democracy and now the Sequel Trilogy looks to be just as timely.

It has been thirty years since the Return of the Jedi and the galaxy has seen the end of the Empire and the beginning of the New Republic. As the Republic has taken hold and a new generation has been brought up in relative peace, the idea of vigilance against evil has gone out of fashion. The Republic keeps it’s fleet close to home and the loss of the Jedi to Luke’s nephew’s turn to the dark side has left the galaxy vulnerable. It has given rise to the First Order, a regime even more fanatical and bent on completing the failed mission of Darth Vader and the Emperor, bringing “order” back to the universe.

The New Republic, unwilling to acknowledge the threat of the First Order, secretly sponsors the creation of the Resistance, lead by Leia, while publicly denouncing them. Leia is a child of war, understanding the price of freedom and is willing to sacrifice again for it’s continuation. Unfortunately there is resistance to seeing the First Order as more than a phantom menace in the senate and the correlation could not be clearer to the situation we face in the real world with ISIS, which has challenged the entire western world yet certain world leaders refuse to acknowledge the full threat.

starkiller base scifidriveAnother correlating theme is that of recognizing evil and facing it. Maz Kanata, the thousand year old bartender says to Rey and Finn, “The only fight: against the dark side. Through the ages, I’ve seen evil take many forms. The Sith. The Empire. Today, it is the First Order. Their shadow is spreading across the galaxy. We must face them. Fight them. All of us.” She sees the First Order for what it is and calls it out, it is evil and it must be apposed. What a timely message. We live in a world that is unwilling to call out evil for what it is and confront it, but Maz is absolutely correct that it must be named and fought. In this way, The Force Awakens proudly upholds the tradition that George Lucas began in A New Hope.

Pacing 

As wonderful as the themes are in the story, they are not all completely fleshed out in the film. To get the full picture one must dive into The Force Awakens novelization, Before the Awakening or the Visual Dictionary to get everything I mentioned above. Director J.J. Abrams has made a Star Wars film that is truly faster and more intense. It flies at a breakneck speed and barely slows down to let the character breathe. Unfortunately this leads to some scenes that would have fleshed out the political landscape as well as the motivations of the villains on the cutting room floor. Honestly, it seems like an over-reaction to the Prequel Trilogy and it’s frustrating since the politics here are a crucial story point and resonant theme for the times in which we live. It’s still the thing I have the biggest issue with in the movie.

Cyclical Nature 

Star Wars has always referenced and mirrored itself as Lucas would use themes and motifs in both trilogies to create the saga’s tapestry. As this new trilogy beginnings it’s clear that the same thing is happening, yet it’s not as well done as before. Regrettably The Force Awakens is much more than a homage or layer of the tapestry, it is a remake of A New Hope. Plot points line up almost perfectly as you think about each film and exact beats from Star Wars are repeated in The Force Awakens. Frustratingly this means that there is absolutely nothing surprising in the new movie, if you have seen A New Hope then you will pick up on exactly where this story is going including the death of a major character as well as the use of yet, another super weapon. The movie is clearly more worried about appeasing fanboys than truly inspiring the next generation of fans.

Characters

rey__bb_8_star_wars_the_force_awakens-HDThe true salvation for this film is the casting. Daisy Ridley as Rey, John Boyega as Finn, Oscar Isaac as Poe and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren are all phenomenal. They are the key to the success of this film as they immediately bring you into the story and it’s their performances that cover a multitude of cinema sins. By the end of the movie you will care about each of them and be so invested as to what will happen, you’ll be wishing Episode VIII was next month.

Alongside the new characters there are old favorites that have returned, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Peter Mayhew are all back. Ford has not been this engaging on screen in years and it seems he is firmly invested in doing justice to Solo, especially in light of his character’s demise near the end of the film. Carrie Fisher brings an understated grace to Leia which is a relief to anyone that’s seen her on the talk show circuit and Hamill has little more than a cameo, whetting the appetite of fans to know exactly what happened to Luke Skywalker.

Interestingly for me, it’s not the old characters or their stories that captivated me, it was the new. Sadly the meta knowledge of Ford’s desires for the Han character robbed me of the emotional impact it was suppose to have. The film’s adherence to the formula of A New Hope and The Phantom Menace where the old, wise character meets their end does the same since you can see his death coming for miles. There is also something that just does not seem earned in Han’s death, story wise it makes sense for the character of Han and Kylo, but it’s just lacking something for me personally. I find myself much more invested in the character of Rey and where she will go next. Daisy Ridley has cemented herself as a star with this performance which is good news for the rest of this trilogy.

Real Sets, Practical Effects

11895123_1007878895930378_4624932683842585912_oThis has been the mantra of this movie since it’s inception. It’s a dig at the Prequel trilogy even though Abrams has praised the fact that without Lucas’ breaking every rule in his work on the Prequels, the new trilogy would not have been possible. Where this idea works best is in the character of BB-8. The result is astounding. I challenge anyone not to fall in love with this new droid and struggle to not name him their favorite as credits role. The way in which the onset effect and the sound effects work to create a fully realized character is incredible.

Where it did not work as well is with some of the creature design. The Happabore that drinks next to Finn on Jakku looks like a character from a Disneyland ride and the luggabeast that Teedo rides, lumbers at the pace of a desert turtle, making it the most impractical mount ever. In both places CGI would have been more effective in my opinion and more “real”.

With all of the incessant chatter about the practical effects, one of the best new characters in the film is CGI. Maz Kanata is an outstanding achievement in character design in the same way Gollum was in The Lord of the Rings. You truly feel like the character is on screen with Harrison Ford and it’ll leave you longing to know more about her history.

Strangely the CGI work at the end of the film is not as sharp as one would expect. The X-Wing battle above Starkiller base seems like an afterthought and looks muddled. The editing lacks the Lucas clarity in the geography of the setting and it’s one of the clearest examples of the magic he brought to the films truly lacking.

Another important piece that is missing from this new movie is the addition of exciting new ship designs. All the ships here are just variations on Star Destroyers, Tie Fighters and X-Wings and the new ships like Ren’s shuttle or the Resistance transport are either forgettable or just plain awful.

Sadly, there are also no fun alien cameos in the movie. Abrams seems preoccupied with creating new alien designs, which is fun but the lack of anything familiar in this area is a regrettable lack of connective tissue to the rest of the saga.

Conclusion

This is not the best Star Wars movie, that honor still belongs to The Empire Strikes Back, but it is a better one than I initially thought. It has some problems in the pacing, lack of clarity in the story and themes as well as a death that still leaves me numb. Furthermore, the movie lacks a score that is as strong as John Williams other work in the saga. There are a few nice cues and Rey’s Theme by far the strongest new musical motif, but you won’t find yourself humming anything as you did with the Imperial March, Duel of Fates or the Forrest Battle.

Seeing the movie four times has helped me to overcome a lot of the problems I still see and the performances of the new cast have me sold on this new trilogy. I would recommend seeing the movie more than once, since the first time can be a little jarring with it’s fast-paced nature and important story points almost glossed over because of it.  I’d give the movie 3.75 lost lightsabers out of 5.

Be sure to check out The 602 Club’s episode on the film, you won’t want to miss it!

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Books · Catching Fire · Christianity · Dating · Doctor Who · Faith · Family · Film · Harry Potter · Love · Movies · Sex · The Hunger Games · Tim Challies

Owl Post 12-4-13

Owl Post: 2-3-2012

In Defense of Katniss Everdeen:

risa-rodils-catching-fireCatching Fire, the second film in The Hunger Games trilogy, has set theater records, and like its predecessor, it’s an impressive, gritty film. Suzanne Collins wrote a gripping series of young-adult novels, and the film adaptations have been well cast and well directed, especially the choice of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, the film’s star and protagonist. Lawrence manages to easily embody both Katniss’s tenacity and also her youthful ignorance at the high-stakes politics of her situation.

Why Harry Potter is Great Literature:

harry-potter-series-books-7I enjoy spending time with people who appreciate great literature. The number of my friends who are intimate with Dante or Tolkien or Austen is, as Oscar Wilde would say with a wink, “considerably above the proper average that statistics have laid down for our guidance.” My book-loving church regularly ships in world-class English professors to give lectures and field the usual round of questions about Peter Jackson’s interpretation of Aragorn and Faramir.

And I’ve noticed that in these circles, it’s often a faux pas to admit that I, like nearly every other Millennial in America, own extremely well-loved copies of all seven Harry Potter books. And I would lose all credibility with many of these people if I suggested offhand that I think the Potter books are in the tradition of the great English novels, deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence, and are easily the most morally and socially insightful works of fantasy published in this generation.

The Real Truth about ‘Boring’ Men:

10298738-silhouette-of-a-man-on-a-mountainSo not every guy proposes with lip syncingrolling cameras, and a choreographed entourage.

Yeah —  so what if  your Dad didn’t?

He just pulled that beat-up Volkswagon Rabbit of his over in front of Murray Reesor’s hundred acre farm right there where Grey Township meets Elma Township, pulled out a little red velvet box, and whispered it in the snowy dark: “Marry me?”

How Doctor Who Survived 50 Years:

Untitled-1When it started in 1963, Doctor Who should not have succeeded. A committee created it, to fill a time slot. It had a small budget. The BBC intended for it to be a children’s educational show focusing on science and history. Oh, and it debuted the night after John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

And yet it worked, as seen in the incredible hype preceding Saturday’s 50th anniversary special—an extra-long, star-filled special called “The Day of the Doctor.”

Gospel-Centered Sex?

I recently read an article from a prominent blogger on the subject of the new “gospel-centered” emphasis in books. He commented on various books that applied the gospel to every area of life from the ivory towers of theology, to the mom caught up in the chaos of home and family. One quote at the end of his blog got me thinking: There is not yet a “Gospel-Centered Sex” book; however, it is probably on the way and may well be very helpful! If a couple consistently applies the implications of the gospel to the marriage bed, they will inevitably have a healthier marriage.”

How to Raise a Pagan Kid in a Christian Home:

Every Imperfect and Normal Family wants their kids to turn out right. So, we establish goals for character development and try to create an environment where our kids can mature. Church, school, sports teams, family relationships… each of these provides a context where our kids can learn to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Too many times, (Christian) parents have it as their goal to make their kids good and moral. It is as if the entire purpose of their family’s spiritual life is to shape their children into law-abiding citizens who stay out of trouble. The only problem with this goal is that it runs in stark contrast to what the Bible teaches. The gospel is not about making bad people moral, but about making dead people alive. If we teach morality without the transforming power of the gospel and the necessity of a life fully surrendered to God’s will, then we are raising moral pagans.

Stopping An Affair Before It Begins:

At one time or another, most of us witnessed the devastation that comes through infidelity in marriage. We have seen marriages stretched almost to the breaking point and we have seen marriages destroyed by an unfaithful husband or unfaithful wife.

Affairs do not begin with sex. Falling into bed with a man who is not your husband or a woman who is not your wife is simply one step in a long chain of events, one decision in a long series of poor decisions.

J.J. Abrams at TED in 2007: The Mystery Box

Film · Movies · Star Trek · Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Is In Star Trek Into Darkness

Written John Tenuto

movies_star-trek-into-darkness_posterWhy Star Trek Into Darkness is Good Star Trek

Determining what qualifies as “good” or “truly” Star Trek is a daunting task, comparative to the debate about whether to put olive oil in water when you cook pasta or not.  It really is a matter of personal taste and not some scientific process.  With that in mind, my thesis is that Star Trek Into Darkness has all the trappings that make for good Star Trek, acknowledging that fellow fans may disagree with reasoned and appreciated cause.

1)      Star Trek is About Something

One of the many reasons to love Star Trek is that when it is at its best, it is about something, from social problems to cultural concerns.  Indeed, good science fiction is good sociology disguised by metaphor and analogy.  “The Enemy Within” dealt with human nature, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home dealt with how humans treat nature.  Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan dealt with the dangers of hubris and the power of sacrifice.  Even “The Trouble With Tribbles” has an ecological lesson amongst the laughs.

Star Trek Into Darkness is also about something.  Actually, it is about numerous somethings.  Its chief message is about how societies change because of terrorism, symbolized by James Kirk almost letting revenge substitute for justice.  Unfortunately, recent events in the United States and London make STID more relevant than we would like.

star-trek-into-darkness-benedict-cumberbatch-chris-pine1STID is also about family, and how best to protect family.  Kirk and Khan are mirrors to each other, represented by the film’s fascination with glass (Kirk and Khan first see each other through glass, they communicate in the brig through glass, both Kirk and Scotty’s glasses are prominently featured in the bars, the father Thomas Harewood uses a glass to detonate his ring, we see the parents through the glass of their hover car, Kirk’s glass almost breaks on his Buck Rogers like space suit, the Klingon trap is revealed through glass of Mudd’s ship…all perhaps referencing, either deliberately or by accidental coincidence, the eye glasses of James Kirk so symbolically utilized in The Wrath of Khan).  And while Khan talks a good game, the difference is that he is willing to sacrifice others for his family, while Kirk is willing to sacrifice himself to save his.  A big difference worth considering.  Kirk’s hubris is tempered and abated by his compassion and his conscience.

Other family threads in the film include Spock and Uhura’s relationship, the Marcuses, and most importantly, how both Pike and Marcus call Kirk son.  Pike earns that right and it means something to Kirk that he is called his symbolic son.  Pike loves Kirk, and Kirk loves Pike, that much is evident.  Marcus, like some kind of pathetic father figure, calls Kirk “son” without earning it.  However, he does represent a very genuine danger to Kirk because the anger he feels could drive Kirk to become like Marcus instead of becoming like Pike.

Add to that the messages about noninterference with other cultures that the opening adventure details (which feels very much like an episode of the original show), and there are many motifs and ideas in STID that make it belong easily to the pantheon of worthwhile Star Trek metaphorical adventures.

2)      Characterization

Star_Trek_final_trailer_tests_Kirk_article_story_mainA second consideration for my list of reasons why STID is good Trek is the generally consistent characterizations with the original conceptualizations of the characters.  I disagree with some of the characterizations in STID, but none of my reservations are enough to negate the point that the writers and actors are trying their best to preserve the essence and heart of these iconic characters.  Some may, with good cause, argue that this is so because some of the lines from this film are verbatim from previous Treks.  That could be either defined as a curse (lazy writing) or homage (a respect for the greatness of the original versions).  I prefer to think of it as the latter.  However, looking at the purely original lines and interactions, there is much to admire.  When Kirk decides not to utilize the torpedoes, I cheered.  He allowed himself to be open to the advice of others, especially Scotty and Spock.  That is true leadership.  And when Spock and Kirk have the discussion about Spock being happy to help, I could easily see Shatner and Nimoy playing that scene.  When Scotty calls Kirk “Jim” for the first time it reminds us of “Mirror Mirror” when the great James Doohan’s version did the same thing.

Indeed, it could be argued that Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and company are much more closely related to their original versions than the First Contact versions of Picard and company were to their television versions.  Picard obsessed with revenge and killing his own crew without trying to save them when he himself was brought back from the Borg?  Worf threatening Picard?  And yet, for many fans, First Contact is a favorite despite these radical character departures.

This is not to say that STID is perfect.  I have always rejected the idea that Kirk was ever a Space Age Lothario.  In fact, it is established in the original show that he was bit of a bookworm at the Academy.  There is no example in the original show of him casually sleeping with or using a woman for his own designs.  When he did have these kinds of interactions of charm and sexuality, it was usually necessary to save his ship and crew.  In fact, in almost every encounter with a former lover, with the exception of Janice Lester who had obvious mental and emotional concerns, the women of Kirk’s past showed nothing but respect for Kirk because he had shown nothing but respect for them.  The STID Kirk has the Lothario vibe and it’s unwelcomed.  The scene with the two cat women was puerile and childish, not serving any story purpose.  If the scene was meant to show that Kirk was arrogant, and that his willingness to be casual with two people at a time is meant to be symbolic of that, the sequence as filmed has none of that evident and does not resonate in the film at all other than a joke.

Benedict Cumberbatch Star Trek Into Darkness 4More concerning is that Khan is presented as having some kind of savage streak to him that enjoys violence.  In fact, he is presented as being possibly genocidal.  Some of that savagery is part of the original proposals for “Space Seed” by writer Carey Wilber back from August of 1966.  However, that was when Khan was Harald Ericcson, a common criminal frozen in time due to population problems on Earth of the 21st Century.  The Montalban/Coon/Roddenberry/Meyer version of Khan has none of this savage quality, not even in his more erratic and vengeful state of TWOK.  Not explaining the change in Khan’s physicality is also a concern.

That all being said, for most of the film, the characters act believable as their younger counterparts would have.  That Kirk makes mistakes is okay because this is both a younger version of the character, and also an alternative version at that.  However, the heart of the characters is there, and that is what matters.

3)      Fan Nods

There are many nods to Star Trek fans in this film, showing more respect for the original and its sequel shows.  Some of these include:

  •  Tribbles being in the film
  • Praxis possibly being shown
  • 1361445770_star-trek-into-darkness-harry-mudd-womanThe reference to Mudd for both comic book and TOS fans
  • The inclusion of Prime Spock
  • A Prime Directive debate
  • Christine Chapel being mentioned
  • The five year mission
  • Section 31
  • The NX01 being among Marcus’ models
  • A most frequent and consistent usage of the original TV show theme, and not just the fanfare

Conclusions

This list of ideas does not exhaust the reasons why Star Trek Into Darkness is good Star Trek, but hopefully presents enough data to show why it is okay to mix a little olive oil in the pasta once in awhile.

Biography of John Tenuto:

John Tenuto is a professor of sociology at the College of Lake County, in Grayslake, Illinois.  For the past six years, he and his wife and fellow sociology professor Maria Jose Tenuto have been studying the Nicholas Meyer Paper Collection at the University of Iowa and the Gene Roddenberry archives at UCLA, exploring the making of Star Trek’s “Space Seed” andStar Trek: The Wrath of Khan.  The duo have uncovered more than 800 previously unseen photographs and discovered many new revelations about the making of these classic Trek adventures.  John was named one of Star Trek’s influential fans by New York magazine’s Vulture.com in 2012, and his work has been featured on WGN News, in the Chicago Sun Times, SFX Magazine, the official Star Trek website, on WGN Radio, BBC Radio, and he contributed some of the photos included in the recent Wrath of Khan expanded soundtrack.  John and Maria Jose are committed to telling stories about the making of Star Trek and helping to celebrate all the behind the scene artists who created the amazing adventures of Trek.  John has been nominated eight times for Outstanding Teacher of the Year by the students of his college, winning twice, once in 2006 and again in 2013, and he is the coauthor of Social Movement Theory and Research: An Annotated Bibliographic Guide.  John and Maria Jose have been married for 15 years and have a 11 year old son Nicholas Jose. He is on Twitter @JTenuto 

Star Trek Into Darkness Review

Star Trek Into Darkness: Point by Point 

Film · Movie Review · Movies · Star Trek · Star Trek Into Darkness · Uncategorized

The New Star Trek Into Darkness – Point By Point

I have noticed online and in podcasts there are a lot of questions as to who knows what, when in the new Star Trek film. I have written out, chronologically, each point  taken from the film to help anyone further understand the plot, motivations, and actions of the characters.This has been completely reworked and I think this is the true point by point. You can find my Star Trek Into Darkness review here. Enjoy.

  • The Botany Bay is found by Starfleet in the vast reaches of space.

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  • Admiral Marcus, the head of Starfleet, awakens Khan to have him assist Section 31 in the secret creation of ships and weapons, preparing for whichever enemy the Federation may face next. The John Harrison alias is created to conceal Khan’s identity.

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  • Harrison bides his time, working for Marcus. He designs new long range torpedoes, inside of which he smuggles his crew; hoping to be able to escape and then begin taking over the galaxy. Harrison may work with Marcus but he always has his own agenda throughout the film.

  • Admiral Marcus finds out that Harrison has hidden his crew in the torpedoes (This is where Harrison begins to go off the rails for Marcus, until then everything has been according to their plan. Harrison begins enact his own plans at this point while still following most of what Marcus and he had laid out.)

  • Meanwhile, the Enterprise crew is on a surveying mission. A volcano is going to destroy the planet and, in the process, a primitive society. Spock has created a cold fusion device that, when detonated, will render the volcano inert. As Spock lowers into the volcano, Kirk has stolen an item the primitives worship in order to lead them out of the volcano’s kill zone. He and Bones escape by jumping off a cliff into the sea where the Enterprise is hidden. Spock has been abandoned by Sulu and Uhura because the shuttlecraft they are in has been disabled by the volcano’s ash. Spock sets the device to go off and Kirk rescues Spock, an action that violates the Prime Directive since the natives see the Enterprise rise out of the ocean on its way to save Spock.

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  • Marcus wants a war with the Klingons, so he has Harrison attack London. Harrison convinces a desperate Section 31 officer, whose daughter is dying of an incurable disease, to bomb a secret Section 31 base in London. In return, Harrison gives the officer a cure for the dying girl. Harrison has himself identified as the main villain.

  • Harrison  allows himself to be photographed leaving the scene of the crime.

  • Kirk has the Enterprise taken away from him, because of his hubris. Pike is given back the Enterprise and fights to have Kirk made his first officer. (Marcus convened the meeting that Pike could not be at, this is part of his plan.)

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  • The bombing puts Starfleet on high alert and protocol requires that all senior staff, captains and first officers of Starfleet’s closest ships, meet at Starfleet HQ.

  • Harrison attacks Starfleet HQ because this leaves Marcus fully in charge of Starfleet (Khan’s ship was scanning people before shooting them so only the people Marcus wanted dead would be killed, like Pike, who would stand against Marcus in his warmongering. This is also the reason Kirk was busted down to first officer, Harrison was scanning and killing captains and other admirals. Those left would be the one’s Marcus though he could control).

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  • Harrison beams to Kronos. Harrison would seem to be in league with the Klingons and Marcus would get his war. Harrison is using Marcus and Marcus is using Harrison. For Harrison this gets his people away from Marcus and gives him a chance to save them.

  • Kirk, Scotty and Spock find that Harrison is not on Earth anymore but on Kronos because the are suppose too.

  • Admiral Marcus says that he does not want Kirk to go capture Harrison; instead, he gives Kirk 72 torpedoes that only Marcus knows contains Harrison’s crew. Once these are shot at Harrison from the Neutral Zone, two of Marcus’ problems will be eliminated in one fell swoop. Kirk is given back the Enterprise (thinking Kirk will be someone he can control easily now that Pike is dead. When Marcus says that Pike’s blood is on his hands he means literally). Kirk is a pawn in Marcus’ plan to start a war with the Klingons. Kirk will fire the torpedoes at the Klingons, the Klingons would go looking for the perpetrator. Unbeknownst to the Enterprise crew, Admiral Marcus has the warp core sabotaged. The crippled Enterprise will have no choice but to fight back and the Klingon empire will be outraged. War will begin all because of Kirk, a renegade captain on a mission of vengeance. This is the reason that Marcus, when Kirk and Spock visit his office dismisses everyone else. This does not come from all of Starfleet, just Marcus. (These are all things that Harrison is well aware of; it is in the novelization)

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  • Carol Marcus forges orders to get herself transferred to the Enterprise. She is a weapons expert and the daughter of the Admiral. She knows he is up to no good since all records of the torpedoes disappeared after she confronted her father about them and now they have resurfaced on the Enterprise.

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  • Kirk, listening to the advice of Spock and Scotty (especially after Scotty leaves the Enterprise to protest the torpedoes that he is not allowed to inspect and therefore finds too dangerous to use) travels to Kronos to capture Harrison, instead of using the torpedoes to destroy him without standing trial.

  • Kirk has Sulu threaten Harrison with obliteration by the torpedoes if he does not come quietly with the landing party.

  • Harrison, hearing Sulu’s message knows he has been right about Kirk and Spock, they will not use the torpedoes. He then asks how many torpedoes Kirk has. At hearing the correct number and knowing they are the same torpedoes that harbor his crew, he surrenders to Kirk, and bides his time till he can find a way to save them. He is playing Kirk the whole time.

  • Kirk, Spock and Uhura return with Harrison to the Enterprise. Kirk tells Uhura to inform Starfleet that they have Harrison in custody and that they will return him to earth when the warp drive is fixed.
  • Harrison, in the Enterprise brig, tells Kirk to open the torpedo so he, Kirk can see why he, Harrison did what he did. He gives Kirk a set of coordinates and tells him there is something there that will verify that he is telling the truth.

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  • Kirk contacts Scotty, who is on Earth, and asks him to search the coordinates Harrison has given him to see what is there.

  • Kirk has Carol Marcus and Bones open the torpedo. They find a cryogenic tube harboring a 300 year old man.

  • Kirk quizzes Harrison and finds out that he is Khan from a time long past who has been used by Admiral Marcus to create weapons for a coming war with the Klingons. Khan is also aware that the Enterprise has been sabotaged by Marcus. Khan knows what Marcus is planning: everyone’s death and a war with the Klingons. Again, this story is only half truths, Khan it playing Kirk to earn his trust.

  • Marcus shows up in the Vengeance. He tells Kirk that he made a mistake in waking up Khan and that he is only trying to rectify his mistake. He asks Kirk to give him Khan. Marcus even tells Kirk the truth that Khan is playing him.

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  • Kirk, no longer trusting Marcus, warps to Earth in an attempt to escape and return Khan to face judgment. Kirk thinks that he will be safe at warp because Marcus will not be able to catch up. Carol Marcus is reminded by Khan that Kirk is not actually safe at warp because the Vengeance has a new, faster warp drive. Admiral Marcus will catch up and destroy the Enterprise.

  • Carol believes that Admiral Marcus will not destroy the Enterprise with her aboard, so she has Kirk allow her to contact her father.

  • At this point, both ships are near Earth’s moon because the Vengeance has knocked the Enterprise out of warp and heavily damaged it.

  • Admiral Marcus proves to be the villain and transports Carol to the Vengeance so that he can finish off the Enterprise. He plans to tell Starfleet that Kirk went rogue and joined with Khan and he had no choice but to end them both by destroying the Enterprise.

  • As the Vengeance powers up its weapons to level the final blow, it loses power.

  • Scotty contacts Kirk and tells him that he has stowed away on the Vengeance and disabled the ship for 3 minutes.

  • Kirk, knowing that they cannot destroy the Vengeance from the outside, asks Khan to space jump with him to the Vengeance so they can take it out from the inside (Kirk can only take minimal people and needs Khan knowledge of the ship and his physical prowess). The Vengeance has been created to be run by minimal crew and one person if needed. Khan now has the opening he has been planning for.

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  • Scotty, Kirk, and Khan take over the Vengeance. Kirk, knowing he is being played by Khan, has instructed Scotty to stun Khan the moment they have taken over the bridge. Scotty does so but Khan, being genetically engineered has faked being stunned and very quickly and disarms Scotty, beats up Kirk, breaks Carol’s leg, and kills Admiral Marcus with his bare hands.

  • Khan contacts Spock and tells him to give him his crew, whom he still thinks are in the torpedoes, in exchange for Kirk, Scotty, and Carol.

  • Spock agrees to this. Unbeknownst to Khan, Spock has removed Khan’s crew from the torpedoes and activated them (the torpedoes) so that they’ll blow up in the Vengeance’s cargo bay (Khan underestimated both Kirk and Spock in his plans. Superior minds breed superior arrogance). This disables the weapons and major systems of the ship, but not before it’s knocked out the Enterprise’s warp core.

  • Powerless, the Enterprise tumbles towards Earth because it is close enough to be caught in its gravity.

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  • Kirk and Scotty, who Khan has returned to the Enterprise, race towards engineering so (that) they can restart the warp core.

  • When they get to engineering, they find that the warp core is out of alignment and the only way to fix it is for someone to readjust it from the inside, sentencing that person to death from radiation poisoning.

  • Kirk knocks out Scotty and manages to save the Enterprise, but dies as Spock watches beyond the protective door.

  • Khan use the last bit of power in the Vengeance to ram the ship into Starfleet HQ, located in San Francisco.

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  • Spock, realizing that Khan could survive the crash, has Sulu scan for lifesigns on the Vengeance and is then beamed down to Khan’s location.

  • A mad chase through San Francisco ensues till they end up on top of a transport where Spock tries to subdue Khan.

  • McCoy has Kirk in sickbay. As the crew visits his lifeless body, a dead Tribble that McCoy had earlier injected with Khan’s blood comes back to life. McCoy, realizing that Kirk can be saved, transfers Kirk to a cryotube to save his brain function. McCoy informs the bridge that Kirk can be saved if Khan is captured.

  • Uhura beams down to the transport where Spock is being beaten by Khan. She repeatedly stuns Khan which gives Spock enough time to tear off a piece of the transport and finally knock Khan out.

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  • Kirk is saved and a year later the Enterprise is rechristened as it heads out on the first ever five year mission.

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Film · Movie Review · Movies · Star Trek · Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness – Review

“Here’s what Gene Roddenberry said in an interview just before he died in August 1991; somebody had asked him, ‘What’s going to become of Star Trek in the future?’ And he said that he hoped that some day some bright young thing would come along and do it again, bigger and better than he had ever done it. And he wished them well.”

— Richard Arnold, Roddenberry’s assistant

Star Trek Into Darkness Paul Shipper

Star Trek Into Darkness has a lot to live up to. For some fans, it needs to redeem itself from a lackluster first movie. On the flip side, other fans don’t see how this film could reach the same heights of Star Trek ’09. Into Darkness is a thrill ride from the beginning that builds on the themes and characters from ‘09 and ramps them up to new levels, giving fans and the general movie audience something worth cheering for.  Spoiler Warning.

Manning Up:

“Is there anything you would not do for your family?” – John Harrison

This movie is very much a Kirk story. In the first film, fans and general moviegoers alike scoffed at the idea that Cadet Kirk would be sitting in the captain’s chair by the end of the film. Kurtzman and Orci took that criticism and turned it into a major theme in this film. Kirk may have been given the “Big Chair” for being a wunderkind, but in this film, he earns it.

Kirk begins the movie brash as ever, buffeting the rules at his leisure. He cannot hear anyone elses advice or criticism of his decisions. Pike tells him that he is going to get everyone under his command killed because of his reckless disregard for the rules, and Starfleet actually takes the Enterprise away from Kirk.

The theme of fatherhood comes up strong in this film, just as it did in Star Trek 2009. Pike is the only father figure that Kirk has left in his life, and he is everything that Kirk needs. Pike is a disciplinarian, yet at the same time lifts Kirk up. As Kirk deals with the loss of his command, Pike says,  “I believe in you. If anyone deserves a second chance, it’s Jim Kirk.”

gallery_06Throughout the film, Kirk learns what it means to be a man and a true leader. Kirk begins listening to his superiors and subordinates, and takes what they say to heart. He changes in light of the criticism he receives while discerning the wisest course of action at the same time, even if it does mean going against orders in the end. Kirk may still break the rules when he sees that as the best option, but his path to doing so changes drastically.

Unlike Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, it is Kirk who learns firsthand what it means to give his life for the needs of the many. This reversal works perfectly for Kirk’s arc; he learns humility and fallibility the hard way, yet by the end, the change in Kirk is evident. He is not just a savant with an ego to match. He is tempered by fire and forged into the leader that Pike always knew he could be.

War on Terrible Choices:

The purpose is to experience fear. Fear in the face of certain death. To accept that fear, and maintain control of oneself and one’s crew. This is a quality expected in every Starfleet captain. – Spock  

Another major theme in the film is fear and how it drives our actions. Since the incursion of Nero in the first film, Starfleet has put itself on high alert. It even turned to Section 31, a rogue agency that acts in the interest of the Federation by protecting it at all costs. This film was dedicated to the memory of all those who gave their lives on 9/11 and in its aftermath. It is in that memory that sparks this question: How do we face fear of the unknown and respond to terror when it strikes at the heart of our cities, our countries and our very way of life?

The film helps us look at ourselves through the lens of Admiral Marcus. His goal is to protect the Federation and its way of life, but at the cost of the very things he stands for: freedom and liberty. Benjamin Franklin said it best: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Marcus’ militarization of Starfleet along with his willingness to sacrifice the values of the Federation mirrors our world, leaving us with difficult questions. The movie shows us it is always better to do what is right even when it is difficult, even if it costs us our lives, it keeps us from becoming the very thing that we are fighting against.

Family Ties:

I am a great believer in found families and I’m not a great believer in blood. – Joss Whedon

gallery_19-1This movie is very much about family and finding it, even if it has been taken away. Kirk has no father and his surrogate is killed when John Harrison attacks a high level Starfleet meeting. Spock learns what it means to be a part of a family that is dominated by humans, as well as deal with the immense pain of losing his home planet in the first film. John Harrison fights to save his family, while Carol Marcus deals with the shame that comes from having a family member betray everything she thought he stood for.

The crew of the Enterprise deals with severe growing pains in this film. One of the most interesting things is watching how each officer learns from one other, influencing and complementing each other’s skills. Trust and faith in the gifts of each member of the family clearly shines through. At center stage of this are Spock and Kirk. Each of them leans on the other’s strength, and doing so cements their friendship forever.

Spock finally comes to terms with the immensity of his feelings for the loss of Vulcan. The loss is so great that it has wounded him to the core of his being. As a result, he has drawn even further inward, causing to him to repress his typhoon-like emotions, alienating his friends and his paramour Uhura even more in the process. Spock learns the valuable lesson that withdrawing from community and cutting off emotions will not help him heal; he must grieve and process the loss, just like anyone who has experienced an important loss, and doing so is better with a support system of friends.

star-trek-into-darkness-2In our world, found families are becoming increasingly more important in place of the once-dominant nuclear family. Community is a key ingredient to the success of individuals, as the old song says, “Lean on me, when you’re not strong,” and this is a message the film speaks loudly. We need each other to remind us of who we are at our best and help us find our way back when we lose perspective. In this film, the crew of the Enterprise becomes a family that is dedicated to a mission that transcends themselves, and it is one that lies at the very heart of Star Trek: to seek out new life and new civilizations for the betterment of all of humanity while being committed to its values and morality.

Conclusion:

“Space, the final frontier….” – Captain Kirk

This is a great brilliant Star Trek film. It lives up the ideals and themes that fans expect from Trek, while at the same time, takes the audience on a wild ride. Some fans may complain about using plot ideas from the original series, but they are used to full effect here. What results is a story that furthers the characters and challenges the viewers. Many will mistake this as a retelling, yet it is not. Kutrzman, Orci and Abrams have taken pieces from previous Trek and re-engineered them into a new tale that is both compelling and contemporary. Personally, I think that this is a better movie that the first. There is no burden of the “origin story,” allowing us to dive right into the narrative from scene one, which lends itself to much more character development in this JJ-verse. Into Darkness uses most of the characters well (Sulu may be the one with the least to do, but he does get a taste of the big chair), and gives them all shining moments, creating a sense of urgency as we eagerly anticipate the next voyage of the starship Enterprise.

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Movie Poster artwork is by Paul Shipper.