Sigh. Let that be your warning - there be ranting blogger rage here. From the very first set photo leaked from Star Trek Into Darkness, we here at ITMOD expressed reservation about the follow-up film to JJ Abrams' rather clever 2009 relaunch. If you've read more than one of our posts here, you know that we're a pair of serious Trekkies - and it's hard to impress us when the crew of the USS Enterprise is involved. Hell, we've hated on the original film series, the Next Gen crew, DS9, Voyager, and those bloody Bakula nimrods. But for the most part, it comes from a place of love and we can find joy in even the weakest of Trek entries (I for one am a serious defender of Shatner's Final Frontier). Star Trek Into Darkness marks the first film in the franchise that I full-on hated. Nemesis & Generations might be weaker entries, but even in those lamebrain scripts you can find fleeting moments of character to latch upon. Into Darkness is a remake in the guise of split-time sequel, and it preys upon your memories of the characters and the iconic events that shaped previous films. If the last time you watched Star Trek II - The Wrath of Khan was a few years ago, and you casually think of yourself as a "Trekkie" cuz being a nerd these days is cool than you probably loved Into Darkness. If you can check off your brain, ignore the craters of logic that obliterate the screenplay, and have no problem with 9/11 conspiracies or racial white washing than go have fun at the movies. But if you ever bitched about Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or Prometheus or The Dark Knight Rises but thought Into Darkness was a rollicking good time, than you are fooling yourself - or are completely ignorant to the idiocy assaulting your senses. Whiz, Bang, Flash is not Star Trek.
Ok. Have I insulted you yet? Have I properly expressed how much your enthusiasm for this new Trek makes you an idiot? Do I sound like a big enough asshole? Smug enough? Righteous enough? Good. Let's continue.
I really don't like being a hater. My problem is that, when it comes to all things dorky, Star Trek is my one true love. I love Westerns. I love comic books. I love Planet of the Apes & Magnum PI. But above all else I love Star Trek. It's why JJ's 2009 film is such a damn miracle to me. He managed to make a flick that pleased mass audiences as well as basement dwelling trolls like myself. Star Trek '09 is a great action movie that plays off the Kirk vs. Khan scenario that plagues all cinematic Trek films, but still delivers strong emotional character beats as well as winky callbacks to the original series. And it's shimmering success really had me pumped for Into Darkness, even though the trailers & posters often gave me pause. My joy for that movie, as well as the Universe it inhabits, ranked Star Trek Into Darkness as one of my most highly anticipated films of the year.
As I often do, I decided to get serious with my preparation. Watching all of Abrams's films prior to the new release as well as finishing off the second season of Lost with The Wife. I really do dig his work prior to this latest abomination. Despite whatever narrative balls get dropped in LOST, it still ranks as one of my favorite television shows. Mission Impossible III revived a floundering action franchise for Tom Cruise's psychologically strained career. Super 8 is a gorgeous love letter to all things Spielberg. And Star Trek '09 is....well, you know already, just a geeky gem. Hindsight being what it is, I can start to get cynical about the man. His career does seem to prey, or at least leech upon nostalgia. And since my brain is in a fairly dark place at the moment, it's easy for me to think of JJ Abrams as a monstrous money maker taking advantage of this Golden Age of Nerd, grabbing for our dollars by playing with our most beloved properties. I am certainly curious to see what he does with Star Wars - Episode VII. If this blog post proves anything, it's impossible to please all the geeks, and his Star Wars will surely grab the attention of haters everywhere. The nice thing about that though is that George Lucas has pretty much killed that franchise already, and Abrams surely cannot do any worse than what the father has already committed.
Below you will find hate for only one film. I dig the others in varying ways. Also, despite all this Trekkie ranting, the Week was filled with other great bits of dorkery as well. Lots of comics. The new issue of Fatale was amazing. The Age of Ultron continues to exist. I finished my blitz through Homicide - Life on the Street. And The Ultimate Justice League of Extraordinary Book Club celebrated it's one year anniversary. Star Trek Into Darkness might have put a damper on things, but lets' face it, I obviously love bitching about it, and at the end of the day new Star Trek is a good thing. Live Long and Prosper, folks.
LOST - Season 2: This is the season in which most of America jumped ship. Not me. I was enjoying the first season's mysterious island with its sadsack flashbacks and roaring unseen monsters - but! from the moment they found Desmond at the bottom of the hatch & the introduction of Dr. Marvin Candle & his Dharma Initiative I was truly obsessed with LOST. Terry O'Quinn's John Locke spends much of this arc analyzing or confusing the messages being sent his way by The Island. Push the button, don't push the button, push the button. And what does it all have to do with Hurley's numbers. As per usual you get more questions than answers, but they are some pretty damn fun questions. Michael thankfully spends much of the show off screen screaming for "WAAAAALT!" and when he finally returns he brings a whole lot of crazy and death with him. The new additions to the cast are all enjoyable, even Michelle Rodriguez's tough girl is a fairly interesting character and just when you're getting tired of her...well, The Island has an answer. Of course, Season 2's greatest new character is Michael Emmerson's Henry Gale. A real asshole who has a mess of fun twisting Lock's brain around; even if that's pretty easy, it's a heck of a lot of fun to watch. It is odd watching it a second (or is this a third) time around. I used to love Mr. Echo so much, but knowing how his story ends makes it easy to gloss over his character. He's just one of many threads that leads to a brick wall of pointlessness. Still, I love Dharma. It might not go exactly where I want it to lead, but how can you not enjoy a shadowy organization messing with magnetic fields and trippy 1960s psycho-babble experiments. Technology-gone-by, I eat that stuff up.
Mission Impossible III: Coming at a point when it was popular to bash Tom Cruise for his whackjob beliefs (I recognize the man as crazy, but he's the pure embodiment of "A Real American Hero" - Hollywood's GI Joe), MI3 revitalized a franchise left on the killing floor by John Woo and his unnecessary pigeon explosions. This is also the only film in the series to feel remotely like the TV show with its rube-goldberg action set-pieces and oddball collection of IMF agents. Phillip Seymour Hoffman remains the only real memorable villain of the quadrilogy, even when he's phoning it in he's bringing 110% of rage. Granted, I'm not crazy how Bad Robot injects the Alias subplot of the husband hiding his Secret Agent status from friends & family, but it was obvious from the previous films that some form of humanity needed to be injected into Ethan Hunt. Sure, I have no idea what an Anti-God device is or why I should care, but when Tom Cruise is hurtling down the backally's of Hong Kong all you need to know is that he's gots ta smash Hoffman's face.
Super 8: The first half of this film is nearly flawless in its recreation of a period. Abrams certainly understands what works in those early Spielberg films; the man pulls all the family drama he can from Jaws, E.T., and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But it only works because Abrams has gathered an exceptional cast of child actors - you're lucky enough when you find one kid who can emote, but when you've uncovered half a dozen? That's nearly unheard of; set these guys right next to The Monster Squad & The Goonies. Elle Fanning gets the most critical praise thanks to her stirring "performance" before the train explosion, but this is Joel Courtney's movie and all of Super 8's fantasy and heart rests on his shoulders. The best bits are the moments between the kids, the ridiculously massive train collision is fun and the monster terror is exciting enough, but if you removed the interplay between the kids or even their Super 8 contest film, then all that's left is a mediocre monster mash. The back half of the film is solid spectacle, but like LOST, the mystery box is much more interesting than the contents desperately hidden inside.
Fatale #14: "The man who isn't a man at all..." Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips' third arc of seemingly stand-alone stories comes to a close with a doozy. We've been given glimpses of Josephine's WWII history before, but here we get a real nitty gritty insight into the depths she plummeted during the Nazi's European reign. Fans of Indiana Jones & Hellboy will dig the references to the Thule Society, and the Lovecraftian tentacle demons get plenty of panel time this issue. Also, we are actually given an opportunity to understand Walt Booker's human monster, and it makes me wonder how our hero Nicholas Lash will be left at the end of the series. My guess is haunted and mutilated, if not simply a corpse. Fatale remains my favorite monthly comic.
Age of Ultron #8: The first half of this series spent its time wandering the Post-Apocalypse of an Ultron ravaged America. Bryan Hitch's art was amazing so it was easy to miss the fact that the plot was barely moving forward. Now we're two issues from the conclusion and the plot is rushing by at a breakneck pace. Of course, the whole "Age of Ultron" conceit has gone by the wayside and the real narrative of a time hopping Wolverine & Sue Richards reveals itself as a fun if disposable mirror universe tale. I dig the technology ravaged Tony Stark and his buggy Defenders, but I have no idea who or what Morgan Le Fey is within the context of the Marvel Universe. Nor do I care since it's all gonna get reset anyway. I'm not hating this series, but it does leave me with something to be desired.
FF #7: Another month, another amazing issue of FF. The Future Foundation travels to the Negative Zone to rescue Bentley-23 from his clone daddy and free the super villain from the mind of Medusa. Mike Allred kills it on art, and there are several Ant-Man panels I want mounted on my wall pronto. The only way you cannot be enjoying this series is that if you have no soul. Right now, FF is the best book of the Marvel Now relaunch with Thor - God of Thunder trailing closely behind.
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #23: Miles Morales has had to deal with death in the past, but the tragedy of the last issue truly rocked him to his 14 year old emotional core. This issue jumps ahead one year and even though I'm not usually a fan of that kind of thing, I gotta admit that it works here. We find Miles sans costume. He's a year older, and in teen years that's practically a decade of emotional intelligence. His relationship with his father seems stronger, he has a girlfriend in the Ultimate Universe incarnation of Kate Bishop (YAY! HAWKEYE! FU Matt!), and Gwen Stacey waitresses at a crappy Chinese Restaurant. I really have no idea how he stayed out of the costume for a whole year, but it doesn't look like that's going to last much longer with Jessica Drew hounding him to join the Ultimates. If you are at all annoyed with the Dock Ock silly of The Superior Spider-Man than it's time for you to jump realities. Miles is where it's at.
Star Trek: "I dare you to do better." As I stated in this week's A Fistful of Star Trek, my Trekkie heart is devastated during the opening destruction of the USS Kelvin. I've watched this film a half dozen times now, and every time during the final exchange between Mr. & Mrs. George Kirk I well up with tears. And I really do dig how the death of James Kirk's father alters his personality if not his destiny. This is not William Shatner's Starfleet Captain. Fitting into JJ Abrams' Lucas/Spielberg obsession, Chris Pine is much more Indiana Jones or Han Solo than Tiberius. An idea I struggle with to this day (see below), but find myself open to in this action film franchise refit. And torturous emotional blows like the Kelvin attack, the destruction of Alderaan - I mean Vulcan, the parenting of Christopher Pike, and the presence of Leonard Nimoy's Spock help the film to make it's play for mainstream dollars. 2009's Star Trek managed the impossible, grabbing new fans to a dead franchise while still pleasing the fanboys of yore. Allow it.
Star Trek Into Darkness: "You should have let me sleep." Spoiler Warning for those worried about the precious Mystery Box of JJ Abrams. If you're looking for a more in-depth look at my histrionics and hyperbole than please feel free to read my full, raged-out review of Star Trek Into Darkness HERE. But if I were to boil this film down into one word it would be "Dumb." The film completely squanders the good will committed in the previous movie, practically ignoring the split-timeline conceit by white washing the North Indian sikh known throughout fandom as Khan Noonien Singh into the pasty, growly Benedict Cumberbatch. Is that a Trekkie nitpick, or simply racist? It's certainly the action of someone who never liked Star Trek or it's philosophy (see heinous Jon Stewart interview HERE). But let's move past that, and let's even move past the fact that we're doing another Starfleet Revenge story immediately following the one told in the last film. Let's even try to ignore screenwriter Roberto Orci's ham-fisted attempt to shoehorn his Truther agenda about the 9/11 Attacks into the mouths and actions of Admiral Peter Weller. Star Trek Into Darkness is simply a bad movie. A script that often has to tell you why so & so is bad (dial up BFF Spock Prime), and painfully relies on your fond memories of Star Trek's greatest cinematic adventure to wring the tears from your sockets. Is it clever to reverse Wrath of Khan's climax, or just lazy? It's certainly lazy to telegraph the action halfway through your film with Kirk's "I Suck At Being Captain" speech and the awkward "Hey Bones, what ya doin' with that dead Tribble?" tension breaker. And where exactly is the Star Trek universe left at the end of this film? Well, it's now a world that no longer needs starships thanks to portable transwarp beaming units. And Khan's "super blood" has cured death. Yes. No one can die again in Star Trek. I know tension is a ridiculous concept in a sequel filled franchise, but COME ON! You cured Death!!!!! What the hell?!?!? Screw you. But don't worry. The super blood will be quickly ignored the next time around.
Homicide - Life on the Street Season 7: The final season certainly lacks without the presence of Andre Braugher's Detective Pembleton. Kyle Secor attempts to fill the void with his zen investigator, but he's just not Frank. And it's obvious that NBC was drilling the producers with notes as more and more sexy cops are added to the cast and romantic interludes begin to invade the crime sprees. I do really like Agent Giardello's introduction; Giancarlo Esposito is a perfect foil to papa Yaphet Kotto and it's a shame he only got one season to play sonnie. There are not as many memorable cases this season - there's the extremely dated Internet Killings for Baylis to loose his mind over, and Detective Shepherd's beatdown brings an interesting dynamic to the squadroom. But where are the White Glove Murder cases? How 'bout a great guest star standalone? Not really. Season 7 is solid television, but it's also easily the weakest entry in the series.
The 1 Year Anniversary Meeting of The Ultimate Justice League of Extraordinary Book Club: Man, just look at that cake. Absolutely stunning. Crafted courtesy of longtime member Jill, that delectable chocolate cake also represents every title we covered this year. Can you spot my favorite marzipan decor? Well, obviously it's the Blacksad piece that reigns supreme on top. I really cannot believe this book club lasted a year. When The Wife told me she wanted to start it, I thought it was a great endeavor but I just didn't think folks would last...especially after the heated Habibi meeting. I am so happy to be proven the needless doubter. Every month I greatly look forward to the gathering, and I though this week's Massive discussion to be one of the best yet. Most folks seemed to be lukewarm on the material, but that lone enthusiast kept the conversation going. By the end of the night I went from completely exhausted on Brian Wood to ready to pick up the next volume. Thanks William.
The Massive: This was the fourth post-apocalypse story we read this year (Get Jiro, Y The Last Man, & The Walking Dead being the others), and it was easily my least favorite. A great earthly cataclysm sparked by global warming has left the planet practically covered in water. The treehuggers that pilot The Kapital are on a mission to find their sister ship The Massive. Along the way they encounter pirates, pirates, and more pirates. The narrative simply wanders from one conflict to the next, and I'm never quite sure why we should care about the missing Massive or why even these characters think it's still floating around out there. There seems to be some mystical mumbo jumbo at play in the background, but it's so slight that it fails to illicit any kind of wonder from this reader. This could be one of those books like The Walking Dead or Preacher that needs a couple volumes to really heat up, but I'm barely interested enough to wait for the next volume in December.
Homicide - The Movie: When Yaphet Kotto is shot during a political rally, all the detectives from season's past (even the dead ones) appear to hunt down the assassin. This is much more the satisfying conclusion than what we got in Season 7, and it solidifies Homicide as the greatest Detective program to grace the boob tube. However, it also proves that one time rookie cop Tim Baylis is a true whelp and never should have walked through those squad room doors. His first case, the Adena Watson killing, ruined him and his downfall is the great tragedy of Frank Pembleton's life. I still crave another look at these characters lives. Where is Frank now? Is he still teaching? How's his relationship with his wife and kids? I have a feeling that Tim Baylis destroyed him mentally, and whatever his future transformed into, it's a dark and sad place. Homicide was never a happy go-lucky show. It was a challenge. The characters were fallible and often infuriating. But it was rarely boring. I miss it.
The Fast and The Furious: With Star Trek crashed and burned behind me, it's time to shake off the fanboy pity and dive into an epic example of franchise stupidity. The Fast and The Furious is a film that takes itself way too seriously. Vin Diesel & Paul Walker are so desperate to be cool that they fail miserably with their stern staredowns and flailing fistfights. Director Rob Cohen tries to sell you on the badass of car racing with horrendous CGI glimpses of carburetors and pistons. The film is laughable and often boring; how this led to the mondo glory known as Fast Five is beyond me, but I'm so glad the teenyboppers kept showing up for these idiotic flicks, cuz The Rock would transform this saga into a beautifully sweaty exploration of beefy machismo.