Into Darkness and Back

This is the text I sent to people when I left the theater after seeing Star Trek Into Darkness:

“Just walked out of Star Trek. All I’ll say is I feel like I’ve been kicked in the gut repeatedly after running a marathon.”

Nearly every reply was, “That Bad?” or, “Is that Good or Bad?”

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I had to tell them that this is a very good thing. Movies SHOULD make you feel that way. Either from Sadness, Laughter, Fear, or all three at once. It’s when I leave a film wanting to harm myself so that I feel something other than bitter rage that’s a problem.

J. J. Abrams has been criticized for manipulating the audience. Red Letter Media did a great sketch about this. The message was that Star Trek will take you kicking and screaming where it wants you to go and feel what it wants you it to feel. Mr. Abrams, much like his major directorial influence, Steven Spielberg, is in the business of making you experience their films.

Please take everything I say here with a hefty dose of salt. For one thing, I didn’t intend on writing this for the next few days – so my thoughts are a little scrambled. For another, I get the distinct impression that what I experienced during this movie is unique only to myself. So this isn’t so much a review as it is a powerful reaction. Don’t expect to have the same feeling.

Star Trek Into Darkness made me cry. Several times. Even when it didn’t mean to. One moment I won’t spoil here had no business making me cry and it did. Tears literally streaming down my furry cheeks. It was kind of embarrassing.

But only kind of.

Up front I will tell you that a lot of people will not like this movie. It’s relentless pace, mounting action, changes to the sacred continuity, are bound to piss off a lot of people. Like English film critic Mark Kermode said in his review, “It’s a film that begins with Spock trapped in a Volcano and has to build from there.” This movie is big, and only gets bigger as it goes on. Almost exhaustively big. If any of that sounds like a problem, don’t go.

I had trepidations about the film. Sequels are tough. They almost never take the time to reestablish the universe, giving a chance to settle back into things. They seem bent on outdoing the first one. And usually lack all of the originality of the first. I also wasn’t thrilled with the idea of yet another revenge based Trek film. To me, they got all that revenge crap out of the way in the first one and were now ready to explore space. Maybe they’ll come up against Vger, the giant space vagina from Star Trek The Motion Picture.

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The rumors about Khan being the villain bugged me. Were they really so confident in themselves they thought they could pull off one of the greatest story arcs in Star Trek history? As much as I love and respect the Abrams team I was a tad concerned that they were getting a bit too big for their breeches.

None of the trailers helped either. All the sex appeal and CGI tuned me right out. There’s nothing wrong with sex or CGI. Until it’s all that’s being thrown in your face. Stiff philosophical Trek was never really my thing but I didn’t want it to turn into gimmicky trash either.

Honestly, had I not won tickets from Esurance I probably would have waited until video to see it.

Still there was something else that got me excited. Something telling me I had to go. And I think it had to do with my Mom.

She'd hate me for putting this up.

She’d hate me for putting this up.

Trekkie or Trekker are not terms I would give myself. Star Trek was always a casual viewing for me. I liked the movies and TNG was pretty good. I liked Star Trek just fine. My mom on the other hand was more of a Trekkie.

One of my earliest memories was of her winning a radio contest. The prize was a free Star Trek: The Next Generation poster. We went to the local comic book store to pick it up. Somehow they didn’t remember her and she had a little trouble getting it, but when she left, it was in her hands.

In previous post I mentioned watching Star Trek: The Original Series with her on public access. This lead to visions of the Enterprise flying over my town back home.

I remember seeing the first two TNG movies with the whole family in the theater. I remember her being pretty excited about it too. I watched the documentary Trekkies with her. Star Trek was something I enjoyed with my mom. My Dad and I went to see Insurrection, but she didn’t miss much there. Except Worf’s Kick-Ass Bazooka!

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In 2009 I took her to see Star Trek. She was excited but a little nervous. While we were waiting for the movie to start we talked about her expectations. She said she was going to have trouble believing anyone else in the roles she loved so much.

When it was over she was grinning. She loved it. The look on her face was amazing. It was like someone had repaired a busted frame that held a cherished memory with a brand new polish. Her appreciation came from a place of such gratitude and love.

She thought Kirk and Spock were perfect. All of the little touches of Shatner that Chris Pine threw in there weren’t lost on her. Karl Urban as Bones dazzled her. Simon Pegg’s Scotty kept her laughing all the way home. She was looking up at the screen and it almost looked back at her saying, “Hello, old friend, it’s good to see you again.”

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That’s what a movie should do for people.

In October that same year she passed away. It was the last movie she and I ever saw together. For someone who loves movies the way I do that really means something. Many of my favorite memories come from sitting in a theater and watching a movie. That day watching Star Trek with my enchanted mother will always be right up there with the first time my Dad took me to see Star Wars.

If I ever meet J. J. Abrams I want to thank him for giving me that.

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Halfway through Act II of Star Trek Into Darkness something stirred in me. I was enjoying the movie okay until then. It wasn’t much to write home about. Then it just clicked. What it was I don’t know. I just started getting very emotional.

As the momentum built I got more so. Soon I was a wreck. The movie had tapped into some part of me I didn’t know existed. Somehow it managed to exhume a hidden pocket of my brain and brought it out into the lense flares of deep space.

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This film is an opera. Plain and simple. It has all the emotional elements of an opera and exploits them to their fullest extent. It is a structure that really works and apparently gets me to cry.

All the pieces are there and fit together nicely. It’s a great looking movie. A great sounding movie. It is just a great movie. And that is what most people will see when viewing it. That’s awesome. My experience was so much more unique.

The Kirk and Spock relationship shook me. The villains motives, Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance, stunned me. The Constant twisting and turning of my expectations. It all did…something to me. Something it won’t do for other people.

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I tried to explain it and couldn’t. A friend asked if it was like remembering my childhood. I’m really not sure. It wasn’t similar enough to the series or the other movies to make me nostalgic in that way. It was deeper than that.

The closest I can come to conveying the impact the film had on me is to say that it showed me things about myself I didn’t know were there. I never knew how much these characters meant to me. I never fully appreciated the memories of watching Star Trek or the dreams it gave me. I never understood how important to me it all was.

Maybe I couldn’t admit just how much I miss my mom…

Star Trek was always something I watched and enjoyed without ever really being fully engaged (no pun intended, but I’ll take it) or connected. Until, that is, J. J. Abrams took me by the gut and took me all the places he wanted me to go…

…to strange new worlds and civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before…

…home.

home

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