Tag Archives: Star Trek Into Darkness

The movie revisionists: Everything you know is wrong

man of steel big

Think you know the story of Superman?

Well, maybe not.

When “Man of Steel” comes out June 14,  director Zack Snyder might have a few surprises even for longtime fans of the man of … er, steel.

Most of us don’t know what to expect from “Man of Steel” yet, but it’s certain that a few elements of the Superman mythos will be tweaked at the very least.

That’s not surprising, because most filmmakers like to bring something new to their versions of familiar stories. That’s why “The Amazing Spider-Man” retold the origin of the webslinger only about a decade after we saw it before and tried to infuse new elements – chiefly a mystery about Peter’s parents – into it.

It’s not just superhero stories that get revamped. When director John Carpenter made “The Thing” in 1982, he made the “walking alien carrot” much less of the traditional monster familiar from 1951’s “The Thing from Another World.” the first adaptation of John Campbell’s story. Carpenter made the alien menace a much more paranoia-inducing shapeshifter.

By the way, spoilers ahead for some current movies if you haven’t seen them.

Some fans of the “Iron Man” comics were irritated when this summer’s “Iron Man 3” made huge changes to the character of the Mandarin, the longtime antagonist of Tony Stark.

iron man mandarin comics

The Mandarin went from an Asian menace armed with magic rings …

mandarin iron man 3

To a figurehead, a stalking horse played by a down-at-the-heels British actor.

Sometimes it’s more than changing characters. Sometimes it’s all about changing the background of sets of characters.


The classic 1982 “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” was a sequel to an episode of the original series and emphasized the bad blood and shared history of Khan, the genetically superior warrior, and Jim Kirk.


In this summer’s “Star Trek Into Darkness,” however, there was no history between Kirk and Khan. And I think the movie suffered for that.

With “Man of Steel,” the rumors have been flying about changes Snyder and producer Christopher Nolan might have made.

Does Superman’s Kryptonian birth father, Jor-El, live? Or are the clips of Russell Crowe talking to Henry Cavill just indicative of an amazingly lifelike hologram?

Is Zod (Michael Shannon) sprung from the Phantom Zone or does he arrive in a space ship? Sure looks like a Kryptonian ship in the background to me.

We won’t know the answers for a few days. But we can already guess about fairly interesting cosmetic changes to two longtime characters from the “Superman” stories.

perry white and jimmy olsen

Daily Planet editor Perry White and cub reporter/photographer Jimmy Olsen have been staples of the comics for a half-century.

jenny olsen rebecca buller laurence fishburne

Snyder, interestingly, cast Laurence Fishburne, an African-American actor, to play White, who has traditionally been, well, white. I love Fishburne and I think this is a big win.

But it’s less clear who’s playing Jimmy Olsen in the movie. In fact, it’s becoming more clear that Jimmy Olsen isn’t in the movie. Actress Rebecca Buller seems to be playing Jenny Olsen.


Traditional Jimmy.


New Jenny.

I can live with that.


Into Darkness: ‘Star Trek’ past and present

star trek into darkness brig

All weekend, I’ve been trying to find a way to express my feelings about “Star Trek Into Darkness,” the new J.J. Abrams follow-up to his 2009 reboot of the classic TV and movie series.

I really liked the 2009 movie and liked what Abrams did with it:  By rebooting the stories but putting his own stamp on them by playing havoc with the timeline, he made it all seem fresh. True, the movie lacked a compelling villain and took a while to get started, but it was a top-notch effort.

Almost the opposite is true of “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

I should say that I actually liked the  movie pretty well. This being the second film, no long set-up to establish the setting and characters was necessary. The cast has settled into their roles with ease. I could watch Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine play Spock and Kirk until they are as old as Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner.

And what a villain. I’m going to be venturing into spoiler territory here, so be warned. Okay? As “John Harrison,” Benedict Cumberbatch is one of the best “Star Trek” bad guys ever. Half-way through the film, when a captive Harrison announces that he is, indeed, Khan, it seemed perfect and gratuitous at the same time. Cumberbatch matched Ricardo Montalban for arrogant menace. But to what end? While I likewise could watch Cumberbatch play this dangerous but fascinating superhuman in a new movie every few months, there was nothing about the way the character was written that added meaning to the fact that he was Khan. He could have been your garden variety genetically superior bad guy.

In fact, Abrams’ and his screenwriters’ best creation is also, in some ways, their most pointless. The weight of history made the Khan character important in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” This was a superheroic but tragic figure who had a reason to hate Kirk from – in the movie’s timeline – the captain having abandoned him 15 years before. In “Into Darkness,” Khan has a grudge against Peter Weller’s Starfleet admiral. And you know what? Weller’s Admiral Marcus was an asshole. In those scenes in which Khan was working with Kirk and Scotty to take Marcus down – and as much as I appreciated Kirk’s “I think we’re helping him” – I was actively rooting for Khan.

So much about “Into Darkness” seems overstuffed. My son observed after the movie, “It seemed like they were trying too hard.” He had just seen most of “Wrath of Khan” the night before and, while he’s not overly impressed with “Star Trek” in general, took note when “Harrison” introduced himself as Khan. But ultimately the shared plot and characters didn’t have much of an impact, on him or me.

“Into Darkness,” as fun and exciting as it is – and it is – seemed to be too laden with references and plot points and call backs to characters. We get the Prime Directive. Tribbles. All those cryogenic supermen (and not another single one gets thawed out). Carol Marcus, future mother (at least in the old movies/timeline) of Kirk’s son. And the whole sacrifice that doesn’t turn out to be a sacrifice at the end.

star trek II wrath of khan

I still remember going with a group of friends to see “Wrath of Khan” in 1982. We had been delighted to see “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” three years earlier but its leisurely pace (jeez, just dock the shuttle already) and uncharacteristic relationship between Kirk and Spock and McCoy – because of Spock’s efforts to purge his human traits – were disappointing. “Wrath of Khan” was like a rebirth.

And the suspense. Even in those pre-internet days, somehow we all knew the rumors that Spock might be killed off at the end of the movie. Director Nicholas Meyer even teased us when, early on, he has Kirk ask Spock, “Aren’t you dead?” after the training exercise.

By the time the end of the movie rolled around, and we saw Spock’s fate play out in front of us, we were deeply moved.

As affecting as the climax of “Into Darkness” was – and it was – it felt like just another plot twist. Yes, we knew that “E.T.” was going to come back from the dead when Elliott’s flower revived. Same with the tribble here.

I can’t say I didn’t like “Star Trek Into Darkness.” I did. I felt it hit all the right notes – albeit maybe a few too many – and was a great showcase for terrific actors – especially Cumberbatch and Quinto – and rousing action scenes.

But the movie didn’t improve on the original in the ways that really mattered.

Random observations:

As great as Quinto is as Spock, Pine equals him as Kirk. It was cool to see him, by the end of the movie, in the place where Shatner’s Kirk was when the series started.

I miss Bruce Greenwood’s Chris Pike already.

Does Zoe Saldana rock that ponytail or what?

Karl Urban is so good as Bones, I wish he had more to do in these movies. There’s just one scene where the Kirk/Spock/McCoy character triangle plays out as it did in the TV show and movies. I could have used more.

I was pleased there were so many space scenes in the movie, particularly since the trailers and commercials made it look like the plot revolved around urban (not Karl) action in London and San Francisco.

It was good to see Leonard Nimoy although his scene was perhaps the most gratuitous moment in the film if you don’t count Alice Eve showing off Carol Marcus’ “holy moley” figure. I didn’t mind either, but Nimoy’s scene in particular seemed pointless.


Still no Shatner. I’ve come to accept that William Shatner will probably never appear in these movies. Apparently there was a nice Classic Kirk scene – mostly voice over, a holographic recording from beyond the grave – considered for the end of the first movie. I mourn that didn’t happen.

Look out below: ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ poster

new star trek into darkness poster

Head’s up!

Above is the new “Star Trek Into Darkness” poster, with the Enterprise falling through the atmosphere.


And here’s one of the earlier posters for “Iron Man 3,” with Tony Stark falling through the atmosphere.

We’ll see both in May. In the meantime, I suggest you wear a hard hat.


New ‘Star Trek’ trailer has the action and controversy

star trek into darkness enterprise

It wouldn’t be a “Star Trek” movie without some huge doubts and bitter recriminations. And that’s before the movie even opens.

The new trailer for “Star Trek Into Darkness,” due out in May, has lots of action: Kirk and Spock and Uhura and company tear around – and fly around – shooting guns and facing off with Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain, who a lot of people thought would be Khan but probably isn’t.

The complaints I’ve read so far online seem to be based on concerns the movie is too earthbound, that there’s not (at least immediately obvious from the trailers so far) a lot of spacecraft battle scenes that were never done better than in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.”

You know what? I’m okay with that. A lot of episodes of the original series and even long stretches of the movies were not set in space, but planet-bound. If it’s a good story, it’s a good story. Example: “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” which plays out, for the most part, in 1980s San Francisco.


Random thoughts about the trailer:

The overwhelmingly dominant color palate is the ice-blue, steely look of a lot of modern thrillers. It does add to the foreboding effect.

“The man who did it is one of our top agents,” the Starfleet official played by Peter Weller says at one point. Cumberbatch – is that a Starfleet uniform he’s wearing? – would appear to be something other than Khan, newly reawakened from a centuries-long nap. Or is he?

Cumberbatch (“Sherlock”) looks cool as hell. But he’s awfully threatening-y, isn’t he? Maybe too much. Is this guy gonna break into monologuing? “I will walk over your cold corpses,” indeed.

The scene with the Star Fleet vessel piloted by Kirk slipping sideways through some canyon or other has ticked off people who think it’s a rip-off of “The Empire Strikes Back.” Well, it has been 32 years.

The Enterprise takes a beating, falling through the atmosphere and plunging into the bay. We’ve seen that before. In fact, in “Star Trek III,” it was entirely destroyed.

star trek into darkness alice eve

Alice Eve as Carol Marcus. Wonder why they put this shot in the trailer?

Movies I’m looking forward to in 2013

iron man 3

2012 was a pretty good year for geek movies. I’m still boggled, sometimes, that so many comic book, science fiction and fantasy movies – not to mention big-budget, well-crafted ones – are released these days. We might be in a golden age for the genre.

Looking ahead to 2013, the calendar looks like just as much of a treat for fans.

“Iron Man 3.” After the superhero team-up that was “The Avengers,” why look forward to a solo superhero outing? Isn’t that a step back? Well, it would be but for a few reasons. I trust Robert Downey Jr. and director Shane Black. The preview looks dire and action-filled. And the movie kicks off Marvel’s Phase Two, which culminates in “The Avengers” sequel in 2015, so I’m pretty sure they’ll have some references to the big picture. May 3.

“Thor: The Dark World.” The first “Thor,” in some ways, held the promise (threat?) of being the weakest movie in the first phase of Marvel. Yet it was solid entertainment and laid the groundwork for much of the mythology that followed in “Captain America” and “The Avengers.” I feel very much at ease with this realm of big-screen Marvel. Nov. 8.

“Pacific Rim.” This story about giant robots created to fight giant, Godzilla-style monsters looks like something to appeal to all the 12 year olds within us. July 12.

star trek into darkness cell

“Star Trek Into Darkness.” This J.J. Abrams sequel to the reboot looks awesome. Unleash the Cumberbatch! May 17.

“The Wolverine.” I am not the craziest of fans of Marvel’s snikt-happy mutant. But Hugh Jackman has been so good as the character I’m looking forward to this and his role, however big, in “Days of Future Past.” July 26.

“Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” The first movie was a pleasant surprise. The second book is the weakest of the series, but I’m hoping they pull it off. Nov. 22.


“Oz the Great and Powerful.” This retooling of the classic story, a kind of prequel, could be really fun or really awful. March 8.

“The World’s End.” While we’re waiting for director Edgar Wright to make “Ant-Man,” how about this end of the world comedy starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Martin Freeman? Yes, please. Oct. 25.

Movies I’m almost dreading:

“Man of Steel.” We don’t need another origin story. We don’t need a “dark” Superman. We need a Superman who feels like the last of his kind but isn’t mopey about it. We don’t need a “Dark Knight” treatment, but I’m afraid that’s what we’re getting. June 14.

“World War Z.” I’ve said it before, but here it is again. The preview doesn’t look like the terrific Max Brooks book. June 21.

“The Lone Ranger.” A beloved childhood hero. I’m just not sure about the approach. Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp bring a lot of charisma to the proceedings, however. We’ll see. May 31.

‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ trailer: Five things we noticed


In the latest in a series of previews of a movie that doesn’t come out until May – and really, by that time I think we’ll have seen all of it, although probably out of sequence – the latest teaser trailer from “Star Trek Into Darkness” debuted online today.

Some random thoughts:

Two narrators this time, both scary. In the earlier teaser we heard Benedict Cumberbatch assuring Kirk and company that they were overmatched. There’s more of that this time, plus words from Bruce Greenwood’s Christopher Pike telling Kirk that his lack of humility will get him and his crew killed. Then we see what might be Starfleet caskets. FOREshadowing!

Solemn is the word. Surely there’s some lighthearted humor in the movie. But we’re not seeing it so far. Maybe there’ll be something funny in the scene that sees Kirk and McCoy running for their lives through a crazy red landscape.

Gary Mitchell? Garth? John Harrison? Who is Benedict Cumberbatch playing? We still don’t know. We’ve been led to believe that Khan, the ultimate “Star Trek” movie Big Bad, is not the character Cumberbatch is playing in the movie. Is that a ruse? Is he really Khan? Is he paving the way for Khan in a third movie? Personally, I’m still betting on Gary Mitchell, Kirk’s old comrade who gets godlike powers.

Cumberbatch hangs out in the Hulk/Loki chamber from “The Avengers.” Not really. But it sure looks like something Samuel L. Jackson would drop from a great height with the right provocation.

Alice Eve is reportedly playing Carol Marcus. Will we see the inception of Kirk’s son, David Marcus?

The movie opens May 17.

‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ teaser: Five things to know


It was another interwebs meltdown kind of day, with everybody weighing in with their opinion on the new “announcement” trailer – a short version of the teaser trailer, or an even shorter version of the nine minutes of IMAX footage coming in front of “The Hobbit” – for “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

And of course I’ve got a couple of thoughts too. If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the “official” US trailer on iTunes and here’s the Japanese trailer, with the extra few seconds of footage that has everyone so crazy.

Five things:


That voice. I love the narration, presumably by Benedict Cumberbatch as the bad guy. “I have returned … to seek my vengeance.” Yikes.

star trek benedict cumberbatch

The Cumberbatch! One of my favorite Brit actors because of the “Sherlock” series, Cumberbatch looks damn cool here. Is he playing Khan? Is he playing Gary Mitchell? Somebody else entirely? Whatever!

star trek into darkness ship ocean

The water. I’m still trying to figure out why the Enterprise is in the ocean. The shot of the ship plowing into the water is startling and looks like they’ve decided to wreck the Enterprise again. But the one of the ship rising out of the water? Reminds me of the nebula cloud “submarine” games in “Star Trek II.”

The city mayhem. The shots of people staring up at something horrible happening in a big city – London? San Francisco? – bugged me. Call it a long-lasting 9-11 effect.

The hands. This is the part that’s making everyone crazy. Two hands, separated by glass. One is unmistakably in a Starfleet science uniform and is making the familiar Vulcan gesture that usually accompanies “Live long and prosper.” The similarities to the finale of “Star Trek II” are obvious. But surely they’re not going in that direction again? This is, after all, a rebooted universe. Anything can happen.

We’ll know in May.