...but Kirk says that in order to stop Nero they must go after him first. This culminates in an argument which ends in Spock ordering Kirk's removal from the bridge. When Kirk physically protests, Spock incapacitates Kirk and places him in an escape pod and jettisons him off the ship. Kirk awakens to find himself on the snow-covered world of Delta Vega, another planet in Vulcan's system. Picking up his gear, Kirk heads for the Starfleet station fourteen kilometers away.
Of all my problems with Star Trek 2009 this is the one that bothers me the most. In many ways the movie works as a servicable action movie with some clever fan service for trek fans. But this here might break it for me.
It all happens so fast, you might not have had time to think about it as it happened. Spock has an argument with Kirk and instead of doing something as drastic as throw him in the brig (jail), instead launches Kirk out of the Enterprise onto a Hoth-like icy barren hellscape - one where Kirk can only survive through, as far as I can tell, sheer luck. Before the audience even has a chance to process Spock's villainous deed, one in which he essentially condemned Kirk to hypothermia and eventual death, Kirk must escape from 2 gigantic monsters that want to eat him (I assume).
I think the movie wants to sell the relationship between Kirk and Spock as being akin to two boys fighting in a school yard who later make up with each other and end up being chums. A coming of age story. What happens instead is that a person who supposedly follows a philosophy of peace leaves another person to freeze to death over a disagreement about what to do next with the Enterprise. How...logical?
So, Kirk escapes the monsters to find Nimoy-Spock living in a cave on the Hoth planet. The stretch of believability asked of the audience here, that Nimoy-Spock was just waiting in this particular cave, is difficult to fathom (of all the caves, in all of the planet, in all the galaxy, in all the timelines, he walks into mine?). The movie's fast pacing is designed, I think, so that the members of audience don't have time to think about it much. But I ask you: if you wrote this stuff, would you be embarrassed?
But far more egregious to me is that this scene between Pine-Kirk and Nimoy-Spock is meant to establish Pine-Kirk's friendship with Quinto-Spock. Which is terrible for at least 2 reasons. The first, as I keep mentioning, is that Quinto-Spock just abandoned Pine-Kirk to die. It's a nearly unforgivable act. You could end the movie here and make a sequel. One in which Kirk, after escaping from the barren wasteland that is Delta Vega, is consumed by his thirst for revenge, and seeks to destroy Spock (he tasks me and I shall have him!) We could call it "The Wrath of Kirk".
The second reason this scene is terrible is that it epitomizes the laziness of the movie. See, the movie doesn't have to do any work to build the friendship between Kirk and Spock. Instead the Nimoy-Spock tells the Pine-Kirk about the friendship that grows between the characters Kirk and Spock in the 6 movies and 2 television series the characters have appeared in previously. That's hours of story and character building that Star Trek 2009 can now skip. Pine-Kirk, and the audience members, need all they need to know, apparently. Spock and Kirk are supposed to be friends. That's all the relationship building the movie really does. After the meeting with Nimoy-Spock, Kirk is determined to be friends with Quinto-Spock. The guy who just left him to die on an ice planet. I guess Pine-Kirk thinks it's okay, because in an alternate reality some old guy just told him about, they're bff.
By the way: it is possible that Spock knew about the Starfleet base on Delta Vega and left Kirk on the planet knowing that Kirk could find his way to the base. I suppose then that he chose not to transport Kirk directly to the base with transporters...as a joke? I have to suppose that the human devouring monsters completely eluded the Enterprise sensors because...it's really cold down there?
This past month I played quite an overwhelming number of games, many of them new to me. The month started with a Halloween board game party, and included quite a bit of civilization games. Here I list some of the notable ones that I remember and some "brief" thoughts on them. I'll expand some of these into longer reviews in the future, but I wanted to get something down now while still fresh.
- Room 25 - a game themed on the movie Cube. You're working with the other players to find the hidden exit room, but some players are secret traitors. The traitors can continue to work against you after they're revealed. I like it - it's fun to throw people into acid filled rooms, and it's short enough for the kind of game it is.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Game - I love this game the more I play it. One player is the Big Bad and minions, and the rest of the players are the Scooby Gang. There are different win conditions based on each of the first 4 seasons of the show. It's one of the more thematic games I've played, as it really feels like a season of Buffy.
- Werewolf - first time for me in years. I still enjoy the game and prefer it over a game like Avalon. Werewolf is just silly fun with a lot of stupid false accusations. Avalon seems more serious than it should be, given what it is.
- Advanced Civilization - I've already written a lengthy review on the blog.
- Tempus - I played this just a week after Adv Civ. It's an underrated game - essentially a eurogame with a Civ theme, which may be the reason for the low ratings on BGG. But many of the elements are there: expanding on a map, building cities, managing a population. There is no tech tree, but each turn you race to get to the new technologies first, which is a neat mechanic.
- I downloaded Roll through the Ages for iOS, only playing it solo. Impressive theming given it's a dice game. The game has multiple paths to victory - you can score points with techs and or building monuments. You can buy "workers," increasing your dice pool, but you'll need to keep them fed with food. It uses the Yahtzee mechanic well.
- Darkest Night - I soloed the game to learn it and enjoyed myself, but it fell flat when I broke it out with a friend of mine. The game is heavy on dice. Dice are used to resolve the event cards, which could really use some flavor text, to move the necromancer, to search for items like keys. Since you only get 1 action per turn, and an action might be simply a failed roll to find a key...I do want to try the game again, but will do it with the expansion. It introduces quests, and gives new ways to get items.
- Race for the Galaxy was popular 2-3 years ago. But its popularity has died down, partly due to how hard it is to teach. I love it, and am on a mission to bring it back. I managed to get in 3 plays of the game in three different venues, so I'm on track. Also, it turns out that a new expansion, Alien Artifacts, is coming out this month and will, I hope, bring some interest back to the game.
- I did a print-and-play of the original Dawn of the Dead board game, in preparation for my Halloween board game night. This game is the very first zombie game ever, and it's based on the best zombie movie. I played this solo for a bit. You're in the mall, and have to get to 4 "main doors" on opposite ends of the board, closing them to keep the zombies out. The zombies are slow and easy to kill, but they keep coming, and they move toward you automatically just for moving past them. I had a thematic moment when one group of humans, close to getting to a main door to close, had to run back to save the others. I have to comment: this game, which is from 1978, is sexist. Fran is stat-ed to be quicker to panic than Flyboy for no reason I can tell other than "she's a girl."
- The real gem of the month is Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective. This has to be the most thematic game I've played. It's a "Choose Your Own Adventure" style game. You play the Baker Street Irregulars, trying to solve a crime. Ostensibly, you're competing with Sherlock, trying to solve the mystery by following as few leads as possible. When you think you've solved the crime, you flip to the back of the book, answer the questions, and get scored. Sherlock will explain the mystery, and how he solved it in 4 or 5 leads as opposed to your 20+ leads, if you managed to solve it at all, given the paltry clues you have. This game isn't REALLY about beating Sherlock but being immersed in the theme. The writing is excellent, and reads like Doyle could have written it. I ended up playing this game 3 days in a row, and played it a 4th time a week later.
- Lords of Waterdeep - A simple worker placement game with a very thin D&D theme. (Using euro cubes to represent rogues,wizards,fighters,and cleric is just ridiculous). The game has cards that allow for some direct conflict which makes it more "American style". I played the expansion which uses an interesting corruption mechanic which is somewhat difficult to explain. There's a pool of corruption tokens you can take to do very useful actions, but the more players take from the pool, the more each corruption token will hurt any players who have them. So the more you take, the more points you lose at the end game as other players take corruption. Ultimately, I much prefer Alien Frontiers to this, which is also a worker placement game with direct conflict.
- Battlestar Galactica - The game does Cylons right. The players are trying to keep Battlestar Galactica alive for some number of FTL jumps, but there's a treacherous Cylon skinjob among the players working against the humans. The game consists of a series of events, players secretly use cards to try to succeed at the events, but the Cylon player will try to sabotage by placing cards that won't help the humans. I have mixed feeling about this one. There's a lot more to the game than just the events, which I like (as opposed to the Resistance, which is JUST this one mechanic). But on the other hand, the events are the only really interesting aspect of the game. Also: I was the Cylon this game, and I sucked at it, as I usually suck in these traitor games. But this one goes on for 3+ hours. And being a Cylon is tough for a new player - you can't exactly look at the actions you can take as a revealed Cylon while you're hidden lest you give yourself away. I would play this one again, but I'm not hooked.
- I've been playing Puerto Rico on iOS quite a bit and think I've improved, given my performance at the IRL game I played this month.
- I got Star Trek Fleet Captains for my birthday. (Thank you!) It's got a rep as the most thematic Star Trek game. One side takes the role of Klingons, the other as the Federation. You're trying to dominate an unexplored sector of space - going on scientific missions, gaining political influence over sectors of space, and most directly, fighting each other. You score victory points for completely missions of these different types. In the beginning of the game, you randomly draw your ships, which determine which of the 3 ways to win you'll be focusing on. A very neat aspect is you also build a "Command Deck" from sub-decks like "Strange New Worlds" or "Way of the Warrior" which you'll put together based on the kinds of missions you expect to be going on. Fleet Captains is a spiritual successor of sorts to Star Trek: The Adventure Game from 1985, which is also in the running for most thematic Trek game. Fleet Captains benefits from a lot of progress in board game mechanics, but since it focuses on the Federation more than say, an individual ship and crew, it doesn't quite feel like Trek the way Adventure Game does, which switches perspectives throughout the game. (An expansion that did more with Away Teams might fix that). Okay, I have a lot more to say about this game. For now, I'll just say I like it a lot and am looking foreword to playing it again.
After seeing a few requests for There's a word I want you to consider in the ol' apache logs, a few from old forum posts about Dark Knight Rises that have seemed to disappear off the web, I decided to bring Shinzon and Donatra back.
That link again is: http://kupad.net/theresawordiwantyoutoconsider/
Summary: An underratted movie that deserves more praise.
*spoilers* *this post has spoilers*
The general opinion is that, for most of the Star Trek movies, the even numbered movies are very good, and the odd number movies are very bad. (see: Star Trek Movie Curse). I've tended to agree: Wrath of Khan, Voyage Home, Undiscovered Country, and First Contact are all movies I like. I recently rewatched Star Trek III two times in the span of a month - and I liked it more than I thought I would. I think it's evidence that the Curse isn't real.
The movie opens shortly after the previous one ended. The Enterprise is returning to Earth to recover from its recent battle with Khan. Kirk is miserable about Spock's death, and McCoy seems to have coped by going crazy. To make things worse, upon arrival at Earth, they learn the Enterprise is going to be decomissioned - so soon after Spock sacrificed himself to save it.
A surprise visit from Spock's father, Sarek, reveals that Vulcans can dump their memories (or "katra") into nearby living beings before they die. Sarek appears about as angry a Vulcan can be, because he believes Kirk shouldn't have abandoned Spock's body on the Genesis Planet. To see if Spock might have dumped his memory into Kirk, the two mindmeld, and we're treated to a great scene in which Kirk relives Spock's final moments. Kirk's whimpering "No..." as he relives his helplessness is something we never get to see our heroes do in traditional action movies. Usally such pain would be accompanied by anger and frustration - so that the hero appears powerful instead of weak. But between Wrath of Khan and Search for Spock, we get to see Kirk showing the rawest, purest kind of pain, multiple times - and Kirk becomes a more compelling character for it. Shatner is really good at pulling these scenes off - he really deserves more credit as an actor.
It turns out Spock's katra isn't in Kirk at all. Instead McCoy's bizzarre behavior is due to having to keep all of Spock in his head. And so we have our story: to honor their friend's memory and customs, Kirk and McCoy must go to the Genesis Planet to fetch Spock's body and return it to planet Vulcan, along with his katra. Standing in their way is the Federation, who incompetently is restricting access to the Genesis planet to everyone other than a helpless science vessel commanded by a sheepish captain. There's also Kruge, a (rogue?) Klingon captain who wants to learn the secret of the Genesis missile.
Kirk and crew steal the Enterprise to get to the Genesis Planet in a sequence that exemplifies what makes the original movies so much fun to watch. As an audience, we know they'll be successful getting the ship out - so the film chooses to make the escape funny and casual instead of working off of manufactured tension and suspense.
Meanwhile, on Genesis, Saavik and David Marcus (Kirk's son) beam down to investigate an unexpected life sign, and discover Genesis has regenerated Spock, but he's an empty shell - a rapidly aging young clone of Spock with none of his memories. They also learn that the Genesis Planet isn't going to be around much longer. Soon after this discovery, Kruge arrives at the Genesis Planet (before Kirk does), destroying the poor science vessel the Federation left to fend for itself.
Kirk and Kruge face off. Kirk wins. But in the process he loses the Enterprise, and he loses his son. By 2013, blowing up the Enterprise is practically a Star Trek movie tradition. But here, this is the original Enterprise - the one we watched in The Original Series. (NCC one seven O one. No bloody A, B, C, or D*) It's a big deal, and effectively done. And the special effects for the explosion are apporopriately dramatic. Kirk, McCoy, the crew, and the audience watch as the Enterprise crashes into the dying Genesis Planet. And while David was never a character I was attached to, his death is lent power by the way it's filmed and by Shatner's performance. When David dies we hear no music - just the brutal sound of his being stabbed and his dying grunt. There is no music either as Kirk learns David died, and falls to the ground, shattered, crying, and impotently repeating "Klingon bastards, you killed my son."
In the finale, Spock's empty clone - now conveniently the same age as the original Spock was when he died - is returned to Vulcan, and a Vulcan ritual (influenced by the TOS episode Amok Time) is performed that puts Spock back together. The movie ends as Spock is reunited with his fellow crew members, and there's just a lot of love and joy in the reunion.
At the end of all this we end up with Spock, alive, and mostly well. If anything, THIS is the movie's flaw. Bringing Spock back cheapens the impact of his sacrifice in the previous movie, even if the contrivance to get it done was well executed and mostly fit into the Star Trek Universe.
As to the contrivance itself - the Vulcan katra: how is it that humans didn't know about it by the time the movie takes place? Also, why would the Vulcans be interested in retreiving the dead body of Spock - you would think only the katra itself would have mattered..
Finally, it's also worth noting that Search for Spock is responsible for introducing a lot of things into the Star Trek canon. Including:
- The Excelsior class vessel, which seems to be the workhorse ship of Star Fleet in TNG
- The Klingon Bird of Prey - the most commonly seen Klingon ship therafter
- It's the first time we see Earth Space Dock, the model for all other Space Stations
- While the Klingon language was introduced in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," this is the first time it gets a formal grammar and a very rich vocabulary.
NOTE: this is the first time I've ever written a movie review. In the future, I don't know that I'd write a synopsis as I did in this one. It's a lot easier to just write a review assuming whoever is reading it knows the movie well, and just jump into it. In fact, I would have spent more time with analysis had I skipped the synopsis, but I exhausted myself....