When I reviewed Captain America: Civil War, I said that "the Marvel cinematic universe may be starting to collapse under its own weight". I probably should have said that "it's starting to buckle under its own weight", since Marvel is still a ways off from anything that resembles collapse. That movie also got better upon repeat viewings, but I feel much the same about the recently-released Doctor Strange. In much the same way that I had suspected that Suicide Squad must have taken place years (or decades) prior to Dawn of Justice, I had also assumed that Doctor Strange must have occurred (at least partly) prior to the events of the first Avengers movie.

The story of Doctor Strange is, after all, essentially a Doubting Thomas story. That would be fine if Doctor Strange were a stand-alone movie, but a Doubting Thomas story is a really difficult thing to buy into within the Marvel cinematic universe. By the beginning of the movie, Stephen Strange (who lives in New York) must surely be aware of (and possibly have first-hand experience with) superhumans since the events of the first Avengers movie. In a world in which the literal Norse God of Thunder Thor has descended from the mystical plane of Asgard, to team up with a gamma-powered Hulk and a super soldier frozen since World War II, to defend New York from an inter-dimensional alien invasion, can you really be all that skeptical of astral projection, alternate dimensions, or even blatant magic?

Avengers Tower in Doctor Strange
Avengers Tower is clearly visible.

If Doctor Strange's car accident and physical therapy took place long before the events of the first Avengers, then this skepticism would be excusable. If Strange spent years at Kamar Taj learning magic, while oblivious to the events of the Avengers movies, Winter Soldier, and Civil War, then that would be a satisfactory explanation for his ignorance. But I don't think that's the case. Doctor Strange was tight-lipped when it came to references to the other Marvel movies (potentially for this very reason), but Avengers Tower still shows up in the skyline, and I'm pretty sure there were references to the other super heroes in the first half of the movie. In fact, I'm pretty sure that Strange gets a phone call asking if he'd be willing to treat an Air Force colonel who broke his spine in experimental armor. This must surely be a reference to Rhodes' accident in Civil War.

Captain America: Civil War - brooding characters
Strange is asked if he'd be willing to treat Colonel Rhodes after injuries sustained in Civil War.

Maybe I'm being nitpicky, but buy-in is important in fantastical movies like this. But it's hard to buy into Stephen Strange, and it certainly doesn't help that he's an abrasive ass hole and isn't very likeable at the start of the movie...

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Star Trek Into Darkness

Who doesn't like a good hamburger?

Hamburgers are a pretty casual, always-tasty meal that can range from a bland and simple fast-food cheeseburger to a gourmet bacon burger.

Me, I'm a big ribs guy! They're my favorite. Lone Star Steakhouse always made the best ribs - ribs fit for a Caesar's Memorial Day barbeque - but it's hard for me to say "no" to just about any rack of ribs. Sadly, all the Lone Stars in town are closed, and I've yet to find a true successor.

Star Trek Into Darkness poster

How does this relate to Star Trek Into Darkness? The original Star Trek series and Star Trek: the Next Generation are like those Lone Star ribs to me. They're my favorite. A really good science fiction movie - like 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Terminator, or Moon, or maybe even the recently-released Oblivion - is like a visit to [say] Famous Dave's to have some ribs. It's good, but it's still not Lone Star good! These new Star Trek movies, however, aren't even like ribs to begin with. They're more like hamburgers. Yeah sure they're a satisfying meal, but sometimes, I don't want a hamburger; I want ribs!

Into Darkness isn't what I wanted in a "Star Trek" movie at all. Even worse, it's worth as a movie is mostly superficial.

Into Darkness reminded me a lot of two other Star Trek movies: Star Trek V: the Final Frontier and Star Trek Nemesis.

The Final Frontier is widely-regarded as the worst original-cast Star Trek movie (and rightfully so). It's premise is silly. The script is poorly-written (although still much more coherent than many of today's movie scripts - including Into Darkness). And the special-effects are atrocious! It was like one of those really bad episodes of the original series brought to life on the big screen with a slightly higher budget. But it did have one redeeming characteristic. The beginning and end of the movie consist of the camping scenes with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, and these scenes are actually really good. They're character-driven scenes in which we learn a little bit about the adventurous spirit of Kirk, his greatest fear, and the desire to explore that drove him to join Starfleet. It manages to further develop a character that had been around in movies and television for over 20 years, and whom one would have thought couldn't be further developed at all.

Kirk: I'm not trying to break any records. I'm doing this because I enjoy it. Not to mention the most important reason for climbing a mountain...
Spock: And that is ... ?
Kirk: Because it's there.
   -Star Trek V: the Final Frontier

As bad as that movie was, this simple exchange in this simple scene exemplifies what Kirk, Starfleet, and Star Trek are all about: the desire to go out there and experience the universe! Even if it's dangerous, the rewards of the experience, and the discovery that it brings is worth the risk. This is one of the prime ideologies behind Star Trek. Sure we could send probes out to collect data and send it back to us in the comfort and safety of our laboratories on earth. But why do that when we can go there and experience the universe for ourselves?

And that is a spirit that is sadly missing from Abrams' interpretation of Star Trek. Why does Kirk join Starfleet? Is it because he has a passion for adventure and discovery and expanding the horizons of human experience? Not according to these movies. In these movies, he does it because Captain Pike dared him to. Or maybe because he wants to pursue hot alien pussy, because both movies still treat Kirk like a cartoon horn dog whose eyes pop out of his head whenever a skirt walks by.

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According to several sources, insiders have confirmed that Benedict Cumberbatch's character in J.J. Abrams' next Star Trek movie will be who everyone expected (but hoped it wouldn't) be: Khan Noonien Singh.

So it looks like we'll be seeing a pretty by-the-numbers space action movie with a singular villain.

Star Trek 12 - Benedict Cumberbatch battling Spock
Yep, looks like he's Khan...

This is disappointing for several reasons.

There's two ways to reboot something:

  1. Retell same stories with modernized style, effects. i.e. Casino Royale.
  2. Completely throw everything prior out and start from scratch. i.e. Batman Begins.

Star Trek under Abrams is trying to walk a fine line between the two. They tried retaining the original history by setting the reboot in a time-travel-induced alternate timeline (which was actually alternate before the time travel happened anyway). But they also wanted to separate themselves from the original canon as much as possible, to the extent that they fundamentally altered the development of the primary characters. Kirk grew up as an angsty delinquent without a role model father, and Spock had his home planet blown up and his species put on the verge of extinction. So they're not really the same characters, but they are shoe-horned into becoming the same characters because apparently Abrams favors “nature” almost exclusively over “nurture”. Oh, and Spock Prime told them how things are supposed to happen. So much for the Temporal Prime Directive. Or is it the regular Prime Directive since it's a parallel universe that is already developing independently?

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The first set photos from J.J. Abrams' Star Trek reboot sequel have been released by Paramount. The photos show Trek newbie, Benedict Cumberbatch facing off against Spock and Uhura on what has been described as a "space barge".

Supposedly, Cumberbatch is playing an existing Trek villain, but Paramount and Abrams have not been forthcoming regarding exact plot details or the exact identity of this villain. The set photos don't really clear up the issues all that much. In fact, it blows speculation wide open, as the character is likely not the shoe-in villain, Khan.

Star Trek 12 - Benedict Cumberbatch battling Spock
Benedict Cumberbatch's unidentified character battles Spock in this set photo from the Star Trek reboot sequel.

A very close examination of the photo shows a Starfleet insignia on Cumberbatch's black undershirt, so it is possible that he is a Starfleet officer or someone involved with Starfleet. This doesn't rule out the idea that Khan is not going to be in the movie; Kirk could have supplied Khan's crew with clothing. It is also possible that Cumberbatch isn't Khan, but rather one of Khan's second-hand men. Peter Weller may be portraying Khan, even though that would seem to conflict with his identity as a "C.E.O." that was given by his agent. Alice Eve could also be playing Marla McGyvers, and a set on a "space barge" is still consistent with the Botany Bay. So we still can't rule out Khan as the villain, but I think there are much more likely possibilities.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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