Star Trek: Into Darkness is a great, shiny space movie, with epic space battles, space-operatic plot, and spectacular visuals. In other words, it is a good, fun ride.
However, it is not a perfect movie (the only sci-fi film close to perfect is Empire Strikes Back).
So, below we have: (1) what worked, (2) what didn’t work, and (3) what we have to look forward to.
What follows has many, specific details from the movie, so…
WARNING: THAR BE SPOILERS AHEAD!
Camaraderie and Character Arcs
The relationships in Into Darkness built smoothly from the previous film. Pike maintained himself as a mentor, Kirk and Spock had a clear friendship despite animosity and arguing, and Spock and Uhura continued their romance in the background, with some bumps along the way. The overall crew were clearly friends, the defining repartee developing between Kirk and McCoy, Kirk and Scotty, and so on.
Where the first film was about gathering everyone on the Enterprise, this second film is about Kirk growing up and becoming a responsible captain, understanding his role and the cost of his decisions. This film is about fierce loyalty, and the choices that are made because of that.
Almost every character had a gleaming moment. A great moment is the death of Admiral Pike. It is realistic, and though early in the film, its cost is great. There is a risk for every character within the film, and no one is safe.
Witty, rapid-fire dialogue is one of my favorite elements of J.J. Abrams’ work, and Star Trek: Into Darkness does not disappoint. Most of the movie goes at a frenetic pace, the dialogue shot out without a spot to breath.
And then there are moments of quiet.
Which build into grand speeches by Benedict Cumberbatch in his young-Alan-Rickman voice.
And those speeches are awesome and compelling, and make you nearly root for him.
UPDATE/DISCLAIMER: There seem to be a few questions in the comments about using the term using the term “Space-Battles” for this section instead of “Action Scenes”. Here are the reasons I am using the term “Space-Battles”:
1. I define a “Space-Battle” as a. involving tons of shiny lasers/projectiles and b. occurring in space.
2. “Space-Battle” is a more epic and entertaining title than “Action Scenes”
There are many great action moments:
- Benedict Cumberbatch as John Harrison/Khan defeating several squads of Klingons almost single-handedly
- Kirk and Harrison/Khan jetting through space as Scotty is trying to open the doors of the Big Giant Starship
- The gravity generator of The Enterprise failing as Scotty and Kirk are trying to save the engine of the ship, causing things to spin and turn upside down
- Spock and Harrison-Khan battling on the back of a speeder over Coruscant/San Fransisco
- The Big Giant Starship plowing through San Francisco.
The most spectacular moment, however, is a laser battle in Warp space.
I don’t know if the physics of the situation are really possible, which is problematic for a Trek film. However, it is a spectacular scene as the Enterprise is being ripped apart from within, as well as by the Big Giant Spaceship’s massive arsenal for attack. This is the highest-speed chase possible.
Something I’ve read and firmly believe is the hero is only as great as the villain, and in Star Trek: Into Darkness, Kirk and Co. face two great villains.
Before we learn John Harrison is Khan, his mysterious and engaging presence is captivating. Also, he looks cool with his sharp cheekbones, steely blue-eyes, and high-collared dark clothing. As he demonstrates his super-humanness, he is intimidating and fierce. Even as a modern version of Khan he is compelling, especially as his madness betrays itself. He is cold and cruel, almost in control, and impossibly hard to defeat.
Admiral Marcus begins as a side-character, and at first appears a prop to get characters from point A to B. However, it is John Harrison/Khan who is the red herring, and Admiral Marcus the true villain. Ruthless and obsessed with war, willing to destroy the Enterprise and its entire crew as an excuse to war with the Klingons, he is a great villain alone.
The best thing Admiral Marcus brings is the opportunity for Kirk and Khan to work together to defeat Marcus and his Big Giant Spaceship. A part of me wishes Khan did not turn out to be a villain at all in this alternate world, but he turned out to be a better man, and Kirk and Khan became friends. However, the mutual betrayal between Kirk and Khan once they reach the bridge of the Big Giant Spaceship is fun (excluding the necessary but horrifying moment when Khan crushes Admiral Marcus’ head off-screen.)
Both villains together create a grand, operatic plot of twists, turns, and betrayals which befits the cosmic scope of the film.
2. What Didn’t Work
The armor was cool (especially the helmets). The spaceships are cool. The use of Klingon weaponry was cool.
The super-CGI face of the Klingon?
So not cool.
And so dissimilar to anything we’ve seen before. I know this is an alternate universe, but Klingons should either look slightly-not-human, like the Original Series, or with the full ridges from The Next Generation and beyond.
Maybe these are sub-species of Klingon, similar to Romulans vs. Vulcans?
My brother also pointed out a missed opportunity by not casting Michael Dorn (AKA Wharf from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine) as the only speaking Klingon. How geektastic of a throw back would that be? If we have a throw-back to tribbles, we should have a throw-back to Wharf.
That’s how real Klingons should look… on the Holodeck.
While Uhura got to assist in some kick-booty moments, such as facing the Klingons alone, and shooting Khan with a stun phaser, Zoe Saldana’s awesomeness was not fully utilized. Neither was Alice Eve fully utilized as Doctor Carol Marcus (though, I did love the throwback to Nurse Chapel). Both had individual, interesting characters, and were important to the plot, but not essential. Uhura, instead of being the independent Communications Officer, is now Spock’s worried girl friend. Dr. Marcus, instead of being a woman with a PHD in physics and weapons, is Admiral Marcus’ daughter, Kirk’s pseudo-love interest, and dressed in a bra and underwear for fan service purposes. The only thing Dr. Marcus truly does is save McCoy from being blown up. She has a few moments in the fight scene in the bridge of the Big Giant Spaceship, but she is there to try to stop her father and be horrified as he dies. (Also, she has a British accent while her father has an American one. I’m not sure why.)
In addition, there is the wife and daughter at the beginning of the film. The daughter is sick and dying, and used as blackmail to get the father to blow up Star Fleet’s secret lab in London. They are no more than this.
On one hand, at least there are women roles in the film. On the other hand, after 2012: The Year of the Girl, which brought Katniss and Merida to the big screen, it would be nice to see women in stronger, non-romantic positions. For example, what if Admiral Marcus had been a woman? The role could have been identical. There are many strong women who could carry the role. Or, what if Khan/John Harrison had not been Khan, and had been a woman bent on destruction? A woman who isn’t sexualized, but is just cruel?
The portrayal of women is especially disappointing in considering that J.J. Abrams is the man who brought us Sydney Bristow. Yes, Alias has many soap opera elements, but she was still a strong woman making her own decisions. The show would have been nearly the same if all gender roles were reversed. Not true of Star Trek.
Overall, Benedict Cumberbatch was an excellent villain. However, by making him Khan, his role is placed in a near-impossible and thankless position.
How can the very British, lean Cumberbatch grow up to become the wild, muscular Khan as played with grandiosity by Ricardo Montalban?
These are not the same men.
Yes, this is an alternate universe where Uhura is much taller, Chekov has curly hair, and Scotty is blonde. However, the actors’ physiques and the characters’ portrayals are similar enough to look past these details.
But, Benedict Cumberbatch does not equal Ricardo Montalban.
If the filmmakers simply took out the name “Khan”, with all its connotations and history, and Leonard Nimoy’s random cameo, the film would have been better for it. The film would have been better off to add another villain with the canon, or have Cumberbatch play George Mitchell. Cumberbatch as a fully god-like being would have been spectacular.
As Star Trek: Into Darkness is, it is a good film which could have been great.
Also, the reversed-repeat of the classic Spock-Death scene, now with Kirk dying from radiation, is a bit too much. Without the context of Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, it works. However, Spock shouting, “Khaaan!” is over the top and pulled me out of the film, making me giggle a bit. I was drawn back in afterwards in all of the epicness, but wish the writers had gone a different, less obvious route.
3. What We Have To Look Forward To
Star Wars Episode VII
I do hope J.J. Abrams is able to make the new Star Wars trilogy look different enough from his Star Trek films. However, his sense of scale, action, and space-drama is awesome. Whatever the plot is, Episode VII should be a good, fun ride.
My thought during a lot of the movie was, “I’m so excited about Episode VII.”
Chris Pine as Jack Ryan, as directed by Kenneth Branagh
Star Trek: Into Darkness reminds us that Chris Pine is a good actor, despite the low-quality movies he has made between both Star Treks. Hopefully, with Branagh at the helm, and a decent script, Chris Pine can step into the role previously filled by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Afleck. I don’t know if it will be a good movie, but I’m hopeful.
More Star Trek (And Sooner)
While Star Trek: Into Darkness hasn’t quite matched the previous film’s first weekend, it still has made approximately 70 million in the United States alone. Paramount is already working on the next film, and the goal is not to wait 4 years. However, I would rather wait three or four years for a good movie than a year or a few months for something that is just okay.
Main point? More Star Trek is in the works.
Have you seen the movie yet (I hope so, because I just spoiled most of the main plot-points)? Did you enjoy it? What was the most Star-Wars-esque moment for you? Would you have changed Cumberbatch’s role? What do you want to see in the next Star Trek, and also in Episode VII?
Other Reviews of Star Trek: Into Darkness
(It’s a long list, but there are some really interesting points made about how this film fits in the Star Trek Universe)
A Cultural Indictment of Star Trek from Michael D. Stark (as featured on Freshly Pressed)
SIDE NOTE: There was a 4.9 earthquake in the local area this morning. I didn’t notice it because I was driving, and am a little bummed I missed out on the excitement. A 4.9, for those of you who don’t live where there are earthquakes, is just enough to shake things around, but not enough to actually break or hurt anything.
Star Trek: Into Darkness fulfills:
- Water splooshing everywhere
- Woman has more than 2 minutes of kick-bootyness (this is a stretch)
- Set in space
- Vehicle chase (through warp speed!)
- British badguy
- Worth attending a midnight showing
- Mechanical Robot Armor (I’m including Spock’s anti-volcano suit and the flying-through-space-suits)
- Screen-filling villain (I’m counting the Big Giant Spaceship)
- City sustains at least $100 million worth of damage (If the federation still uses money at this point in their history)
No complete BINGO’s yet, but some are very close.