Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Movie Review #13: Star Trek Into Darkness

Oh dear, spreading out these reviews this long after I've seen the movies might not be a good idea. I'm having trouble really remembering most of what this movie was about.

But then again, maybe that's just saying something about the movie. In fact, consider that my short-form review: the movie didn't stick in my mind very well, and I doubt it'll stick in yours.

Now I'm going to dig deep and see if I can recall how this all went.


Star Trek Into Darkness follows the rebooted crew of the Starship Enterprise. After breaking the fleet's one, biggest rule (basically, don't interfere with undeveloped civilizations), Captain Kirk gets demoted until an apparent madman attacks innocents and flees to the Klingon homeworld to escape justice.

Kirk chases the fugitive down, and what he finds is something that goes deeper than he could have expected.


I've never been a huge Star Trek fan. I've only watched a few episodes here and there, and while I've enjoyed those episodes well enough, I never felt compelled to watch it further.

That said, it seems to me that the new Star Trek films are missing something that the TV series had, something important. Sure, the new movies feel different, but that's not what I'm talking about; it's a new age, and a quicker pace is an understandable change from a 1960s TV show to a 2010s big-budget sci-fi movie. No, you can't expect a slow, cerebral exploration of the galaxy and, by extension, humanity. Maybe if this were made into a TV series, sure, but not in a movie version.

But you know what you can expect? A point, maybe. A singular lesson that ties the events of this movie together. Something more than an excuse to make this character fight that character because wouldn't that be cool?

I'd like to blame this all on Abrams, but I'm not entirely sure it's his fault. I mean, maybe it is, I'm just not sure of who has what responsibility in a movie; is it the writers' fault for just stringing together set pieces, characters, and references into a narrative, or is it the director's job to push them for some core theme? Judging by Abrams' other work, I'm inclined to believe it's his fault.

Anyway, except for the lack of a core theme, there's lots of neat things about this movie.

The characters are cool, for the most part. Scotty is always fun to watch, as is Sulu. In fact, it's just fun watching the characters interact in general, when they're not too busy punching each other. And Khan, well, he sounds like a lot of things I like in a good villain, though he isn't explored very well. We're just kinda told he's the greatest enemy by Old Spock, so New Spock nips that in the bud.

The set pieces feel like something out of a video game. The battle with the Klingons, the part where Kirk and Khan shoot from ship to ship through the debris field, the part where those same two guys take over an entire battleship.

And then there's the whole plot where I think that one guy was trying to start a war with the Klingons? Maybe? But then really he was just trying to get back at Khan specifically by blowing up his crew? I'm not sure. It was convoluted. The big commander guy tried to make his motivations clear, but his actions kinda muddied that up. Scary, though, I guess, how his ship could attack ships in warp.

Anyway, I'm not sure what lesson I'm supposed to learn here except that Kirk and Spock and the whole crew of the Enterprise are badasses so don't mess with them.


If you want to see cool sci-fi/action setpieces where people shoot lasers and cause destruction with spaceships for a while, you could do worse than Star Trek Into Darkness. If you're looking for something to teach you about humanity through the metaphor of interstellar space flight while being optimistic about humanity's future through the development of technology, though, you should probably look elsewhere.


  1. Star Trek movies are for general audiences, whereas the Star Trek TV show is for sci-fi fans. Every Star Trek movie, even the old ones, have unnecessary action scenes, and the personalities of some characters change completely.

    I still like the Star Trek movies okay, but I much prefer the TV shows. Into Darkness is a pretty okay movie. I was entertained by Sherlock's weird face 50-times its normal size~

    1. That's a good point: having never seen an older Star Trek movie, I have no idea how they'd compare. I can certainly see what they'd need to change things (like I said, there's nothing wrong with injecting action into movies like this), but I wonder about the themes of the earlier movies--if they had them or not. I may have to watch them sometime to find out.

      Like I said, I enjoyed parts of the movie--I really wish there was more about Khan, since it was fun to was Cucumber Bendydik play a badass and I think Khan's an interesting character. They didn't do much to explore him, though.

      I'd say the movie's worst sin is that it's forgettable: a year from now I'm not going to remember the Kirk and Khan flying through space scene. Ten years from now, I'm still probably going to remember Hulk tossing Loki around like a rag doll.

      Hey, that's an idea--let Whedon have Star Wars instead of Abrams. Whaddya say, Disney?

    2. Agreed about the forgettable part. I only remember Spock punching Khan in the face because that's SO not Spock's character that it stood out too much. But these new alt-universe Star Trek characters are supposed to be different anyway, I guess.

      I could also get behind Whedon taking over Star Wars!

      BTW: The one scene I was thinking about when I said the old Star Trek movies have "unnecessary action scenes" is when Picard, an old man who grew up on a farm, suddenly had the skill, strength, and athleticism to swing on a piece of hanging wire as if it were a vine in a jungle ;)