(When You Wish Upon a) Star Trek Into Darkness Review

Star Trek Into Darkness Review
By Bret Dorman

1) Not a Stark Trek fan. Never got into it. As someone who dabbles in a bit of everything, I haven’t cemented myself fully into a sci-fi world, unless you count 26 episodes and 1 movie of Cowboy Bebop, which is one of the greatest things of all time ever. I’ve dabbled in Star Trek movies and the one episode with Khan in it, but just enough to know the basics.

2) I’m pretty particular in my views on remakes and reboots. I thought the ’09 Star Trek was a lot of fun and didn’t quite realize the enormity and awesomeness of the alternate dimension aspect until the real Trek fans (mostly) expressed the genius potential behind the move.

All that being said, I’m not sure I can give advice on how Star Trek Into Darkness holds up as a “Star Trek” story or movie (which may be two different things). What I can say, is as a fan of fun, I had a fun time.

Standing in his own path of destruction. So ruthless!

Standing in his own path of destruction. So ruthless!

The Story: Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is just as feisty as ever. He gets into lots of trouble and has a very antagonistic friendship with his pal Spock (Zachary Quinto). But then they both have to work together to fight John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a super terrorist who is very evil and mean and smart. Alliances are tested, spaceships are blown up, and stars are… trekked. Also, if an English actor is in your prison aboard a flying ship, you might want to assume he has some trick up his sleeve (see also: The Avengers).

I assume that my praising Star Trek 2′s fast pacing will be the very thing other people find to be its greatest weakness. I know Star Trek is known for its social commentary and philosophical discussions. This movie touches upon those, but only at surface level. So therefore the movie is not very Star Trek-like. However, to include those kinds of things, in a big budget action movie, would be to go against the spirit of fun, entertaining movies. Ultimately, in the context of the Prime Directive of Summer Blockbusters, easily digestible wins over serious contemplation of characters and their actions. The good thing is, you can still go back and watch the original show untainted if you want the ‘heavy’ stuff.

May day! May day! Star Trek opens on a May day!

May day! May day! Star Trek opens on a May day!

And that leads me to the alternate universe thing in general. Luckily, Star Trek is sci-fi based. So they have a cool way to explain black holes and time travel as a different dimension that leads to the same versions of characters fans have come to love but in brand new story lines. Awesome! I only wish that every single rebooted property could just have an asterisk next to it with this basic principal applied. Not every reboot is trying to ‘undo’ what came before and offer a ‘better’ version, but simply offer a ‘different’ one. Star Trek is able to directly approach this, which is great for its fans (which hold the series in very high regard) but I look forward to the day when everyone just assumes ‘Alternate Dimension’ without needing it displayed on the big screen for them.

And knowing that this is a different universe with different timelines, writers Orci & Kurtzman and Lindelof as well as director J.J. Abrams are able to play with our current knowledge of the series and stories. The end result is like a bunch of kids playing with action figures and reenacting the stories they’ve seen only switching a few minor details that make all the difference. The genius part is that instead of just changing things to change things, the story is carefully constructed so everything happens/is revealed organically in a way that doesn’t come off as too telegraphed or trying to impress.

Space Ship.

Space Ship.

Star Trek 2 is all about casualties. Kirk has to deal with (the possibility of) losing crew members. Spock has to deal with the possibility of losing Uhura. John Harrison creates casualties. But perhaps the biggest casualty of all is real consequences and sci-fi realism. I mean, yes, characters and their actions do have consequences, especially in the context of the movie, but again, seeing as this is first and foremost a fun thrill ride, we know everything is going to be okay. Kirk has his ship taken away from him and he sulks about it only to get the ship back a few scenes later only to give up Captain rank a few scenes later etc, etc. The USS Enterprise might have more captains in this movie than Star Trek does movies in its franchise history. But all that fits the overall tone. By getting through all the hum drum we get to the action faster, which does have some consequences, except we quickly move past them to get to more action. In this movie, quantity is greater than subtlety. But there is a lot to have fun with.

As far as the sci-fi-ness goes, yeah, there’s a lot of “That wouldn’t happen like that” going on. Which again, is used to achieve maximum fun. If the filmmakers were completely disregarding the laws of nature and physics while taking everything else more seriously I might cry foul. I am willing to make normal conventional movie logic leaps, again, given the tone.

So to recap before briefly moving into the good stuff, I really dig the vibe and confidence of the newer Abrams-era Star Treks. They are silly while avoiding all out cheesiness and they are slick and polished instead of cheap and underwhelming. I enjoy being able to watch the fast paced action and well established characters bicker and banter without needing to devote 100+ million hours (probably an underestimate of actual Star Trek content) of my time to understanding all the intricacies of the planets, languages, rules, regulations, and logic arguments. I’d like to think that Trekkies would appreciate this opportunity to relax and enjoy the content, knowing full well the real in depth universe of Deep Space 9’s and Next Generation’s and Scott Bakula’s await them on their DVD shelves.


So. Badass.

So. Badass. (poster caption asterisk*)

Okay, so the big hubbub was whether or not Khan was going to be in the movie. Seeing as this is Spoilers! I assume you’ve already seen it and know ‘John Harrison’ is really Khan. No big surprise. In fact, the movie clues you in on it pretty early on (superior blood used to heal, “72 reasons”, all that jazz). What is cool though is that even though you know he is Khan, you don’t know how much of his backstory has changed. Using the events of the ’09 Star Trek, the filmmakers change things just ever so slightly. Instead of looking heavily into Khan’s past, they look to see how they can use this to advance into the future (the even more future!). That’s cool.

And they even pull just a tiny bit of wool over our eyes. They divert the immediate danger of Khan by having Marcus (Peter Weller) turn into a false flag operation planning madman. Seeing as how Khan is given such tender moments to talk about his crew and family, I almost for a moment thought they were going to go a more misunderstood badguy turned goodguy team-up adventure route. Almost. But it quickly becomes clear that Abrams & Co. are not going to waste the awesomeness that is ‘Ruthless Khan.’ Khan may care for his family, but he don’t care about ANYBODY else. He’s willing to shove women and break their legs, skull crush people, and flat out tell ship captains he’s going to walk over their corpses. Awesome. Even Spock Prime is brought in to add to Khan’s legitimate dangerous reputation and all around badassery, which was well handled.

"I'm a doctor, not a Judge!"

“I’m a doctor, not a Judge!”

I also love the Predator-esque face mask wearing Klingons. They may only get a few minutes screen time and spend most of that dying in the presence of dual gun (laser machine gun and super canon) wielding Khan. But I look forward to seeing more of them in the third movie (which has been confirmed will be more Klingon focused as far as ‘badguys’ are concerned). Even the way they introduced these villains-to-be early on and exploited the threat of attack is setting up cool battles in the future without seeming like too much side-service.

Also, I’m unsure how I feel about using Khan’s blood to revive Kirk. I did love the switch of Kirk/Spock (also how Khan uses a Federation ship and tells the Enterprise to “lower its shields” which brought up echoes of Wrath of Khan without being a direct rehash of the story). But to then just cure him of basically death? Again, I realize its all for the greater good and there’s no way they would kill off a major character (even after Wrath they undid Spock’s death the very next movie, right?) so I get what they were going for, but now that they have this Khan-blood serum can’t they just keep it for 90% of emergencies? Meh. What are you going to do.

Also Karl Urban is awesome. Sure I have turned into a Dredd-head after seeing him as the ever-scowling Judge, but he’s pretty versatile. He can be you’re good guy, bad guy, or charming quippy sidekick. But more importantly he fits into the universe in the same way the entire crew of the Enterprise fits. He’s quick witted and offers just enough antagonism to offer a good point of view for someone else to counter, while getting a chuckle and being actually helpful. The entire crew is always at odds with each other while simultaneously working to defeat whatever obstacle is in their way. There’s very little real danger in the movie, but seeing their solutions while bickering is mostly fun.

In Conclusion, while the spirit of the movie perhaps remains more faithful to fun action-y adventure movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark or Die Hard than to Star Trek realism and insights, the heart of all the characters remains intact. While I’m not the biggest Star Trek admirer, I certainly hope that other filmmakers in control of properties I do like take a look at how these filmmakers play around. I wish more movies would have people behind them that are less worried about doing what they think is right, and focus on having fun. That’s what I want most.

Final Grade: B+

hell yeah.

hell yeah.

Poster Caption Asterisk -> *Poster by Matt Ferguson. Check it out here, as well as what looks like tons of other cool Star Trek posters and artwork.

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