STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS – A (Spoilery) Review

Before I get to the spoiler part, I’ll just say that Star Trek Into Darkness is more than a little disappointing. I really liked JJ Abrams first Star Trek film (the… pre-boot-quel?) and am constantly defending it against several hard-core Trekkie friends of mine. I wanted to like STID, I really did. But it’s very hard to like a movie that gets so much fundamenatally wrong. I don’t even mean on a nerdy nit-picking level, but on a basic story-telling one.

If you want to know why you should wait to waste an afternoon watching this on cable instead of spending your money to see it (though we both know you’re going this weekend) scroll past the…

SpoilerSpace

I know you’re not supposed to compare a movie to the one you had in your head, but what if the movie is almost exactly the one that was in your head? The one you really hoped it wouldn’t be?

It’s rare to see a movie quite as predictable as Star Trek Into Darkness. Damn near everything we all assumed about the film months ago was correct despite Abrams’ vehement denials. Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Khan. That shot of the hands touching through the glass is because someone’s dying, and afterwards someone immediately shouts “KHAN!” to the heavens. But the roles are switched, so it’s, like, totally different and original this time. You know?

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What’s worse is that Kirk’s death doesn’t carry any weight because we have no real attachment to this crew. And it doesn’t even seem like the characters do either. Abrams and his writing team of Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof keep telling us what close friends Kirk and Spock (and to a lesser extent, Kirk and McCoy) are but at no point do they ever show these people actually being friends. Hell, Scotty and his weird little alien buddy come off as much more believable because we see them hanging out at a bar where the two have genuine chemistry.

This is a recurrent theme of the film, trading on emotions and relationships that the film (and this iteration of the franchise) just have not earned. Abrams said he couldn’t reveal Cumberbatch’s character’s true identity because it’s important that we learn it when Kirk does. The problem with that is, this version of Kirk has never met or even heard of Khan before so when “John Harrison” says that he’s really Khan, Kirk and Spock just kind of go “…and?” It’s not like the Ra’s al Ghul reveal in Batman Begins where Bruce knew both Ducard and Fake Ra’s. Fuck, Young Spock has to call Old Spock to find out who the hell Khan even is.

There is a brief moment where it seems like they might throw off the shackles of predictability and do something at least a little interesting, but no. Peter Weller’s character is obsessed with the that war with the Klingons is inevitable. He tells Kirk that he’s been working on top secret stuff to stop them when it happens and that “John Harrison” is heading up that research. There was glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, “Harrison” was one of the surgically altered Klingons from the classic series. And that he had infiltrated Star Fleet. But no, he’s Khan, who went from a master planner to a guy who mostly just punches really hard.

Speaking of which, if you ever, for some reason, wanted to watch Spock go apeshit and try to kill someone with his bare hands then this is the movie for you.

And by the way, just to make there’s no real stakes at all, Kirk’s death is totally undone by the end of the movie, just before the Enterprise starts its five-year mission. Which apparently didn’t start at the end of the last movie. Oddly they reference both Tribbles and Harry Mudd as encounters they’ve already had. If they haven’t gone out on their mission yet, when/how have these happened?

Of course nothing I say is going to dissuade you from seeing this movie, but I implore you, at least see it at a matinee, and skip the 3D (it doesn’t really add anything). There’s no real reason to waste any more money than you have to on this. Star Trek Into Darkness will be an alright way to kill an afternoon when it’s in constant rotation on FX, but it’s really not worth $15.

I give it 3 CRYO-TORPEDOES out of 10.

Skott Stotland is a thousand monkeys in a man suit. He has been writing for the internet for over a decade.

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