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Star Trek Into Darkness - Spoiler-free Review

Nathan Strum


To recap the first film:




Okay, so with that out of the way, yet again I find myself sitting in a theater, waiting for a movie to start. In this case Star Trek Into Darkness, which I guess is supposed to be read as a sentence. So we're trekking, into darkness. Or something. Anyway, since I effectively "trekked" to the theater, and am sitting in relative darkness, the title seems somewhat apropos.


Unlike Iron Man 3, where we were hustled into the theater mere moments from the start of the movie trailers, I've got a good 20 minutes to kill. Certainly, this is due to not being here on the movie's opening night. I decided after going through that once this summer, not to do it again. At the moment, there are only a few people in here, no doubt due in large part to Fast & Furious 6 opening tonight in pretty-much every other screen here, and mercifully keeping most of that particular age demographic occupied elsewhere. It's all about planning ahead.


10 minutes to go. They're running commercials and behind-the-scenes featurettes for things I have no interest in.


Speaking of things I have no interest in, I was debating seeing STID in the first place, since I don't really consider this (or the previous film) to be true Star Trek. It's more like a really high budget fan film. Lots of effort put into sets, costumes and effects, but none of it looks quite right, and none of the people dressed up in the costumes know how to act. The whole time, you're conciously aware you're not watching William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, but pale, annoying imitations aimed solely at trying to draw in new audiences who have the attention span of a gnat and and are solely interested in loud noises and flashing lights, and not in characters or story.


Anyway, time for the trailers.


(One movie later...)


The theater filled out nicely for the movie. Not overcrowded, but not so empty that it felt like I was watching the film by myself. Unfortunately, there were a few idiots "vaping" down front. Newsflash for the brilliant people who think this is okay in a movie theater: it may not stink like cigarette smoke, but it still rises up into the air and makes for a really annoying visual distraction. Leave your huffing at home.


Incidentally... does anyone else think this guy is the biggest poseur on the entire planet?




I mean c'mon... between the slow-motion and his scraggily Shaggy beard? (Look... either grow a real one out, or shave the stupid thing off.)


Sorry. Easily distracted.


Right, so onto the movie itself.


Now, I detest spoilers, so I try to avoid reading them, and try to avoid writing them. I should warn you though, that spoilers for this film are ridiculously easy to run across. I found one on a movie trailer site that simply listed the cast. So if you're planning on seeing this, and don't want it spoiled, just avoid everything.


Writing a review of this movie is going to be hard to do without invoking spoilers. But I'll give you my overall impressions of it, and see how it goes.


First, this is a better movie than the last Star Trek. Much better. It seems more cohesive, the cast seems to be more comfortable with their characters (less forced), and it doesn't have a completely ridiculous plot or anything as ludicrously stupid as the red gravity goo.


And there are fewer lens flares, too. A lot fewer. But they're still there. They just seemed to be used at more strategic moments, rather than in every single shot. But still, when they do show up, they're annoying. Memo to J.J.: try leaving them out of your next film entirely. Just to see if you can do it. It's like farting in an elevator. You don't really have to, right? I mean, you can exercise some self-control, and people around you will be happier for it.


Zachary Quinto is doing a better job as Spock. Respectable even. And the guy playing McCoy has a few moments, although he's still largely a caricature of DeForest Kelley. And the guy playing Scotty does a little better, but he's still too much comic relief for my tastes, as is the guy playing Chwyekyoyv (aka "No One's Favorite" in the above trailer). As an aside - in the original Star Trek, Walter Koenig was hired as a counterpoint to the Monkees' Davy Jones, so shouldn't J.J. have hired a Justin Bieber lookalike to play this Chekov? Just wondering.


The main problem with the cast is that Chris Pine is just not a very likable Kirk. He simply lacks charisma. He has a few decent moments in the film, but mostly it just comes off really flat and superficial. And his eyebrows are way too distracting. Dude... pluck those suckers. It looks like you're wearing a couple of cats up there or something. That aside, I just had a hard time believing anybody else in the movie really liked him, or that he was actually competent at what he was doing. I don't know what percentage of that is bad writing, bad casting, bad acting, or bad directing.


Now then, onto the villain. The basic premise is there's a bad guy, who does bad things, and Kirk and crew have to go and get him. So a ruckus ensues. And the guy playing the villain does a passable job at it. Unfortunately, by and large, he is also doing a passive job at it. There's a pretty good chunk of the film where he's just... sitting. When he does act, he's formidable. But there is a problem with him, and it's the main problem with this movie, and the rebooted series in general.


Inevitable comparisons.


Consider this - this version of Star Trek still takes place in the same universe as the original series. And timeline-wise, just before it (look it up). Kirk, the Enterprise, the crew - all still at the start of their careers. The events in the previous movie have altered the timeline somewhat, but it's still the same universe. So some of the other things that existed in the other timeline would, logically, be here as well. Romulans, as we saw in the last movie, for example. It's not a completely different universe. So comparisons are inevitable.


Especially with this movie, because it's completely derivative. And for those of us knowing what it's derivative of, we can't help but think, "This is pretty good, but it was so much better in the original."


Yes, I'm well aware that this movie is targeted to people who may have never seen Star Trek, or certainly aren't as steeped in it as my generation. I heard people in the theater (and afterwards) talking about this very thing, as it relates to this film. Or more to the point, what it's derivative of.


Does it make sense that they're effectively covering existing ground in an altered way? Of course. And the movie works, and is entertaining in its own right, if you can divorce yourself from any pre-existing biases of Star Trek you may have.


But if you can't, and there were numerous points where for me it was impossible, it's all-too-self-conscious and self-referential. Which is too bad. Because there's some good action to be had in the film. Taken entirely on its own, it's not a bad story either. It's a pretty entertaining romp. But we've been here before, and when I'm pulled out of the movie to think about something else because of the movie, then I don't think that's good movie making.


Also, it's not hard at all to predict where they're going in the movie. They telegraph some stuff way in advance, and you're just basically waiting for them to get on with it.


There are also some less significant issues I have with the movie, that are basically leftover from the previous movie. First of all - apparently nobody in Star Fleet really cares who is in command of what, or who sneaks on board a ship and is suddenly given credibility and authority without so much as raising an eyebrow over it (get it?). It's a very poorly run organization, with impossibly bad security, really stupid policies, and zero accountability. Second - there are just too many easy outs. Convenient events that propel the story where you already know it needs to go. Don't treat the audience like we're that stupid, okay? If someone needs to be somewhere, the whole "oh we're sending them somewhere else... now we're not!" fake-out is really amateurish. Come up with something better. Finally - just how big is the Enterprise now, anyway? The interiors seem impossibly huge. Tardis-huge. Has anyone mapped out a cutaway of that thing yet?


All of that may sound as if I didn't like it, but I enjoyed it enough to justify having gone to see it. It was a fair-enough summer popcorn movie. For the series, it's a step in the right direction, but they really, really need to carve out their own path from here on out. Don't go back over old ground anymore. Take ownership of the series if you're going to continue with it.


And Chris... tweezers. Look into it.


Star Trek Into Darkness gets a 6.5/10.

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I managed to avoid all press at least so far that I did not know who the enemy really was, so while not that surprising, I was still glad that it wasn't just a random someguy as the trailers would make you think. And then I thought it was a nice touch to reverse the probably most significant scene of the classic series, even when it had less impact on an emotional level. But then the orignal cast had three seasons to grow on me ;)



I think the new cast does a respectable job, IMO they fared a lot better than the original cast did in their first cinema outing :D


(I especially like Karl Urban since "R.E.D." and I think his McCoy is pretty good.)

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I felt that re-done scene had zero impact, because

the characters' relationship hadn't developed yet enough for it to have any meaning, it was completely out-of-character with this Kirk, and even while they were building up to it, it was obvious they were going to negate the whole thing in the end anyway (in part because they'd so obviously set it up with the "magic blood" earlier, and because they aren't going to kill off one of their two lead characters only two films into the series without having some way to bring him back).

When I saw where they were going with it, I was just sitting there waiting for them to get it over with. I think they could've done better, even using the same characters.

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Well, knowing that he won't be making STIII, Abrams probably had no interest in paving the way for "The Search for Kirk"




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True. And if they had ended the film with that intent, it would have been much, much worse. So I'm glad they didn't.

I'm just tired of cheap "comic book" style deaths where they're ultimately completely meaningless.

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Just thinking... a portable transwarp transporter, the size of a small backpack, that can send someone halfway across the galaxy just seems like really lazy writing to me.

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