Being the rare instance where a storied genre favorite is also a tentpole summer release, lots of people around the FEZ Palace have an opinion about about J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek Into Darkness, itself a sequel to his much-anticipated Star Trek reboot four years ago. So, what do we think? Read our reviews below, then stick around for a new N5 Show on Monday where we go into spoiler territory!
Rob: Without dropping spoilers, I will tell you this – the latest release in the Star Trek franchise goes a long way toward hammering home the old Vulcan saying “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one”.
Thus far, I have seen every Star Trek movie. I saw the first one, Star Trek: the Motion Picture on its first run in the theaters and, naturally, I have seen all of the television series to date. So how does the latest entry stack up? Of the originals, I thought Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was the best. Of the movies based on The Next Generation, I’d have to take First Contact as the best. When the reboot of the franchise started, I was so impressed with the first movie that it immediately climbed to the top of list of Star Trek hotness. Now, Into Darkness… What can I say about this one? If I had to sum up the whole review into a single word it would be:
“HOLY CRAP THIS IS BAD ASS!”
Here’s the thing; I can’t really get into talking about how amazing the movie is without dropping tons of spoilers. All I can say is the Federation is faced with a threat like it has never known before. We know from the trailers that there’s a bad guy; a really bad guy. We know from the trailers that he seems willing to do just about every bad thing there is and kill pretty much everyone. We also know that Kirk gets himself in some hot water in at least one situation. What you don’t know from the trailers is just how the plot of the movie twists, turns, folds back on itself, jumps time and space and slaps any preconceptions I had about this movie right in the mouth.
I have to be honest, there was one point where I got a little moist in the eye-sockets. It was probably just that my eyes were a little dry so don’t go saying I was bawling like a little girl or I’ll slap you in the neck with a pipe wrench. I’m just saying, I got a little misty.
When all is said and done, there was only one thing missing from this movie, which was a nude, full-body massage from Alice Eve while I was watching it. I can’t really decide how to score this review. I even talked to N and ran my thinking past him. I’ve been ripping my brain apart trying to find the one thing, the one tiny little fracture which makes this movie imperfect. At this point, I can’t think of one. I told N that of all of the action, adventure and sci-fi movies I’ve seen in the last 10-15 years, this is far and away the best and it’s part of a franchise reboot!
So I’ve had to make my decision based on the fact that I’ve been sitting here for the last two hours trying to find a reason to not give this movie a perfect score and haven’t been able to. Hell, I even tried to make up reasons and every time I did, I ended up thinking the reason was stupid and would get me crucified so…
10. Seriously. It’s that good.
Russell: I’m going to start off by admitting that I’m the world’s biggest Star Trek fan. I’ve only seen a handful of episodes from the original series, and I haven’t seen any of the previous Star Trek movies; I jumped onto the newly minted Star Trek bandwagon with J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek. Was that a good Star Trek movie? Hell no. It wasn’t as thought-provoking or inventive as Gene Roddenberry’s original creation, but it was well written, fast paced, and brimming with energy. Star Trek was the Star Wars prequel I always wanted… just starring Captain Kirk instead of Han Solo.
With Star Trek: Into Darkness J.J. Abrams delivers another action-packed blockbuster. This entry picks up years after the events of Star Trek (2009). Kirk (Chris Pine) captains The Starship Enterprise, accompanied by his faithful crew. His rapid ascension within Starfleet has done nothing to diminish his brashness and arrogance, which immediately brings him into conflict with his superiors and his first officer, the coldly logical Spock (Zachary Quinto). In a breakneck pre-title sequence, we see Captain Kirk violate a host of commands in order to neutralize an active volcano and save the inhabitants of an alien planet. Part of the scheme involves Spock dropping into the center of the volcano while Kirk distracts the inhabitants by stealing one of their relics. The sequence contains the sort of elaborate action that defined the early part of Steven Spielberg’s career.
Having forever altered the destiny of an alien race, Kirk returns home to Earth only to be reprimanded by his superior and stripped of his rank. Spock promptly throws Kirk under the bus and confesses to every violation because it’s the honest thing to do. However, it’s not long before Kirk is back in action, because a new threat has reared it’s ugly head in the form of John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a violent terrorist with a shadowy connection to Starfleet’s high command.
If the name John Harrison fails to inspire any dread or recognition, just know that Harrison is considerably more than he seems. The false name conceals the identity of one of the more iconic Star Trek villains of all time. I won’t add anymore because to do so would spoil the surprise. Let’s just say that Benedict Cumberbatch (who’s appropriately slated to voice the dragon Smaug in the upcoming sequel to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) plays one of the better villains you’ll see this year.
The dynamic between the fiercely passionate Kirk and the nearly robotic Spock again drives this movie. That makes sense: the partnership between Kirk and Spock is one of the best in all of science fiction. They’re complete opposites, and yet both characters are likable thanks in no small part to the talented actors playing them. If Abrams’ reboot told the story of how Kirk and Spock learned to stop hating each other, this is the story of how they finally became best friends. There’s nothing like taking down a galactic terrorist to bring two people together.
If Star Trek: Into Darkness suffers from any weakness, it’s that the plot for this one is a little too convoluted. Aside from John Harrison, there are a lot of forces at play here, and not all of them are well-developed. Trekkies will notice all of the connections to the old Star Trek universe and likely appreciate the labyrinthine plot concocted by writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, but I didn’t. The movie is densely plotted for a flick that, at it’s heart, is just a blockbuster action movie. On that level, Star Trek: Into Darkness comes up short compared to it’s more straightforward predecessor.
However, like Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams is almost constitutionally incapable of making a bad movie. Star Trek: Into Darkness is exceptionally polished. Abrams seems to have a solid grasp on what makes an action flick work. The movie flows along quickly, the performances of the principal cast are strong, the action sequences are top-notch, and the film boasts some of the best special effects work you’re likely to see this year. J.J. Abrams isn’t attempting to reinvent the wheel here; this is traditional blockbuster filmmaking.
Heavy exposition and iffy pacing around the middle of the film mar what would otherwise be a perfect scifi actioner. Still, Star Trek: Into Darkness largely accomplishes it’s goals. This may not be Gene Roddenberry’s vision, but it’s a fine Summer action movie in it’s own right.
As a non-Trekkie, I’d give it an 8.
N: Okay, here we go.
Like Rob, I’ve seen all the Star Trek films, they’re the stuff of my childhood. A year ago, I even marathoned them. I have a lush passion for this movie series despite the really bad ones and those latter-day Next Generation flicks get real bad. My biggest complaint coming out of J.J. Abrams’ reboot, which I enjoyed, was that while he was tipping his hat to the goals of the franchise and Roddenberry’s heady vision for the future, at times it was far too much action flick and didn’t really construct itself well as lore. It felt like a “summer ride” rather than a “Star Trek film”, which carries a toolset of connotations and requirements.
The more I watched Star Trek Into Darkness, the less I liked it.
The film starts out decent enough, although I thought the Nibiru sequence was a little over-played. It did for the Prime Directive what the film does to many different aspects of Trek lore: it nearly drives it to parody. Soon, an installation in London is blowing up and Benedict Cumberbatch’s John Harrison is the culprit. It’s also here that the movie tends to get in the way of itself. I’ll try to tip-toe around the spoilers.
First off, they open with the Nibiru volcano sequence to strip James Kirk of his rank, then give it back to him thirty minutes later. They misspell Qo’oS. They introduce the lovely Alice Eve as Dr. Carol Marcus (future mother to David, maybe?) then don’t give her anything to do. REDACTED is building a REDACTED around REDACTED, but why doesn’t Starfleet know about it? Benedict Cumberbatch is an incredible actor, but in his role, he’s no REDACTED. Why are Spock and Uhura together, really? I’m not above the ‘it’s an alternate timeline now’ reasoning, I’m above the ‘let’s stop fighting about our relationship in a shuttlecraft flying down to the Klingon homeworld on a dangerous mission’ reasoning. Also, why are they flying down to the homeworld of the vicious Klingon race – a species that presents such a terrible hazard to Starfleet in the first place, and presented absolutely no challenge until they’re nearly on the surface? Is it funny that this is the fifth Star Trek film in a row where the Enterprise is matched up against an enemy flagship that should, by any other standard, dice them to tiny bits, but doesn’t?
If you’re a normal person, you probably aren’t thinking about these things while you’re watching it, but you’re thinking about them later (but maybe not). As soon as the plot gets some scrutiny, it becomes clear that it’s a house of cards; a mess of contrivances and flimsy setups and payoffs. All of this culminates in the action-cliche third act that could’ve been cut way short. The movie devolves into ‘summer rollercoaster’ mode as the film’s scribes (who brought us the last Trek film, but also the mind-blistering Transformers films) ramp up the action and present a bunch of people passively losing their lives, but otherwise make the destruction on hand as impersonal as ever.
Then there’s that scene. That one scene. No. Nuh-uh. That’s not a tribute, that’s just lazy. You’ve already evoked REDACTED and you want to pull even more? No. Fuck you. I swore out loud when I saw the action unfolding on the screen. You don’t get to do that and you certainly don’t get to do it like you did it. Go straight to Jail, do not pass Go or collect $200. Bad, bad, bad.
So, let’s stop talking about the movie’s misguided and bloated plot for a moment. The action is amazing, the design is amazing, all the performances are really great. There are some good character moments. For all the references to REDACTED, it really makes that film look like a boring afternoon science-fiction program on PBS. That’s good and bad. Everyone has awesome sculpted sideburns. That’s really cool. Hearing the hum of the REDACTED in warp space before it starts ripping up the Enterprise is incredible.
The reality is: if you treat it like a dumb summer film, then you’ll be fine. As A Trek fan, you may definitely have doubts. Trek shouldn’t be reduced to popcorn faire. I’ve mentioned it before, but the film doesn’t need to be coughing up Shakespeare three times a scene to be classy, it just needs to go to school and learn a bit. Nolan shows us it can be done, so let’s just hope Abrams doesn’t dumb-ify the new Star Wars flick.