[Movie Review] Star Trek: Into Darkness IMAX Review
It’s been a long 4 years waiting for Star Trek: Into Darkness, the second installment in the J.J. Abrams Star Trek saga. After the success of the 2009 film caused thousands of young people to deem themselves “J.J. Trekkies”, one would hope that the second feature film would be able to cater to both old and new ‘Trek’ fans alike. Though the film packs enough action into its 2-hour special effects show to keep any millennial glued to their seat, Into Darkness will most likely be a disappointment for any die hard ‘classic’ Trek fan.
After months of seeing redundant trailers for Into Darkness warning of the “coming darkness” and “inevitable war” I was honestly prepared for what J.J. Abrams does best – a good show. And that’s exactly what Star Trek: Into Darkness is: no more, no less. A lackluster storyline with ‘pretty’ special effects and loud booms is all it takes to make a good summer action blockbuster these days, and Darkness is the perfect example.
Although the film’s title and tagline(s) stress a great “Darkness” coming to the world, J.J. Abrams’ signature light show is ever present in this movie, featuring a multitude of lens flares and pretty lights on just about every surface imaginable. Surprisingly, the Enterprise crew still goes without light-up uniforms, something I’m sure Abrams will fix in his inevitable third installment.
So, the effects were great, the action was exciting… and the villain was an unmemorable, mediocre rehash of a classic, iconic Star Trek character. Which can only mean one thing…
Spoiler Alert (from here to the end….)
Yes, the rumors about writing the great, iconic Khan into the script were all true, and what we ended up getting was a watered down version of a historically badass character that is now a scrawny, 8 feet tall, British guy with an accent. This is where a film that is otherwise aesthetically pleasing becomes a total travesty in the story department. Though Benedict Cumberbatch, known for his role as Sherlock Holmes in the hit show Sherlock, does his best to put on a scary face for his part as Khan, the uncreative and ultimately nonsensical writing of his character ends up being one of the biggest disappointments in the movie. Normally, I prefer to write spoiler-free reviews, but the script in this film makes such little sense that you really can’t write a review without spoiling at least a few of the plot points.
For about the first half of the 2-hour movie, everything kind of makes sense, and that’s being lenient on the writers. Starfleet is attacked by one of its own, and James Kirk decides to fly his crew out to the edges of enemy space in order to take out the source. But by the ending scenes, the movie and canon of the original Star Trek universe gets so out of whack that the only solution is to accept the obscurity of the script.
For example, there are really two main antagonists in the film – Khan, who at first isn’t really Khan but ends up sorta-kinda being Khan in the second half, and a member of Starfleet who betrays the entire organization in the name of, well, nothing.
So basically, the film has already broken a major rule of any decent script, or story writing for that matter, which is NEVER have an antagonist (let alone two) with no clear motive. Neither of the villains in Star Trek has a clear motive, and if we truly wanted to break down their reasons for being ‘evil’, Khan’s would be to ‘act sort of like the original Khan but with a set of Hollywood-style emotions and morals’ and the other Starfleet guy’s motive would be to ‘threaten the Enterprise crew with death because the writers needed another bad guy.’ With this being said, it is quite easy to come to the conclusion that the entire movie is an empty, pointless storyline that is only relevant when trying to further elevate the ‘hero’ status of the Enterprise crew (which in this movie is comprised mostly of Kirk, Spock and a dash of Uhura, because the rest of the crew is pretty much neglected throughout).
One of the biggest mistakes in the movie, however, is glaringly present in one of the last scenes of the whole film. When Kirk is faced with only one chance to save the crew of his ship by going into a radiation chamber of the Enterprise to realign the ship’s main power, he comes out completely unscathed. If you’ve ever seen the film K19: The Widowmaker featuring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson (and if you haven’t, I suggest you watch it on Netflix), there is a realistic and even somewhat tame portrayal of the detrimental effects of radiation sickness on the human body. If Star Trek: Into Darkness were even remotely accurate, Captain Kirk would have been coughing up blood while his skin bubbled and his eyes bled out. However, Kirk instead came out of the event looking about as tired as a pro football player after the Super Bowl. Not to mention the fact that Abrams ripped this entire sequence off from The Wrath of Khan, and that even in that film (1982 vintage, mind you), Spock’s skin bubbles, he goes blind, and the realism is better than Abrams’ silly remake thirty years later.
This led to a great disappointment, and honestly should embarrass J.J. Abrams, as there’s no way a film with as large a budget as Into Darkness should ever skimp on something like this. What we’ve really entered with Into Darkness, seems less and less like a pseudo-realistic sci-fi universe and more like a fantasy, space land where everything is okay as long as you’ve got friends and a great makeup artist. As the moral at the end of the story reveals, everyone lives as long as they’ve got their friend’s backs, and their friends have theirs. Yes, Hollywood has decided once more to get their cheap and cheesy ‘pro-friendship’ message across, and it’s no different with J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek.
And if there is one more thing I must comment on in this movie, it’s the less than great treatment of the women in the script. Not only did the script lack in the portrayal of a cohesive, ensemble cast (as the focus and speaking roles mainly went to Kirk, Spock and Khan), but also there were only 2 leading ladies in the whole thing, and both were reduced to whiny, annoying girls.
The sweet relationship between Uhura and Spock that was so carefully nurtured in the first film is virtually destroyed in this one, as Uhura becomes an unbearably whiny, over-attached, annoying girlfriend. What’s even more laughable is that her only shining moment is a poorly dubbed scene featuring Uhura’s passable Klingon language skills.But the even more unfortunate circumstance is that Zoe Saldana is actually a great actress, but was given such a poor script that during the majority of the film she’s simply reminiscent of the lame Kristen Stewart from the Twilight movies, always seeming to have the same ‘pouty’ look on her face.
The only other lady in the spotlight is Alice Eve, who plays another watered down rehash of an original character, Carol Marcus. Though she’s attractive and bubbly, her character is unremarkable and honestly just comes across as the ‘token blonde’, even though the character in the original films actually plays an important part in the storyline. Though a well-developed female role was absent in the film, I think that Zachary Quinto personally shined in this movie as Spock, as he’s obviously got a perfect hold on the character as an actor, and his fantastic portrayal almost makes the ‘emotionless’ Vulcan one of the most emotive characters on the screen.
In conclusion, Into Darkness is really not a sequel, but really a stand-alone parallel to the 2009 Star Trek, even though it’s plot is a blatant ripoff of the original second Star Trek film. J.J. Abrams himself said it was meant to be a ‘stand-alone movie’, one that was a “thrilling adventure ride.” And though Abrams certainly delivered an exciting action film, I honestly think it was a mistake to make it a stand-alone, as regular moviegoers and fans alike were already emotionally invested in the storylines and relationships of the first in 2009.
Not only did Into Darkness really not add anything to the newly established canon of the Abrams Star Trek universe, but it also threw all original canon out the window, destroying any sense of sacredness that came with Gene Roddenberry’s original series. One other major story flop is that Into Darkness actually ends the exact same way as the 2009 film – with the Enterprise crew heading on a 5 year mission to explore unchartered space, “to go where no one has gone before.” And what’s amazing is that the characters treat this mission as if it is news to them, even though the 2009 movie ended with the exact same mission being granted to them, and Into Darkness vaguely begins with them carrying out theatsame mission. But don’t let the confusion take away from the beauty of Abrams’ wondrous space fireworks. After all, who cares about story anyway? (Note the sarcasm.)
All in all, Star Trek: Into Darkness is a fun movie, and a real treat to watch in IMAX if you get the chance. Though the storyline is lackluster and at times immature, the dazzling special effects and action-packed fights will make you (mostly) forget about the confusing story and empty characters, and will delight any open-minded audience with above average standards for action films. As usual, J.J. Abrams stays true to his promise to produce films that look good (whether or not they make sense), and since Hollywood lacks in originality these days, it seems ‘looks’ is just good enough – it’s not great, but it’s good.