Movie Review: Star Trek Into Darkness (2013, Dir. J.J. Abrams)

Star Trek Into Darkness

I consider myself a pretty big fan of James Tiberius Kirk and his journeys into space. I love the chemistry between him, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and the rest of the crew. Some great things happen aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise. When 2009’s Star Trek was released, I was worried. How would they interpret the characters for a completely new audience in a new era? Would it be suitable for Star Trek? Despite a bit more action oriented plot than there usually is in a Trek film, I was fine with it. The casting was perfect, I enjoyed J.J. Abrams’ direction, and the script was solid.

Star Trek Into Darkness is a completely different story from the 2009 film. Its plot (or, as I like to call it, convoluted happenings,) follows the usual crew attempting to chase, hunt down, and kill a Star Fleet traitor. There are many issues with the film, and my previous sentence is one of the biggest ones. Star Fleet does not attempt to chase, hunt down, nor kill ANYONE, even terrorists. There are no big-ass space ships with guns proportionately sized to it in Star Fleet. And, above all, Star Trek films are not action films.

I repeat, STAR TREK FILMS ARE NOT ACTION FILMS!

The number of explosions, fighting, gunfire really pissed me off while watching this. I entered the theater wanting to go boldly where no one had gone before. Where did I go? Into every action film set in space ever. This is similar to the problem I have with the Star Wars prequels. The originals were not hard science fiction films, but rather fantasy flicks, showing magic people with magic swords fighting set in space. The prequels forced awkward scientific explanations behind everything, making it less of a fantasy (‘less’ meaning ‘getting rid of’) and more (‘more’ meaning completely) of a poorly made science fiction mess.

Oh, pesky reader, you think that is my only problem with it? That they turned a science fiction series into an action one? Oh-ho-ho, how wrong you are! At the end of the 2009 Star Trek film, Kirk learned some valuable lessons from Nero: trust those around you, they want to help; what does not kill you makes you stronger; you do not know everything, so listen to others. The new film decides to reiterate that last lesson, and add nothing new to the equation. And they do not even begin to communicate these same lessons as well as the previous film. Kirk, again played by Chris Pine, is no longer the (relatively) mature man he was at the end of the last one. Instead, he is in the same place he was when he was thirteen, driving cars off of cliffs.

In most sequels, the characters gain some semblance of forward motion, becoming more mature, having grown from the prior movie. In Star Trek Into Darkness, the characters actually lose development. This is not a good thing. The dialogue was somewhat decent, but with such mediocre lines, there wasn’t much room for the actors to explore their characters. The exception here was Simon Pegg of course, who was spectacular in the film, and made it watchable. There is a shot that lasts a solid ten seconds with him just running. That moment is pure perfection.

In my past few reviews, I have pointed to the writers as those who created the problems. I hate to do it, but I must do it once again. I do not want to join the Damon Lindelof (Lost, Prometheus) hate party. I like him, his writing, and his way of thinking. Out of all the hundreds of people I have followed on Twitter, he is among the funniest. Having said that, I cannot let him slide for this one…

At this point, thy reading people might have noticed that I have not mentioned J.J. Abrams, the director, very much. Why is this, you ask? His presence is not felt much. People mock him for copious amounts of lens flare, and other flashy techniques, but I did not notice it that much in this installment. In fact, I did not notice anything he did in this film. That is not good, as I typically enjoy his work, what he does with scripts, and pretty much everything about him. He may not be my favorite director, or even in my top twenty, but as a big-blockbuster director, he usually entertains me at least. With this film, he seemed content with putting in a minimum effort. It might be because of the script, but as director, one should be willing to adjust whatever is needed to make the film the best it can be. Maybe only the dialogue needs change, but sometimes it needs to. In Star Trek Into Darkness’ case, it needed to.

Spoilers follow. Sorry, but I’m going to have to delve into more details to explain why I was so disappointed by this.

The Wrath of Khan is known far and wide as the best Star Trek film by most every trekkie out there. Why? It is tense, it is funny, it is well done, it has a great script, and that ending is killer. This new film is a thinly veiled remake of it, except instead of Spock dying from radiation at the end, Kirk does. Spock then shouts the infamous line, “KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!!!!!!”

What is the point of this? Why do the Khan arc all over again? Fans have seen it before, so it is nothing new. It is not nearly as well done, and no one should expect it to one-up Wrath anywhere. There is also an added level of stupidity to the infamous scene. The shouting thing that Spock does? It is played as a brief piece of nostalgia for the original, but comes across to new audiences as playing for laughs. Which it did, successfully. That is a very, very, very bad thing, potentially tarnishing the memory of the original.

Earlier in the film, Kirk was angered, so he punched Khan in the face with all his strength multiple times. Khan did not even look fazed. Spock may have Vulcan strength, but there is not a single way in which he could fight Khan. Guess what he does in this film?

Immediately after the shouting, Spock chases after Khan. There is a fight done on flying ships where Spock is on par with Khan strength-wise. He eventually overcomes Khan, and almost kills him, when deus ex machina happens, and they keep him alive so they can use his blood to bring Kirk back. What a cop out. What a film.

Khan lost Cannes.

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