So Star Trek Into Darkness is, of course, the sequel to the 2009 Star Trek reboot. The first one was controversial in the pre-production stage but this one was less so since pretty much everyone agreed J. J. Abrams first foray into the franchise was “pretty good”. There was a lot of speculation about who the villain was (oh, we’ll get to that). So you’d think the buzz about this movie would have been a little stronger than it was. It wasn’t and, despite the fact that it did well, it didn’t do as good as one would have guessed.
I attribute this to two main factors: 1) the fact that somehow it took four goddamn years for this movie to come out. Now the reason might be really good (Abrams is a busy guy and several of the cast are A-list actors who sadly can’t be forced to just do Star Trek movies and nothing else) but regardless the fact is that four years in this day and age is probably a year too long to wait for an addition to a movie franchise. All the excitement I had coming out from the first flick was absent in the months leading up to release. 2) A few months ago it was announced that Abrams had been hired by Disney to direct the forthcoming Star Wars movie and considering how very much Star Wars-like the first film was (and how Abrams repeatedly told anyone who would listen that he was a far bigger fan of Star Wars than Star Trek) to seems like a pretty good fit. America has been pretty nutty with anticipation for that film, so much so that every interview I saw of Abrams promoting Star Trek Into Darkness always, always turned into questions about Star Wars. It seems the general train of thought is “Oh Star Trek? That should be fine. But what I’m really all about is Episode VII! Can’t wait for that!” Even I was kind of like that, though in my defense I had waited four damn years for a new Star Trek movie; I was tired.
Also Stark trek Into Darkness is a really weird ass name that hits the wrong side of bad.
*Ahem*. Anyway let’s see if this movie was worth the wait.
Full review after the jump.
[WARNING: This review contains MASSIVE spoilers for this film and should only be read if you either saw the film, aren't planning to see the film or don't give a crap about spoilers because I apparently didn't give a crap about giving them out]
|Kirk: This is a little awkward but what's your name again?|
Kirk: I feel like it's..."Spork"?
So let’s talk about what I liked about this movie with the least amount of spoilers possible before this review takes a turn for the worst and turns into a spoiler-filled rant. Easily my favorite part of this film was Zackary Quinto’s portrayal of Spock. Everything I liked about him in the last movie is here with the addition of the character being significantly less of a dick (which wasn’t a problem in the last film but it’s nice that Spock isn’t taking every opportunity to remind Kirk that he’s awful). Spock is also the only character who has anything close to an arc. You’d think Kirk would have, and indeed it seems like the film is setting up for one, but ultimately I’m not sure our cocky, asshole version of Kirk has done any changing. I also LOVED Benedict Cumberbatch as…the character he plays in this film. I will talk more about the character later but I want it known that Cumberbatch is simply fantastic in every aspect of this role. He was so brutal, he had such a presence, and his eyes were chilling. If nothing else the filmmakers hired a phenomenal actor to portray John Harrison and they can enjoy that credit.
I liked the special effects, I liked the music and I liked the story up until the third act (more on that later). I liked the look of most things in the film and I really liked that we got to see so much of Earth. Weirdly we don’t usually see much of the planet in Star Trek and when we do it tends to be mostly inside an office (there were exceptions, of course). I also really like the look and concept of the USS Vengeance and, as far as enemy ships go, it’s become possibly my favorite in Star Trek. The plot is not the best but I feel it's stronger than the previous effort...at least at first (See: Third Act, but again, we'll get to that). All the things I liked about this film made it more than watchable. I feel like I wasn’t as obsessed with this flick as I was with the first one but I still walked away thinking “Yeah, I liked it”. I’ve seen a lot of people say that it was awful but I absolutely don’t agree.
The stuff with Kirk losing his command was stupid and really unnecessary. This feels especially true since he got it right back maybe ten or fifteen minutes later. Though I do find it amusing that the original threat was to send him back to the academy. It’s as if the ruling board of admirals finally remembered that Kirk hadn’t actually graduated before they made him captain of the flagship of the fleet and that’s probably why he’s awful at his job. Oops. The crew isn’t really utilized any better as whole than they were in the last film, so if your name isn’t Kirk or Spock or Scotty you probably didn’t do a whole lot in this film. They had their moments, sure, but they never feel like main characters.
|Which is a shame because I'd watch the hell out of "Sulu Into Darkness"|
Are they gone? Okay, let do this!
Okay, so first of I have a serious problem with Benedict Cumberbatch’s character. By now we all know that “John Harrison” is an alias and he is actually playing Khan Noonien Singh, as in the villain form Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (and the episode “Space Seed” from the original series). So yeah, this is whitewashing. Look, I’ve heard all the rationalizations behind it and I agree that Cumberbatch is awesome in the role, but it doesn’t change the fact that the character and the actor weren’t white originally but were played by one of the whitest actors I’ve ever seen. I hear Benicio del Toro turned down this role, which is funny because it would have been a little closer than what they wen with. If nothing else a role made famous by Mexican actor Ricardo Montalban was rebooted as an English white dude decades later. That sucks and there’s no two ways about it. They could have explained things away with some bullshit science like “we surgically altered Khan so no one would recognize him” or “his DNA was damaged when we unfroze him somehow so now he looks white” but as it is we got nothing.
This seems to be a theme this summer, as The Mandarin was a white guy and Tonto from the upcoming Lone Ranger flick is also played by a white actor. I would love to talk about this more but this subject deserves its own blog.
But the thing about Khan isn’t just who played him, but that they used this character at all. I know a lot of Star Trek fans have been really interested in Khan being the villain of this film since the 2009 flick but those fans were not thinking straight, I suspect. Abrams and his team for years said they were hesitant to do anything with Khan because it would be difficult to top the character’s previous appearances. We now know they were probably purposely using misdirection with those statements but the fact is they were totally right. Aside from the race thing it’s kind of bothersome to have Khan appear as it just reminds us of how great Star Trek II was (and this film is no Star Trek II), not to mention that the character is portrayed so differently that Khan had been prior, as his charming traits that he had in both his previous appearances are completely missing, that he might have been better used as an original character. In fact that would have made a much better film. I mean, come one, we already know that Cumberbatch wasn’t exactly the best choice to play Khan anyway but if John Harrison was a different member of Khan’s crew, maybe even one pretending to be Khan only to turn out to be a fake later, there wouldn’t have been any problem and Abrams would have helped create one of the most memorable antagonists in Star Trek history. Instead we have a second-rate Khan who, while well-acted and has several badass moments, fails to live up to the past films. John Harrison should have been an original character, plain and simple, and it was a major misstep to reveal him as Khan.
Also, and this is a relatively minor issue, I still don’t really like Kirk any better than in the last film. He was a dick then and he’s a dick here. If Abrams’ really wanted to shake things up (though I should point out he probably did want to shake things up and was likely blocked by the heads upstairs) they would have kept Kirk dead, leaving Spock as the main character of the franchise going forward. It would be an interesting change if nothing else. Additionally Old Spock’s cameo is really silly and it shouldn’t have been filmed. It breaks the flow of the film and really hurts its ability to stand on its own and not rely on the older material to stand on.
Star Trek Into Darkness, despite its flaws and dumb ass name, is a fun movie. I left the theater enjoying myself. I hated the problems I mentioned but it didn’t keep me from having a good time, which is way more than I can say about Iron Man 3. Yeah, the film is very flawed and there are some pretty terrible implications but I think there’s still a lot of popcorn fun to be had here. That said if you are offended by any of these issues then, well, you’d be justified. But, weirdly, for all its faults it feels more like a Star Trek film than the previous one. It still feels too far from what actually makes Star Trek Star Trek, but it’s getting better.
|Accepts Dangerous Mission|
Spends Most Of It Yelling At Boyfriend
-Great special effects
-Tries too hard to be Star Trek II, both literally and figuratively
-The true identity of John Harrison sucks on several levels
-Has some sexists implications
-Most of the crew still feel like background characters rather than main characters
Now if you excuse me I'm going to play the heck out of Star Trek Online for a while. They have Romulans now, you know.