Before I begin my thoughts on Star Trek: Into Darkness, please let me state clearly, “There will be spoilers.” Keep reading if you want, but don’t blame me if I reveal a plot point you haven’t seen yet.
When my daughter saw that the newest Star Trek movie was coming out around her birthday, she insisted that seeing it become part of her birthday celebration. It didn’t any arm-twisting to get me to agree to the request. I would have gone to see it anyway. I had very high hopes for Into Darkness going into the film. I thought the initial reboot movie was a lot of fun, lens flares aside, and I was looking forward to seeing what JJ Abrams would do with the franchise now that the bridge movie had been successful. While I left the movie entertained, it wasn’t what I was hoping for.
Now, there is a typical reaction that people who are fans of the original, or “Prime,” universe must automatically fault the Abrams reboot. I’m not one of those people. The first movie so clearly created it’s own reality that I was excited to see how they’d keep the familiar forms in their new universe. Given that the look of our technology is actually more “futuristic” than that props of the original series, or even Next Generation, by this point the new direction was a breath of fresh air. I’m also a JJ Abrams fan in general, and I enjoy the blend of action and thought in his films and TV shows.
So, my saying I was disappointed by Into Darkness is not because I felt it undermined my beloved archetypes. In fact, I enjoyed his take on Kahn and the final act of self-sacrifice by which the ship was saved. Giving Spock the iconic “Kahhhhhnnn!” line was a genius way of making that character be more in touch with his human side. My major disappointment sprang from how many archetypes JJ Abrams crammed into the film. There was no need to shove a Tribble into sick-bay, or for Dr. McCoy to reference doing a c-section on a Gorn. The gratuitous references only served to tie the Abrams reboot to the memory of the Prime universe. While I appreciate the nod in the direction of long-time fans, I really wanted JJ Abrams to go off on his own direction. Perhaps the most glaring of these Prime loaners was Spock’s use of the “Needs of the many” quote (which actually adorned a poster). It felt more like a photobomb sent in from the Prime universe instead of a line Spock would have said in that moment of the story – as if the Spock from Wrath of Kahn was jumping around in the back of the set yelling, “Hey, our second film had Kahn in it too!” Any two or three of these would have been fine. The inclusion of Kahn was handled very well, and the Gorn line gave McCoy a chance to shine in a film where he’s horribly under-utilized. Jettison the tribble and the other photobombed lines and I think the movie would have become better. Abrams doesn’t need to cater to old fans, he needs to focus on making new ones.
I might have felt better about the movie had the plot been more solid, and less cliche. Admiral Marcus was a cartoon-character of an adversary – little more than a Daily Show caricature of Dick Cheney in a bad outfit. The character was cold, paranoid, and ethically deficient. While I might wonder how such a person rose to become the head of the fleet, the version of Starfleet presented in the film is so unstable I find his presence a bit more plausible. Characters rise and fall in rank with almost comical speed, and the ineptness of Starfleet in Into Darkness a joke used to create convenient plot-points. As in, “He knows the top officers will be meeting in this room, right now….” That’s just plain dumb.
The plot had transparencies so blatent it was sad to see them in action (“The tribble will live, I tell you, live!”). It also had holes in it which were so large the Enterprise-E could have flown through them. How is the Enterprise able to sail through the Neutral Zone without even an hint of detection? They were heading for Kronos. Also, how was the enterprise able to send a transmission to New Vulcan when they couldn’t even contact Earth from orbit around the Moon? I know the captains of the ships were all incapacitated by the above alluded-to assault, but none of the other ships in Starfleet were stationed around Earth going, “Hey, what’s the unidentified vessel doing there attacking our flag ship?” Speaking of the plot, just watch the last half of Star Trek: Nemisis and you’ve pretty much seen it.
In all, I was entertained by the movie, but I wasn’t impressed by it. Had I known what I knew above I would have been quite content to wait until it came out on RedBox. Despite it’s strong points, it simply wasn’t worth the expense of the theatre.