May 22 2013
2.5 out of 5 stars
In 2009, JJ Abrams took on perhaps his greatest challenge to date, a reboot of a sci-fi franchise more beloved than (almost) any other, Star Trek. In his film, he fashioned a parallel timeline to the original universe as a rather clever way to not upset longtime fans by changing the story, and assembled one hell of a talented young cast that few took issue with.
The new Star Trek film was everything the Star Wars prequels were not. It was well-filmed, fast-paced, charmingly funny and it paid respect to the original without being slavishly devoted to it. Star Trek was a hit, and a film that I personally demanded be turned into a franchise, something I’ve rarely said about a movie before.
Star Trek Into the Darkness is the answer to my request, a continuation of the reboot and a depiction of the further adventures of the cast. It’s everything I said I wanted, but I didn’t expect it to feel so…ordinary, by the time it was over.
James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is getting an earful after saving a planet from destruction at the hands of a particularly volatile volcano (uh, okay). In doing so, he violated more directives than Starfleet can count, and is up for disciplinary action.
Fortunately and unfortunately, his misdeeds are quickly forgotten when a rogue Starfleet officer, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), blows up a secret research lab in London. When all the best captains in the land get together in one room to discuss next steps, he tries to blow all of them up too.
When Harrison flees this time, it’s to the Klingon homeworld, out of the reach of Starfleet who is dangerously close to war with the species and can’t risk sending a large force there. It’s left to Kirk and the Enterprise to hunt him down, with standing orders to eliminate him on sight with long range, stealth photon torpedoes. Kirk and his crew weigh the morality of the illegal request to execute a man without trail against the rage they feel about the atrocities Harrison has committed.
The promotional materials for the film have gone to great lengths to obscure any details of the plot past this, but it should surprise no one that Harrison is more than a simple turncloak. I highly recommend staying away from the film’s IMDB page which inexplicably has spoilers about his character. Though really, I could have done without the subterfuge from the beginning, as it really doesn’t add anything to the film.
All the crew has returned and each given their own little moment in the sun. Chekov (Anton Yelchin) takes over engineering when Scotty (Simon Pegg) is indisposed. Sulu (John Cho) gets to sit in the captain’s chair when Kirk is away. Uhura (Zoe Saldana) gets to speak with the Klingons, and Bones (Karl Urban) gets to say “Damnit, I’m a doctor, not a photon torpedo technician!”
Of course its left to Kirk and Spock to have the lion’s share of screen time. The two make for nearly all of the film’s most hilarious moments, and honestly, I’d watch a show about just the two of them sharing an apartment together. Spock, in particular, is probably one of the funniest, best written characters across any genre in the last five years or so, and Quinto is perfect in this part.
I was particularly excited to see Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain, as I’ve loved him in Sherlock and pretty much anything else he’s ever been in. He does a great job here, but I fear he was underused and ill-explained. Even as a sci-fi nerd, I had trouble understanding his backstory when it finally was revealed in the film, nor did I really process his master plan. It seemed less like a inspired masterpiece and more like something the writers slapped together over lunch. It shares many, many, many parallels with another older Star Trek film, but if it’s trying to convey the same ideas to a new audience, it does a poor job. Yes, we’re free from many of the time travel plot holes of the first movie, but plenty more crop up and some are big enough to fall into. They’re ones you spot as the film is playing, not simply when you think about it days later.
Perhaps the most inexplicable portion of the film is the introduction of Alice Eve as science officer Carol Marcus. She has a half second scene in the trailer where she’s in her underwear, which is the same length in the film and completely out of nowhere. She has exceptionally little relevance to the central plot, and you would assume that at the very least she was brought in to be a love interest for Kirk. But it was dumbfounding to learn that wasn’t the case either, and as such she earns the honor of perhaps the most pointless cast addition I’ve ever seen in a sequel.
The film is big and over the top the way the first one was, but almost too much so. It’s nearly veering dangerously into Transformers territory with a plot with a similar intelligence level. It’s so jam packed with insane action sequences and pithy dialogue that when it does try to hammer in a dramatic moment, it doesn’t land correctly and there’s no emotional impact. The end of the film has a scene that’s supposed to be tear jerking, but it just comes off as silly and predictable as the clumsy plot has spelled out what’s going to happen miles in advance.
No one was more excited for Into the Darkness for me, and though I somewhat enjoyed it in parts, there was just something missing. It’s a film that’s shot well with fantastically casted characters, but these films really need to work on their plots so it takes more than a single viewing to point out a dozen or more holes by the end. Blockbusters don’t have to be dumb, but it’s like Star Trek believes its explosions and funny Spock one-liners and Kirk’s piercing eyes will forgive them their story transgressions.
If anything, it’s made me a little worried about JJ Abrams taking his turn with Star Wars. It’s one thing to get a great cast together and making an exciting film, but it’s another to insert them into a worthy story, and Into the Darkness feels like a misstep in that department.
2.5 out of 5 stars
More Unreal Posts