“Star Trek Into Darkness” (2013)



I had really hoped that J. J. Abrams would do justice to Star Trek. And, at many levels he did. This is a great looking movie. The effects, the battles and gunfights, the sets and costumes … everything looks wonderful. Sure, there are some “no f’ing way” moments where the script and the action just basically go so far outside the box that all you can do is sit back and go: “Oooookayyyyy…” But overall the thing hangs together.

The storyline is even pretty good, though it’s kind of tough to remap my synapses to see Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) as Khan, who will always be Ricardo Montalban to those of us who saw the original. You know: old people.

And they did a good job with the casting. The new main characters look a lot like the originals. They even have William Shatner’s pointy sideburns on Chris Pine.

And there is some light whimsy here and there. The opening scenes – while really, really, really far-fetched do have a cute ending with how he people on he tribal planet respond to seeing Enterprise. Spock and Uhura bickering as they’re trying to fly down to Kronos is one which was well done … until they decide to get all serious with it and basically ruin the moment. The interplay between Spock and Kirk isn’t bad – but it’s also forced and one-dimensional.

If you never saw the original TV show, or the movies with the original cast, you won’t understand why I’m disappointed with this movie. I don’t mind that Abrams eschewed from the socio-political slant of the original show – it’s a different time, and studio execs want profit over social commentary on a big-name franchise like this.

One thing which made the original show and movies so great was how the cast was really a crew. Everyone riffed off everyone else. This movie, it’s all segmented. Kirk is about the only one who talks to Scotty. Spock is about the only one who speaks with Uhura. McCoy’s biggest scene is with someone who’s not even part of the crew (I don’t want to give away plot points, so I’m being vague). Chekov is reduced to doing schtick, and Sulu has one good 15-second set of lines to deliver, and otherwise he’s just set decoration.

The humor and camaraderie and warmth that the original show and the original cast had is missing. You wanted to watch those people, these folks are just Actors doing their jobs.

This segmentation kind of carries over to the action as well. It’s like: ok, we have this plot point and these effects here … and then we’ll jump back to Star Fleet and do this stuff … and then we’ll show them something new and go do this other thing on the way to Vulcan. It feels produced rather than directed. Things don’t really sort of flow from plot point to plot point – they jump there. And the cast is never really given the chance or opportunity to really process events – they just react to them.

They’re kind of like Dug the Dog in “Up” … just reading their lines until they think they see a “Squirrel!” and then they’re off.

All in all this isn’t a “bad” movie. It’s just that they have all the pieces here, and obviously the budget, to have done something great. And it just feels like they missed what Star Trek was all about. And it’s really a shame because the writing team of Orsi and Kurtzman know how to write snappy, witty scripts that make you want to keep watching. If you’ve watched the new Hawaii Five-0, that’s the same team working on that show as who wrote this movie. Hard to believe. In “Into Darkness” they seemed to feel like he special effects were the main ingredients to the movie.

If you just want to see a good shoot-em-up space movie, this will float your boat. Just don’t go expecting the depth or warmth of the original, you won’t find it here.