Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

Sorry for the absence, other things have taken focus lately but we’re back (or at least I am)! Enjoy!

Star Trek Into Darkness

As you may know, especially if you haven’t been living under a rock or if you know at least one nerd, Star Trek Into Darkness is the sequel to 2009’s Star Trek, which in turn is a reboot of the Star Trek franchise that consisted of ten movies and approximately 500 different television series. In this latest film, the young crew of the Enterprise continue to traverse the galaxy, partaking in dangerous adventures and facing exactly zero consequences when their half-cocked plans inevitably fall apart. That is, until a dangerous man (who’s literally the best because he’s played by Benedict Cumberbatch) arrives and shows them what a real adventure is! Best summer ever!

With that boilerplate out of the way, lets discuss the good and the bad. First off: the title. Maybe if Park Chan-wook or Christopher Nolan were directing this film it could be called Into Darkness and actually mean something but, as far as I know, J.J. Abrams doesn’t have a dark bone in his body. He doesn’t do dark. This movie is not dark. So forget the title.

Secondly: the plot. As I explained it with two sentences above, you can tell the plot is pretty basic. That’s good, of course, as Star Trek has never been very deep and honestly it’s better off sticking with the adventure tropes and generous throwbacks to the old films. That said, a lot of the exposition for the villain happens off screen which was a bad idea. You could say it adds to his mystery (though he’s introduced with evil music so I don’t think that was the aim — with caveats that I leave out to keep from spoiling) but this ends up slowing down the action in the middle of the movie. It feels lazy when the characters stop their space battle in order to reveal details from their past and elaborate on their motivations.

In an ideal world they would treat the franchise like a television series and plant little details in the previous film(s) that become relevant later. Want this guy to be a big jerk? Does he maybe have dark secrets? Why not drop some hints about that before the details are relevant? This is probably (definitely) asking for too much, but it would improve the experience in my opinion.

Finally: the physics. It’s really, really bad in this movie. Yes, Star Trek is a fictional universe and intends to entertain and not educate, but I’m not taking issue with the physics of the fictional, convenient technologies like warp drive or time travel (hell, I didn’t even complain about the superweapon in Star Trek). I’m simply asking that spaceships not fall from a moon to a planet in 10 minutes and that space actually be silent (people working on sci-fi have no excuse when they get this wrong). Find another way to add tension — it can be done. Please?

So there you have it. A fun, tropey adventure for the whole family — as long as none of your family is under 13 (by decree of the MPAA). If you enjoyed the previous Star Trek, you’ll like this one. I actually think it might even be better than the last one, though I am a big fan of Benedict Cumberbatch so your mileage will vary.

Now for a few more observations!

  • The actors are awesome at these roles. Even if everybody not named Kirk or Spock gets limited screen time, they all use it well.
  • I don’t remember a ton from the old movies (there were ten, seriously? I only remember like 3.5 tops) but when they add old characters back in or riff on old scenarios it clicks. I enjoy it, too, but they maybe did a little too much navel gazing this time.
  • Kirk is so lucky they’ve cured all STDs in the future.
  • The trope I can’t stand is that there’s always a secret weapon that’s way better than everything the protagonists possess. Doesn’t fit my conception of the world at all.
  • Though there was less this time, I think the overabundant lens flare stems from the fact that J.J. Abrams wears glasses. We share a glare-filled lifestyle.
  • I’d be remiss to not include this video after complaining about movie science: