Star Trek: Into Darkness Review

As should come as no surprise, I went to see Star Trek: Into Darkness this weekend. It’s good. Good Trek or good movie you ask? I’d say both. How can that be you ask?  Well…Wait, before I get into that I should do this:

 

 

***SPOILERS***

 

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let’s set a few parameters. First, in determining how good the movie is and whether its good Trek, I’m only comparing apples to apples. So I’m just considering movies. TV and movies are different media and there are things you can do in one you can’t do in another.

Into Darkness was definitely a good movie. I enjoyed it and was entertained. That is the purpose of a movie. And it did that well. There was never a dull moment. The characters were engaging and well acted.

Throughout the entire movie there were lots of easter eggs referencing other Trek material. So many I’ve forgotten or missed most of them. Of two that I do recall, one was in a scene on the bridge, one of the background computers is displaying graphics straight out of Star Trek 2 or 3. I can’t peg the exact scene down but its Genesis related and clearly 80’s computer graphics. It has nothing to do with the movie, just an easter egg.

In another scene, there are some ship models and one of them is the NX-01 and the Phoenix warp ship. While that was cool, referencing that the time line for those ships never changed, it was a bit jarring. The visual aesthetic between JJ-Trek and old Trek is vastly different.

This is one area I’m not sure how I feel. It’s not bad. And it’s not that it’s different. While I would prefer things such as the exterior of the Enterprise be the same as the one on the show, the interior needed to change so its no big deal that the exterior did as well. There’s just something about the visual style that just doesn’t feel like Trek. I can’t really explain it.

The movie also did a pretty good job at character development and fully utilizing the entire crew.  Sometimes Trek movies (looking at you Next Gen) are terrible about giving the whole cast something important to do. With the exception of First Contact,the Next Gen movies, were just about Data and Picard.  Which was terrible because the show did such a good job of using the whole cast.

The TOS movies were just as bad but it was less jarring. TOS had been about Kirk, Spock and McCoy for the most part. That the others didn’t have big parts fit the theme. But even they did better than some Next Gen movies.  Into Darkness gave everyone an important role and a good character moment. Kirk and Spock obviously had the most but you didn’t feel like it was “oh yeah, Scotty was there too”.  Scotty’s part was the best.

As for the plot, one thing I really liked was how it took the ridiculous fact that Kirk went from Cadet to Captain in the last movie and made it part of the story. Kirk wasn’t ready to be captain. And while he was Kirk, and therefore successful most of the time, he didn’t have any experience. They didn’t try and gloss over that fact and instead embraced it.

One thing that I’ve come to accept about this version of Trek is that it is far less military. It works if you accept that people don’t have to have your typical military career; ie go to Academy, serve as an ensign, then lieutenant, etc etc.  Ranks come off as more position related. Generally a person is likely going from a lieutenant position to a lt. commander position. But your rank is your position and you get a position you’re suited for.

The movie actually managed to raise moral questions. This is what makes it more of a Trek movie than the first one. Part of Star Trek is moral questions and people trying to be better. It showed Kirk struggling with this. Killing a mass murderer without risk to others, but risking a war with the Klingons, is a tough choice for Kirk.

The moral debating was a bit wobbly at times, such as the Prime Directive talk. But it was there. The first one just had Pike telling Kirk Starfleet is a peacekeeping armada and its good. And important. Trust him.

Including Khan went far better than I expected. The explanation for his presence worked. His involvement with a rogue admiral whose running Section 31, great little tidbit. His goals of fighting for his crew made sense. You almost started to think they would subvert your expectations with Khan and make him out to be a misunderstood villain who ends up helping the heroes.

The ending though, I’m mixed on. The bit where Kirk and Spock switch places from Wraith of Khan and it’s Kirk who dies from radiation after repairing the warp core, that was pretty well done. Having Kirk die like that would have been a thousand times better than the way Kirk died in Generations. And it would have been completely unexpected.

But then he’s saved through Treknobabble. Which is kind of appropriate for this being Trek. And the set up with Khan’s blood went pretty well. Its set up early in the movie that Khan’s blood could heal other people and that fact is used to set his plans into motion. Scenario for saving Kirk established without being obvious.

Having Bones inject the tribble though, that was a step to far. As soon as he did that, you knew the blood would be used to heal someone. So when Kirk went into the warp core you knew exactly how he wasn’t going to die. A little disappointing. Dropping that tribble scene probably would have been enough to make you question whether or not Kirk would actually die.

And Spock yelling Khan, yeah that was dumb.  It felt forced. The original one was classic Shatner overacting.  It wouldn’t have been good to have Chris Pine do it but even less so Zachary Quinto.

In a final note, the guys from All Things Trek will be pleased that the Transwarp Transporter was not forgotten.  It actually played a key plot point. They had a plan to count how many times that tech would have solved a problem but was forgotten. By my count, 0. It was commandeered by Section 31, so not in regular use. Sure, they could have used it to follow Khan to Qo’nos (or Kronos as they spelled it) but then they would have no way of getting back. The transwarp transporter can beam you to a place but you can’t beam stuff back with it.  Well done there for keeping the super tech in check.

All in all, a fun movie. Definitely worth a viewing. Or two.

 

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3 Responses to Star Trek: Into Darkness Review

  1. Jedi_Rabbit says:

    Great review. I’ll have to disagree with you on the Spock Khan thing. I liked that because it showed how Spock couldn’t control his emotions when Kirk died.

    You didn’t mention Cumberbatch’s performance. I thought it was brilliant.

    I do agree that I wish McCoy hadn’t injected the tribble because it was a clear giveaway as to how Kirk would be saved.

    Overall solid flick. Definitely more “Trekky” than the 2009 one.

    • Wayne says:

      I did kind of gloss over commenting on individual performances. I thought they all did great. Karl Urban’s McCoy is still the best resemblance to the original. And Cumberbatch did great, pulled off Khan better than I would have thought.

      • Jedi_Rabbit says:

        Agreed. Karl Urban is great. I like how Cumberbatch made Khan his own instead of trying to top Ricardo Montalban.