Film Review: Star Trek Into Darkness - To Boldly Go Where Better Films Have Gone Before

If you have not yet seen this film, and don’t want any major spoilers, stop reading now, because we are going to talk about things. First of all, here is the trailer.

Let’s warp right to the good stuff.

The re-casting of the original crew is fantastic. The actors have all found their footing, and all apologies to Mr. Shanter and Co., but it makes me forget all about them. Special shout outs to Simon Pegg as Scotty and Karl Urban as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy.

The visual effects are the most amazing to grace a Star Trek film to date, and I love the new costumes. I’d consider loosing weight just to look good in one of them.

That’s it.

I gave the 2009 Re-Boot a pass, and a generous one at that. J.J. Abrams and crew seemed very interested in exploring new territory and new character arcs. They showed some respect to what had come before, but in a ham-fisted manner that suggested more indifference then reverence. At the end, it had appeared everything needed had been assembled and The Enterprise and it’s crew were clearly ready to launch into new adventures.

Not so. I got the feeling the writers became stalled, decided to go back and look at the previous films, and came to the decision that it would be far easier to rework an older, better film, then developing new ideas. In this case, they decided to stand on the shoulders of The Wrath of Khan, except it’s obvious they have no idea why Wrath of Khan works so well, and it shows. It’s like they didn’t even bother to watch Wrath of Khan, they just read the cliff notes, and figured no one would notice anyway.

The film opens with Kirk doing what Kirk does best - breaking the rules, violating the Prime Directive, and saving an entire planet from certain doom. There’s lots of running and jumping and fire and...and WHY is The Enterprise submerged in the ocean right off a cliff where the entire population of a small city can see them when they take off. Come to think of it, how did they get down there in the first place without being seen? They have to lift off in order to rescue Spock, who is somehow surviving in the middle of a volcano that is about to destroy the whole planet. Only by lifting off can they transport him out of there, so why didn’t they just stay in orbit in the first place? It’s exactly this sort of scenario that plagues the film to the finish - large set pieces that generate lots of action, but are devoid of any logic or reasoning.

Kirk is busted back to First Officer, and Spock is reassigned to another vessel. As promising a direction that was, it lasted for no more then 5 min, before there is an attack on Starfleet, and Kirk is reinstated as Captain to go after the terrorist known as John Somethingorother. His name does not matter, because, as we find out after a pointless action set piece with the Kilngons, John Somethingorother, who gives himself up to Kirk, is really Khan.

From here, were descend into true lunacy. There is a convoluted plot that involves a dirty Starfleet Admiral who is using Khan to make Weapons of Mass Destruction to give the Federation the upper hand in an inevitable war with the Klingons. The Admiral gives Kirk 72 torpedoes (yes, that DOES sound excessive) to fire at Khan and destroy him. The Admiral’s daughter sneaks onboard the Enterprise because she is very curious about these torpedoes and thinks her father is up to something. What I would like to know, is why the Admiral (played with malice by Peter Weller) has a daughter, Carol Marcus (wink, wink) who speaks with a heavy British accent, while he does not.

Turns out that the torpedos carry Kahn’s crew. Khan wants to save them and enlists Kirk’s help to do so, but the Enterprise can’t go anywhere because the Warp Core is damaged. The mean old Admiral shows up in his brand new Dreadnought Class Starship (designed, we can assume, by Khan) to do away with all of them. Khan manages to get control of the new ship and vows to destroy the Enterprise.

More ridiculous, pointless action set pieces happen before we finally witness The Enterprise, gripped by Earth’s gravity, hurtling toward the planet’s surface unless they can somehow get the Warp Core back online.

At this point in the film, we haven’t really seen Khan do anything more then give speeches and exhibit amazing fighting abilities. So in order to ensure that the audience knows what a bad ass this guy is, Spock contacts “Prime” Spock, on New Vulcan so “Prime” Spock can confirm that yes indeed, Khan is a Very Dangerous Person. Is your head hurting yet? This really happens, and I suppose in more talented hands, could have been a really emotional scene, but it’s just clumsy, and it feels like cheating.

Now we arrive, for me, at the most offensive sequence of the film. If you are familiar with the ending of The Wrath of Khan, you’ll know that Spock gives his life in order to save his friends. In this version, the writers switch the roles of Kirk and Spock, so it’s Kirk who goes into the Warp Core to manually restart it. Kirk get’s the radiation poisoning and “dies”, as he and Spock press their hands to the glass that separates them and recite the now classic dialogue from the 1982 film. You can almost hear the writers slapping each other on the backs, congratulating themselves on how clever they are. Just when I think it can’t possibly get any worse, Spock suddenly throws his head back and screams, “KHAAAAAAAAAANNNNN!!!” Really. No, really.

Seconds later, after stabilizing The Enterprise, Khan’s ship (the same one that apparently exploded in a previous scene - but now is mostly intact) screams past them on a collision corse with Starfleet Headquarters. The Enterprise does nothing to stop him, and Kahn’s Ship plows into downtown San Francisco, causing massive damage and carnage. Then it’s a foot race between Spock and Khan, so Spock can get Khan’s blood to save Kirk. Earlier in the film they discovered Khan’s blood can regenerate dying tissue in a Tribble, so of course it will work for Kirk.

Cut to one year later, and there is a 30 second memorial for all those lost in the attack, Khan is shown to be back in cryogenic sleep, and The Enterprise is now ready to embark on it’s 5 year mission.

Star Trek Into Darkness is a warmed over helping of a vastly superior film it has no hopes of matching. It’s loud and flashy with nothing going for it but a really great cast, who are wasted on a lousy, third rate script.