Film Review: Star Trek: Into Darkness
Warning: If you have not seen this movie, this review will contain some spoilers, but I’ll try to keep it minimal.
Disclaimer: I loved Star Trek: Into Darkness. It was a fantastic movie in my eyes. This review comes of a bit negative (to me) because I nit-picked all the little things.
Star Trek: Into Darkness is J.J Abrams second run at the Star Trek franchise. Although his 2009 foray into the Trek universe was a solid, fast-paced action movie, it was criticized by many of the universe’s more stringent fans for changing the story. Abram’s achieved this through a sneaky bit o’ time travel, and a well-placed Spock cameo by Leonard Nemoy. This resulted in the ability to craft entirely new stories with fan favourite characters.
J.J. Abrams did not do that.
For the Star Trek fans out there, Into Darkness plays off many scenes and plot points from another (and probably the best) Star Trek film, The Wrath of Khan. This is meant as little tongue-in-cheek nods to the original canon, but by borrowing plot (and occasionally actual dialogue) and putting it in a new context, it just feels like a missed opportunity.
But all of that is just my lamenting as a Star Trek fan. As a standalone film, it does quite well.
The action is fast-paced, although at times it does feel like it needs to slow down, with plot being the distraction from more action scenes. However, this doesn’t detract from the overall slickness of the film. The cinematography (by Daniel Mindel) and visual settings are magnificent, with the clinical coldness of the Enterprise contrasting perfectly with the uniforms of the crew standing out for me. Combined with the score (by Michael Giacchino), the setting of the film is refreshing. I saw it in 3D, but the film was filmed in IMAX and post processed into 3D. There are numerous lens flares (classic J.J.) and this time they’re in 3D as well!
The acting is sometimes great, and sometimes lukewarm, but never terrible. The classic power struggle between Kirk (Chris Pyne), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Dr. McCoy returns from the series, but in a much-diminished form. The battle for Kirk is between the cold logic of Spock, and the raw emotion from Dr. McCoy is simply brushed aside by the captain himself, who is much too brash for thinking and prefers to rush head-on into the next plot point. Spock is more emotional than his namesake, and McCoy is reduced to a protesting one-liner machine. The rest of the cast seems unappreciated, with Uhura reduced to simply scolding or encouraging Spock. Chekov looks about 15 with the worst Russian accent of modern times, and Scotty is simply reduced to comic relief. Personally I think it’s down to some lazy writing. Rather than develop their characters, they became fillers during the interval of the main show: Kirk and Spock. The standout performance in the film is that of the villain. Benedict Cumberbatch (of Sherlock fame) is simply magnificent. His rendition of the genetically superhuman Khan is fearsome, cold, calculating and monstrous all at the same time. He exudes an air of superiority fitting to his character the entire film. With the cold British demeanor reminiscent of Alan Rickman’s Snape, he is easily the most memorable performance from the entire film.
My final gripe is that the film had no solid ending. Abrams created a great 2/3rds of a movie, but the final act was missing a good payoff. The culmination of Kirk’s fight was a scene chopped and rehashed from The Wrath of Khan, with the heavy lifting left to Spock.
Overall, Star Trek: Into Darkness is a solid space fantasy film, but it cannot be considered science fiction like the source material. Gone are the meticulous considerations into the science and philosophy found in the series, and they’ve been replaced with close-up face shots and explosions.
In the end, go see the film. It’s an entertaining 2ish hours, with plenty of twists, turns and explosions to keep you thoroughly entertained (plus it shows Klingons!). My inner Star Trek nerd was very satisfied. Just keep in mind, if you come into this movie expecting more than the sequel to the 2009 space-action film Star Trek, you will be disappointed. If not, you’ll have an absolute blast.
Rating: 3.5 Stars