Sunday, January 19, 2014

Star Trek Into Darkness - Movie Review

Full disclosure: I've never watched a full episode of Star Trek. I've never watched a Star Trek movie. Really, the only exposure I've received is through cultural references - I know of the Klingons, I know a good deal about Spock, I know William Shatner couldn't act, and I know of the U.S.S. Enterprise and its mission to boldly go where no man one has gone before. I've heard "Beam me up, Scotty" and "Dammit, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a ____" and "Resistance is futile" in many forms. I even know the famous climax of the Wrath of KHAAAAAAN.

So I do recognize that part of my dissatisfaction with this movie is that I miss some of the in-jokes, and the whole mythos that is Star Trek. But I don't think that's the only thing. After all, I thought a lot of the humor was quite funny. But Star Trek Into Darkness's greatest flaw is the lack of real character development. It starts off with promise, and themes quickly emerge as, following an action-packed opening sequence, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) places the entire crew at risk to save one member, Spock (Zachary Quinto), who is protesting the motion even as it is enacted. Thus is opened a conversation on sacrifice and responsibility.

This film could have been Master and Commander in space. It could have been a chance to teach the devastating consequences of reckless action and the value of making tough decisions, and at first, it seemed like we may be treated to a coming-of-age story with pretty boy Kirk, but his refusal to make hard choices - a prerequisite to being a captain - is only seen as a weakness, despite its necessity. Spock, in other words, is right. Just because it bruises the fragile feelings of the Enterprise's supermodel crew doesn't mean it's the wrong thing to do. This simple observation slips by the wayside as we are thrown into a typical science fiction plot, packed with technical jargon and delusions of grandeur, in this case supplemented by a variety of throwback jokes and a strained attempt at a brotherly bond between Kirk and Spock.

In 2009, Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes did a much better job of creating chemistry between the two male leads, something to which Into Darkness is obviously aspiring. Also similarly, there are two females, presumably there to remind us that Watson/Holmes/Spock/Kirk are not gay, but again, in the former film, Irene Adler and Mary Morstan at least have some personality, while Uhura and Carol Markus are only there for their looks, especially Carol, who gets her own unnecessary lingerie scene.

Not to mention that it's only halfway through the film that it's pointed out, by Simon Pegg's amusing Scotty,  “This is clearly a military operation. Is that what we are now? ‘Cause I thought we were explorers.” Wait, they're not military? Not being a Trekkie, I had mistaken the uniform-clad, gun-toting officers for soldiers, my mistake. They may call themselves explorers, but in this film, they're clearly an imitation of the typical Hollywood Military Type. Like in Antony Horowitz's Foyle's War, the soldiers feel free to argue with superiors, and the handsome, dashing, young captain is inevitably more enlightened than the cold-eyed, weathered, old commanding officer. Sure enough, we have the Old Mentor for a while at the start of the film, but his advice is profoundly unrealistic. Kirk had to break the rules because he shouldn't have put anyone but himself in danger. 

He speaks some of the truest words in the film: "You think the rules don't apply to you because you disagree with them....You haven't got an ounce of humility....The rules are for other people...and what's worse is using blind luck to justify your playing God." Followed by a variation on You're Fired.

Does Captain Kirk learn humility? Not really. If there was any justice, this Jim Kirk would never have graduated from a 3rd class crewman.

Not that this is the villain's fault - Benedict Cumberbatch is one of the best parts of this movie, and probably the best actor, completely throwing himself into the character. He's very cold, calculating, and Wrathful, and deserves better competition.

I found it amusing that despite Kirk's statement that "Our first instinct is to seek revenge when those we love are taken from us, but that's not who we are..." we had this:

Kirk beating a defenseless Khan...

And Spock beating a defenseless Khan...

So, yes, the answer is violence, as long as Spock is able to connect with some healthy anger emotions in the process.

That said, despite Kirk's petulance and then unprecedented character development in spurts, I did enjoy a lot of the interaction between him and Spock. I quite liked Zachary Quinto as the emotionless Vulcan. I liked Karl Urban's Bones whenever he wasn't attempting a southern accent. I cared a bit for those three, but I think this may have been because they were drop-dead gorgeous. As an action flick, it's a lot of fun - it just suffers from trying to be brainy and failing.

PG-13 - for sci-fi violence.

2/5 stars.

Hannah Long


  1. Oh girl, I'm going to have to disagree on this one. I liked this movie so much. I thought they did a pretty good job. I saw the similarities, the differences--how the Kirk/Khan reflected aspects of each other. How things can bring out the worst in us. I thought it was pretty good. And Cumberbatch I thought made an excellent villain. You could see his humanness.

    1. I did quite enjoy it...but the similarities between the two - that willingness to embrace anger and turn it to might have been okay if Kirk's "death" had solved the problem, pointing to something higher, but it turns out Spock has to go punch him, so violence was the solution. However, I do admit that I just don't like Chris Pine...he's too perfect for my taste. *Cough* Bones however....

      But I did like Cumberbatch. He was cool.


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