Thursday, May 16, 2013

Movie – Star Trek into Darkness (2013)

While the 2009 Star Trek reboot film had its flaws, one of the things that was extremely smart about it was the fact that the storyline included the time stream being irreparably altered.  This meant that the filmmakers had rid themselves of the burden of more than four decades of Star Trek continuity.  They literally were free to do any story they liked about the ship and crew.  Because of this you’ll understand my puzzlement when I discovered today that for reasons which, quite frankly, escape me, director J. J.  Abrams chose to remake one of the original Star Trek movies.  And he didn’t pick just any old movie, but the one that many consider to be the most iconic: The Wrath of Khan.

Sure, the openings of the films are quite different, but by around the midway point they are converging, and then finally towards the end this newest film is even replicating scenes and shots from the original film.  Don’t worry if you have not seen The Wrath of Khan; I will not be spoiling those ending moments in this post.

This film opens with a huge action scene with the Enterprise crew trying to simultaneously escape from natives and extinguish a volcano that is about to erupt.  Abrams immediately establishes that he has not yet outgrown his fondness for shakycam.  In fact, there is a later action scene where there is a gun battle that occurs on a planet’s surface and I frankly cannot tell you much of anything that happened in it because the camera was bouncing around so much.  There were two guys in red shirts that I assume died because that’s what happens to those guys, but if it was shown onscreen I wasn’t able to pick up on it.  It sounded like an exciting scene, though.

And this time around Abrams has added another “hey, look at me” element to his films: lens flares.  I first noticed an abundance of them in a couple of last summer’s action films.  Back then I joked that apparently the lens flare is the new shakycam.  I guess Abrams has jumped on this bandwagon, too, because there were a ton of them in this film.

Anyway, what is the film about?  After the aforementioned natives and volcano sequence, during which Kirk violates any number of Star Fleet directives, he is busted down to First Officer.  That lasts for approximately one day and he is once again back on the job as the Enterprise Captain, leading a hunt for a man (Benedict Cumberbatch) who blew up a Starfleet facility.  Not everything is as it first appears, either with the bad guy, or with the entire assignment.  Kirk has reason to question both his own motivations and the orders he received.  There are impossible-to-miss parallels with 9/11 and the actions of some in power in the aftermath of it.  In fact, there is a tribute to 9/11 First Responders in the credits.

Joining all the regulars this time around are Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller), who gives Kirk the assignment, and his daughter Dr. Carol Marcus (Alice Eve), who sneaks onboard the Enterprise.  Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) also returns from the first film, once again trying to give Kirk good advice and most of the time being ignored.

Among the regulars – Chris Pine as Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, Karl Urban as Bones, Simon Pegg as Scotty, John Cho as Sulu, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, and Anton Yelchin as Chekov – it is Uhura whose part is most pumped up from the reboot.  She seems to accompany both Kirk and Spock in many of the key scenes in the film.  The filmmakers also throw in some relationship squabbling between her and Spock, with Kirk sometimes playing marriage counselor.

Everything you’ve read so far may not make the film sound that exciting.  Most big action films are only as good as the villain that is in them.  Imagine John McClain without Hans Gruber in Die Hard, for example.  Well, Benedict Cumberbatch as the bad guy is what makes this film work.  He is far more effective onscreen than Eric Bana was in the reboot, although to be fair that was from bad writing on the first film more than anything else.  This time around the writers (the same as on the reboot) learned from the mistakes of the first one and created a much more effective and three dimensional antagonist for Kirk and his crew.

I mentioned up top that this was a remake of The Wrath of Khan.  When this became apparent I was a little disappointed, but I went with it.  As they started replicating some scenes, though, I got a little frustrated.  When they finally had the iconic “KHAAAAAAAAAAAAN” yell I had had enough and literally said to myself, “Give me a break.”  The filmmakers do put enough of a different spin on things to keep it from being a total redo, though.  And it will be fresh for anyone who has not seen the original film, of course.

If you watch Star Trek into Darkness throw any kind of logic out the window.  Like its predecessor, it’s a big, dumb, loud summer action movie.  Big, dumb, loud, summer action movies can be entertaining, though, and this one is.  If anything you read here makes this movie sound interesting then I recommend you give it a try.

Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


  1. Benny Batch is the big draw for me for this movie. Since Sherlock (which, btw, I have now seen all of and AM COMPLETELY OBSESSED WITH THANK YOU VERY MUCH), I'll take any opportunity for more Cumberbatch, thank you very much. Glad to hear you thought he was good in it.

  2. YOU'RE WELCOME. :-)

    Parts of this role are different from what he's most known for here in the U.S. (Sherlock, TTSS). Yes, there are the familiar pauses where he is letting you know there is a lot going on in his brain before he speaks, but the character he plays is also one that is completely fine with using violence as a means to an end.

  3. Good review Chip. The tension or excitement barely ever stops, even when characters are just sitting down and talking.

    1. Yes, the conversations between Kirk and the bad guy were part of what made the villain in this film much better than the one in the reboot. Thanks.

  4. Good analysis Chip, but you need to go back and re-watch the 2009 Star Trek if you think Abrams introduced lens flare with this one. It's hard to find a scene without it in the last film. I don't really mind too much though, it's not that distracting for me. Maybe it's because I wear glasses, so I get lens flare all the time just in life :)

  5. I would like to blame scriptwriter Damon Lindelof, everything he touches turns to coal.

    I actually thought JJ toned down the lens flares a bit in this one.

    Why rehash some old tired story rather than boldly going where no star trek has gone before?

  6. and - RE: lens flares - I guess I missed them in the first film. I didn't see it in a theater and I've only ever watched it one time because it didn't do much for me. When I noticed lens flares in a couple movies last summer those were both in the the theater, too, so maybe it's the large screen or the dark theater that makes them more noticeable to me.

  7. I think I'm gonna wait for DVD on this one. I liked the previous movie but I'm not a big Star Trek fan.

    1. It's much like the first one in regards to tone and presentation. If you liked the first one, then you'll probably like this one, too.

      By the way, is that Cersei staring at me from your avatar?