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Star Trek Into Darkness (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

Star Trek Into Darkness


Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoë Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Alice Eve, Benedict Cumberbatch, Bruce Greenwood, Peter Weller, Heather Langenkamp and Leonard Nimoy.

Screenplay by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof.

Directed by JJ Abrams.

Distributed by Paramount Pictures. 132 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Hardcore Star Trek fans have been quite vocal about vilifying Star Trek into Darkness. Many of them have been complaining that the film is the worst example of the long, uneven franchise since Star Trek: Nemesis. Perhaps even the worst one ever. In fact, fans at a Creation Convention in Las Vegas this summer did vote Into Darkness the absolute nadir of Star Trek films.

Which is somewhat surprising, because the fans mostly embraced JJ Abrams' 2009 reboot of the series, which brought action and some interesting tweaks to a somewhat set-in-its-way storyline. Some of the new ideas didn't work (I'm sorry, Spock and Uhura dating still feels weird to me) and the blatant action fare was a little at odds with the cerebral ideas of the original series.

Star Trek into Darkness continues in that same basic direction, but it seems that the worm has turned on Abrams' Star Trek vision. It may not even be completely fair. In fact, the way that the fans have completely rejected In Darkness has almost seemed like that of a spurned wife, grumbling angrily as they watch Abrams run into the arms of his younger, sexier new girlfriend, the Star Wars series.

I do not carry this personal baggage into the movie. I'm not a huge fan of the Star Trek world. I was once, but (to paraphrase the old joke) then I discovered girls. That's not quite true or fair, but the last time I was passionate about the series was Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. (I did also enjoy Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.) I can count on my fingers the number of episodes (or movies) of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise series I have seen.

So with the video release of the film at hand, perhaps it's a good time to reevaluate Star Trek into Darkness.

Probably a big part of the disappointment in Star Trek into Darkness is that in such a vast universe of ideas, the movie revisits a bad guy that had already been revisited. I think at this point it is not exactly a spoiler to mention that the Into Darkness villain turns out to be legendary Trek baddie Khan.

However, the Khan story is mostly – for better or worse – completely rethought in this film. In fact, the one time that Star Trek into Darkness does hue to the old Wrath of Khan storyline, recreating an iconic segment between Kirk and Spock in which the roles are reversed, it feels like both a cheat and a disappointment.

Otherwise the relationship between Khan and the crew of the Enterprise is mostly completely changed, other than the basic idea that Khan wants to kill them all, particularly Kirk. Though, interestingly, in this origin tale, Kirk and Khan do not have the malignant history that they shared in The Wrath of Khan. This is supposedly their first meeting, leading you to wonder somewhat where their shared vitriol has come from.

Should Abrams have used a different villain, either an original or from the long rogue’s gallery of bad guys that have appeared in the franchise? Probably, yes. In fact, the detail that Khan actually is Khan seems somewhat superfluous. Other than sharing his superhuman strength and his savagery, this Khan is really very little like the former character who appeared in the original TV series and the first film sequel. He could be just about any super villain.

Still, if you grant the film its antagonist, Star Trek into Darkness is not nearly as bad as the Trekkers are complaining.

On the plus side – and Into Darkness does have more than its share of pluses, no matter what the hardcores may tell you – the movie is exciting, fast-moving, intelligent and often kind of funny. On the minus side the storyline is a bit too complex and not explored nearly enough. Sometimes Abrams seems to be wanting to turn Trek into a Michael Bay pastiche, particularly in a scene of a starship crashing into a city.

However, the cast has grown into their roles. Pine give Kirk a much different vibe than William Shatner ever did, but it is an interesting take on an iconic character. Zachary Quinto's Spock also seems to be settling into a complicated psyche. And while Simon Pegg, Karl Urban and Anton Yelchin sometimes rely too much on accents as Scotty, McCoy and Chekov, they are mostly good for comic relief.

Much like the 2009 Star Trek, Star Trek into Darkness was a Star Trek movie that you didn't have to be a Star Trek fan to appreciate. Unlike its predecessor, in fact it seems that not being a fan of the series is a plus. Taken on its own values, Star Trek into Darkness is a good action film. And if Into Darkness doesn't necessarily capture the converted, it might convert the undecided.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2013 All rights reserved. Posted: September 1, 2013.


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