This isn’t as unadulterated a review as you can get but it’s close. The only Star Trek thing I had seen going into this one was Wrath of Khan. I haven’t watched any of the other movies or any of the TV shows (except for some famous bits like Kirk battling that alien in the dessert). I didn’t read any reviews before or after watching Into Darkness either, so without any influence and very little frame of reference here are some thoughts on this sucker.
Let’s break shit down into three main areas: characters, story and production.
First, characters (only some of the mains because there’s a big cast here). Kirk is kind of a dick in this movie. Now remember I’m basing this off of limited Star Trek knowledge so I don’t know if that’s just his character. But this guy doesn’t really listen to anyone, lies on official reports, goes into situations with either no plan or with one that hasn’t been thought out and puts other crew members in unnecessary danger. In the beginning Bruce Greenwood (Exotica) strips Kirk of his ship and demotes him for some of the shit I listed above and I agreed with him. Kirk seems like a pretty reckless dude and the opening scene is a good example of this. The folks aboard the Enterprise were supposed to just observe this primitive civilization on some planet but Kirk ends up stealing their sacred scroll. Of course the indigenous people chase after him throwing spears trying to kill him. Why Kirk did that I have no idea. He put himself and his crew at risk for no apparent reason. I mean there’s a volcano that’s going to erupt threatening to decimate the planet but I don’t get what one has to do with the other.
And throughout the whole film it seems like Kirk doesn’t really know what he’s doing. Any bad situation he gets in he needs to be rescued by someone else (with the exception of the Starfleet Command attack scene) and that doesn’t seem quite right. I get that Star Trek is about teamwork but this guy bumbles his way through shit and should’ve died a couple of times like the scene where he shoots himself from one spaceship to another or when he meets up with some Klingons. This character kind of aggravated me. I didn’t get the sense that he earned his captainship. It was more like he’s supposed to be the captain because that’s just how the movie goes. Wasn’t in love with Chris Pine’s performance either.
By now the secret’s out that Khan is the bad guy so I don’t think there’s the need to put a spoiler alert up. He’s nowhere near as fun as the original or as memorable. This Khan is really somber and fairly broody. The thing is he’s kinda hard to take seriously because he looks so young. Actually with all of the characters being so young I couldn’t help but think of Muppet Babies or Tiny Toons where even the bad guys are scaled down to a smaller version. And the major problem with that (especially with villains) is they end up losing all their presence and you don’t respect them very much because they’re a reduced form of what you know this character can and will grow up to be. In an attempt to compensate for that the filmmakers made Khan a super human. He can withstand blows, stun shots, spaceship crashes and oxygen free environments. I don’t remember the original Khan being like this. Did they totally change this character? Anyway the guy that plays him, Benedict Cumberbatch (helluva name), is one foul looking motherfucker. Is it just me or does anyone else think he has a bad looking CGI face? I know this isn’t a nice thing to harp on but I found Cumberbatch so ugly that it was distracting.
The brightest spot in the cast however is Zachery Quinto as Spock. He nailed the character. And from what I was told Spock plays a bigger role in this picture than the last one which is good. The filmmakers must’ve realized that Quinto is the best they got so it was only natural to give him more screen time.
There were a couple of other notables like Karl Urban (Dredd) as Bones (Urban does more of a caricature by gritting his teeth all the time and being upset over every decision that everyone else makes), Simon Pegg as Scotty (who surprisingly wasn’t annoying at all and gives one of the better performances) and, even though I mentioned him already, Bruce Greenwood does fine here too. Lastly I’ll give a brief nod to Peter Weller as Marcus (RoboCop, Dragon Eyes) who also did pretty well in this. You know, I think I liked him second best after Quinto.
Moving on to the story, I couldn’t follow it. I don’t know if it’s me and my lack of Star Trek familiarity but nothing was really explained well or at all. How did Marcus come across Khan? Why is Khan super human? Why does Khan want to kill everyone? What’s the deal with Marcus? How is Marcus’ daughter involved in all of this? And there are a million other questions I could ask. All I got was that Khan is the villain and that Kirk and his crew are the good guys. Other than that I don’t fuckin’ know what’s going on.
The other thing with the story is that folks were constantly making shit up as they went along. Is that a Star Trek thing? I thought the Star Trek universe was supposed to be grounded in rules and logic ‘n’ shit. But here whenever there’s a problem there’s always some bullshit way out of it or it’s the opposite where someone will pull an obstacle out of their ass that our heroes suddenly need to overcome. It was a little frustrating.
But setting all of the shit aside that I’ve talked about already, the thing that probably bothered me the most was how this film was shot. The camera is constantly moving, lights are being shined into the camera in at least half the shots, everything is so bright, glowy and shiny, and almost every shot had some sort of CGI effect in it. Ok fine that last one is a little nitpicky considering everything has CGI in it these days. But the rest of that shit was so fucking irritating to sit through. J.J., buddy you gotta put the goddamn camera down for a minute and cut way back on the lens flare. It’s like the movie was shot through a filter of the sun. If there was more restraint shown in the cinematography I really think I would’ve enjoyed this more. It’s difficult to accept a picture when it’s physically demanding on the eyes.
Here’s some other miscellaneous shit I noticed:
- There’s a lot of Earth in this. Like a lot of scenes take place on Earth. I thought Star Trek was supposed to be set almost entirely in outer space.
- Did anyone else think it was funny when Bruce Greenwood sits down in the bar decked out in his futuristic Starfleet uniform while everything else in that scene looks like it’s regular modern day including Kirk dressed in his bad boy leather jacket?
- It seemed out of character when Spock loses it at the end and wails on Khan. The rest of the movie he’s thoughtful and reserved. Maybe the filmmakers thought it would be cool to see Spock go crazy for a minute? Well it felt out of place to me.
- (Semi-spoiler on this last bullet point) The main idea of Into Darkness is that it’s supposed to rhyme with Wrath of Khan. Once I picked up on that I didn’t think they were going to go as far as having Kirk yell the famous “Khaaaaan!” line. And they didn’t. They had Spock do it instead. Was I the only person that laughed out loud when that happened?
Alright, that’s enough of this shit. To plainly and briefly sum up I thought this was pretty awful. I had heard good things about the prebootquel so I didn’t go in looking for excuses to dislike Into Darkness. In fact it was the opposite. For a long while I was looking for shit to get invested in or to at least think was cool in some way or another. But from the get go everything is kind of annoying and doesn’t make a lot of sense. The plot is messy and shoehorned so it can line up with Wrath of Khan, Kirk doesn’t come off all that heroic and the camera moves relentlessly into and out of lights that are being shined directly in your face. But Spock was cool.
One last addendum: as an outsider looking in this is not getting me on board with Star Trek. Maybe this was made more for the diehard fans (actually, I’m pretty sure those are the only kind). I know that The Next Generation TV show is supposed to be the best Star Trek shit out there and from what I gather it’s very unlike Into Darkness which is a schlocky big budget summer blockbuster action flick. So it’ll be interesting to see what kind of reaction this one gets.
Ok the absolute last addendum, I promise: not that I was terribly excited for the new Star Wars movie to begin with but now I have no faith that Abrams will craft something even halfway decent.