Film Review: Star Trek Into Darkness
Ten years ago Star Trek was in the final stages of a long, debilitating fight with old age. Stagnancy had robbed the once great franchise of its life and by 2005 Star Trek was gone from theaters and TV for the first time in nearly twenty-five years. Star Trek was dead- just as dead as Spock was laying in a torpedo tube on the Genesis planet… just waiting to be reborn. Jump ahead to present day and Star Trek is back on top, enjoying a high level of success thanks to J.J. Abrams 2009 reboot/prequel. Now it’s time to see if Into Darkness can solidify Star Trek’s comeback or if it’s time to consider pulling the plug permanently.
Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise are tasked with capturing a renegade that is committing acts of terrorism against Starfleet. What begins as a mission of vengeance turns into a battle of survival as Kirk finds himself fighting a two front assault with his ship and crew stuck precariously in the middle.
Let’s get the good stuff about Into Darkness on the table first. It’s well acted, particularly by its main cast who are just as enjoyable as they were in Star Trek. Like its predecessor, Into Darkness looks fantastic, there’s not a bad looking shot in the entire film unless you’re one of the many J.J. Abrams lens flare haters. Lastly, the first third of the film is very entertaining with an air of mystery not found in most Star Trek films.
Disappointingly, Into Darkness is not the overwhelming success that it should have been. Fans not as familiar with the franchise may not find as much fault, but even those that defended the first film’s radical departure to Star Trek lore may find certain elements of this film hard to overlook or forgive.
There are little changes that are bothersome but are ultimately inconsequential like Dr. Carol Marcus (originally played by Bibi Besch in The Wrath of Khan) all of the sudden being English. Was her place of birth affected by Nero traveling back through time in the 2009 film or was it an attempt to have a slightly more international cast?
It’s the fundamental changes that are harder to look past. It’s nearly impossible to discuss those changes without revealing any spoilers but there are certain character traits in Star Trek that you shouldn’t change. We’re not talking about the destruction of a planet or how character A meets character B- we’re talking about the very foundation of the character; what they stand for and how that affects their life and in that respect Into Darkness fails.
Not helping matters is a certain amount of overacting from the film’s one off co-stars, in particular Robocop’s Peter Weller. Weller has a unique acting style that has served him well for many years but he feels out of place and a poorly suited match with his co-stars.
By now I’m sure you’ve noticed that Benedict Cumberbatch has not even been mentioned. That’s not an oversight; he’s just hard to talk about. He’s a strong on screen presence and while I struggle to beat around the proverbial bush regarding his character, he’ll likely lose in a head-to-head comparison.
There’s of course a lot of action as you would expect for most Star Trek films but it’s more land based than space based in Into Darkness. It’s not a complaint against the away mission style action it just seems like a waste not to feature a really signature space battle, especially considering the complexity of this series specials effects and it being the first Star Trek film released in 3D.
What’s at the heart of most of these problems? J.J. Abrams and the writing team of Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof. Perhaps there was no place to go but down after 2009’s Star Trek; that film just fired on all cylinders while Into Darkness is wrought with consistency problems. The concept that they seem to struggle with is that there’s a difference between paying homage with a quick nod or ‘wink’ of the eye and outright ripping something off. That one issue leads to one of the most cringe worthy, unintentionally funny moments in all of Star Trek at what is intended to be the emotional centerpiece of the film. It’s lazy and in the end is the most damning aspect of Into Darkness.
Into Darkness didn’t fall into a black hole or a rip in the space time continuum but it did fall right into the sophomore slump. It isn’t a film without merits but it has more than its share of serious issues that keep it from even coming close to being the series best thus earning it a middling, unenthusiastic recommendation.