Film Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

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Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) lead the Enterprise crew in an epic battle for the soul of the fleet. Photo Paramount Pictures. Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) lead the Enterprise crew in an epic battle for the soul of the fleet. Photo Paramount Pictures.

A great trick director J.J. Abrams and screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman pulled with Star Trek (2009) was to shake the Etch-a-Sketch and start over. After all, how does one deal with the monster that is the Star Trek universe? One doesn’t. Abrams destroyed, on screen, nearly everything that came before him.

It’s disheartening to report that Star Trek Into Darkness has tacked in the other direction. It pays such direct—and at times, such ironic-corny—homage to Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan that one can only think of the newer film’s failures.

There are few universal truths in the Star Trek universe. Here’s one: Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan is the best Star Trek film. It has a superb villain (Khan, played by Ricardo Montalban), gross special effects (creatures in the ears), and a death scene that still surprises with its emotional impact.

Star Trek Into Darkness has a mediocre villain (Khan, played Benedict Cumberbatch, doing the best he can with what he’s given), dumb-cute character moments (the relationship between Zachary Quinto’s Mr. Spock and Zoë Saldana’s Lt. Uhuru), and a misguided attempt to try to top Wrath of Khan’s death scene—under the guise of paying it homage.

Into Darkness opens with the crew of the Enterprise on a distant planet with a primitive populace. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban) distract the indigenous people while Spock attempts to keep a volcano from erupting that may destroy them all.

They make it out, but not before Kirk breaks a Starfleet prime directive to save Spock’s life. The move gets Spock transferred to a different ship. Kirk is made executive officer of the Enterprise under the command of his mentor, Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood).

Then Khan shows up and everything turns to pudding. Along the way, Klingons are introduced and dropped (maybe it’s a set-up for a future film), and Khan seems like the most arbitrary of villains.

At least Abrams uses Peter Weller (and his deep, icy voice) as a twisted Starfleet admiral to fine effect. But how can a film series that took such joy in knocking off what came before it stick so rigidly this time to what came before it? Urban, in particular, looks pained by Dr. McCoy’s catchphrase spewing, which has been turned into a hacky joke that’s supposed to be ironic.

Wrath of Khan works so well because it had 79 episodes of the TV series and a feature to fall back on. The characters in Into Darkness are just sketches. Abrams, Orci, Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof have made a terrible choice. They want to create their own version of the Star Trek universe while relying on nostalgia for the universe they destroyed to power their movie. That’s just cheap. And worse, it’s lazy.

Star Trek enthusiasts like to say the odd-numbered movies are mediocre (Star Trek The Motion Picture, The Search for Spock, The Final Frontier) and the even-
numbered movies are good (Wrath of Khan, The Voyage Home, First Contact). Abrams and his screenwriters have set a precedent: They made an even-numbered movie one of the weakest.

Star Trek Into Darkness PG-13, 132 minutes. Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX.

 

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973-4294

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Regal Stonefield 14
and IMAX
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  • Sallie McNett Hunter

    I concur wholeheartedly. I still enjoyed parts of it, but overall it was weak and could have been so much more.

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