Originally Written during May of 2013
Cinema, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Reece’s Riffs. It’s continuing mission, to explore strange foreign films. To seek out new classics and avoid clunkers. To boldly go where no critic has gone before.
I doubt I will feel as much passion for a movie like I did with Star Trek Into Darkness this year, but for all the wrong reasons. I must admit to being a “Trekkie”, growing up with reruns of the original 1960’s television show on TV Land and the movies. And when I heard that there was going to be a prequel/reboot of the franchise back in 2009, I was less than excited. But, J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek was a thrilling, action-packed, entertaining joy ride from start to finish, that even non-Trekkies can enjoy. So you imagine that I was hyped as heck for it’s sequel. And low and behold after I left the theater after the Saturday matinee at the AMC, and, while I did have a problem or two, I was satisfied………… for about 3 minutes. After the initial rush wore off I began to see more and more of it’s flaws, and found myself hating it more and more with each passing day. But before we get to that, we must set the story.
From IMDB: When the crew of the U.S.S Enterprise is called back home, they find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization has detonated the fleet and everything it stands for, leaving our world in a state of crisis. With a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction. As our heroes are propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart, and sacrifices must be made for the only family Kirk has left: his crew.
First, the good stuff. The acting is amazing. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Bruce Greenwood, Anton Yelchin, Alice Eve, and Benedict Cumberbatch are all outstanding in their roles and are one of the reasons I don’t completely hate this film. Everyone are putting 110% into their roles and making sure that you don’t see actors, but the crew and villains of the U.S.S Enterprise. I’m especially pleased with Cumberbatch’s performance of who is perhaps the greatest Star Trek villain of all time, Khan Noonien Singh. Keep in mind, he had to play the role made famous by the late great Ricardo freakin’ Montalbán, and found someway to make the character his own, turning Khan from a cold yet calculating strategist, into a calm yet bloodthirsty warrior and still convinced me he was Khan.
However, that’s the biggest problem with the movie, the fact Khan is in it and the story. Don’t get me wrong, the story isn’t bad per say. The first half is actually really good and interesting. But after that halfway point, the ball is dropped so hard, it’s at the center of the Earth. The story stops trying to be original, and becomes a remake of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The problem with this? Star Trek II is considered a Science-Fiction classic, arguably the best of the Star Trek films, and contains some of the most iconic scenes and lines in cinema history. Actually, calling it a “remake” is being too nice, rip-off is more fitting as it lifts entire SCENES AND LINES FROM IT! It got to the point where Spock yelling out Khan’s name became uncomfortable,embarrassing, and hard to watch. Some may call this a nitpick but it’s this that truly keeps me from enjoying this movie. Star Trek as a franchise is to represent exploration, to seek new possibilities, to boldly go where no man has gone before. Not going back to already discovered land.
But does it live up to Wrath of Khan? Bluntly put, Into Darkness fails as a remake/ode to Wrath of Khan because of the story and the motivations of the characters. The reason Khan was such an effective villain was because he was an old villain from the TV show, who was stranded by Kirk on a deserted planet for trying to take control of the Enterprise. And when he shows up in Wrath, his main motivation is to gain revenge on Kirk and the crew and will do close to anything to obtain it. Into Darkness’s Khan has some of the motivation of Khan, wanting revenge on Starfleet and wants to protect his comrades who were put into cryo-freezing with him, but we don’t have a grasp on his motives and actions as tightly as we were on the original Khan. And that is what makes Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan such a good movie, it mainly focuses on what it should, the feud between Khan and Kirk. In Into Darkness, there seems to be a confusion on what the focus should be on. Is it about the coming Klingon/Federation war? Is it about corruption in Starfleet upper command? Is it about capturing Khan? Is it about Khan wanting revenge on Starfleet for abusing his skills? It’s a mess.
I’m torn on how to grade this movie. I won’t say it’s a bad film, but on the other hand, it’s not a great one either. The acting is tremendous, the visuals are pretty darn good (if a bit too lense-flarey), and the overall cinematography and direction are well-executed. But on the other, we have a re-hashed story that fails to live up to the glory of it’s predecessor and can’t hold a candle on it’s own, at least past the halfway point. The “Trekkie” in me gives it ** stars while the film critic in me gives it ***. I’ll meet myself in the middle and give it ** ½ stars. If you’re a fan of the 2009 film or not, you will most likely enjoy it. If you are a fan of the franchise, you may feel the same way I do. Either way, I suggest you rent this on DVD if you must see this.
Author’s Note: Looking back on this review, it may be my least favorite one I did, not because I think it’s badly written, but because I was WAY too easy on this movie. Since this review was written, I’ve grown more and more hatred for this movie. Really, I’d even avoid watching it on DVD. If you want my updated rating of the movie, 2 stars out of 5 at the most. At the least? 1 1/2 stars.