Prior to the arrival at my extremely overpriced rental seat in the Muvico XL Theater, I was admittedly skeptical about the latest Trek adventure.
After accomplishing what many – including myself – would label a perfect reboot of Star Trek and its original crew, I felt that the chances J.J. Abrams could provide a follow-up worthy to his first Trek masterpiece, were about as slim as Charlie Sheen making it onto an episode of Sesame Street.
Consider me shocked when I walked out of the theater with my phaser and reaction set to stun.
My expectations, albeit not in a negative context, were relatively low to non-existent even despite having seen all of the trailers and extended sneak peeks months in advance. That relative neutral stance itself may have had something to do with my high praise for Star Trek Into Darkness, but I’m going to chalk most of that up to it just being a great addition to the Trek film family.
WARNING: Some sparse spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned.
As is the norm with most of my movie reviews, I don’t like to get too much into plot detail unless it’s absolutely critical to the review. Thus, I will try to keep this to a few short sentences without ruining too much for those that haven’t yet spent half their paycheck to see this movie in all its 3D glory.
Kirk starts by disobeying Starfleet guidelines and then celebrates by having three-way with aliens. The Enterprise is then taken away from Kirk, only to have it given back to him five minutes later after an enemy infiltrates Starfleet and wipes out a bunch of officers and captains. After partaking in a who’-on-who’s side battle with said enemy on a Klingon planet, the nefarious character gets inside Kirk’s mind to which it is revealed the Enterprise is being used by someone else within Starfleet. This new revelation requires Kirk to make another one of his non-federation approved decisions on who to trust in order to save his crew.
Any further details, and it will just take away from the experience of discovering everything out for yourself. Plus, you aren’t here for a plot recap that gives away the farm (at least I don’t think you are). You are here to read my invaluable thoughts on the film at hand, or at minimum, to laugh and point at them.
Into Darkness continues to the success of its most recent predecessor because J.J. Abrams continually pays tribute to the original subject material while also keeping things fresh, albeit with one minor and disturbing caveat that I will touch on later. Whether it’s the rebooting of an old nemesis, a cameo of an original Star Trek legend, or the ability to intertwine one of the original Trek series’ most popular fur balls – Abrams provides plenty of nostalgia for the Trekkie in all of us without making us feel like we’ve been here before (thanks in large part to the way he rebooted the movie franchise with his first Trek offering as I made mention of earlier).
Keeping with that theme, the rebooted crew of the original series also has as much to do with that as Abrams himself. Zachary Quinto (Spock), Karl Urban (Bones), Simon Pegg (Scotty), Anton Yelchin (Chekov), and to a lesser extent, Zoe Saldana (Uhura), play their parts with accurate impersonations of the original actors that personified them, right down to the voice tones and dialect. The only characters that really don’t seem to capture the finer speech nuances of their original counterparts are Chris Pine (Kirk) and John Cho (Sulu). Arguably, the omission of Kirk’s overly dramatic line-reading might be for the better. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t mind seeing Cho play Sulu with a bit of deep Barry White-like baritone and flare of George Takei. And no, I don’t mean THAT kind of flare.
Alice Eve also turned in a visually pleasing and, dare I say, heart felt performance as Dr. Carol Marcus, daughter to Admiral Marcus (played by Peter Weller of Robocop fame). Then again, I have a thing for English accents on young attractive actresses, but who doesn’t? Speaking of, I also have a thing of Weller’s voice, who’s deep booming vocals transcend back to the day of the mechanical OCP cop. Maybe I just have a weird thing for deep voices. Moving on…
Minus my selfish need for a tad more nostalgia, all of the characters delivered very powerful performances. I don’t know if there has ever been a Star Trek scene as touching and well played as the one with Spock and Kirk separated by a piece of glass. Tears were flowing out of Geek Outlaw’s faster than alcohol at a Witherspoon shindig.
At the other end of the emotional spectrum, there was also plenty of humor to go around the bridge as well. Many of the lighter moments are provided courtesy of the pointy eared Vulcan-human hybrid and the Scottish ship engineer. Spock’s literal interpretations and responses allow for more of the deadpan humor, while Scotty’s exaggerated accent and attitude fill in for the more direct one-liners. Along with Urban’s near perfect conveyance of Dr. McCoy-isms, a majority of the humor really just stems from seeing the rebooted crew do such an excellent job paying homage to the original crew’s personalities and quirks.
Another outstanding element of this Trek was the 3D. In spite of the fact Into Darkness wasn’t shot with 3D cameras and 3D was added in post-production, the extra dimension was extremely well done. In fact, it might be one of the best post production 3D films I’ve seen to date and easily blew Iron Man 3 in 3D out of the water. Although that’s not saying too much because even Toy Story 3 in 3D managed that. Outside of the 3D the special effects were also top shelf, as one would expect the latest Trek film to have. The Enterprise has long been one of my favorite space cruisers of the sci-fi verse and she looked especially shiny in the latest offering. That is until she got the snot beat out of her as she usually does.
Into Darkness was getting ready to enter one of my favorite Trek installments of all-time; that was until the very end happened. For starters, seeing Spock take part in a brutal physical altercation seemed a bit out of character. I’m not a certified Trekkie by anyone’s stretch of the imagination, but isn’t Spock considered to be one of the more non-violent hippies of the Trek universe? If wrong, I will gladly swallow my pride seeing as I’m quite used to it.
In that same scene, Uhura is beamed down onto a moving object to help Spock because they could not beam Spock and his ring opponent up. Again, I’m not the leading authority on beaming people, but I’m not sure what makes on task easier than the other.
More importantly, once Spock and Uhura have conquered the almost invincible baddie to save an important crew member’s life, the transition to the next few scenes don’t flow very well and seem rushed as in J.J. had to leave to go visit the Space Mountain of money he received from Disney to work on another iconic space drama. In a span of less than 30 seconds (a problem for some men, a compliment for others) the viewer is transported from a blackout scene, to that of Kirk giving a speech to Starfleet, to the entire crew being back on the ship in the midst of warp-speeding to a new random adventure. It felt as if I sat through three hours of epic adventure of drama and action, just to be given a resolution that was wrapped up with a very tiny red bow faster than you can say, “time to get going on Star Wars!”
Last, but definitely not least, the item that I hinted about earlier that I found most disturbing, deals with Kirk’s aforementioned speech during the abrupt ending. Did any other perceptive outlaws catch the infamous Trek tagline tweaked to “to boldly go where no PERSON has gone before”? More importantly, did anyone else care as much as I did? Whether or not I’m a slightly male-chauvinistic knuckle dragging club-collector is beside the point, but was it really necessary to change ‘man’ to ‘person’?
Good lord, beam me up Scotty!
The word ‘man’ in the original phrase refers to the term mankind, not womankind or personkind. Star Trek is a cultural phenomenon and even more so, a piece of human history. I’m not against keeping the franchise alive, giving it new life and seeing iterations brought to life by new perspectives, but for the love of Shatner, when one starts changing around the core symbols and ideas of what made something so iconic in the first place, one also runs the risk of stripping away the very elements that elevated that something to such a cherished part of our pop-culture.
I’m all for that equality mumbo-jumbo, but in my eyes this is another example of political correctness gone too far. Much like the removal of “With great power comes great responsibility” from the latest Spider-Man reboot, and the recent removal of the “American way” from Superman’s infamous quote, I was infinitely perturbed by the edit in the latest Star Trek movie. Many might feel I’m being petty and making a bigger to-do than necessary, but the simple fact is, changing anything behind the values and principals of something iconic, makes it less iconic, no matter how reasonable or valid the explanation.
Now that I have gotten off that old trusty soapbox – until the next time – I’m happy to report that none of my last few annoyances changed my enjoyment (or rating) of Star Trek Into Darkness. I recommend boldly going to a theater where no man, woman, person, or other being has gone before, to see this movie (in 3D if possible). Although, your local projector house will probably prove a tad more convenient.