Thursday, May 30, 2013

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS: my review

No SPOILER ALERT necessary. A lot of space stuff happens and you go home. There are thrilling chases, battle scenes, destruction, beaming, dogfights, malfunctions, and grabbing railings at the last second but I won’t divulge in which occur.

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is a fun ride with great special effects. I just wish they had had half the budget. Maybe then they would have spent more time focused on the interactions of the characters and less on explosions. Whoever insures these spacecrafts for the star fleet would go out of business in one year even if they insisted on a billion dollar deductible. But my point is the real fun in this movie was the personal bickering, bantering, and ethical discussions among the crewmembers. Spock & Uhara could be next century’s Sam & Diane.

Happily, you don’t have to be a Trekkie to enjoy this film. There are a lot of nods to Trekkie fans, but it’s not like starting to watch MAD MEN for the first time now.

I’m going to say something now that might cause me an avalanche of angry comments but with the exception of Leonard Nimoy, I think everyone in this new cast is better than the original actors who played the parts in the '60s (and later movies). And Zachary Quinto was terrific too but Leonard Nimoy IS Mr. Spock. Here’s the test: When you’re watching this movie, especially during the emotional moments, try to picture a young William Shatner in the part. The hamming would be at warp speed.  Chris Pine is a much better Kirk and Simon Pegg practically steals the movie as Scotty.

Action movies traditionally live and die by how good their villain is and director J.J. Abrams and writers Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and LOST veteran Damon Lindelof have selected a great one. Benedict Cumberbatch (Shelock Holmes in the British series, as opposed to the CBS version where he’s just a procedural tool or the recent movie version where he’s Rambo). He’s a worthy adversary and always fascinating on the screen. He’s evil but you’d love to go out and get a drink with him.

A nice addition to this edition is Alice Eve. She’s very hot and the filmmakers weren’t above featuring a completely gratuitous scene of her in her underwear. I thought I heard one Trekkie in the theater say, “I am getting such a hard-on” in Klingon.
I have to say that although this STAR TREK was enjoyable I didn’t find it as good as the last one. Reboots always have the advantage of starting from the beginning, establishing the relationships, putting everything in place. By the sequels everyone is just going out on new adventures. (An exception was the second Chris Nolan BATMAN, which I thought was better than the first. But that had Heath Ledger as the Joker.)

The plot of this TREK was a lot of “let’s do this” and then “let’s go here” and then “now that we’re here let’s do that.” I hope the crew is well-paid because there are always danger sirens going off, pieces of the ship exploding, and unlucky crew members being sucked out into space. For that kind of constant peril they might as well just work for Amtrak. At least they could go home on nights they weren't killed.

If you’re looking for good summer escapist fare STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is just your dish. But I wish the next sequel took place during a gas shortage and the starship Enterprise was stuck on the planet Zeron 9 for two months and we just got to watch everybody hang out. Think of how much cheaper that would be to produce and how much sooner the movie would take to go into profits. STAR TREK INTO BLACK.

34 comments:

Johnny Walker said...

I actually wrote a review STID, too. Forgive me for plugging in:

Star Trek Into Darkness Review at FutureMovies.co.uk

Thanks!

welcometosherwood said...

I tend to agree with your review, Ken. I just wish Abrams would actually acknowledge that the universe does in fact have certain physical laws; i.e. I really don't think it takes less time to fly from Earth to the Klingon home world in less time than it takes me to commute to work, even if they are using warp drive. I wrote a review of the film, too, which can be found at my blog (click my name).

Jeff Cohen said...

I tend to disagree on a completely irrational basis, but not on every point. (I actually prefer Shatner's over-the-top Kirk to this bland one.) I agree that a smaller budget would help, and I hope the next time out they come up with a whole new story instead of remaking a previous TREK film (and if you're going to remake one, remake a BAD one!).

Mitchell Hundred said...

I know you're joking about the money and all, but that's not how things work in the Trekverse (even Abrams timeline, presumably). The UFP does not run on capitalist economics.

The Mutt said...

I thought it was a terrific space adventure movie. But it is a terrible Star Trek movie.

mp said...

Definitely enjoyed the movie, and agree it wasn't as good as the previous one. However, I found the Uhura/Spock relationship bickering beyond tiresome There is no need to shoehorn Spock into a romantic relationship when the focus should continue to be the key relationship that matters in the show and movies - Spock and Kirk. Cut the couples squabbling and lo and behold one could shave 15 minutes off the movie.

David Whitham said...

I completely agree with your assessment of the acting chops of the respective casts, but if Nimoy truly is Spock, then Shatner truly is Kirk.

As for the movie itself, it's a steaming pile of crap. Last year, The Avengers worked so well, because Joss Whedon's love for the subject matter really shined through. It's obvious that J.J. Abram's lock of love for this subject shined through as well.

I hope he takes his lens flares with him to the Star Wars universe where his mindless crap belongs.

Graham Powell said...

I enjoyed it, but thought it was not as good as the best of the original Trek movies. I just had the feeling that it's been done before, and better.

Max Clarke said...


Mr Spock: I've never met an intelligent woman
I'd want to date.

Lt Uhura: On behalf of all the intelligent women
in the United Federation of Planets, may I just say whew!


Don said...

They did make a space-themed property with very few explosions and a lot of exposition of the characters. It was called Battlestar Galactica and it was excellent.

Hollywoodaholic said...

Why does anyone need spaceships at all when you can just use the device the villain used to transport himself across the entire galaxy?

I enjoyed the movie and the Trek references (Bones grumbly recalling delivering a Gorn baby) but had the same complaint - too MUCH action (YAWN), want more time with the characters.

Lizbeth said...

The movie works because the characters are so iconic (thanks to Gene Roddenberry) but the plot is rather throwaway. I too could watch these characters bicker and banter for hours, and also feel this version is extremely well cast.

Star Trek at heart is about the emotional and intimate connection of these people who are far from home and must rely on each other in times of crisis (which shows like LOST heavily borrow from).

But the cinematic version where endless CGI explosions kill thousands of faceless/nameless people and destroys massive cities has no real affect on the viewing audience as we have no emotional connection to CGI casualties.

I say less action/explosions and more character-driven conflict would suffice.

Andres said...

The fact of the matter is not so much that you "don't have to be a Trekkie" to watch or even enjoy this. You know, the thing is, you CAN'T be a Trekkie and enjoy this. Because this rebooted Star Trek isn't Star Trek anymore. It's glossy Hollywood standard-fare, CGI-boasting action crap riding on the Star Trek coattails, not giving a flying poo about canon, consistency, history, logic, or anything else that was previously established in that fictional universe. Not that they need to care about Star Trek as such, or what it means to the millions of fans, but that they truly don't care about it just one iota has been clear for years. Unlike any prior Star Trek movie or TV episode, this reboot universe is no longer made for Trekkies.

Keith said...

It's just that acting is different than it was in the 60's. Nimoy's acting ages well because of the character. He wasn't supposed to be over-emoting, like actors were expected to do on television dramas back then.

cadavra said...

Must disagree on one point: Urban is good, but there's only one DeForest Kelley!

Jake Mabe said...

"With the exception of Leonard Nimoy, I think everyone in this new cast is better than the original actors who played the parts in the '60s (and later movies)."

Not even close. They are impersonating the original actors. The new cast is good, but nowhere near the originals. As an earlier comment said, If Nimoy IS Spock (and he is), then Shatner IS Kirk and De Kelley IS Bones McCoy.

I'll give you the new Carol Marcus, though...

Rebecca said...

I agree it was fun. I agree it isn't really Star Trek of old. But the one thing I really despise of this reboot is the Spock/Uhura romance. It completely ruins Uhura's importance for me. We can't have a woman on the bridge if she isn't somebody's girlfriend? Argh! That was the beauty of Uhura in the original Star Trek. Here was a woman who was a member of the crew on the bridge. Not a plot device or a romantic aside for the captain, but a character in her own right.

And like that gratuitous underwear shot, it cheapens the movie. At the very least, they could have given us Benedict Cumberbatch in the shower. I suppose I have to wait for the DVD for that.

But the Spock/Uhura romance, just plain YUCK!

John Mansfield said...

I left the theater wondering: If Bonanza were made into a movie today, how many earthquakes, forest fires, and cattle stampedes would the Ponderosa suffer through during the two hours?

Geoff G said...

Rebecca,
Why wait?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=7LXKjjS-eZI#t=90s

Ken,
I think Batman is an exception to your rule because on top of being a movie franchise, it is also a comic book franchise. Comic books, with origin stories already baked in, tend to mean the first movie in the series (reboot or otherwise) has to cover both the origin and a separate big-time action seat filler plot. Spiderman is another franchise where the first movie isn't as good as the second--no origin story to worry about! In my opinion, you can even say the same thing about the Donner-era Superman. The Avengers soared, in part, because all the origin work was done before the movie started. (That said, we haven't seen many superhero franchises that got to a second movie--at least one that was any good at all.)

gottacook said...

Geoff G: Your comment reminds me of a very astute remark by Andrew O'Hehir in his review of the movie at Salon: "...the Abrams Star Trek movies feel as if they didn’t just depict an alternate universe but were created in one – a universe in which the original Star Trek was an action-adventure Marvel Comics title rather than a geeky, Enlightenment-saturated 1960s TV series."

So, as someone who started watching Star Trek first-run on NBC in 1968, I don't think I'd enjoy the new movie; no comics-based movie released in the past 20 years, either DC or Marvel, has induced me to buy a ticket. (Although I did see and enjoy X-Men and Spider-Man 2 on home video, in neither case did they cause me to seek out the other movies in each series.)

Jeff C said...

My problem is after all the universe rebooting havoc of the first movie, that the first chance for an entirely new fresh story in the brand-spankin new universe - is a remix of a movie sequel to a 1960s TV episode. And it's not even a whole movie. What do you know of Khan and the depths of his existence - compared to both of the other story versions. Not much of anything at all here, mainly lots of chaos and YET ANOTHER blowed up Enterprise.

I saw Star Trek: Into Darkness shortly after Oblivion, and it seems we've enter the age of the reMIX. Maybe all stories have been told before in a larger thematic sense, but this is remixing the actual old material.

Guys, you erased the entire time-space continuum so you weren't locked into those stories! Maybe a new experience next time?

Charles Jurries said...

My problems were more that it seemed like the script was done round robin. (SPOILERS AHEAD)

Kirk is Captain. But he isn't, because of ACTION. Then he is Captain!

Sherlock is a good guy. Except he's a bad guy! Because he's a good guy! Because he's the best guy! Except he's the worst guy! He's the most worst guy! He's peaceful! He's killing you!

Nothing had consequences, because you knew it'd be resolved easily. Kirk died, but even J.J. couldn't kill off Kirk forever, so that whole death scene seemed gratuitous because although the characters didn't know, the AUDIENCE knew Kirk would be resurrected. Death is meaningless if death is meaningless.

I love Bad Robot sci-fi, and all the writers attached to this film can make GREAT projects.
However, the average episode of "Fringe" had more real stakes and gravity than this movie did.

Also, Chris Pine may be better than Shatner, but even Flo the insurance salesperson is better. Pine is better at comedy than drama, which didn't work out that great for this 'serious' movie.

I laughed at lot during this movie. There were certain things I loved. Seeing the 'dust' left behind when the ship goes into warp drive was awesome. However, the writers are all capable of greatness. They settled for just average.
Judging by the box office returns, I'm guessing a lot of people figured that out as well.

Dan Ball said...

This movie made me cringe more than a movie has in a good, long while.

Scott Collura at IGN said it was more like a Star Trek meme than a Star Trek movie. I couldn't agree more. The first two-thirds were a different spin on the Original Series episode "Space Seed", which was fine. Then, for the final act, Orci/Kurtzman/Lindelof got lazy and turned it into Bizarro Wrath of Khan. They created this great alternate timeline, could've done anything they wanted, and they chose to rehash one of the more popular Star Trek movies.

Makes me wonder when JJ Abrams is going to do an original movie. Except for "Super 8", which was based on early Spielberg, all his other movies have been or will be part of uber-popular, established franchises. Mission: Impossible, Star Trek, Star Wars. Sure, his TV work's not so unoriginal, but what's the deal with his movies?

afg1 said...

@Andres:
I most certainly can be a Trek fan and like this movie, and I do. I am also secure enough in my love of things Trek to let others adore or despise any or all of the tv shows and movies in their own way. Dislike these movies if you wish, but please do not presume to speak for me.

Anonymous said...

sdf

Larry said...

Sorry, didn't like this film at all. It may be because I'm a Trek fan, but I did like the reboot.

There were a lot of things wrong, but mostly a ridiculous plot with a lousy villain (who, as we know beyond conjecture, is capable of being a great villain). Also, Scotty acted like a jerk. I hope they don't bring him along on any more missions.

Storm said...

All I can do is hope that this review is one of your jokes that I don't get. Because... wow. It's terribly impolite to say that you are not just wrong, but Wrongy McWrong, King of Wrongonia, especially on your blog, so I'll just say that I can't disagree with you more. This "franchise" takes a steaming shit on everything that Trek stands for, and the people that love it enough to keep it alive for over 46 years. But since you seem to delight in belittling Trek fans (though many of them are responsible for tech we use every day), I'll just be on my way.

Cheers, and whatever,

Storm

gottacook said...

Storm: As noted above, I'm a fan of (kaynahora) 45 years' standing, and whereas I explained why I didn't think I would enjoy it, you instead told our host why he was wrong that others would (should?) enjoy it. Obviously others do enjoy it - the thing is selling tickets and didn't have a disastrous second-week dropoff. But it's okay.

I think my reaction to the advent of AbramsTrek is analogous to my situation with driving. Both our cars are stick shifts, and we are going to teach our kids (all too soon) how to drive them, but for how many more years will they even be able to buy a stick-shift car? All you can do is say, At least I got to be alive when there was this thing to enjoy, and we can try to pass it down to future generations, but there are some things we just can't preserve indefinitely. This applies to the performing arts as well.

cadavra said...

"I left the theater wondering: If Bonanza were made into a movie today, how many earthquakes, forest fires, and cattle stampedes would the Ponderosa suffer through during the two hours?"

I think we'll get a pretty fair idea when THE LONE RANGER opens...

XJill said...

Love your description of Benedict, he made the movie watchable in my opinion. Can't wait for August Osage County and Fifth Estate.

As far as Star Trek, the movie was all over the place and the pacing was very odd to me. I gave it a C+ in my head but all my friends ADORED it. Oh well.

Watch Star Trek Into Darkness PCTV (Full Movie) 2013 Online said...

I tend to agree with your review, Ken. I just wish Abrams would actually acknowledge that the universe does in fact have certain physical laws; i.e. I really don't think it takes less time to fly from Earth to the Klingon home world in less time than it takes me to commute to work, even if they are using warp drive. I wrote a review of the film, too, which can be found at my blog (click my name).

Vic said...

Abrams isn't the first Star Trek director who's failed to understand his subject material,(take Shatners ST5) however Abrams is the latest. In all fairness this would have been a really good Star Wars movie, sadly with the exception of a reasonable facsimile of McCoy by Urban there was little else that resembled Star Trek.
No offence to Star Wars fans of course, there's a special place in my heart for those movies as well, but could you imagine a Star Wars fans reaction if Kirk showed up in return of the Jedi and taught the ewoks how to beat Vadar?
Sorry Abrams, you're trying, but you are the squire of gothos, you can see all of the Star Trek forms, but you understand none of the substance.

Dr. Leo Marvin said...

Haven't seen this one yet, but based on the first one, and being a long time fan of the original series, movies and spinoffs, I couldn't agree with you more about the casting.

More Ismore said...

Much Ado About Nothing n'est-ce pas?

Someone just has to be embarrassed, I was: comes the shameful bastard of all fine Star Trek movies. Predictable, forced, unimaginative cropped schlock; in the theater, the producer's hands were in my pocket lifting my wallet while I didn't even feel a second thrill from the director. I gave everything while the director gave nothing in return.

Some folks wet-dream better Star Trek movies complete with some modicum of suspense. A team of fine actors gone to Neverland.