Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

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Director: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Alice Eve
Rating: 3 out of 5 Starship Enterprises. I thought the first portion of the film was a prologue of sorts, important for everything to follow but unfortunately filled with uneven pacing and silly dialogue, making for a boring and hollow-feeling lead up to what is, eventually, an otherwise entertaining and visually exciting sequel packed with satisfying enough action and good performances all around.

This sequel tells the story of Captain Kirk being demoted for his reckless behavior, and being reinstated as part of a slightly too convoluted (but for objectivity’s sake I’ll instead say elaborate) plan to torpedo Cumberbatch’s criminal, John Harrison, hiding out on a Klingon planet. This not only threatens war with the Klingons but also opens up the can of dramatic worms of who truly is the bad guy–  a can of worms which, as messy and complex as it may have been, I really wish would have been opened up a lot sooner.

I know a lot of people really liked this movie. And to be fair, I did too, but not at first. The opening scene (trying to save a species from their own volcano) was filled with humor and suspense and the energy level from there just plummeted significantly. When the film finally got its footing, and by this I mean it finally stopped giving us necessary but dryly presented exposition and finally warp-sped towards its actual plot, I really enjoyed it. It found a rhythm and a steady pace that was severely lacking for me during all those scenes of set up.

Now, I’m the first to defend those kinds of scenes in movies, because they foreground the rest of the film’s narratives and themes. But something about the script and the speed of these scenes felt like the film was dragging its weight and seeking direction for too long, finally gaining momentum but not soon enough for me to say I loved it.

All that being said, Benedict Cumberbatch was amazing, the thickening plot was, once I understood it anyway, enthralling and the action was shot with Abrams’ typical visual mastery, turning everything to electric reds and icy blues. I did think the writing was weak, as I mentioned; the overly sentimentalized bromance between Spock and Kirk was almost mockingly overdone at times. The opening sequence at least foregrounded it nicely though, as sprawling as it was in doing so and as cheesy as it continued to be. Overall, I think the strengths of this sequel do outweigh the weaknesses, but I couldn’t forget the weaknesses even once they did become fewer and farther between.

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3 thoughts on “Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

  1. Liked this one a lot and although not a lot of people will agree with me, that’s all fine and dandy. I had a good time, and I’ll leave it at that. Good review.

  2. It’s odd that you rated this lower than White House Down. I’ve seen both this and Star Trek Into Darkness and just visual scope/scale of special effects, this has got to win hands down. Plus the ensemble for the JJ Abrams Star Trek is really strong. It couldn’t have been an easy job to recast the Enterprise and they did a great job.

    To be fair, I never considered that the Spock/Kirk bromance was overly scripted and I think you have a point there. My take on it is that while the Spock and Kirk from these two movies don’t necessarily have convincing chemistry to justify this bromance for the ages, we’re supposed to infer that between films 1 and 2, Spock and Kirk did a lot of bonding and had a lot of unforgettable memories and just leave it at that. Like any remake/sequel, the characters are running along a historic template and they’re constrained as such.

    I also think the overly long exposition, as you say, is there for misdirection which worked with me. Some people saw Star Trek 2 which I believe this film remakes but I didn’t so I was surprised by the plot turns.

    As for White House Down, I agree that there was a certain comfort to sticking within the wheelhouse of Roland Emmerich’s specialties. I’ve seen almost everything of his since Independence Day and he is an auteur in his own right. Not a very well-respected one, but ID4 is, in my opinion, one of the great films of the 90’s, one of the greatest big budget films I’ve seen, and it’s interesting how he has spent most of the rest of his career recreating what worked with that film in various forms.

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