I have some very complicated feelings about this movie. There will shortly be SPOILERS, which I will put under a cut.
First, things I loved, non-spoiler version:
- Zachary Quinto is the sassiest Vulcan ever. I loved it.
- While I have many complaints about the script, the banter was excellent and everyone got a good moment.
- Simon Pegg stole every scene he was in.
- Zoe Saldana was reasonably badass. (I’ve seen a lot of complaints about Uhura’s role in this movie, and I… didn’t really see where they’re coming from for the most part.)
- Sulu (John Cho) had some great if understated moments.
- Kirk did manage to have some good character development so he was less of a frat boy THANK GOODNESS.
Okay. Now on to what I have complicated feelings about. SPOILERS. (Also, technically a spoiler for Iron Man 3 is now included so beware.)
For fuck’s sake, JJ Abrams. Wasn’t the entire goddamn point of the first movie, of blowing up the entire planet of Vulcan, to give this new franchise permission to go in an entirely different direction from the original series? It was supposed to be a chance for old school fans to lay the old Trek to rest and embrace the new.
Why the fuck, then, did you dig up the lovingly embalmed corpse of the old Trek movies and make it dance? Why? WHY SHIT ALL OVER THE ENTIRE POINT OF YOUR ENTIRE FUCKING FIRST MOVIE?
But Rachael, you say, assuming you have seen the movie and aren’t (like me) just someone that gives no shits about spoilers. But this is different from Wrath of Khan. Sure, Khan is in there, and there are all sorts of callbacks to the movie, but the plot of this is totally different.
You are right, person I’ve totally made up. Except not. What really drives me batty about the entire plot of this movie is that they could have changed like seven fucking details and renamed Khan, and it would have been an entirely new story. But instead, by continually tying it to what is quite possibly the best Trek movie of all time and trying to make the same points about revenge without its elegance, it kept the new movie from ever feeling like anything but a pastiche, and added nothing.
And frankly, the “clever” twists put on the old plot points were distracting. Maybe they worked fine for new fans, at least I sure hope so. But for someone that grew up regularly re-watching Wrath of Khan, I knew the scream of “KHAAAAAAAN!” was coming, and while Zachary Quinto tried (bless him) the reaction it should not have drawn from me was a facepalm. First off, you can’t beat William Shatner at his own game. Secondly, you shouldn’t even fucking try. Be your own person, your own franchise. Be free.
So that, I found very disappointing.
And then Benedict Cumberbatch. He was excellent. He would have been even more excellent if Abrams had stopped trying to be cute and clever and had the sack to just name him something else. By keeping him as Khan, there’s a whole ghastly row of racial issues it brings up – Racebending explains it all very nicely. (Though I would argue Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan is a bit different from Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin; if nothing else, the point of the Mandarin in IM3 was that he was a manipulative mockery, as opposed to Khan being a very serious villain in STID.) Moreso, the movie lacked the extra emotional punch Wrath of Khan had because is didn’t have a television series backing it up.
I also admit I couldn’t help but squirm in my seat at the requisite “march the villain down the hallway surrounded by armed guards followed by shot of him in a glass cage.” It was a much better shot in Avengers.
Which just brings me back to my original point. Somehow, Star Trek Into Darkness never felt like its own movie. It felt like it was continuously clinging to other movies, leaning on them, and the tragedy of it all is that it didn’t have to. There were some good building blocks there. The away mission stuff was fun. There were excellent action sequences. The plot thread focusing on rules versus morality could have gone ever better places. Trying to cling to Khan served none of that.
And then the entire idea of Star Fleet being”militarized.” I get where they were trying to go with it, but it was clumsy and honestly needed more development than they gave it. The only reason I even know that there was supposed to be commentary on militarization of a peaceful force in the movie is that we were baldly informed about two thirds of the way through. There’s no real sense of that major sea change in Star Fleet before then, or even after. It also felt like they were shyly tapping at a point about the idea of manufactured consent with the Admiral’s plot. Sorry, but Iron Man 3 did it a lot better and gave us a lot more meat on which to chew.
Ultimately, Star Trek Into Darkness couldn’t decide what it wanted to be as a movie, and that makes me intensely sad. The cast is excellent. The screen contained so much good chemistry at all times I’m shocked it didn’t spontaneously ignite. And maybe all of the problems of the movie can be best summed up by the last ten minutes, which became completely incoherent. First we see Khan in a stasis tube being locked away somewhere. Then suddenly it’s a year later and Kirk is giving a speech and mentions the Captain’s oath and says he’ll repeat it. But then he launches into the “Space, the final frontier…” speech, which is definitely not the oath and we jump to the newly recommissioned enterprise, where the crew is about to start on their five year mission. They prepare to warp out and fail to hit what would have been the best, most wonderful callback for that entire movie – where are we going, Captain? “Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning.”
It’s a symphony of missed opportunities and unnecessary grace notes. And realize, I’m not even touching on the more technical things that made me want to shout, “REALLY?” at the screen. (Example: The Enterprise is close enough to Earth to fall into its gravity well that fast, so how the fuck does the Admiral attack it with the giant evil super secret ship AND NO ONE NOTICES?)
I didn’t totally hate it. There was a lot I actively loved about it, mostly the character to character interactions when I could ignore the way the plot made me want to chew on my beer glass. The cast was, as expected, excellent; they were just ill-served by the entire plot of the script. But I will say this. If the third movie (and I have little doubt there will be a third one) is somehow a muddled not-quite-rehash of The Search For Spock or any other of the Trek movies, I’m officially divorcing this new franchise.
There is a wide universe of ideas that hasn’t yet been tapped for Star Trek, JJ Abrams. Explore some strange new worlds already.