Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

A review of the new Star Trek film, featuring excellent character interactions, beautiful images, and… not a whole lot else of any worth. Of course, spoilers lie within.

My first reaction is that Into Darkness is basically just a Michael Bay movie with more lens flare. It’s a movie about things exploding, spaceships zooming around, down-and-dirty fist fights, and, yes, more explosions. The plot moved hard and fast, with barely a second to catch your breath and process what had just happened.

But that implies that it wasn’t an enjoyable movie. I did enjoy it, more than I expected to. I’d seen a lot of negative reviews, and a lot of upset fan reactions, before seeing it myself. And I can see why people are upset; the whitewashing of Khan, the sexism.

But despite that, it was fun. I like explosions. I like action movies. But I was hoping for more from Star Trek; after all, the television series gave us the first interracial kiss on TV, showed us men wearing mini-skirts, and generally pushed the boundaries of social and gender norms of the time.

Anyways, I’ll start with the things that I did like:

1. The scenery. This was a visually stunning movie. From the red forests of Nibiru to the gorgeous uniforms, everything about this movie made me believe that a lot of time and effort were put into the details. The elegant blue warp trails, the futuristic London and San Francisco cityscapes, and the uplifting scene with the Enterprise rising above the clouds… I didn’t want to blink for fear of missing another beautiful image!

2. The character interactions. Oh, where to start on this! Kirk and Spock were fantastic together, each one balancing the other. They’re not enemies anymore, but they’re still not friends at the beginning of this movie. It takes the events of Into Darkenss to bring them both together as true friends, instead of just comrades.

And Spock and Uhura were one of my favorite moments of the movie: Uhura, who is so emotional, against Spock, who is so desperate to hold his emotions in. The scene where Uhura is desperate to know if Spock has made it alive from Nibiru, and then her transition from terror to relief to upset seemed so very real to me; Spock must be a very frustrating man to love! The scene in the elevator between Uhura and Kirk was hilarious, though!

I wish there had been more development between Kirk and Carol Marcus. Turning Carol into a weapons specialist was strange (she was originally a biologist, if I recall correctly), but I didn’t get any sense of chemistry between them. Which would be okay, except I honestly believe that the directors were trying to imply that there was relationship potential there… but all I picked up was a creepy leering Kirk and a not-at-all-interested Carol.

Is now a good time to mention the completely unsubtle underwear scene? At least Damon Lindelof recognizes that it wasn’t cool.

But what didn’t I like?

I won’t go into the decision to cast Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan. I like Cumberbatch; I’m a big Sherlock fan, and I think he’s a great actor. I disagree with the decision to cast a white man as an Indian character. But plenty of other people have already discussed this far more eloquently than I can.

I disliked the pacing. The movie moved too fast; too much was going on. It made the movie feel rushed, and I didn’t feel satisfied because I didn’t get time to process and absorb.

And I actually really disliked the scene with Kirk and Spock at the end, a reversal from Wrath of Khan.

I liked the sentiment behind it; I liked that Kirk and Spock had evolved to the point where Spock would genuinely be sad to see Kirk die. But I thought the scene itself was hokey. It was a rip-off. For a series that’s all about rebooting the original into something new, it wasn’t very unique. And I seriously doubt that a single member of the audience thought Kirk was actually going to die, so it was hard to feel sad!

My rating: B-

It was a fun movie. It wasn’t a good movie, but I enjoyed it. Two hours of explosions is rarely a bad way to spend my afternoon, although I think Star Trek should be a little bit more than mindless entertainment.

Last but not least, this Spoiler FAQ from io9 is hilarious. A bit harsh, but completely valid in a lot of their points about the ridiculous plot decisions in the movie.

[all photos belong to Paramount.]

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