Star Trek Into Darkness
Reviewed by Eliza DoLots
J.J. Abrams' second foray into the Star Trek universe is better than the first in some ways, worse than the first in others. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but I doubt anyone who didn't like the 2009 movie would find anything worthwhile here.
Into Darkness is a difficult movie to review without revealing any spoilers. Indeed, if you are trying to protect yourself from any information, I have to advise you not to look at the IMBD listing for the movie or any detail listing of the cast. Jimmy Kimmel had a funny clip about the movie that included the actual closing credits....thus spoiling two of the biggest surprises for everyone watching the show (or the video online the next morning).
I will, however, give it my best shot.
Some of the positives: Better costumes. Okay, not the ones they wear on the ship, those are the same pseudo pyjamas as the last movie. But off the ship the uniforms are much nicer (except the hats! Oh, dear, why the hats?). McCoy's (Karl Urban) medical scrubs are a distinct step up as well, culminating in a truly spiffy all white outfit that is, all by itself, worth the 132 minute run time. They backed off on the pointy sideburns as well as improving them. So, Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) and, to a lesser extent, Kirk (Chris Pine) sport very flattering mutton chops and Spock (Zachary Quinto), finally, has sideburns that lie flat instead of having curly little points.
Scotty (Simon Pegg) and McCoy both have bigger, more important roles. Between them they are responsible for most of the considerable humor in the movie. McCoy is finally hanging around the bridge offering his sardonic comments and making improbable analogies (and getting called on them by Kirk) just as he did in the series.
The science is less suspect. The whole red matter story in the 2009 movie sticks out as a goofy science failure. No matter how many times I see it, I think of the Omega 13 in Galaxy Quest. This movie doesn't require leaps of scientific faith that science fiction fans haven't already made. That, alone, makes the movie seem more credible. I've bought into transporters, transwarp beaming, warp speed, all that.
The cast is much more integrated and comfortable. It's a bit like the second season of Star Trek when we could tell the actors had the characters in their heads.
Kirk actually seems smart. In the first movie we sort of have to take Pike's word on that, because Kirk pretty much acts like an idiot, but here, he's smart. He asks the right questions, he draws the right conclusions. When he's doing something against the rules he's doing it for well considered reasons. When he goes completely out on a limb, doing something that defies logic, reason and his own feelings, he has a well thought out, well explained reason for it.
Chekov (Anton Yelchin) is not at all annoying. If you saw the first movie, you understand what a positive that is. Indeed, Chekov has one of the funniest moments in the movie without being annoying at all (quite an accomplishment).
Uhura (Zoe Saldana) is the proper amount of annoying. If she weren't annoying she wouldn't be Uhura, but in the 2009 movie she's a bit over the top. Here, she's just right. There's a bit of sass, a lot of confidence and a complete dedication to doing her job.
Taking over command of the ship is actually a big deal. In the 2009 movie they toss it around like it's a hot potato or something. Spock tosses it to Chekov (he's 17!) and Chekov tosses it to someone we don't even see. In this movie, it's an appropriately big deal. Sulu gets to sit in the chair and is properly reverential.
Benedict Cumberbatch is a great villain! I don't know what they did to his voice (auto tune?) but it's weird and creepy and he utterly commands every scene he's in. I particularly love his posture. There are scenes where he's sitting on a bed in sick bay and he's perfectly upright, unsupported, spine exactly straight; for no reason other than that is how he sits. Based on the trailers I didn't expect to appreciate Cumberbatch, but I was surprised at how expressive he is.
Peter Weller. Need I say more? Peter Weller of Buckaroo Banzai, RoboCop and all sorts of other great things is here. He plays Admiral Marcus, head of Star Fleet operations. This is not a brief cameo. This is an important role that goes through the whole movie and it's wonderful fun to watch Weller work.
Alice Eve as Carol Marcus. Her introduction in the movie is problematic, her continued existence in the crew is inexplicable but she's adorable. Every scene she is in is interesting because she is there.
Spock running. We were always told of the superior strength of Vulcans. It made sense that this would translate to Spock being an amazing runner, but 60's TV special effects weren't up to the task and Nimoy himself has a style that can best be described as skittering. He often goes around turns with his hands in the air. It is less than inspiring. All that is over. Spock can run! He sails through the streets of San Francisco leaving the human pedestrians nothing more than a blur.
The most disgusting death ever in Star Trek. Okay, maybe some won't see that as a positive, but it was the most horrifying moment I've experienced in all my 45 years of watching Star Trek so it merits a mention. Kudos to Abrams for setting it up so we knew what was going to happen and then letting us HEAR it rather than see it. Bigger kudos for putting the camera on the face of a character who loves the person being killed while it happened.
The negatives: There's one big one and it's pervasive. While it's understandable that there will be overlaps between the time lines and that such moments can be considered homages to the original series and movies; here, it's just too much. It was okay when they referenced Harry Mudd in passing. You had to be listening and it made sense in context. The introduction of Carol Marcus makes sense given the immediately out of academy time frame. But the references to a past movie are so exact that what was, presumably the most emotional scene, meant nothing to me. My daughter (who has not seen the original movies) was crying, I was thinking how dopey is this? So, I guess it worked if you didn't recognize the references but it didn't work if you did, which makes me wonder why they bothered? Why not write something new and have everyone be happy?
Also, they messed up a time line issue. Based on Original Series canon, the villain would have been off earth before the time line disruption of the 2009 movie. This movie has him being on earth. I confess this makes me mad. It would have been easy enough to write it so he was off earth and brought back.
No pinky ring! McCoy sporting a pinky ring was one of my favorite references to the original crew...but it's gone. I say Poop! on them!
Spock's ears are distracting. Really, after all this time and with what Peter Jackson did in LOTR, wouldn't you think ears are the least of our worries? But no....they are distracting. One seems to lie closer to the head than the other and for some reason he lacks an ear lobe.
It's a fun movie and if you can see it for under $10 I wholeheartedly recommend it, but it's not worth more.
I won't pay to see it in a theater again, but I will buy it when it's released on Blu-Ray. It will sit proudly next to my other Star Trek movies because it deserves to be there.
Eliza's review of Star Trek (2009)
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