So, time to talk about another of my most anticipated films. I am a life long Star Trek fan. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. When I was a kid I watched The Original Series. When it debuted on TV I watched Every episode of Next Generaion, Deep Space Nine and even Voyager despite all it’s problems. Enterprise, I am of the opinion, got cancelled just when it had gotten really good. I’ve seen every movie multiple times and, perhaps most relevant to what I am about to say, I really liked JJ Abrams 2009 reboot of the franchise.
Yes, it has problems. Hell, the whole plot falls apart if you pay more than a cursory amount of attention to the details, but it has that certain extra je ne said quo is that makes me forget all this as I watch it. Despite it’s ridiculousness it sucks me in and I enjoy it every time.
Naturally I was excited for a sequel and today we got one. So how is it? It’s… well it’s something.
If you recall I posted just a few days ago about how I was worried about this movie. There were a number of concerns I had and it turns out that while I was right to be worried, I was worried for the wrong reasons. This movie is a mess and the bulk of it’s problems boil down to pretty basic storytelling problems rather than the bigger problems I was worried about.
Don’t get me wrong, it has some of those problems too and a host of things I could pick apart just as a Star Trek fan, but those are nitpicks compared to the more basic flaw in this movie: it’s just terribly written.
That’s actually a pretty hard thing to reconcile as well because the action is actually superb. JJ “Lens Flare” Abrams has his flaws, but the space battles, the fights and the chases are all expertly executed here. As you might imagine though, his penchant for lens flares hampers the film when his actors need to act. There’s a moment that should have been a heartfelt conversation between two characters but was hampered by the fact that there is a lens flare literally covering most of one of the characters face.
The problem, again, is that unlike his previous Star Trek movie I couldn’t get past just how ridiculous and lazy the script is.
Case in point –and yes this is an incredibly minor spoiler from the first act– early in the film the crew goes to the Klingon homeworld and they can’t go there in the enterprise. While Kirk, Spock and Uhura are getting ready to go Sulu makes an announcement over the ship’s PA system that basically literally says “we’ll use non Star Fleet shuttle we confiscated a month ago and still have on board despite having been at Earth since then with plenty of chances to offload it”.
See what I mean? It’s lazy. Moreover, it’s lazy and it would have been easy to fix simply by having the first scene being them confiscating that shuttle. It doesn’t get much better from there either. There is an over reliance on fan service; lots of reused dialogue and situations from previous film as well as lots of offhand mentions things and characters from the original series. So much so that instead of being cool little nods to us long time fans it actually just becomes distracting.
Worse yet though, while Benedict Cumberbatch is brilliantly malicious as the bad guy and we do get to see a number of scenes where he’s delightfully badass but he’s also so… generic and his “plans within plans, double crosses within double crosses” master plan is so needlessly convoluted to distract you from the fact that it actually makes no sense.
Cumberbatch is brilliant though and pretty much the only thing that elevates the character.
Everyone from 2009’s Star Trek also returns and to be honest, despite my reservations, it was great to see them again. Chris Pine puts in a much better performance as Kirk, capturing the charisma of the character and also the fact that he’s emotionally reeling. Zachary Quinto does fantastically as Spock again as manages to not fall into the Vulcan acting trap of just being a condescending douchebag all the time.
Zoe Saldana is good as Uhura and Karl Urban throws himself back into the role of McCoy but Uhura continues to take up much of the middle ground between Kirk’s brash cockiness and Spock’s cool logic so Urban ends up with not a lot to do. Simon Pegg’s Scotty continues to provide much of the comic relief and even gets a moment or two of badassery himself.
This movie isn’t going to kill the franchise or anything. In fact, I’m certain it’s going to make all of the monies during it’s run in theatres. The problem is that while it has a lot of great action sequences, the plot holding the whole thing together makes little sense. Many sequences seem like someone said “this one shot would be a cool shot to have in the movie” and then they made that happen without considering any of the logistics that would be involved.
So then, this movie is a victory for style in it’s ever raging war against substance. It’s still fun. I laughed out loud more than once and as I say, the action is for the most part pretty great. This is actually pretty hard to reconcile just how good some parts are with just how bad others are.
So yeah, it probably is worth seeing but it’s also not really Star Trek, because in Star Trek the time was always taken to make sure that the films adhere at least to their own inner rules and logic and Star Trek Into Darkness doesn’t do that at all.
PS: I’ll probably write more about the movie later, with spoilers, talking about some of my objections in more detail.