Star Trekking Into Darkness

StarTrekIntoDarkness_FinalUSPosterSomeone once said “Don’t review the movie that could have been, review the movie that was.”  This is an important thought to remember when talking about Star Trek Into Darkness.

So many people want to talk about what could have been done.  Because it’s a reboot people inevitably compare it to the original.  Comparing it to the original Star Trek is fair, but not accurate.

Now a warning, after this point there will be spoilers.  You have been warned.

Inevitably, everyone coming out of this movie will want to compare it to the other Star Trek 2, Wrath of Khan.  This is not an accurate comparison.  In Wrath of Khan, Kirk and crew are facing a ghost of their past, and they are confronted with the consequences of their actions.  In Into Darkness, Kirk is attempting to solve a mystery and is dealing with the consequences of Starfleet’s actions.  It is less of a personal vendetta between two old enemies and more of a one man war against the Federation.

When comparing William Shatner to Chris Pine, it’s important to remember that Pine’s Kirk is only about 2 years out of the Academy.  Shatner’s Kirk at the time of Wrath of Khan  had been in command positions for nearly 20 years.  Let’s not forget that a big part of Wrath of Khan is spent talking about getting old and retirement.  A recurring theme through almost all of the Original Crew movies.

Enough with the comparisons, we are here to talk about Into Darkness, not Wrath of Khan or William Shatner.

76251355166072-hh-27766r-2So, the big question, is this movie any good?  The short answer is Yes.  This is the kind of movie that people line up to see in the summer, it is everything we expect in a blockbuster movie.  Unlike the Michael Bay explosionfests that also dominate in the summer time, Into Darkness actually asks some larger questions and the characters face some real moral and ethical dilemmas.  It’s these dilemmas that really help this feel like Star Trek and less like just another space shoot’em up.

The movie finds a pretty good balance between the heady stuff and the action, but let’s not kid ourselves it is an action movie first and foremost.  Big action set pieces with exciting chases, fights, stunts and special f/x.

There are the jaw dropping moments from the trailer, but in the context of the film some of them leave you scratching your head, especially the opening scene.  This one could’ve used another pass in either editing or script phase.

The movie opens on an alien planet, we quickly meet up with Kirk and Bones on the run Indiana Jones style from the natives.  It’s a fun scene, but the real headscratcher is why they left the Enterprise parked underwater.  The physics of it alone make you wonder.  It really all could’ve been explained away in one line of dialogue.  Maybe the scene was cut, Into Darkness does clock in at 132 minutes.

The entire crew from the first one returns, and we have some new faces to go along with them this time around.

main-star-trek-into-darknessBenedict Cumberbatch is John Harrison aka Khan (well Khan Noonien Singh, but in this movie he is only referred to as Khan.  Benedict Cumberbatch plays a great bad guy.  Immediately you know that he has plotted 10 steps ahead of where he is.  He is cold and calculating, but not in the detached unemotional way like a Vulcan.  He is barely contained rage.

Peter Weller is the other bad guy, Admiral Marcus.  The Starfleet Admiral who wants to go out and fight the aggressive species that the Federation has encountered in it’s travels, especially the Klingons.  He does not want to wait for them to attack, he wants to take the fight to them, not be in a defensive posture waiting for the strike.

Both of the villains motives are understandable.  Khan wants revenge and Marcus has a warped sense of right and wrong.  Marcus sees an attack as an inevitability and wants to fight on his terms.

Surrounding the villains is where the ethical and moral questions arise.  At what point does someone become so dangerous that they no longer have the right to due process, especially in an enlightened society such as the Federation?  What is the true mission of Starfleet, is it one of science and exploration or is it a military organization?  Those who believe on both sides show how much they are willing to sacrifice for their beliefs.

movies-star-trek-into-darkness-trailer-still-4Alice Eve is Carol Wallace aka Carol Marcus.  In the other timeline, Carol Marcus was the mother to Kirk’s son David.  This time around she is calling herself a weapons expert, but that is suspect given that she falsifies her records to get on board the Enterprise.

She is the source of some controversy of her own.  Specifically how her character is shown in her underwear and by the 3rd act has become more of a damsel in distress than much else.  Some have accused the writer’s of misogyny and are crying foul.  I think that’s a bit extreme.  It’s more bad writing than it is misogyny.  As before maybe one more pass on the script or in editorial would’ve made all the difference.

Kirk and her board a shuttle and while she is changing into a space suit, he sneaks a peek at her in her bra and panties.   The scene is probably two seconds long, and it’s not like she has stripped down and is presenting herself to Kirk, she was changing and he snuck a peek at her.  The scene probably could’ve been structured a bit differently so that it was less of a Victoria’s Secret ad and more playing it off camera or from another camera angle, or maybe she could’ve been wearing some kind of space underwear or body suit.  Star Trek is no stranger to slinky tight outfits for it’s female characters.

The worst thing about her character is that she is not very important to the plot.  The majority of her scenes could’ve been played by nearly any character from the regular crew, and her most important contribution is a minor part of the 3rd act.  I would hope that since she has been introduced and we know what happened with her character in the other time line that she will become a bigger and more important character in future Trek installments.

In the end, what do we have?  Into Darkness is an exciting action sci-fi film that raises a few questions.  It is extremely well crafted, well acted and looks amazing.  The filmmakers have paid homage to the Trek lore that has preceded it, in both broad strokes and more subtle nods.  Those who enjoyed the previous outing with this new crew will certainly enjoy this.  I would like to think that Gene Roddenberry would approve.

I can’t wait to see what JJ Abrams will bring with Star Wars Episode VII in 2015.

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