I loved the new Star Trek Into Darkness and I’m going to list some of quick thoughts I had so this is less a review and more me talking about my likes and dislikes. Just to sum it up: it was awesome, the most entertaining movie I’ve seen this year by far. There are lots of SPOILERS!!! so don’t read if you don’t want the story ruined for you.
Now to tell you a little about my Star Trek background, I have watched every series and almost every episode. The only series from which I have not watched every episode is Voyager and Enterprise, though I have seen most of the episodes from both series. My favorite Star Trek movie is Star Trek VI, Undiscovered Country, which IV and II close behind. From Next Gen, I enjoyed First Contact and some elements of Insurrection. I also enjoyed the reboot and thought it was really well cast. My favorite TOS episode is Space Seed, which as many know, is the episode that introduced (again, SPOILER alert) Khan who was one of my favorite villains from the series. Everyone loves a good villain.
Star Trek Into Darkness begins with a bang. While I enjoyed the first one, one of my complaints was that Dr. McCoy doesn’t do much. In the sequel, he is heavily involved as they try to save a civilization from being destroyed by a volcano. In the process, Spock’s life gets endangered and Kirk rescues him by violating the prime directive. Spock tells Kirk: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” There are many nods like this to Star Trek II and for good reason. This is a reimagining of both Star Trek II and the Space Seed episode.
It’s a damn good reimagining. The relationship between Pike and Kirk is really nicely done with Admiral Pike becoming a father figure to Kirk, even helping reinstate him to command after he is sent back to the Academy for consistently defying Star Fleet authorities. After “John Harrison” blows up a secret facility that is developing weapons to fight the Klingons and then attacks Star Fleet Command directly, killing Pike in the process, Kirk is driven to chase after John Harrison. The movie could have had the subtitle “Wrath of Kirk” for how driven he is and how willing he is to do whatever it takes to bring Harrison to justice. Of course Spock and Scottie are both there to remind him that what he’s doing is morally wrong.
I work in VFX so I am very picky about VFX and I was blown away in this movie. The space sequences were incredible. The action was also superb. I have to say, it has been a LONG LONG time since I have been this amazed by an action scene. The sequence where the Enterprise goes into warp to escape the USS Vengeance, which then catches up with them and blows them out of space was one of the most riveting space battles I have seen. That Dreadnought class is freaking awesome.
I was on the edge of my seat for almost the entire movie. Even though it was 2 hours and 10 minutes along, honestly, it felt like it was half that and I didn’t want the movie to end. The key to that was that the relationships between all the characters was handled really well. I really liked and cared about the crew. In fact, I think the only character who didn’t really do as much this time around was Chekov, who was for the most part running around the engine room trying to fix everything. Sulu gets a shot in the chair, Scottie does his magic, McCoy is both conscience and life-saver, Spock brilliantly runs the Enterprise in Kirk’s absence, and Kirk is his brash self, saving the day. Of course, Uhura’s linguistic abilities come into play and her relationship with Spock leads to one of the most touching dialogue exchanges in the whole movie, even if the timing couldn’t have been worse.
This may not be the old Star Trek that I grew up with, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Swash-buckling space drama with laser beams flying everywhere, explosions, and a whole lot of twists and turns. The stakes are higher and the villains are more compelling. Anyone who watches Star Trek knows that in TOS, Klingons are a formidable enemy. Peter Weller reprises a role similar to the one he played in the Enterprise show, John Paxton, in which he was afraid of the threat of aliens who might be coming to attack Earth. Now, Robocop as Admiral Marcus wants to prepare for war with the Klingons, which is why he enlists the aid of JH. No surprise, he got more than he bargained for. JH pulls on Kirk’s consicence to get him to help against Admiral Marcus. Peter Weller played the role perfectly; he has that great mix of stiffness and passion that comes across as ruthless and yet convicted that he is fighting for a greater good.
Which brings us to JH. He is deadly, superhuman, and it’s great seeing more of him in action as his presence in TOS was limited to that one episode and the old film. He is pulsing with rage and is a total badass. The dialogue exchanges between him and Kirk are fantastic. He’s an intriguing take on an old character and his concern for his crew from the Botany Bay is touching. Benedict Cumberbath did an amazing job. If there’s one thing I missed, it’s that the original JH had a certain charm and grace about him, a Napoleonesque grandeur befitting of someone who was nearly ruled the planet. Even when he was defeated in the original Space Seed, he accepted his defeat with grace, looking forward to the challenge of taming a new planet. Of course, it’s important the creators take a new direction with the character so I appreciated how driven he was.
Some things I really loved: The New Klingon design was awesome. The launch scene where Kirk and JH go from the Enterprise to the Vengeance was brilliant. The dialogue was snappy and fun while revealing little bits about every character. The inverted ending for Into Darkness versus Star Trek II was also really well done. It really brought to the forefront the idea that everything has been distorted in this alternative reality. Also, Spock undergoes a character shift/change that was interesting to see. I did think at times, it could have been played more subtly. But as Spock himself says, things changed immensely with the destruction of his planet and he is a different Spock than the one from TOS (btw, nice to see OG Spock make a cameo).
Two questions I had and if anyone knows them, let me know: I know transwarp was established in the first Star Trek movie, but I didn’t know it would allow someone to warp all the way from Earth to Kronos. That’s a really long distance and at first, I was confused by his beaming so far away.
If the Enterprise was battling the Vengeance right outside of Earth’s atmosphere, wouldn’t other ships have at least tried to enter the foray or figure out what in the world was going on?
These are just my initial thoughts: I’ll continue with some more later!