Not quite an oldie and not quite a goldie… but a nice way to pass a lazy afternoon.
Some basic facts first: Star Trek: Into Darkness hit theatres in mid-May of 2013, and was a huge hit. It is, of course, the sequel to Star Trek (2009) which is a reboot of the Star Trek franchise of TV series’ and movies. JJ Abrams has thus far been at the helm of the reboot and his films have met with huge box office success, whilst simultaneously being largely rejected by hardcore Trekkies on the basis of pretty much everything.
Full Disclosure: I am not a hardcore or softcore, or any core of Trekkie.
So… shall we begin? (See what I did there??)
I enjoyed Star Trek Into Darkness, overall. It wasn’t a brilliant movie. It didn’t change the way I think about things and at the end of the day I could just as easily have it in my life or not. But it was entertaining and that’s all a movie really needs to be sometimes.
One of the highlights of the movie for me was the interplay between Khan’s humanity and Spock’s. We see Spock struggling with his human half for the entire movie, even identifying himself as completely Vulcan for the entirety of the movie. And yet when it comes right down to it and Spock is confronted with the reality of emotion (when he thinks he will die in the volcano and again when Kirk is dying) we see that underneath it all, even Spock has to reckon with his humanity.
On the other hand we have Khan who uses his humanity and the depth of his emotion (his love for his crew and his anger at being blackmailed and used by Admiral Marcus) to justify his inhumane actions. By showing us these two characters, each of whom are deeply human and not at the same time, ST: ID gives the audience a little philosophical something to chew on in between all the action and sweeping shots of space ships.
I also thought that the movie flowed well. It sounds a bit silly, I know, but have you ever watched a movie that had the potential to be awesome… but it just didn’t flow right? You couldn’t connect anything that happened at the beginning of the movie to the final conclusion, nor were any of the themes really all that related and the characters didn’t work well together or the world didn’t make much sense, etc etc? Well, this wasn’t one of those movies. Everything worked together to deliver an interesting, if unoriginal look at the meaning of being human and the nature of right and wrong.
All that being said, there were a few things about the movie that screamed plot inconsistency and I just can’t get over them. The first was that Spock The 1st told Spock The 2nd in the first movie that he would not interfere in his life by giving him any information which could potentially alter his destiny. And yet the very first time Spock The 2nd asks for information… Spock The 1st tells him everything he needs to know about Khan. Not only that, but he also pretty much tells him “if you can defeat Khan, you’ve overcome the most dangerous adversary you’ll ever face on the Enterprise”. It’s ridiculous.
The second is, of course, that Dr. Marcus who is meant to be a specialist in advanced weaponry can’t seem to figure out a torpedo. Granted, Khan is a very clever man. But come on. She has a PhD in Advanced Weaponry. This is a fancy way of saying she’s an expert in dealing with things that go boom. But she can’t figure out a torpedo designed by a dude whose been asleep for the last 300 years. Someone should really check her credentials again.
Another thing which I found a little incongruous was Captain Kirk himself. We’re meant to be watching his evolution from being a brash, reckless, self-entitled git into a brilliant and inspiring leader. But that never happens. This leads me to the second category…
Admiral Pike says that the reason he fought to give Kirk the Enterprise was because he saw greatness in him. The presumable reason for telling us that is to show us Kirk’s changing character throughout the movie; especially after the death of Admiral Pike. But that never happens. He goes the entire movie doing whatever he feels is right, and damn the consequences. That never changes. It makes him a noble character, sure. He’s even a likeable character. But there’s no evolution there. No matter where in the movie you find Kirk, he’s that fun guy you’d go drinking with and even trust with your life, but never with your sister, girl friend or other significant female acquaintance.
Do I even need to go through Carol Marcus’s complete lack of import as a character? She’s a plot device more than she is a character. They tell us she’s a specialist in advanced weaponry because they need someone to try open Khan’s torpedoes so we can find that they have people inside them. She’s the Admiral’s daughter because… I don’t know. I guess it’s so he can use his advanced teleportation beam thingy.
Speaking of Admiral Marcus: I get that he is meant to be a scheming bad guy, but he isn’t very effective, is he? He wakes up a genetically engineered sociopathic genius and blackmails him into building weapons whilst threatening to kill the only friends he has in the entire universe… and doesn’t foresee how this could be a bad idea? He then follows the Enterprise into questionable space using a ship that’s not meant to exist so he can… retrieve the sociopathic genius who outsmarted him in the first place? Bravo, Admiral. Bravo.
Further, Uhura’s character seems to exist primarily to show us that Spock has a girl friend and so must have some sort of human emotions. And also to give an excuse to start a fight with the Klingons. I feel like all this could have been achieved without her existence. Which is sad because her lack of real importance added to Dr. Marcus’s means that a franchise whose original raison d’etre was to show us a utopian-esque post-racism and –sexism universe has exactly zero women of importance.
As a consolation prize, Sulu does get to be acting Captain for a bit and say some badass stuff so not all the diversity in the movie is just for show. It’s not much but I guess it’s better than nothing.
Saving the characterisation in the movie from being a complete flop are Khan and Spock (yes, I really enjoyed watching these two characters interact with their world). Not only is Spock consistently conflicted about his identity, but we get to see how it affects the characters around him as well. Underneath it all, there is never any real doubt to anybody but Spock that our half-Vulcan, half-human Commander has more humanity in him than he likes to think. Also, his relationship with Kirk is hilarious.
Possibly the best sequence of the movie for me is the scene where Khan is imprisoned and Kirk and Spock are realising that he’s not just a Star Fleet officer. After discovering the man in the torpedo (The Man in the Torpedo would be a great title for a Bones episode, don’t you think?) Spock and Kirk want to know exactly what is going on and we get to see one of the most complete character transformations ever put on screen. The smug, cleverer-than-thou John Harrison character falls away and the true nature of the man is revealed as the words “My. Name. Is… Khan” fill the room. What we’re left with is a malicious, methodical and calculating character who we can entirely believe was condemned to death for war crimes and what makes it better is that you’re not really expecting it to happen so suddenly. Everything about Khan changes after that statement and that ability to be two different characters so completely is what made him the best character in the movie for me.
Captain Kirk manages to simultaneously be a raging hound dog and be respectful to women. We see that in the fact that he has managed to maintain a professional and perhaps even friendly relationship with Uhura after his failed attempt to sleep with her in the first movie and in his ability to separate having seen Dr. Marcus half naked with her role as a scientist (albeit a crappy one) and a member of his crew.
“Wait… are you two fighting? Oh my god, what is that even like?” Seriously… what does a fight with Spock look like?
Bones is grumpy and superfluously metaphorical and it’s glorious.
“I am expressing multiple attitudes simultaneously, to which are you referring?” Golden.
Benedict Cumberbatch. Yes.
Amending the Captain’s Oath to: to boldly go where no one has gone before. Thanks for de-gendering the words even if almost all the captains and first officers we see throughout the movie are men. It was a nice thought.
All in all, like I said: I enjoyed Star Trek Into Darkness. Everything came together well to deliver a satisfying cinematic experience. I wouldn’t watch it again, but yeah it was a lot of mindless fun.
Mood Meter: If you’re introducing an action fan to the sci-fi genre, this is a good bet,. Not too out there, and a fun ride.