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My review of Into Darkness Warning this is essentially one big spoiler


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Report this May. 23 2013, 8:11 pm

In 2009 Star Trek fans were told to “Forget what you know,” something that is hard to achieve for fans as loyal as Trek fans. Still excitement was high and even the most loyal fans knew Trek needed a kick to keep the franchise viable again. 
With J.J. Abrams at the helm of this reboot, we were given a story set an alternate Trek timeline wherein Vulcan was destroyed by a rogue Romulan from the future and his mining ship of death. Starfleet is also decimated by the mining ship; the only ship that can stop this mad man is the Enterprise with James T. Kirk and company, and a little help from Leonard Nimoy’s original Spock.
Now I had some major issues with the first film, ranging from very small things like how the hell can a mining ship be that powerful?! (It’s like going back to World War 2 with a tractor and suddenly you’re an unstoppable superpower.) There were also major plot issues, like the way everything fell too neatly into place and the Spock-Uhura romance. Its faults aside the movie ultimately served as a way to get Kirk into that captain’s chair and establish our crew and new timeline. By the end it established a great cast and set the stage for this crew’s turn at their own adventures.
That brings us to today. After almost 4 years of waiting and fervent speculation we were given Star Trek Into Darkness, a film unfortunately not as good as the sum of its parts.
I loved so much about this movie and I wanted to love so much more. Let’s start with the positives. First the cast: Pine and Quinto are great as Kirk and Spock. They both capture the best of what Shatner and Nimoy had together in the little time we have actually seen them together. Karl Urban’s Bones is great as well, considering that I truly thought that no one could fill Deforest Kelley’s boots. I instantly began to shit on the choice of Urban as Bones, but since 09’s Star Trek I have loved him and I will say that he is probably the most complete and accurate representation of the classic character on which he is based. So our Star Trek Big 3 is in great hands.
John Cho’s Sulu is subtle and wonderful. He plays Mr. Sulu who between these 2 movies has not had all that much to do but manages to make him memorable and in no way over the top. It’s a tough balance: Kirk is the captain, Spock is the Alien genius first officer, Bones is the angry southern doctor. Cho manages make the role of the Helmsmen interesting without over selling anything. 
Scotty is played by Simon Pegg an actor I absolutely love. Pegg is great as Montgomery Scott but it is obvious the writers do not know what the hell to do with him. They seem to want to make him a big source of comic relief because Pegg plays him. In the original series, the Enterprise was great because of Scotty. There were dozens of constitution class ships but the Enterprise was special because of its crew. Mr. Scott, especially, understood her and loved her like a women he could with “Just a little more time Captain!” make her do anything. In this movie Scotty is hardly ever on the damn ship and it really bothers me. This is strictly a flaw of the writing and not Pegg’s performance.
This gripe falls into the larger problem of the fact this crew is never together on the ship. They don’t feel at all at home or as if they are a crew yet, but we will get back to that.
Zoe Saldana’s Uhura has been relegated to angry girlfriend of Spock’s…Oh and she speaks Klingon. This is one of the reasons why I didn’t like the Spock-Uhura romance in the first place, it kind of cheapens both of the characters. There is some humor with Kirk and her in a turbo lift, but still I feel Uhura is wasted in this film, she was just angry huffy girlfriend. That sucks because little girls seeing this are just going to see a originally strong female character reduced to being mad at her boyfriend during a huge mission.
Anton Yelchin’s Chekov is under used and for no good reason placed in engineering. They hang onto his Russian accent, but the fact that he is Russian is no longer that impressive seeing as the Cold War is over. I’d like to see him as the young wunderkind navigator who is outstanding at his job but is overly confident with women and such. Kind of playing on all the fun Walter Koenig had with Chekov in the 60’s. Again Yelchin is great with what he is given, he just isn’t given much, in fact he is given Scotty’s Job.
Okay, that covers our main characters, let me get to our second tier characters. I’m waiting on our main villain I got a lot to say about that.
Bruce Greenwood’s Admiral Christopher Pike is one of the best things about this new series of movies. I absolutely love the warm, smart dignity he gives to this character. He is a great father figure for Kirk and really a great father figure for the film itself. The film as a whole lacks strong leaders and Pike is the best depiction of a leader. He teaches those under him, he makes those under him believe in themselves so they may reach their true potential. He is the ideal captain, selfless and understands what it means to be in the captains’ chair. He understands the losses you will suffer and the choices you will be forced to make. His character has the best jump from the series to the movies.
This brings us to Peter Weller as Admiral Marcus. I love Peter Weller; this must be stated because he is just so damn cool to me, I absolutely love him as an actor and history buff. That being said Admiral Marcus is a very flawed character. He is the lesser Admiral Cartwright, a similar character from the Trek universe. His motives are so undefined and foolish. Also if you are making a super secret star ship perhaps you shouldn’t have a huge model of it on your desk…just saying. 
Admiral Marcus’s plan is so ill conceived and executed—which leads us to the biggest issue of the film. 
Let’s talk about that biggest issue—the plot. There are gaping plot holes, needless sequences, irrelevant plot points. Worst of all the writers felt the need to shoe horn the plots of several iconic Star Trek movies into this new timeline. It is as if the writers had no confidence to finally write their own stories with these characters.
Into Darkness starts out strong with a sequence that feels very much like a true Trek sequence at its best. There is humor and action and you start to buy that this is a crew is actually a crew of people who work with each other on this ship. There is some sense of camaraderie and familiarity here. Now it’s not fully fleshed out, but it’s finally starting to be something. Through a series of legitimately fun popcorn movie events, the Enterprise saves a planet and Spock but breaks the Prime Directive in the process. 
Ok for my non Trek fans, the Prime Directive basically means you shouldn’t anything to interfere with the interworkings of a planet’s culture or development and if the planet is pre-warp, don’t go showing it all of your awesome space stuff and making yourself a god. Now the Prime Directive is one of the MOST CONTENTIOUS THINGS IN STAR TREK! It is a kind of open for interpretation and I’m pretty sure Shatner’s Kirk hammer punched a priest and declared one civilization’s bible to be full of lies. Starfleet gave no fucks about that. 
Anyway Kirk and Spock are recalled to Starfleet HQ by Admiral Pike, former captain of the Enterprise. There it is revealed Kirk falsified his captain’s log and Spock’s report does include the whole breaking the Prime Directive bit. Kirk is relieved of his command and may have to go back and repeat Starfleet academy. (Ok, I didn’t know that was a thing, but ok) So fifteen minutes into the movie, Kirk is relieved of his command and Spock and Kirk are on rocky terms again. The thing we spent the entire first movie getting accomplished—Kirk in the captain’s chair—has been undone. This is something that baffles me, the writers seem so uncomfortable with Kirk as the captain of the Enterprise and the rest of the crew in their respective roles. 
After an attack in London by a former Starfleet officer named John Harrison, Kirk, Spock, and Pike are called to an emergency meeting by Admiral Marcus. There it is revealed that the attack was on a secret Starfleet base developing weapons for inevitable wars? Or something. The meeting is interrupted by Harrison killing Pike and seemingly all other of the captains present except Spock, Kirk, and Marcus. Kirk is sad by the loss of his Starfleet father figure but we as an audience are never really given a chance to mourn the loss of Pike and neither really is Kirk. I mean, there are some tears and anger but its fleeting and never addressed again. Harrison beams away to an uninhabited province on the Klingon home planet. All this being said, from the London bombing montage to the cool Starfleet meeting, I was happy with this movie thus far. It was setting up something cool, but from this point on it is all downhill and it kills me to say that.
Kirk is of course given back command of the Enterprise after two scenes and Spock returns as his first officer. Great, I am happy but did we have to set up him losing command just for him to gain it back over the course of what seems like a day or two. What is gained from this? 
Kirk is tasked by Admiral Marcus to take the Enterprise to the edge of Klingon space, fire stealth torpedoes into the province where Harrison is hiding, kill him, then fly out as quickly as possible. They are given 72 torpedos to kill one man. One or two of these super weapons won’t get the job one done, we need 72. Wow that’s a weird number. I wonder if this will come into play again. Scotty and Kirk have a debate over the use of these weapons and Scotty is so angry that they are using these weapons that he promptly resigns. 
Damn it! Just when I thought we had our ship filled with the people who are supposed to be on the ship and Scotty leaves on moral grounds. I do agree with the argument and how it fits within the ideals of Star Trek, however. After a turbo lift ride and a brief chat with Spock, within a matter of minutes Kirk decides against using the weapons. This was all done to set up a later plot point but was so forced. This literally serves no other purpose than to get Scotty off the ship.
Well Scotty’s gone, Chekov’s in engineering as his replacement and we boldly go on a mission to capture, not kill Harrison. 
Now we come to the curious case of Alice Eve as Carol Marcus, Admiral Marcus’s daughter, who sneaks aboard to see why her daddy made stealth torpedos. Alice Eve is gorgeous and the film pointlessly gets her in her bra but she doesn’t get much more to do than that. If you have seen the trailer you unfortunately, you have seen all they gave Miss Eve to do. In Wrath of Kahn, Carol Marcus was a strong, smart character and you can see why Kirk was really in love with her. Here she is no more than a competent, pretty officer who happens to have the name of someone from Wrath of Kahn, the movie that this movie is trying so damn hard to be. I feel bad for Alice Eve and for her character. You could have done some really cool stuff with her and still like many, she is under used and under defined.
Now the Enterprise warps into Klingon space and encounters…absolutely nothing. For two movies we are told that the Federation and Klingon Empire are nearly at a state of all out war with each other. Hell, in the last movie it was nearly impossible to monitor the Empire at all. Now the flagship of the Federation fleet just jumps into the space of the Klingon home planet, not some remote outpost, but the Klingon home planet, essentially their capital. This would be like the Nazis parking a massive invasion force off the coast of Washington D.C. and not even a P.T. boat would be there to oppose them. 
Again one of the major points of this movie is the fear of a big war and the Federation not feeling that they are prepared for it, but it seems all the Federation would have to do is just warp into Klingon space with one ship and begin to fire on the capital city.
I guess it just adds to the fact that there are really no stakes, there are no tense scenes of the Enterprise feeling like a Cold War era submarine stealthily slipping into Klingon space. There is just no real fear of what could happen. Think about it, theoretically this one mission could end up in an all out war of intergalactic scale. Millions would die if one wrong move was made and that tension is never shown to the audience. Hell, Sulu sends a transmission down to the planet to inform Harrison that there is a ship in Klingon space, it is armed and there is an armed Federation party on the way to apprehend him. 
Ok so Kirk, Spock, Uhura and two soon to die red shirts take a civilian ship, with civilian weapons down to the surface to apprehend Harrison. On this ship we are forced to deal with some of the worst dialog between Spock and Uhura, which makes their relationship all the more painful. When on the Klingon home planet, they encounter a very small Kingon force--I believe the movie says they are a bandit raiding party. Uhura tries to kind of sexily reason with these Klingons but soon this devolves into a firefight. Look! John Harrison is here and he is a badass.
Harrison surrenders himself and expresses great interest in these torpedoes, particularly just how many of them there are. Here is where the movie loses it completely, while on the ship in the brig Harrison revels himself to be Kahn! That’s right, that Kahn.
Now to the really bad bit. Sadly folks, from this moment on, the movie is completely lost. Kahn tells Kirk of a secret ship that Admiral Marcus is building, a devastating super ship called the Vengeance. 
Subtle real subtle. Wait, why is this ship called the Vengeance? Why is it all black? Is it black because it is bad? And why is there a giant model of this super secret ship on Admiral Marcus’s desk? No one ever asked why that ship is so drastically different from all the others?
Kahn tells Kirk that he was unfrozen by Marcus to help in the development of new weapons, such as the afore mentioned Vengeance and other tactics to prepare the Federation for war for no reason with nothing. Kahn also reveals that those special torpedos contain his crew, the crew he will do anything to save. 

Beyond us being told the Federation is on the verge of war, we never see anything that leads us to think that. After the attack on London, no one seems to care but this small enclave of Starfleet brass. There is no big sense of panic and like I said before the Klingons seem equally disinterested in engaging in a massive war. Furthermore are you telling me that Starfleet’s best and brightest couldn’t prepare for threats? I hate it when we are lead to believe that in 200 years people will be so much better that the concepts of war and combat are beyond us. Star Trek at its best shows us as flawed humans who are trying their best. We are mostly peaceful but Starfleet is most certainly, to some extent, a military organization like the UN peacekeepers of space. And are you telling me that a man from 300 years ago will be the man Marcus needs to prepare Starfleet for war? How the hell would he be up to date? It would be like us bringing Napoleon back to fight our current wars. They have turned one of the best villains in Star Trek history into Wesley Snipes from the movie Demolition Man.
After a bit, Admiral Marcus joins the Enterprise in Klingon space and demands the return of Kahn. Kirk refuses and a very one sided battle ensues. Here Marcus becomes almost cartoonishly evil. With his limited crew of private military contractors, the Vengeance peruses and disables the Enterprise within Earth space. (We needed a 300 year old frozen super villain to help us in planning and executing a war but there are private military contractors?!) Thanks to stupid plot devices, Scotty ends up on the Vengeance in time to disable it before it can totally destroy the Enterprise.
Then something so dumb happens that only serves as a way to get Kahn on the bridge of the giant evil death ship: Kirk chooses to take Kahn with him to board the Vengeance. Again why bring Kahn? I understand that Kahn has knowledge of this ship, but Scotty had no problems disabling the ship with absolutely no knowledge of the workings. We know Kahn to be incredibly strong, but Spock is a borderline super soldier and as we see later, more than a match for Kahn. Oh, and there is the whole not being a sociopathic, power-hunger killer thing. 
The writers made this giant evil ship and they needed Kahn on it, so Kahn and Kirk enter the ship in a legitimately cool sequence. As they retake the Vengeance, we are treated to some fun action. I can’t lie, there are fleeting moments when I enjoyed parts of this movie. The combat, when it does happen, is a lot of fun to watch. It just leaves a bad taste in your mouth when you realize how much stupid work is done to make these events happen. 
As Kirk and Kahn board and retake the USS Death Star, sorry Vengeance, we are given two scenes directed straight at Trek fans like me. However, they end up feeling phony and forced. It’s more like, “hey Trek geeks, look at this--you will love this shit!”
In one of these scenes we see Bones testing Kahn’s blood on a tribble, yes those furry things from the original series. They are cute and it’s a nod to the original series. The funny thing is Tribbles are assholes that breed constantly. This furry plague almost destroyed the Klingon Empire (look it up). Now Bones, one of the most prestigious doctors in all of Starfleet, has one of these things just lying around Sick Bay and just injects it with genetically mutated blood…? I hope Star Trek 3 centers on these now hyper evolved tribbles eating all of Earth’s food in just a year. I know this is a small thing to nitpick, but this was specially put in for Trek fans. The existence of tribbles would mean nothing to the droves of new fans. So when you include something like this for old fans, you better make sure you do your homework. 
The other scene I want to talk about is Spock calling old Spock to ask him about Kahn. Nimoy’s Spock tells new Spock that Kahn was the worst foe the Enterprise ever faced and he is not to be trusted. We see Nimoy for only about a minute or so and it begs the question of why was he needed. Don’t get me wrong--I love Nimoy and I like him and Quinto together, but this was a completely unnecessary detail. Nothing new is learned and it kind of weakens our new Spock and crew. I love in other Trek movies when you see the crew members work out something together as a team. I think Nimoy had the perfect send off in the first film and just didn’t need to be used again. This only showed me that the writers (and by extension, the crew) in this new timeline is taking the easy way out by running to the old Spock for help. 
Well after taking the Vengeance, betraying Kirk and crushing Admiral Marcus (his signature move apparently), Kahn is now in control of the fully automated USS Vengeance. He negotiates with Spock to return Kirk’s boarding party in exchange for the torpedoes containing his cryogenically frozen compatriots. Spock instead beams the armed torpedoes to the Vengeance, keeping the cryo-pods containing Kahn’s crew on the enterprise. The Vengeance and the Enterprise, now both severely damaged, hurtle toward earth.
Kirk and Scotty rush to engineering to restore main power and save the ship (can you see where this is going?). Kirk successfully restores power, but runs into the highly radioactive core. Just like in The Wrath of Kahn, all that is left of Kirk is a distorted photo negative version of himself. He “dies.” Spock is called to main engineering to give us the iconic “last” Kirk-Spock scene. Spock flies into a rage over the death of his friend. As the Vengeance crashes into Earth, Spock pursues Kahn and fights him on and over city streets. 
Meanwhile, on the Enterprise, the tribble Bones injected with Kahn’s blood springs to life. Bones cryo-freezes Kirk and tries to contact Spock to ensure he gets Kahn’s blood so they can save Kirk. (Even though there are 72 other genetically engineered super soldiers on the enterprise already.) Anyway, Spock kills Kahn in a really good action sequence. Uhura then beams down and we get our blood sample to save Kirk. Kirk is revived, Kahn is refrozen, and the movie ends with our crew getting a new five year mission. 
I found this ending to be almost exactly the same ending as the first film; we have a Starfleet ceremony followed by a beautiful series of shots of the Enterprise, ending with the captain on the bridge. The credit sequence is almost totally the same. I wanted this movie to be more about Kirk earning his captaincy, but he really doesn’t do much actually in the way of being captain. In fact for a large part of the movie he believes Spock is better suited for the job. Kirk’s “death” lacked weight because no one actually thought that this would really be the end of him. As I have stated before, the movie sets up big things it can’t or won’t deliver on. Which brings me to my closing arguments.
Why did this movie need to be so similar to Wrath of Kahn? Why did Kahn have to be in this movie? And why did so many big events from Wrath of Kahn have to be in this film? 
Pretty much since day one, everyone thought Kahn was going to be the villain in this movie and I really truly hoped that wouldn’t be the case. The Wrath of Kahn was an amazing movie-- many consider it the best Star Trek film of all and it came at the perfect time in the series. 
In the Wrath of Kahn, Kahn actually has something to be wrathful about. After the events of the original series episode “Space Seed,” Kahn blames Kirk for the death of his wife and the loss of his power. He has a personal ax to grind and these guys have a history. So Kahn doesn’t just want to kill Kirk and Kirk’s crew, he wants them to suffer. He had the single minded hope of slowly and painfully destroying Kirk and all he loved. 
There was a long and good history here that formed the kind of hate that takes years to cultivate. The movie touches on the ideas of loss and the weight of command. It also shows Kirk as a man uncomfortable with becoming the aging admiral commanding a desk. Writer/ Director Nicholas Meyer did so much to inject these characters with so much humanity. By the end of the film you really feel something. Spock’s death in that film was intended to be Spock’s actual death and the weight of that was real. At the time there was no plan to bring Spock back (Wrath of Khan was so successful that Spock was brought back to life in a later movie). When you left the theater in 1982, you were taken on a ride and felt the loss of a beloved character for what it was worth. There were no big action sequences after Spock’s death, just a touching scene between Shatner and Nimoy where Spock let Kirk know “you have been and always shall be my friend.” This may very well be my favorite moment in all of the Trek franchise.
I include all of that because we as an audience did not have any history with this new Kahn. This movie felt the need to include a vengeful Kahn whose motives were never really all that clear. The movie gives you the Wrath of Kahn without Space Seed. And I am stuck on the question why? Why was this movie’s villain have to be Kahn?
Do these writers feel that just because it is the second movie of the series it needs to be a mirror of Wrath of Kahn? And if you think they did this to please original fans of Star Trek, I feel that this attempt is ham-fisted and cheap. Fans like me will literally go see anything Trek related, but we are also smarter than this and we can deal with a new villain.
Now Benedict Cumberatch is doing the very best with what he has here. The failing of Kahn’s character has nothing to do with him. It is strictly the fact that his character’s motives were so flawed. He wasn’t given that much dialog and never seemed to be as calculating as Ricardo Montaban’s Kahn. I still honestly can’t tell you why he reacts the way he does. I kind of feel this role was kind of a waste of an actor of Cumberatch’s caliber. He was brutal and intense but I would have loved to see more of him playing people against the other, creating chaos. And if he was going to be a terrorist of sorts, he should have been more fanatic. We should have seen more fear from everyone, but again we are given two attacks on military targets and not much more. 
I thought the plot would have been much more interesting if he was a Starfleet operative in section 31. A man who has done some dirty stuff for the Federation and sees that Admiral Marcus is bringing the Federation to the brink of war. He becomes disillusioned with the Federation and tries to expose Marcus and the Federation and conducts a one man war on the Federation. You can go on from there. He could have been a man you fundamentally agree with, but he goes too far and he and Marcus end up killing each other as the Enterprise and the crew save the day and stop an intergalactic war. You can then tease a Klingon fear of the Federation or possible Romulan involvement and then you have the seeds for other films. 
I’m not saying my approach is right by any means, but It’s not like there isn’t a wealth of characters and factions out there. This series is so rich, so why go where greater writers have already gone before? Why not make something within the Trek universe without borrowing something so iconic? 
My final issue with this film is the movie only model. One of the reasons why the crew doesn’t feel complete to me is because we haven’t seen them together all that long. The original series had 79 episodes before they had a movie, which gives you a chance to get to know these characters. With this movie, even though they are playing those same iconic characters, we don’t get to see them all together on the ship that much. I understand you need to have big movie moments, I’d just like to see a little more of the crew together. 
Finally, I want to end this on a positive note. I wanted to highlight some of the more unsung and wonderful things about this film. 
The score by Michael Giacchino is absolute wonderful and possibly my favorite Star Trek theme. It certainly deserves to be on par with Alexander Courage’s theme and John Williams’s motion picture score. I highly recommend listening to the main theme; it is stunning and I don’t think many movies could live up to the standard the score sets. Also the haunting and simple piano in “London’s Calling” that is played over the attack on London montage is one of my favorite parts of the film. I actually found myself feeling very emotional at times in the theater-- not so much over what was happening onscreen, but by the weight of the beautiful music. The score also plucks some bits from other Trek themes, weaving a beautiful soundtrack that highlights the old and the new. 
Second the production design and art direction by Scott Chambliss and Ramsey Avery respectively is simply outstanding. Every set felt so lived in and had such an attention to detail. My eyes couldn’t keep up with everything. From the deltas on all the fixtures in engineering to the amazing interconnected Enterprise set, that was one of the most complete and beautiful sets I have ever seen. I also truly applaud the production’s choice to go practical instead of CGI just for the sake of CGI. This added layers of realness. You could see the actors play off the sets and locations and it just added so much to the film. Unlike other CGI fests, this movie had heart because of all the work the production crew did. 
Finally and possibly my favorite unsung detail is the stunning costuming by Michael Kaplan. The sheer volume of costuming on this film is stunning. Each character has several different uniforms, from their daily duty divisional colored uniforms to a duty flight suit. Then there are several dress uniforms that are amazing. They are up there with Robert Fletcher’s maroon monster uniforms from Star Trek 2-6 as my personal favorites. I love the addition of peeked caps for the dress uniform and I love the different variations. The civilian costuming is also great. It always seemed in Star Trek if you weren’t in Starfleet, you were given some of the worst clothes ever to wear. Here people didn’t dress overly sci-fi. The civilian clothing was very similar to where we are at now, with hints of the early 60’s. Specifically, the tailoring of the pants, hems of women’s skirts, and the width of the men’s ties were great nods to the original series. The Klingon’s uniforms were far and away the coolest the Klingons have ever looked. Gone are the rubbery 1980’s uniforms. They have been replaced with awesome uniforms reminiscent of uniforms of the Russian imperial army. I loved their overcoats and the helmets added a very cool anachronistic air to the empire itself. Two small criticisms (and I am totally spitting hairs here), but I did not like the crew of the Vengeance’s uniforms nor the spangled silver gloves worn by the Starfleet honor guard. I just wish those gloves were black or white, but that is honestly nothing. Mr. Kaplan has set an insanely high bar. 
Ok to wrap this all up: I guess Star Trek Into Darkness has a great cast and crew, but the film’s writers spend so much time trying to make this film into their take of the Wrath of Kahn that they muddle all of the great things they have by their unwillingness to create a new story. I feel this cast and crew deserved better. This movie isn’t unwatchable or awful. This is not a Star Wars prequels situation. It’s just sadly not all that good either. I am happy more people are talking and are interested in Star Trek and I am as always cautiously optimistic about what the future holds for this cast and Star Trek as a whole.

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