Star Trek Into Darkness Review
I am in every sense of the term a nerd. I love science and (to a lesser extent) math. I would rather read a book than watch or participate in a sporting match. Solving problems logically is a joy. I am socially awkward, especially with women and dating. I used to have 20/400 vision and wore thick Coke bottle glasses but had laser eye surgery (and as further proof of my nerdishness went into the operation with the secret hope that a freak lab accident would give me the ability to shoot lasers out of my eyes). In college I wore only the worst possible clothing (ever wonder what tie dye shirts and camouflage pants looks like together? I don’t have to) and had the personal hygiene habits of pig/monkey hybrid (ponkey?) with dysentery. My nerd interests are legion, including science fiction, comic books, cartoons (anime), video games, role playing games, and miniature war games.
However first and for most I am above all things a Star Trek nerd. Star Trek was my introduction to the nerd world, opening the door to the wonders of science fiction and datelessness, enticing me through with soft music and the delicate scent of flowers and bacon. Kirk and Spock were the friends I wished I had when my so called peers were kicking the crap out of me in grade school and my actual friends looked on. Most of my childhood was spent wishing for the chance to beam the hell out of my life and then call in an orbital phaser strike on Palisades Elementary School.
I start this review thusly in order to establish where I am coming from. I am sure any marginal or non fan will have no problem with this film and enjoy it immensely (although any fan of movies without gargantuan plot holes will be bitterly disappointed). However, as a fan of both Star Trek and well written movies I find myself once again frustrated and insulted by the lazy pap thrown up on the screen.
I tried. Honestly I did. I have had a few years to get over how butt hurt I was at the whole remaking of the entire Star Trek universe into the developmentally challenged image that J.J. seems to feel is appropriate. I have been watching episodes of Fringe in an attempt to acclimatize myself to his particular story telling style (of course in a recent interview on the Howard Stern Show he said he was not really involved a whole lot in Fringe and has not even seen all the episodes) and showed up at the theater wearing a Star Trek t shirt and a heart full of hope.
132 very long minutes later I walked out and the only thing I could think of was “It’s going to be really hard to remember all the plot holes and canon screw ups when I write my review tomorrow”. After about an hour the part of my brain that feels pain every time they butchered another piece of my childhood was nothing but a burned out mass of scar tissue and all that was left was the occasional flare of ire at the laziness of the script and honestly a certain amount of boredom.
So, Star Trek Into Darkness, or as it should have been called Star Wars Into Dark Side. I have always said J.J. Abrams always wanted to be making Star Wars not Star Trek and never has it been more clear. It started when I realized the new formal uniforms that Star Fleet now wears look like a slightly more Nazi version of the uniforms of the Death Star officers. There was a scene where a suspiciously coin shaped ship squeezed through a narrow passage in an almost exact reproduction of the Millennium Falcon’s assault on the Death Star in Return of the Jedi. Instead of the trademark long sweeping maneuvers from TNG we get either Episode IV style dog fights or Episode III style long slow battles. Even the aliens looked a lot like the aliens from Star Wars, including one that looked suspiciously like a scaly Ewok in size, facial features, intellect, and demeanor.
I’m about to lay down some pretty heavy spoilers as I don’t think I can pass all my bile out without doing so. If you feel like this will ruin the experience for you and/or don’t want to be bummed out by my banging on about Star Trek canon why don’t you got back and read the review I did for Oblivion? That review is far more upbeat than this one. Come back after you see the this movie and finish reading this review. Be sure to let me know here if you agree with me or are a poser half assed fan who didn’t vomit all over his or her popcorn when you watched Generations. I promise I won’t ignore you to death.
SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT! This movie claims to be a remake of my most beloved Star Trek movies The Wrath of Khan, and for sure is uses a character with the same name and sort of the same back story but other than that it is such a miss I’m not sure they were even in the same ballpark. I think in a week or so I will do a detailed list of all the plot holes, stupidity, and canon rapes this movie has but for now I think it would be amusing to keep a counter going like this (0).
So the film starts off with Kirk and Spock violating the prime directive by saving an indigenous people from an exploding volcano. All Star Trek fans know that the Prime Directive is more of a guideline and nothing at all to be taken seriously (1). For some reason they have to hide the Enterprise under the sea because they can’t launch the shuttle craft from orbit (2). I’m OK with the transporter not working as that is a pretty standard Star Trek thing. In an effort to maintain a low profile and not interfere with the primitive alien culture Kirk and McCoy sneak into the alien temple for no apparent reason whatsoever (3) and Kirk opts to shoplift some kind of holy drawing of a Christmas tree (4). They run away and jump off a cliff in order to swim back to the Enterprise using some kind of underwater jet boots (no number there. I actually thought those were kind of cool).
Meanwhile Spock is wearing some kind of armor and is going to be lowered on a rope into the volcano in order to detonate a cold bomb and freeze it (no one ever heard of a winch or parachute? For that matter if you are going to lower some kind of explosive device into a lower level from an aircraft wouldn’t it be nice if there were some kind of way of “dropping” the “bomb” without risking someone’s life? Too bad something like that wasn’t invent during WWI. 5, BTW). Apparently if the volcano erupts the whole planet will die (6). Anyway, for some reason they can’t do this at night and only a shuttle craft can sneak into the smoke. Also something was said about the heat damaging the Enterprise (??? Don’t they have shields? Aren’t they capable of withstanding massive energy based damage? For the record heat=energy. 6). Of course the heat managed to wreck the shuttle craft yet somehow Spock is OK in his EVA suit. Why don’t they just wrap the shuttle craft in the same material? (7).
Kirk further violates the pesky Prime Directive by lifting the Enterprise out of the ocean directly in front of the aliens (why did he park it within sight of their village? Also I’m pretty sure the Enterprise was constructed in space and was never intended to land anywhere. I think they expanded the in atmosphere capabilities in TNG but for sure even being slightly in atmo was bad. 8 and 9). Naturally he rescues Spock and goes back to Earth for a nice relaxing three way with some alien chicks. He heads back to headquarters where the look of the season is SS uniforms.
He gets demoted back to first officer under Pike again. Meanwhile the only character that really was worth anything shows up in the form of a traitor named Hamilton (Benedict Cumberbatch). He subplots a guy with a terminally ill daughter and cures the daughter in order to get the guy to blow up something. He then attacks the meeting of all the officers with a gun ship (why would he try to kill them all with effectively a machine gun? Why not just kill them with explosives? 10). Pike gets killed, and Kirk manages to blow up the gunship with a firehose (no joke. 11).
For some reason (I keep using that phrase over and over again but this film is pretty miserly on explanations of pretty much anything) Scotty is part of the forensics team looking into the wreckage of the gun ship (12) and is allowed to wander off with a massive chunk of evidence. It is some kind of long range transporters that indicates the traitor has gone to Qo’noS (that’s Kronos to the posers out there) the Klingon homeworld (I should ding them for the long range transporter but really that was established in the last bad movie). Admiral Marcos (Peter Weller) gives Kirk some experimental photon torpedoes and orders him to park outside of the Neutral Zone (for the record the Neutral Zone always marked the border of the Romulan Empire, not the Klingon. 13) and shell him from a distance but to do so quietly so as to not start a war with the Klingons (14).
A new crew member shows up for no apparent reason and with incomplete or forged orders (apparently if you want to go for a ride on the Enterprise all you have to do is flirt with Kirk for a couple seconds and make up some bogus story. 14) in the form of hot blond science officer who later turns out to by coincidence be Admiral Marcus’s daughter (15). Scotty resigns off the ship in a snit because no one will let him look inside the the new photon torpedoes (for the most part Scotty was a good officer and knew how to obey his orders. Anyone else remember him letting a big computer run the Enterprise in Episode 53 the Ultimate Computer? 16). Kirk remembers his standard orders of peace and law when he gets to the neutral zone and sneaks onto Kronos with no apparent problem (the Klingon Empire has little interest in detecting enemies coming to their home world. 17). He heads to the planet in a shuttle craft they confiscated (apparently the shuttle bay on the Enterprise now has room for a fleet of smaller craft. I guess the ship is a carrier? 18) that looks suspiciously like another space ship that shall go unnamed but sounds like Aluminum Malcolm. He uses that ship to turn sideways and escape between a narrow metal passage while being pursued by tiny little Klingon ships. They are stopped by the Klingons and rescued by the very traitor they were after, who manages to kill like 20 of the galaxies greatest warriors.
The guy surrenders when he finds out how many of the experimental torpedoes they have and reveals that he is Khan as in Space Seed and the Wrath of Khan (wait a minute. Wasn’t Khan Noonien Singh supposed to be Indian? This guy is whiter than Casper and has an English accent. 19). He is taken back to the ship where McCoy examines him and tells Kirk he is 300 years old (note-at the start of the movie they reveal that the year is 2259 which means Khan was born in…1959? He could be watching this movie as we speak at the ripe old age of 54. That’s lazy beyond the pale. It’s one form of lazy to not do any research into any element of your actual source material but this is so lazy you can’t pull out a calculator and figure out the age of your villain is stupid. 20). Also McCoy says Khan’s blood has healing properties and injects it into a dead Tribble (didn’t they encounter Tribbles as part of their voyages? Here it seems like they are as common as guinea pigs. 21)
The ship has a warp core malfunction and is stuck in the Neutral Zone (Klingons still not really great about checking for enemies. Typical. They are generally a peaceful and docile race). Khan convinces Kirk to open up one of the torpedoes. In order to do this he opts to use his new super hot science bimbo (who also happens to be an expert in experimental weapons. 22). She needs help and recruits McCoy because he had steady hands (??? Are there no technicians or engineers on the ship who know how to use a screwdriver? I thought that was what Red Shirts were all about. On this ship there is exactly one medical doctor and about 400 basic bullet stoppers. 23). Naturally he bones it up (haw!) so we can have an “exciting” 30 second countdown to death averted at the last second by just ripping out the computer core or something (24). Inside the torpedo we find a frozen human?
Yes, it’s the rest of Khan’s jolly crew from the Botany Bay. Don’t worry none of them wake up to make this film actually interesting. Somehow Khan or Marcus got the crew stuffed into the torpedo tubes (25) and Marcus was going to fire Khans old mates at him instead of just dropping them into the nearest sun (26). At that point Marcus shows up with a super dreadnaught that has everything a warship could possibly need except for locks on the outer doors (27). Much is said about how this is the first Federation warship and how the Enterprise was just an explorer with guns (sorry, but I have to take issue with this. The Enterprise in TOS was always a considered a warship that was used for exploration. 28). Marcus does the typical evil monolog and plans to kill Khan and the rest of the crew. His daughter comes up to stop him and he just transports her onto his ship (what was her plan exactly? How did she not see that coming? 29). They do a space battle but Marcus’s ship is disabled when it is revealed that Scotty was on board the other ship and shut down the warp core (I might buy his ability to hide on board the ship and shut it down, but how did he know what was going on? For all he knew Marcus was fighting an alien horde. Also remember when communicators were for short range communication? Apparently Abrams does not as hand held communicators can now reach from Kronos to Earth. 30. By the way, when they show Kronos it is with the moon blown up. For those of you who aren’t in the know, that moon got blown up in Star Trek 6, 30+ years after the date of this film and IN AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT TIMELINE THAT JJ ABRAMS DESTROYED WHEN HE REBOOTED THE FRANCHISE! For god’s sake if you are going to do something stick with it. Lazy, lazy, lazy. 31).
Neither ship has weapons capabililty (nothing more exciting than a space battle involving two ships aimless drifting at each other) so Kirk recruits Khan to personally assault Marcus’s ship before they are all killed (the Enterprise has a crew of over 400 people. Doesn’t he have anyone who knows which end of a phaser the pew pew comes out of? 32). They capture the ship and of course Khan betrays them. He extorts his crew out of Spock and starts blowing the hell out of the Enterprise. Naturally Spock send over armed torpedoes and blows his ship up (by the way, much is said to establish that Vulcans cannot lie in order to make this deception a big deal, but that was never a part of any Star Trek until this movie. Spock could lie when it suited his needs, and his wife T’Pring lied her ass off at him).
Now we get to the part that made me want to weep. The core is knocked out of alignment and in a sort of homage to TWOK with a super “fun” twist it is now Kirk who has to go into the radiation room and fix the warp core with precision kicks (literally. Everyone knows you can fix high tech equipment with blunt force, like Fonzie and the jukebox. 33). They do the whole Spock death scene exactly as they did in the good film only without the emotional gravitas or weight. Anyway, Spock now has an emotional freak out (34) and screams Khaaaaan to no one in particular (35). Khan has crashed his ship in San Francisco (did I not mention that the whole fight took place 200K kilometers from Earth? Good thing Earth doesn’t have any kind of detectors or ships around that might have done something. 36) and Spock goes after him (again, no one else on board who can shoot?). They do a foot race that looks a lot like the final fight scene from Revenge of the Sith (with less lava, of course) and he captures him. JJ then pulls a happy ending from the deepest recess of his sweatiest ass and has Khan’s blood return Kirk from the dead (37), effectively removing any possible emotional connection with this film and draining the last of my interest.
I’d like to comment a bit on fake death scene and why it was such a miserable failure. I have often said that that scene in TWOK made me cry like a little girl and to this day tears me up. It was the death of a legendary icon, my childhood idol and best friend, and the effective end of the franchise (sure they kept it going but really the Star Trek I grew up with died there). In this film we get a cheesy reimagining with characters we don’t really give a damn about and an event we all know the studio will never let stand, especially when McCoy was already working on blood with regenerative abilities. It has all the weight of a wet fart and was about as annoying and insulting. Also, when Kirk scream Khaaaaan in the good movie Khan had just left them to die on a rock and Kirk was in communication with him, not bellowing at an empty bulkhead. This scene was forced into the movie with all the subtlety of a gardenhose colonoscopy and was about as painful. The only thing I felt when Kirk died was a weird kind of relief that that scene was over and a slight wonder as to when they would do the blood thing.
Oh, by the way why the need to capture Khan alive? Does Kirk need a full body transfusion? A tiny syringe of blood was enough to revive the Tribble. Couldn’t they mop up Khans blood off the pavement, or drain it from whatever body parts are still lying around after Spock gets done with him? Also aren’t replicators pretty well established in Star Trek and couldn’t they just whip up a batch of it on their own? How about the fact that they have like 72 other frozen super humans with the same blood, including the one guy they pulled out in order to freeze Kirk in the first place? For that matter what motivated to McCoy to inject Khan’s blood into a dead tribble in the first place? Is this some kind of standard Starfleet Medical procedure? “Well, you tested negative for all STD’s and your Dead Tribble Revival rating is through the roof!”? Am I the only one seeing these things? 38, 39, and 40.
Special effects are great, but if you are going to a Star Trek film for special effects you are missing the point. One star. Some of the stuff I liked included the underwater jet boots and the look of the Federation Dreadnaught. One star. Uhura and the new girl are very easy on the eyes in a family friendly PG-13 way. One star. For all my bile, it is still a Star Trek movie. One star. Total: four stars.
The black holes.
So 40 plot holes, canon mistakes, or just stupid plot devices and that’s after a tertiary examination. I think that’s worth at least three black holes. Using Star Trek to warm up for his Star Wars movie. One black hole. Chris Pine is still not Kirk. One black hole. The crowbaring in of the death scene and the Khaaan moment in a worthless and painful manner. One black hole. Essentially a very lazy script that only picked the low hanging fruit, while leaving all the good stuff that required a step ladder to rot. Two black holes. Extra character who added nothing. One black hole. It’s weird to say this, but this movie had a strange pacing. Normally 135 minutes of sci fi is easy for me even if it’s not Star Trek, but this one felt like a grind. One black hole. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; there is a limit to how many near death escapes a character can survive before you stop giving a damn, and this one hit the limit in the first 20 minutes. Every scene was yet another shockingly (yet not really shocking. More like licking a 9 volt battery than getting hit with a tazer) close call. It’s like being given a delicious chocolate sunday and as soon as you are done being fed 23 more in two hours. Eventually you are going to vomit and go into a sugar coma. One black hole.
A grand total of seven black holes. An incredibly disappointing score for me for a Star Trek movie. However, understand that as I love Star Trek so much I hold anything related to it to a higher standard. If you are not a rabid fan and/or just want to be entertained go for it. I think you might get a little bored by the end but no worries. You will feel like you got your monies worth. Date movie? It annoys the crap out of me that I have to say yes as being a Star Trek nerd has for years been a huge deal breaker for me and women, but I think it would work. Bathroom break? Honestly the death scene is the perfect time, and since no one actually dies it has zero weight or merit. Go for it.
Thanks for reading. This is another one I hate myself for doing, but I am in almost all things honest, especially when it comes to things I love being abused by people. For the record this is the longest review I have ever written. Follow me on Twitter NerdKungFu. Feel free to post comments here on my review or this movie. Off topic comments, suggestions, or death threats can be emailed to email@example.com. Talk to you soon.