You know the whole Star Trek Into Darkness title is great isn’t it? Takes away the whole subtitle craze and it evokes a certain mental construct of what doom and dread they will face this time out. It’s also a title that should have been used for THAT type of movie. Instead I’d say Bad Robots sequel is a well moving story and more Star Trek-ish formula than their last in the sense that it’s less action given and more character general peril driven. And no it’s not a darker sequel. I’d say you deal more with threats and tension than actual execution. A lot of time is spent cutting between interactions with Spock, Kirk and Uhura as they discuss their mortality and all appear to need work on their relationship and teamwork skills. Where’s the Avengers for this lesson?
Oh yes and then there’s a terrorist played by Benedict Cumberbatch who bombs a Starfleet archive (or so we think) and hides out in the ruins of a Klingon planet. After another attack Kirk volunteers himself and his crew to take him out. All wonderful set ups for exciting moments and those are executed perfectly marrying different sort of effects together which do create a great sense of urgency in almost all matters. The only thing better to look at than that are the slower moments on Earth where you can see a very realized future humanity on a level never displayed in Trek films and certainly not this detailed. And the performances work well, maybe two bits where the performances are a little too strong for the moment, but that’s more a nit-picky thing for that scene. So overall it’s a fun situation based Star Trek adventure that’s worth its ticket price.
But… there is a problem.
And that problem comes with Bad Robot’s decisions in both marketing and story details. At this point if you really don’t know a lot about Trek then you can stop reading and experience this for yourself fresh. You’ll probably have a complete blast.
Now, if you know a lil’ something-something about Trek then you’d probably guessed who said terrorist is. And you’re right. In fact you’re so right that I almost wonder why they bothered hiding it so long since the whole time you already have him pegged. Cumberbatch is a terrific actor and again he shows off those skills and the use his character goes back to plotlines on the show not just the film, which is a good plotline.
Now before BC was casted as Kirk’s most infamous villain, the role was offered to Oscar Winner Benicio Del Toro, who wanted too much money (he’s a little notorious for stuff like that). But I think about had Del Toro played him what that could have been. As good as Cumberbatch is his Khan never feels “big” enough in how iconic it should be. He certainly has great moments of being bat shit and you’re not sure what he’s thinking, but it never feels scary or menacing. There’s never a real moment of uncertainty in what he’s up to. Worst as good as it is it won’t be remembered the way the recreation of a villain like that should be. It simply boils down to he’s a crazy guy in a black shirt like a million other bad guys.
The other issue was the mistake of thinking its cool to start taking things from “The Wrath of Khan” cause it feels like cheap fan service. I get fooling around in the cannon. I’m fine with it usually, but its used the wrong way here. Furthermore bringing back Old Spock to assist in information feels like both cheap fan service and a quick way to skim over them making actual discoveries on their own. Now these aspects are anything to cripple the movie I feel. But they’re important pieces that stop it from hitting some of that greatness of the 2009 reboot.
One of the ‘twist’ moments that is pull from ‘WoK’ feels like tugging on heart strings, but if you’ve been paying attention then its slightly empty moment cause you know how it can be fixed while all the emotions are running wild. It does give drive to other character actions that were pretty terrific and something I wanted to see out of the Trek world; in fact there’s a few fresh things they do here I really like. But pulling and re-arranging plot points and emotional moments from another film isn’t one of them. And that ‘Into Darkness’ title is great, but ultimately useless as there never is a pure moment of ‘what the fuck happens now’. There are surprises, quite good ones in fact, but at no point was I ever fully feeling the dread and uncertainty of the Enterprise crew’s fate. And that’s despite a great deal of fucked-up-ness to that ship.
I think with Abrams taking Star Wars he has a chance to cater heavily to himself as a storyteller, as a showman and give those fans something closer to this which they will probably love it. Star Wars fans really love the fan service. Maybe he’ll return as producer to Trek, but in honesty I’d love to see another fresh take from someone else. Or just a new batch of writers instead of Orci, Kurtzman & Lindelof. Yeah, actually I think that would be a nice change, as Abrams directing wise still presents a beautiful looking film.
Anyways I still had legitimate fun with this. There’s a lot of truly BAD Star Trek films. Some good ideas in them maybe, but really goddamn boring. And for me this is not one of those bad, boring ones at all. It’s an exciting and fast moving adventure flick, (really that 142 minutes flew by) but one that’s held back by too much love of the past and a lack of menace.