I’ve only bloody gone and caught an STID!
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
Whilst some nerdlingers and series purists felt it was somewhat of a betrayal, I personally loved J.J. Abrams’ 2009 take on Star Trek. Yeah, it may have replaced the franchise’s hallmark slow, thoughtful science fiction approach with more of a whoosh-boom science fantasy one, but you can’t deny it was a blast. To me, and I suspect many others, it gave the series the kick up the arse it needed after some increasingly terrible Next Generation features. Not to spoil much, but 2009’s Trek ends like it should with Kirk in the captain’s chair, Spock at his side and the rest of the crew raring for a big adventure now they’ve got all that pesky reboot “getting-to-know-you” crap out of the way. By the way, the rest of the piece contains motherhonking SPOILERS, so beware.
“War is coming! And who’s gonna lead us, YOU? If I’m not in charge, our entire way of life is decimated!”
Star Trek Into Darkness (weirdly not Star Trek : Into Darkness) follows ex-Starfleet fella John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his nasty habit of blowing shit up and killing a lot of people. Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Bones (Karl Urban) Uhura (Zoe Saldana) et al. are tasked with tracking down and taking out Harrison, who has taken refuge on the Klingon home planet of Kronos. Into Darkness goes a semi-political route by bringing in notions of morally questionable missions, terrorism, WMDs and war profiteering. If you just rolled your eyes, let me assure you, I’m right there with you. To the film’s credit, these elements aren’t that obnoxious, but it may affect your ability to get lost in the rollicking fantasy of it all. The returning cast all fit their roles like gloves, with Quinto’s Spock again being the one to write home about. Alice Eve’s Carol is so shoved to one side and inconsequential that I just this second had to take a trip to IMDB to be reminded what her damn character’s name was. I’ll come back to her in a minute. The film belongs to Cumberbatch, who is undoubtedly going to become the go-to British villain in films for years to come. He makes for a cracking villain and his performance as Harrison is pretty damn unsettling at times, probably down to that deep, resonant voice he has.
Here’s the thing. 2009’s Trek was unbelievably clever in setting up the whole idea of alternate timelines and stuff. This way, they could take refuge in established characters and the like, but also have free rein to do new stuff as seen with the galactic merking of Vulcan. It was basically a way of having their cake and eating it too. It was a bold mission statement, one which I don’t think Into Darkness delivers on. Harrison turns out to be Khan- the super soldier fella already seen in both the original series and 1982’s Wrath of Khan. This is fine, but they then lean so heavily on the ’82 classic it becomes distracting. I’ve already seen Wrath of Khan, I don’t need to see a shinier facsimile of it. Key scenes are recreated and as a result, the film feels like it has no real identity of its own. The whole film feels pretty pointless as all the characters are in the exact same position they were at the end of the last film. Kirk is reinstated as captain, him and Spock are on the way to becoming BFFs and the whole crew are raring for a big adventure, just like 09’s Trek. Despite all the things that happen in the film, it’s hard to shake the feeling this installment is treading water until the next one.
One of my only problems with Trek ’09 was the constant little nods and references to the series. My main beef being that they weren’t neat little in-jokes, but things even non-Trek fans would know. Same here. Bones is practically a pullstring doll in this one, spouting one ridiculous metaphor after another. After the brazen steps the first one took, it’s a shame to see Into Darkness retreat back under the skirt of big ol’ familiar Mama Trek. As a sidepoint, there were waay too many “fuck yeah!” majestic shots of the Enterprise. Seeing the famous ship rise up from the bottom of the ocean to Michael Giacchino’s excellent “Enterprising Young Men” is awesome, just like a similar reveal in the first film was. To do it around three or four times in the same film to the same bit of score is fucking stupid.
So, that Alice Eve thing. I don’t normally notice the sidelining of females in action flicks. That’s not to say I don’t care, it’s just that I’m usually more focused on what the film has in the shop window that what it has unfairly shoved into the stockroom. However, Carol is so wasted in the film and seems to only be there to have a needless scene in her underwear- a shot enthusiastically used in the trailers. Co-co-co writer Damon Lindelof has already been taken to task about this on Twitter and rightly so. Star Trek was a pioneering show for many different reasons, one of which was for actually treating women like human beings. Not so here. Uhura gets a bit of language business to do, but she’s mostly there to squabble with Spock.
Into Darkness is an attack on the senses. Whilst the story has been dredged up from the Complete Hack’s Guide to Making Shit Seem Relevant, Political and Deep, Yeah?, you probably won’t notice or even think about it until the credits have rolled and you’re busting for a piss. The film is pacy as hell and has some really well done action beats. The effects are amazing too. The Enterprise really looks and feels like a solid spaceship rather than a load of expensive pixels. The scene where a powerless Enterprise is spinning and hurtling towards Earth is undeniably cool.
“Are you feeling homicidal, power-mad, or despotic?”
“No more than usual.“
I was disappointed with Into Darkness. I still had fun with it, but there were too many elements that just didn’t hang together and I really object to being sold a semi-remake of a film I’ve already seen. It’s aggressive fun whilst it lasts and I suggest checking it out on a big screen if you haven’t already, but you may walk out of there with a slight sense of promises not being delivered upon like I did.