I would like to start by saying that I would consider myself a fan of Star Trek, not a diehard Trekkie mind you, but a fan none the less. I grew up with the Next Generation crew and that’s where my affinity lies, and I must admit I haven’t seen any of the movies that spawned from the original series. But that doesn't preclude me from providing my opinion on a film that has been released in 2013. I just wanted to get that out there.
I would also like to say that I would tend to agree with what many on the internet have been saying about the new Abrams Star Trek films. They have definitely diverged quite a bit from what many hold dear about the original series and for me TNG, its braininess. Star Trek is no longer about solving galactic issues with politics and protocol. It’s now about big ships, big guns and big adventures. However, here’s where I would start to separate myself from that crowd. I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing. It’s allowed more people to easily explore that Star Trek universe that we all love and thusly given us the best chance at seeing a new series then we have in years.
Now, about the movie, my initial thoughts (this being only moments after my first viewing) are that I very much enjoyed it. Maybe not quite as much as the first Abrams Star Trek but it’s pretty close and here’s why. It’s fun, it’s funny, it has action, suspense and the emotional beats were to me, emotional. Oh, and this movie looks AMAZING. There’s few movies that I would say are worth seeing in 3D but this is definitely one of them. Now that’s not to say that it was all roses and butterflies, but the gripes I have with this film are minor.
I’ll start with what I enjoyed. The cast was again fantastic. Seeing Chris Pine’s Kirk and Zach Pinto’s Spok interact was never anything but enjoyable. Carl Urban’s Doctor McCoy and Simon Pegg’s Scotty were great in their roles and were, in my opinion (which I apparently shared with the rest of the audience at my theater), really funny. The set pieces were grand, and I as I said earlier, looked amazing. Including the 3D, that added to the movie without ever getting in the way or being gimmicky.
The story starts off quick. As we follow Kirk as he outruns a group of primitive aliens, while at the same time trying to coordinate a rescue effort to save the very same aliens from the destruction of their planet. It right away throws us back into the adventures of the USS Enterprise and her crew in an exciting way that had me engaged from the very start.
As an aside, I’d like to say that watching this with the knowledge that Abrams will be helming the new Star Wars movies allows you to definitely notice his Star Wars-like tendencies that he brought to this rebooted Stat Trek Universe. Some shots are almost homages to Star Wars in and of themselves.
The rest of the film revolves around a mysterious figure who we later learn to be the infamous Kahn. This leads me into one of my gripes with the movie. What was the point of concealing his identity from outset of the movie? Or even the marketing? The John Harrison facade never adds to the movie and is quickly forgotten when he reveals himself to be Kahn. I can’t help but feel that plot wouldn’t have been more structurally sound if we knew who he was from the beginning. Not to mention the marketing could have probably been improved. Not that the marketing was bad, but if people knew Kahn was the villain it could have brought out more of my parents crowd who grew up with the original series.
Speaking of Kahn, I really liked Cumberbatch’s portrayal of him. Unfortunately without having seen the original portrayal him I can’t speak to how he compares. But as a he appears here, he comes across as the cunning, superhuman villain that I have heard so much about. However he has to split his villainy with another character, Admiral Marcus, who although was well acted by Peter Weller (Robocop and Batman!) was underdeveloped and seemed only to be there so that his daughter Carol, played by the beautiful Alice Eve, appeared more important than she really was.
Once the Enterprise follows Kahn to the Klingon homeward of Kronos things really start moving. We get treated to a very cool (almost like the trench scene from Star Wars) aerial chase from a Klingon scout and action scene where we really see how physically dangerous Kahn can be. After Kahn surrenders (that’s not suspicious) we spend the next little bit of the movie just going through exposition and get the big Kahn reveal. (Even though I haven’t seen the original movie, I kind of saw this one coming)
We are then treated to a very short space battle (more of a space ass kicking really) and then another space-jump scene. Which even though was very cool, was ultimately too similar to the last movie.
The end of the film brought us back to Earth, and Star Fleet headquarters, where after a moving scene when Kirk appears to die after sacrificing himself to save the ship and crew, (KAAAHHHN!!!) we follow Spok on a race through a future version of San Francisco after Kahn and revenge. It was exciting as you’d expect when it begins with a ship twice the size of the Enterprise crashing into San Francisco bay. (There goes Alcatraz) Unfortunately however, Kirks death was slightly undermined by the immensely predictable revelation that they could use Kahn’s blood to save him. (Obviously he wasn’t going to die!) After the warm scene reuniting Kirk, Spok and Bones we get the obligatory funeral scene for Captain Pike, which doubled as a rechristening of the Enterprise. With everything wrapped up in a bow we send the crew off on a five year mission to explore strange new worlds.
Overall Star Trek: Into Darkness (ha! See what they did there?) was a fun ride. It didn't offer much, if any, of the cerebral drama of Star Trek of old but that’s ok. It’s a new Star Trek for a new time and I’m onboard.
A few side notes: