Saturday, May 18, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness Review

Before I jump into this review of JJ Abram's recent Star Trek sequel, I need to tell you a little bit about my Star Trek history so that you know where I am coming from in this review. I don't consider myself a trekkie. That said, I do consider myself a big fan of Star Trek. My dad and one of my brothers were super into it and that led to me essentially growing up on it. Specifically, The Next Generation was my favorite, but I always watched quite a bit of Voyager and Deep Space Nine. Although the original series was never one that I grew up watching, I do have a respect for the series that started it all and I do have a desire to one day go back and watch it in full. In 2009, JJ Abrams brought the popular series back to the big screen with his version of Star Trek, a reboot of the original series. While I didn't hate it, I also wasn't in love with it for various reasons. After watching the sequel the other night in theaters, I initially came out of the theater entertained. However, I had some immediate initial concerns and I also knew I needed to do some homework on a certain aspect of the movie before I gave my final judgement. With that now done, I will say that I have very mixed views towards this movie. Yes, I was entertained, but the inner Star Trek in me has also been offended. I will go through this review without giving any major spoilers, but I might briefly touch on a few minor spoilers, so keep that in mind as you continue reading.

First of all, I want to bring up the concerns I had as I initially walked out of the theater. The first thing is something that has bothered me for a long time. The name of the movie. I hate it. Ever since the Dark Knight came out, Hollywood has been obsessed with darkness and going along with that, JJ Abrams decided to call this movie Star Trek Into Darkness. Why? And I think it is even stupider after seeing the movie because this really isn't that dark of a movie. It's a high powered action movie where the protagonists do get threatened quite a bit, but that's the same with most action movies, so I don't get it. Secondly, and really the first one that deals with the movie itself, is Captain Kirk. It's not that I hate Chris Pine, but the way that Captain Kirk is written in this movie is a complete slap in the face to the original Star Trek series. Captain Kirk is a very respectable guy who always had the goal to be the captain and worked really hard for many years in order to get the position. Not so in this reboot. He is instead portrayed as a stuck-up snob who doesn't even want to be captain at first, but gets the position because his father was heroic. Seriously? That's just really stupid and because they decided to do that, all Star Trek sequels will be slightly tainted in my mind. There is a scene where Benedict Cumberbatch's character is beating the crap out of Kirk and that actually made me really happy.

In more immediate complaints, while I did really like the new Spok in both movies, giving him the romance story line just doesn't fit him. Spok is not a romantic person and if he were to get a girlfriend, it would certainly not be Uhura. There is a scene in the movie where Spok is willing to sacrifice his life and thus delivers the line "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" and following that Uhura complains that he wasn't thinking of her when he made that decision. I wanted to slap her in the face at that point. Her and the writers of the movie for including that in there. That specifically felt like a mockery of the original. Next immediate complaint was that once again this felt more like Star Wars than Star Trek. When Spok fights Khan at the end, I half expected them to both pull out lightsabers. There is one scene where Scotty is angry and thus goes down into a bar to drink. When the camera pans into the bar and shows him sitting there drinking with this alien character, that was a scene that almost felt like it was directly copied from Star Wars. Whether it be the original series, Next Generation, or whatever, Star Trek has never been a high-powered, non-stop action series and that is exactly what Star Trek Into Darkness is. All Star Trek movies and TV shows have a certain feel to them that I have a hard time describing in words, but Into Darkness totally misses that and just doesn't feel like a Star Trek movie. Finally, before moving on to my complaints after watching Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, there is a scene in Into Darkness where they visit the Klingon planet. I was excited to see the Klingons, but when they were finally there and a Klingon they ran into took off his mask, I was appalled. It was awful. Way too different and way too much CGI. It was a similar to the problem that The Hobbit had with the Orks.

Now all of those previously mentioned concerns where those that I had right when I walked out of the theater and thus the ceiling for how I was going to rate it would be a 7.5 or 8, but this movie featured Khan as the main villain and on walking out I realized that I didn't know very much about Khan and so I resolved to fix that before I gave a final judgement of the movie. I learned that Khan appears in one episode in the original series back in 1967 and then later was featured in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in 1982. I watched both and if you don't know Khan or his story, let me briefly explain. Khan was intercepted or found by Captain Kirk and crew on the enterprise while they were on their five year mission. Khan was subtle and cunning in his original plans and tried to take over the enterprise and almost succeeded. However, Kirk eventually defeated him and sent him into exile where 15 years of hatred and anger built up in Khan. The Wrath of Khan takes place 15 years later and is the story of Khan's revenge towards the Enterprise. Not only is the movie considered to be the greatest Star Trek movie ever, but Khan is considered as one of the best villains ever, Star Trek and non Star Trek alike. So bringing Khan in as the villain of Into Darkness is definitely a huge risk and one that if done right could work out very well. Benedict Cumberbatch from Sherlock is the one who got the role of Khan and he actually does a fantastic job. The big problem is how the character was written. They totally changed Khan's story in Into Darkness and that was an insult.

Also in addition to messing up Khan's story, there is an iconic moment in the end that they totally twist around. I won't give away that ending, but instead I will give a Star Wars comparison. Imagine for a second that someone remakes the original Star Wars trilogy. In doing so they have all the iconic characters, but when they bring in Darth Vader, they change his back story. That alone would upset Star Wars fans because they just messed with one of the best villains in movie history. Then on top of that, when they decide to redo the iconic moment in Empire Strikes Back, instead of having Darth Vader reveal to Luke that he is his father, instead Luke figures it out first and in the end says, "Darth Vader, I am your son!" That would then be followed by a "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!" from Vader. Sure that would be cool to those who don't care about the original series, but fans of the original series would probably hate that. This is pretty much what Star Trek Into Darkness does and for me it wasn't cool.

Now if you aren't a fan of Star Trek and you also loved JJ Abrams' 2009 Star Trek, I will say that you will probably love this one as well. It's not a bad movie when you ignore everything Star Trek. It has good acting, a great villain, great action throughout, and is very emotionally in many aspects of it and for that reason I can't actually claim that it is a really bad movie. But in my opinion it spits in the face of Star Trek and that upsets me. I once was a huge JJ Abrams fan after he helmed my favorite TV show Lost, but now after he totally screwed up two Star Trek films now and also helmed a disappointing Super 8, I have practically lost all faith in him and am actually really nervous that he is going to screw up Star Wars Episode VII as well. I give Star Trek Into Darkness a 6.5 out of 10.

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