Review: Star Trek Into Darkness


“I’m a Vulcan–I embrace technicalities!” Not only should this line immediately be put on a t-shirt, but it’s indicative of how much fun the new Star Trek is. The second directed by J.J. Abrams, focusing on the TV characters as younger people, Star Trek Into Darkness is even more fun that Iron Man 3.

I’ve never been a big Star Trek fan. I’m neither Trekkie nor Trekker, and I can’t recite chapter and verse from the episodes of the TV show. I think I’ve seen all of the movies, though, from the original cast through the Next Generation cast. None of them have made me so giddy or tapped into my teenage self than this one.

And it is a movie ideally suited for teenage boys, down to the shot of Alice Eve in her bikini underwear. It has lots of action, lots of comedy, a great villain (no spoiling here) and even takes a stand on drone warfare. I had a smile plastered on my face throughout.

The film begins mid-adventure, like the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark, at the conclusion of an encounter with a stone age population. Kirk (Chris Pine) makes a decision to save Spock (Zachary Quinto) which violates the prime directive, and Kirk gets busted for it. But then a terrorist attack reorganizes everything, and Kirk and Spock, along with Sulu, Uhuru, and Chekov, who ends up running around the engine room like Billy Bibbit, are back on the Enterprise.

But not Scotty. Star Fleet has loaded 72 torpedoes to be used on the terrorist, identified as John Harrison and played with stiff-upperlip Britishness by Benedict Cumberbatch. He’s hiding on the Klingon planet (is it just called Klingon?) The admiral (Peter Weller) is itching to start a war with Klingons, but Kirk disobeys orders and captures Cumberbatch instead. We learn who he really is (does anyone not know? I’ll keep mum just in case) and all sorts of shifting alliances take place. The plot is kind of a mess–I’m never quite sure what the villain wants–but who cares?

As with the first film, this one is stolen by Quinto as Spock. Maybe the purists object, but Quinto’s Spock is one with a sense of humor. He’s even romantically involved with Uhuru, which I’m not sure I like but hey, go for it, you kids. When hearing that the two are having a fight, Kirk wonders aloud, “What’s that like?” The spine of the film is that we do anything for family, and that a crew can be a family, whether it’s the villains or whether it’s the bromance between Kirk and Spock. And just how great is it to see Spock kick ass at the end of the film?

While the action isn’t always superior–sometimes it’s just stuff blowin’ up–I did like a sequence that has Pine and Cumberbatch hurtling through space like bullets. There’s also a fight scene with Klingons, and a little trouble comes to San Francisco (nice to see the trolley cars are still running in the future though). But action aside, what makes this movie so much fun is the dialogue. The banter among Kirk, Spock, and McCoy is pleasure, and yes, McCoy does get to say a “I’m a doctor, not a …” line. The writing and acting is able to make these characters identifiable without being caricatures. They’d be great to be around.

If all that isn’t enough, there’s even a tribble.

My grade for Star Trek Into Darkness: A-.


About Jackrabbit Slim

Location: Vegas, Baby! I’m much older than the other whippersnappers here, a baby boomer. I tend to be more snobbish about film, disdaining a lot of the multiplex fare for “cinema.” My favorite films: Woody Allen’s oeuvre (up until about 1990), The Godfather, The Graduate, A Hard Day’s Night, Pulp Fiction. Politics: Well, George McGovern was my political hero. I’m also a prickly atheist. Occupation: Poised to be an English teacher in Las Vegas. For many years I was an editor at Penthouse Magazine. My role on this blog seems to be writing lots of reviews and being the resident Oscar maven.

20 responses »

  1. It had so many Dutch Angles it may as well have been called “Battlefield Earth 2”

  2. I sense a trend of forgiveness towards summer blockbusters Slim, and while I understand it I just can’t bring myself to take part when the film in question “thinks” it’s so much smarter and better than it is. By contrast, FURIOUS 6 is (for me) a more entertaining movie than IM3 and ST2 precisely because it embraces its illogical nature.

    And yes, I realize that’s just as questionable as giving a pass to the other two. (Here’s my STAR TREK 2 review:

  3. I’ve hated plenty of summer blockbusters (Transformers, anyone?). It just so happens that two of them in the last three weeks made me very happy. Who gives a shit how many dutch angles are in it? I didn’t notice them, because I was having too much fun. Sometimes I think you guys overanalyze these things. They aren’t Ibsen, they are big, dumb, funny movies that either tickle me or don’t.

    And I won’t be seeing Fast and Furious. I saw the first one, hated it (I’m not into cars) and haven’t seen any of them since.

  4. Directorial style has a lot to do with it, yes.
    Just has Bay directorial style rubs you askew, I assume.

  5. Well again, I enjoyed FAST 5 and FURIOUS 6 so I don’t think I’m over-analyzing anything. Those movies (just the last two as the earlier four are simply bad) are big, dumb and fun. That said it doesn’t take much analyzing to be annoyed and put off by STAR TREK 2’s insulting and idiotic script. Barely any of the plot makes sense, the women are marginalized to worse levels than they were on the original series and there was zero tension with the third act.

    And yeah, I shouldn’t have said “trend” based solely on the last two blockbuster reviews.

    But I don’t care about dutch angles either!

  6. I don’t consider myself a Trekker, but I am a fan and this movie really pissed me off. The first film irked me in some ways, but there’s no denying it was very well engineered and a success. This one feels like a stopgap with no reason to exist but to, well… I won’t ruin it. As a summer action film I give it a B, as a Star Trek movie I give it a C+.

  7. I saw this last week and am somewhere between JS and Rob/Juan in terms of ranking it.

    My biggest problem with it is the same I had with the original with it – namely that it really is a poor representation of the ethos that made Star Trek and its subsequent versions so popular in the first place – the sophistication, the battle of intellect and philosophies. As with the first film, none of that is present here. The film really just aims for being disposable entertainment that you forget once you’re out of the cinema.

    Having said that, on the standard of disposable entertainment, this I found pretty top-notch. For the most highly entertaining, fluidly and stylishly directed with excellent visuals that make it really beneficial watching it on the big screen. Whatever his weaknesses, Abrams knows how to put a good action film together.

    I’m not crazy about Pine but I liked him a bit more than I did in the first film, although he doesn’t really convince that Kirk is the brilliant mind that the film tries to portray him as; he seems to get by on a series of lucky random hunches. Quinto was great as Spock, and most of the other crew had their moments (especially liked the bit with Sulu being in the captain’s chair). However, Alice Eve was uninteresting, not helped by her perfunctory and needless character (only existing for some very contrived plot points).

    As good as the entertainment and action was, it probably overdid it with the final confrontation which felt like one action climax too many.

    Overall a good enjoyable popcorn movie but nothing more than that. And I could understand why ‘Trekkies’ would hate it.

    Rating: B-

  8. I stand tall in my hatred of his camera angles. He spun the camera 180 degrees while people *walked down the hallway*.

  9. If a camera movement has no reason to exist. To move the camera just for the sake of moving the camera, because, you know, your script is so weak that you have to manufacture ‘tension’ by using the camera (about the exact opposite Refn does, who uses his camera to observe tension, thus heightening it), Abrams seems to think that by shooting specific lines with specific, inane camera moves, it makes his movie ‘exciting’.
    Rotating the camera 180 degrees to say ‘oooo, something’s not right with this guy, he’s gonna do something bad, but what is it? Oooo, look, the camera is high, rotating around him as he sits, look, we’re panning away from the explosions-and one other, in particular, was on the bridge, and for one line, the camera trucks from the far left of the bridge to the far right, so far that we can no longer see Kirk’s face as he gives a serious order. Abrams is either so close you can see the lens flares in the eyeballs (most times when you want to see what’s going on) and then when it’s a tension-filled moment, he’s pulling the camera so far back you can see the scrim on the edge of the set and then the action is just jumbles of arms and legs and-

    Anyway, guess I have no valid reason to feel this.
    Thought your review was spot-on, Rob.

  10. Good analysis, FM. As a filmmaker, that’s the stuff you’re going to notice. I’ve never shot a film, so I don’t notice that stuff when I’m digging the film. But what you say is certainly valid.

  11. The angles in the shootout with the Klingons really did make me think of Battlefield Earth. Not nearly that bad, but it brought back memories.

  12. Anyone who actually subjected themselves to Battlefield Earth pretty much deserves to be reminded of it as often as possible. IMO.

  13. Oh, I had to see that one. And it was worth it for the inexplicable awfulness. Just an epic fail

  14. I really, really enjoyed Star Trek ’09 and borderline hated this. The endless, embarrassing callbacks to the previous installment/Wraith of Khan along with the sheer laziness of the entire endeavor made it seem like the Ghostbusters 2 (or Men in Black II) of Star Trek movies.

    I enjoyed that The Enterprise crew’s primary focus upon their return to San Francisco is chasing Khan for his magic blood or whatever. Not, you know, maybe coming to the aid of the tens of thousands who were just killed or critically injured by Khan’s ship wiping out dozens of skyscrapers.

  15. I enjoyed that The Enterprise crew’s primary focus upon their return to San Francisco is chasing Khan for his magic blood or whatever. Not, you know, maybe coming to the aid of the tens of thousands who were just killed or critically injured by Khan’s ship wiping out dozens of skyscrapers.

    I hadn’t really thought of that until you mentioned it, but it’s a great point.

    It’s quite fascinating the diverse reactions we’ve had on here to these two ST films, especially the contrast in JS & James’ opinions.

  16. I finally saw this, and I agree with Rob and James – this movie is total garbage. It’s relentlessly superficial in its character development and plotting, the dialogue is nothing but a series of punchlines, the acting is terrible, and the action scenes are as perfunctory as it gets. I’m not sure whether it’s better or worse than Iron Man 3 but they’re both bottom-feeding, cynical, sterile corporate product.

    However, Alice Eve was uninteresting, not helped by her perfunctory and needless character (only existing for some very contrived plot points).

    I actually had a revelation about Eve watching the film – she’d be perfect for the Species reboot that I’m trying to get off the ground.

    He’s hiding on the Klingon planet (is it just called Klingon?)

    In the film they call it Kronos.

  17. I’m trying to recognize why she’d be perfect, and in relation to what she did in this film and-wait, I think I might have figured it out.

  18. Regardless of the quality of STID: I received the Blu Ray from Netflix yesterday and it’s one of the best presentations of a film I’ve ever experienced at home.

    I felt the same way about Paramount’s Pain & Gain disc, so imagine how wonderful it will be when the studio actually releases a good film in the format!

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