OUR RATING: Chance It!
There’s something you should know. A confession, so to speak: we are both huge Star Trek fans. While not venturing into the Original or Animated Series much, we’ve watched every episode of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and are currently on the final season of Enterprise. We both got some subtle enjoyment out of the first Star Trek reboot film: it was new, quirky and fun. But, Star Trek Into Darkness, with its attempt to comment on global terrorism, reinvent already brilliant characters and an extremely heavy use of CGI, leaves us feeling we’ve missed something – that Trek mysteriously went mainstream while we weren’t looking, and now can appeal to anyone, anywhere (apart from Trekkies, of course!).
This mass appeal is detrimental to the franchise. It supposes that you should have a general, cult knowledge of Trek (which everyone does, unless you’ve been living under a Tribble since 1966), but not know enough to tell your Cardassians from your Breen, or to know, first and foremost, that Star Trek is a show in which exploration rather than war is paramount. While revisiting some key moments and recreating some classic characters, Star Trek Into Darkness is really an action film with Trek branding.
Adam: J.J. Abrams has a mammoth task on his hands. Tackling a phenomenon like Star Trek, with its own fandom community, extensive history and life of its own is nearly impossible for one man alone, and is perhaps why he took the safe route of rebooting the series in 2009. Still, one must tread a fine line between pleasing fans and selling out to the public. Unfortunately, Abrams does sell out here, but that doesn’t mean the film shouldn’t recommend itself as a standalone piece.
We open, thankfully, on an alien world with James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) fleeing some spear throwing natives who haven’t fully appreciated his intergalactic charm (knowing Kirk, he probably slept with the Chief’s daughter). I found myself suddenly realising that I’d seen this all before: Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981. While this trope is always fun (yes, I know the Raiders scene is prejudiced, detrimental to archaeology etc., but it was the 1930s!), it felt immediately weird in the Trek context – who were these people, what’s happened, and many other questions come to mind that are never answered. Pine is passable as Kirk, but not nearly as interesting, choosing to be as one-dimensional as possible.
The central theme of the film is terrorism – unseen, unrelenting and unmerciful. This is NOT the Star Trek of the TV series, where Earth is a utopian egalitarian paradise. On this Earth, massive destruction rips the hearts out of cities, while Benedict Cumberbatch plays the evil Englishman in a manner reminiscent of Alan Rickman’s Snape.
Yet, for all its troubles, you do get some fun performances and great action scenes worthy of a good movie. Scotty (Simon Pegg) is still as dry and witty as ever, while Bones (Karl Urban) manages to rattle out some classic lines that still capture some of the Southern comfort we derived from DeForest Kelley.
Alicia: Four years ago I didn’t really know much about the Star Trek franchise. I thought Klingon was Vulcan sign language, that’s how muddied my ST knowledge was. So when I saw the 2009 film I had nothing to really anchor my experience off of, other than one of your many space science-fiction films, and I rather enjoyed it.
Four years later and I’ve seen every series except the Original, so I suppose I still don’t have quite the repertoire of a Trekkie going into seeing a movie based on the same time period and characters as the original series, but my past few years watching The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise has made me a fan of ST. Not a trekkie, not a die-hard fan, but a fan nonetheless. It has offered me interesting philosophical insights, aesthetic pleasures, and with Enterprise a keen patience for ridiculous American Nationalism.
And oh, Into Darkness, how uninspiring you are, and how xenophobic. You could have been any science fiction movie (well, more like pure action movie set partially in space), and no matter how hard you tried with your famous actors, your one/two sets of Vulcan ears, your terrible Klingon makeup attempts and the cameo appearance from Leonard Nimoy, you just weren’t very Star Trek. Just calling characters ‘Spock’ and ‘Kirk’ doesn’t make them Spock and Kirk, and neither did any of your other attempts in recreating this world make them such. Other than that…an okay space action movie I suppose?
Final Thoughts: This isn’t your parents Star Trek, or even yours, but Into Darkness is a valiant effort and worth seeing if only to keep the franchise we love so dearly alive.
P.S. To really help Star Trek “Live Long and Prosper”, pick up a copy of Star Trek Into Darkness pre-order and have fun with the included Phaser, which is an exact replica (meaning the EXACT specifications) as those used on screen.