Movie Review: ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ (Spoilers)

STID_OneSheet_Fri_lxr12cOSVflEStar Trek Into Darkness

Paramount Pictures

Directed by J.J. Abrams
Written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof
Starring: Chris Pine (James T. Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Zoe Saldana (Nyota Uhura), Alice Eve (Carol Marcus), Benedict Cumberbatch (John Harrison), Bruce Greenwood (Christopher Pike), Karl Urban (Leonard “Bones” McCoy), Simon Pegg (Montgomery “Scotty” Scott), John Cho (Hikaru Sulu), Anton Yelchin (Pavel Chekov), a tribble (itself), Peter Weller (Admiral Marcus)

Reveling in the disregard of the Prime Directive, Star Trek Into Darkness makes as strong a case for Starfleet’s sacrosanct dictate as either of the Kirks’ previous misadventures in cowboy diplomacy. Not only as a model for interactions between civilizations, but between timelines. And film franchises.

Four years on, the elegance of ancient Ambassador Spock’s incursion into a time stream born of his very arrival, the elegance of Kurtzman, Orci and Lindelof’s 2009 Star Trek script, has begun to splinter. That film remains a benchmark for lovingly jump-starting a science fiction brand, a new course plotted with past sights and sounds carefully archived, not incinerated in the astral wake. More importantly, it’s a rollicking good time. Unfortunately’s Nimoy’s Spock Prime didn’t make that trip alone. The tattooed Romulan miners were one thing, but the nostalgia-ridden influenza blankets stowed in the cargo bay are another matter entirely.

Spock brought ghosts, and they haunt all of Federation space. And so we Star Trek Into Darkness.

Though the young crew of the Enterprise are cast into the fog of war, the true darkness of the title might be the looming shadow of 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Unfortunately, discussing this new film in any meaningful way requires punching through the spoiler barrier and barreling head-long into the reveals. If you’ve yet to head Into Darkness, proceed with caution.

And tempered expectations.

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The Wrath of Khan isn’t so much a touchstone for Abrams and his screenwriters as it’s a lodestone. Or, applying the relevant markers, a black hole. It’s evident from the wonderful opening escape on the feral planet Nibiru when Quinto’s Spock resigns to his fiery doom within an active volcano. He shrugs off the Enterprise with, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” A familiar, weighty mantra the elder Spock eventually refuted in the previous series. It’s a welcome, spooky homage. Sadly, it doesn’t end then and there.

Cut to dreary London and the plight of the Harewoods, a Starfleet clerk and his wife grieving for a young daughter hovering between life and death. The promise of restorative blood from a mysterious stranger endowed with the voice of Severus Snape ushers the girl to remission and her father on a suicide bombing of Starfleet’s archives. The very suggestion of altered human chemistry, of eugenics, should be enough to trigger echoes of Herman Melville by way of Ricardo Montalban. Bundle that with some inescapable, years old rumors, the introduction of Carol Marcus and Benedict Cumberbatch’s uncanny martial prowess, and we’re whispering John Harrison’s true name as he offers it to Kirk from his cell. Cumberbatch makes for a sinister terrorist, but he’s never afforded the mirth or eccentricity that Montelban enjoyed, even forgetting the hair and the pecs. There’s no denying the actor’s seductive power, but the script only ever employs his cold fury. As Khan himself puts it, he’s only being used for his savagery. There is nothing wrong with Cumberbatch’s choices or even his casting, but the screenwriters seem to have reconfigured the character as a Romulan. That Javier Bardem offers a more resplendent, operatic vision of Khan as Silva in last year’s Skyfall strengthens the inclination that Admiral Marcus opened the wrong pod. It might help to pretend that in this time line, Khan’s humorless brother Karl Noonien Singh was awoken from his medically induced coma instead.

As for the Admiral, it’s not unheard of for Starfleet high command to go rogue, and using the the destruction of Vulcan as a springboard for military escalation has merit, a major sticking point remains. Peter Weller is lost in space. Though neither of the Marcuses turned in particularly inspired performances in roles that demanded it, Weller seems particularly out of place in an otherwise remarkable ensemble. It registers like the bona fide Baltimore cops and officials thrust into small cameo roles on The Wire, though not nearly as charming at this scope, in this pivotal a role. He desaturates most, though not all of his scenes of their starry luster.

In stark contrast, his fellow Batman voice actor Bruce Greenwood gifts Christopher Pike with a dignity befitting the best of Roddenberry’s immortal captains. We want to drink with him, but we also want to follow him headlong into the Neutral Zone, no questions asked. His reclamation of the Enterprise captaincy rang a death knell, softening his final moments, but when Spock related the man’s dying emotions as gleaned through their melding of minds, the knife twists.

The brightest point remains that bridge. Even with a significantly reduced occurrence of lens flare. It’s that core group of actors. Pine never disappoints, offering a fully wounded Kirk, still brash but so eager to be a better leader. He cherishes that ship and that crew, and even if the musical chairs they’re playing with the captaincy often descends into farce, his loss of command is the best thing that ever happened to the character. It tells us everything about him. With his predecessor still looming in the wings, it’s difficult to fully evaluate Quinto’s Spock. There’s a sitcom logic to the character’s inability to evolve, and the pressure of portraying that struggle for humanity or for balance must be an impossible burden for actor and writers both.

Zoe Saldana deserves better than a bickering girlfriend/boyfriend subplot, but thankfully that thread is sheared off in short order, and we tend to agree with her. Uhura and Spock don’t always make sense, but it’s easy to see why he’s fascinated. Lending ferocity and compassion in equal measure, she’s handily ousted Bones from the trinity. This reviewer finds it hard to begrudge her that, even if can never get too much Bones. Karl Urban does his able best to provide levity as the weary country doctor, a somewhat diminished role, but always a pleasure on screen. He even gets an away mission! He also mixes metaphors with nearly as much abandon as this reviewer does. John Cho, Anton Yelchin and most especially Simon Pegg are awarded ample opportunity to demonstrate why they’re the Right Stuff with key moments of heroism and humanity. Scotty’s decision to resign his post and Kirk’s pained acceptance of that slate proved one of the most powerful moments in the film, especially in relation to those clearly meant to outdo them all.

Now, here’s where the ghosts come in.

Though we welcome the wrinkled visage of Leonard Nimoy’s Ambassador Spock and his gentle, grandfatherly wisdom, the cameo literally undermines Quinto’s primacy. After such an elegant bow in the coda of the previous film, those ears probably should’ve remained on the mantle, allowing for a graceful and poetic exit for one Spock and the assumption of his stature by the other. Instead, we’re left with another reminder of the original iteration’s sublime alchemy, a vintage only sweetened by time. As a result, all that follows feels less substantial, an exercise in the butterfly effect nearly as ephemeral as the Monarch itself.

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The ironic reversal of the Wrath of Khan finale rings hollow for many reasons. Admittedly, Pegg capably echoes DeForest Kelley and James Doohan’s original lines, some of the saddest, heartbreaking words of resignation ever uttered by that original, unshakeable cast. It’s a bit spooky. Otherwise, it all feels like a pantomime. As ever, Pine and Quinto do their level best, but this is only their second appearance together. It’s impossible not to contrast that with the veritable lifetime audiences enjoyed with Shatner and Nimoy leading to the original iteration of this moment. The moment isn’t earned, but nor should it be strived for. Pine, Quinto and their crew are too good, too talented to spend their tenure on screen playing Lucy and Harpo with the old guys. They’ll never match up playing the same scenes and they’ll never forge ahead to earn their own unique moments of genuine emotional resonance. They already escaped the event horizon in 2009. Nimoy christened their ship. The torch was passed.

The wormhole they’re circling in pursuit of easy fan service is in all actuality a black hole. It’s yesterday. As such it is the very antithesis of Star Trek. Now is the time to boldly go where no one has gone before. It’s right there in the thing.

 3 Stars

(Out of 5)

Paul Montgomery
Can we talk about how Lobot’s on the bridge crew?
paul@ifanboy.com


Comments

  1. I really enjoyed the film. Not quite as much as the first one but I still had a good time. I have no real connection to the original Star Trek movies so that might help. I saw “wrath of khan” maybe 2 or 3 years ago and don’t remember much besides that that actress from “cheers” is in there. So that whole Cumberbatch-is-Khan thing had no meaning to me.

    A fun summer movies. 4 stars easily.

    • Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      This is probably an instance where past experience with the mythology is detrimental. I still think the hands to the glass scene suffers even without the the point of comparison because the moment isn’t nearly earned. Then again, I can’t look at it objectively because the scene from 1982 is so memorable.

    • ochsavidare ochsavidare (@ochsavidare) says:

      I haven’t watched the WAK, but of course I know of it and have seen the scene parodied numerous times. I also found it cringe worthy. Just to in my face!

      And also what was the reason for mimicking that scene? Because it fit perfectly? Or because of fan service? If its reason number 2 then it shouldn’t be there, in my opinion.

    • Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      I would say fan service with the supposed permission of “time finds a way.” That’s one of the themes from the previous film anyway, that time, nature, reality, the universe, fate will engineer something to iron out the wrinkles. No matter what, Kirk and Spock will come together. No matter what, Scotty will figure out that formula (I should note that I REALLY like the brief admission that Starfleet snatched up Scotty’s formula, ultimately leading to the realization of Khan’s terror tech).

  2. ochsavidare ochsavidare (@ochsavidare) says:

    My thoughts exactly. Excellent review!

    I’ve always felt that Abrams movies lack a heart and soul. Sure, they are fun action blockbusters when you watch them, but walking out from the cinema you immediately start forgetting what you’ve just watched.

    And some of the homages to the old movies where just to in my face.

    My summary of the movie would be: Pretty to look at, but forgettable.

    • Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      I wouldn’t say Abrams movies lack soul generally. There’s plenty of wonder and awe and heart in the previous Star Trek and in Super 8. That’s not really where the problems lie.

      The thing here is fan service and the inability to snip the umbilical cord. Even ignoring the hands to glass scene, the conclusion is more than a little anticlimactic. In forcing a reversal, they pit Spock against Khan and their encounter is only resolved by Spock choosing…rationality? That’s not quite the arc they set up for him.

      It also kind of hurts that the film tries to mirror Wrath of Khan’s preoccupation with mortality, a premise that works for an aging Shatner and Nimoy, but maybe not for young, spry Pine and Quinto.

    • Disagree with your assessment of the Spock/Khan part.Spock had to embrace a little of his human side, he lied to Khan, doing the unexpected.

    • Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      Oh, about the missiles? Absolutely. I agree that that’s the resolution of that arc. But that comes before the anticlimactic chase which just feels like an empty action set piece, comparatively.

    • Definitely. I was actually really surprised that it just..ended.

    • Spock does not lie. He finesses the truth. “They are your *missiles*.”

    • I couldn’t believe it just cut to black and jumped to the ending, but it was great to see Spock cut loose.
      The KAHN! scream is so much more meaningful when it comes from someone who fights his emotions like Spock does and to have the “death” lead to Spock tapping into his human side, I dug it.

  3. big star trek fan. didn’t like the first one.
    thought this was a big jump up really liked it,
    wasn’t great but none of the trek films are. compared to episodes like balance of terror, the inner light or in the pale moon light. even the best trek movies are mindless parodies of the great episode’s.

  4. I kept seeing the movie as a puzzle full of interesting solutions. Even though they wiped the slate clean with the previous movie, it is still the 12th Star Trek movie (13th if you count Galaxy Quest). They have to deal with meeting and subverting expectations at every turn. From the beginning, we have the problem of the Star Trek Money Shot, the reveal of the ship where we see her name and famous registration, tweaked this time by being quick and under water. In nearly all of their solutions to needing to be both familiar and new, I was along for the ride. Khan was inevitable, but they were making Space Seed, not the Wrath of Khan, though its shadow lingers with Dr. Carol Marcus and the infamous radiation bit. I didn’t take it seriously because I knew how they were going to get out of it.

    The solutions to these problems, however, can give the creators a kind of meta-vision and the movie ends up verging on metacommentary every time it does the familiar-yet-different trick. It was a bridge too far in the scene at the core, though, where Spock, who didn’t fear death, who experienced but didn’t show Pike’s final emotions, who stoically weathered the destruction of his entire planet, finally sheds a tear at Kirk’s demise. That what wasn’t earned, because the tears weren’t because of the strength of their relationship, but because of the meta-strength of this relationship for the past 47 years. It was addressing the audience too much, a wink too far.

    That said, I dug the movie a lot. JJ Abrams is perhaps the best at adventure movies in this era: well-paced, thrilling, emotional, broadly appealing without being stupid.

  5. I quite liked the film. I do, however, have problems with resurrecting Khan’s character in its current, unrecognizable form. Cumberbatch’s portrayal of the mad ruler (a fact the current film seems intent on suppressing in order to play up his terrorist credentials) as a taciturn, brooding terrorist is completely at odds with Montelban’s megalomaniac performances that have permanently defined this iconic character. It’s one thing to re-interpret or re-imagine secondary characters like Uhura . In fact, it’s almost a duty to do so given the little attention paid to them during the Rodenberry years. But Khan? He’s canon. And since Abrams et al have chosen to mine the sources of Star Trek lore, they should have used the same consistency (even reverence) to bring Khan back. Plots may change, but Spock, Kirk, Bones and Khan are archetypal. You simply cannot alter them.

    • Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      I agree to a point. There’s no reason that particular character should be THAT different simply because of the altered time stream. He predates that event and would logically be unaffected by it. But so long as there’s ample reason for changing a character’s physique or temperament, they can do that. They even do it in the various Star Trek TV series with mirror universes. That’s a different kind of story though. But it’s also an important part of the mythology. Also, it’s fun.

      I’m splitting hairs. I agree that this doesn’t remotely feel like Khan in any permutation.

  6. Well said, Paul. As is often the case, you put my mess of thoughts into words oh so eloquently. The film was a thrilling action movie bogged down by (and banking on) an effort to capitalize on the franchises greatest memories. If the entire purpose behind the shakey creation of a parallel universe was to start fresh and with new promise, why go directly back to Trek’s deepest well the second time around?

    I enjoyed the movie, but I’m holding out for “Star Trek III: The Search For Pike.”

    “Remember.”

  7. Saw Into Darkness earlier this week, and I have to say I absolutely adored every second of it!!! As a lapsed Trek fan whose first exposure to the ST universe came from repeated viewings of the second and third movies, I thought the reversal of the Wrath of Kahn scene was pretty clever and quite affecting, and for me all of the lead actors played their roles impeccably. I found myself wishing at points in the first Abrams Trek that they could have magically de-aged Shatner, Nimoy et al and had them play the iconic roles again, but with this one I found myself completely at ease with all of the portrayals, loving in particular Pine, Quinto and Urban’s turns as kirk, Spock and Bones.
    This was a five star movie all the way for me- great acting, story, effects…everything, basically! Would go see it again in a heartbeat!

  8. I really enjoyed the movie for what it was… to me, ANY Trek is ‘good’ Trek.

    But I’m really trying to overcome my disappointment w/ the Khan reveal. Its just TOO obvious. ST1 was a reboot, but it was an ALL NEW original story, not a remake or rehash, thought I guess there is some ‘reinvention’ of the characters within it.

    Having a Star Trek 2 with a Khan villain and, oh hey, a major character ‘dies’… it feels like they were trying very hard to see how they could reinvent Star Trek 2: WOK rather than just come up with a wholly new story.

    However, at the same time, its NOT WOK at all. The incident with Space Seed NEVER happened, basically we’re seeing more of a re-imagining of Space Seed than Wrath of Khan really (as a result, … there is nothing personal between Khan and Kirk to really propel the story).

    So I’m really mixed on this. On one hand, I dislike that its Khan and ST2…. on the other, it really is an all-new story for the most part, so maybe my complaint is invalid as a result? And it all seems so smug, like “A lot of people said Khan, we said it wasn’t Khan… but AHA… guess what? Its Khan!”. Alrighty then…. uh, thanks? I guess?

    Even more odd is Peter Weller’s Admiral Marcus. So, the last time we saw Weller in Trek, it was an episode of Enterprise where he played a xenophobic ‘racist’ who wanted to get rid of all aliens from Earth (and coincidentally enough, used bio-engineering and genetics as a means to his ends). Now he plays a mad Admiral, manipulating a bio-engineered warlord, to start a war with Klingons. If you knew about Weller’s character from Enterprise, then you immediately knew something was up with character going in to ST2, and that just seems a bit obvious as well.

    And then the bigger irony is… all of that works very well in the IDW comics. Had this Khan story been an arc in the current ongoing comic, I’d have thought it was really great. I would rather see re-told stories in 2ndary mediums, while the films are reserved for something all brand new.

    Overall though, I still had a lot of fun with this film… all of the above is just overthinking it after seeing it, even though I say things like ‘disappointed’ and ‘disliked’, that would be like saying you’re disappointed that you ran out of ice cream after eating the whole carton by yourself.

    • Nobody watched Enterprise so nobody would know that.

    • In true Star Trek fashion, they re-used a good actor.

      But yes, Weller – to me – is too associated with Paxton. They could have easily made him some kind of alien. Even a little make up here or there would have been enough to make me forget about Weller = Paxton.

  9. JML (@twitter.com/JoshMLabelle) says:

    Great review. My experience of this movie was that I was getting increasingly excited over the first half, because it looked and felt like the second Star Trek movie I’d dreamed of. And then it just let me down so bad at the end.

    It made me think of something Joss Whedon said about his first draft of Serenity in which no one died: it was cute, but it wasn’t a movie. At the end of this, all of the events have been more or less inconsequential. We’re literally right back in an identical shot to the one that ended the first movie. After all the escalating excitement of the first two acts, the whole movie comes down to a mirror of Wrath of Khan and a foot chase between Spock and Khan? Like, it all depends on who is the faster runner?

    Also, did Spock really need to catch Khan to save Kirk? Didn’t the ship have 72 other supermen with regenerative blood on board?

    And finally, if you spend much of your movie setting up how you’ve got a crew of 72 pissed off frozen supermen on board your ship, they better wake up and wreak some havoc at the end, or you’ve wasted 72 pissed off frozen supermen. It felt like a Chekhov’s gun they forgot to use.

  10. I really enjoyed this movie, even on an emotional level. I thought all of the actors did a fantastic enough job on the chemistry (and a great bit of a punch-up) that despite our lack of time with them they all feel really close. I can even dig that it’s an re-telling of Wrath of Khan. My problem is with their direct Wrath of Khan referencing. The “Khan” was just awful, I laughed after having a serious bit of welling up going on. Some of the other lines like that (Many Outweigh Few, Am and always shall be) stuff like that just fell flat on me.

    The end bothered me a bit too. Not letting a death like that sit with an audience just does nothing for us. And how they introduce the concept of undoing the death was out of left field and awkward, though after thinking on the scene I can see how talking about the tribble testing could be Kirk attempting to threaten Khan in some way, but it wasn’t filmed or acted in a way to support that.

  11. Brutally honest review, respect.
    Personally I loved this film though, everything which seemed to fall flat for you really hit the spot for me.

  12. I was a bit disappointed with some of the ‘re-hashing’ of the Wrath of Khan (which is still the best Trek movie), most notably the scream by Spock after Kirk dies. Cheese pizza, hold everything. Having said that, I enjoyed the film quite a bit, since I go to the movies to have fun and be entertained and both of the those goals were accomplished in spades. Is it perfect? No, but I have yet to see a picture movie in all my years. So have come pretty close, but not quite. I do plan to see it at least once more while it is in theaters.

  13. Hmm, watching this I got much of the same feeling I got when I watched Superman Returns. Yeah, it’s a reinvention but it’s also an homage a also partially a remake…

    The Kirk/Spock WOK reversal at the end didn’t work at all. It was a pale imitation of a much better scene, and everyone knew that Khan’s blood was certainly going to come into play.

    I liked it, but I wanted to love it.

  14. Pop quiz, Freakazoids. I’m married with children and have a rare opportunity to go watch a movie today all by myself.
    Which is the more satisfying film: Iron Man 3 or Star Trek?

  15. I think my first inclination that something was very amiss with the plotting of this film was when we’re Admiral Marcus’s office and there’s a pan to the models on his desk. I gave a little “Yeah” when I saw the Phoenix and NX-01 (and Ring Ship which only appears in background shots!) and then I arched a brow when I saw the model of the “Super-Top-Secret-Ship-I’m-Clearly-Not-Building-Behind-Jupiter.” It’s dumb that I noticed it at all was interesting, but it looks so incongruous, and it’s absurd. But that just was the first in a line of equally frustrating issues. Characters have unclear or very basic motivations. Much of the plot doesn’t stand up to a modicum of scrutiny. Most of the main crew come across as particularly dumb. It’s a shame. There are some particularly mangled scenes, a certain shout that barely worked the first time around was off that I can’t believe that was the best take. Alas… I left the theater disappointed, the group I went with were similarly disappointed. Not a single audience member laughed, clapped, cheered, gasped with surprise. The people who left the theatre before us looked to be walking the Batan Death March.

    I really wish my complaints about the movie were the nerdy/geeky kind, but mostly the writing is just sloppy. Things happen for no real discernable reason and then are instantly reversed. Characters do thing just because they make things fun and really for no logical reason.

    I think a 3/5 is perhaps being too generous.

  16. I enjoyed it but agree the WOK reverse “death” scene was way too much for all of the reasons stated above and in various reviews. Such a scene is way too soon in the Kirk Spock relationship. The Spock KHAN!!! Yell also just came off as silly. I would have preferred it if Spock just kind of growled Khan’s name under his breath so that it would have been noticibly different from original Kirk (as it should be since, despite their long friendship, Kirk and Spock have always been different).
    I also liked the original idea of partnering up Kirk and Khan until the turn and Khan going back to being the bad guy. Would have liked it better if Kirk and Khan saved the day together, then Kirk sends Khan and his people to Ceti Alpha 5 where they eventually have the problems. Khan would feel even more betrayed since he would have considered Kirk a frIend after they save the day together. Unfortunately, they decided to go the traditional villain route for Khan.
    Despite these complaints, I did have fun. Just not as much fun as Abrams’ 2009 ST.

  17. Every time Weller opened his mouth I kept picturing an animated Batman from The Dark Knight Returns adaptation. Am I the only one?

    Thinking back on Robocop, Weller’s performace as a cyborg wasn’t even acting. That’s how the guy really talks!

  18. In a Star Trek film trying to define the Starfleet mission as that of diplomats and explorers and not militants, there was little evidence of the former. Though Abrams certainly does these ‘countdown clock’ action set pieces well, they read as typical summer blockbuster fare, not Star Trek. That said, the casting is great.

  19. Jeff Reid Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    *SPOILERS* *SPOILERS* *SPOILERS* *SPOILERS* I had forgotten who Carol Marcus was right up until I read this review. During the film, I was so positive that it was a remake of “Space Seed” that I assumed that it had to end with Kahn going off into space with Alice Eve. My surprise at that not happening was very pleasant indeed.

    The death scene really got me. Hard. It felt earned to me and I lost it in the theater. Not as bad as what happened to me during Les Misérables over Christmas, but it confirmed my fears that I’m a goddamn softie these days. Yeesh.

    • Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      Bruce Greenwood’s?

    • Jeff Reid Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

      *SPOILERS* *SPOILERS* *SPOILERS* *SPOILERS* A tiny bit there, but no. I should I have been more specific. I meant Kirk’s. I was looking at it more from Spock’s point of view, as he’d been thinking about death ever since his mother died. The scene with him in the volcano, his conversation with Uhura, and being in Pike’s brain when he died resonated with me in that scene. And when Kirk asked him how he could shut off his emotions, god, I lost it.

      Jeez. I just teared up again just thinking out it. What the crap, brain?

    • Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      I really wish either had resonated for me that way. I do.

    • The scene got me too. But I think it was because both actors did a very good job. However, it was not close to the WOK Spock death scene which still chokes me up today.

      One other thing, did anyone else think Kirk was going to say “second star on the left and straight on till morning” when picking the direction for the ship and the start of the 5 yr mission at the end of the film? Since they were calling back so much to the old films, I thought they might start the new mission with Shatner’s last line from undiscovered country.

    • Jeff Reid Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

      It’s funny you should say that because I was expecting that exact same line. It felt a little weird when it didn’t happen.

  20. I really enjoyed your review and podcast. I agreed with a lot of what you guys thought about the movie. If anything, I think that it should be taking more heat than it is. A lot is forgiven due to the great actors and interaction between the crew. I was LOVING this movie about halfway in, and then it really fell apart. Unfortunately, it’s a movie where the more I think about it, the worse it gets. The problem for me is that they had some really cool ideas for a plot, but it doesn’t come together into anything that makes sense. The more I thought about it the more things came up that seemed way off. I really don’t think it’s a generational thing, or that use of Wrath of Khan for inspiration is much of an issue. It’s just that things that make no sense are a problem. A bunch of examples:
    1) Why does Khan flee to the Klingon homeworld? There’s really no good reason for it, other than that it just happens to be the perfect location for him to be so that he can conveniently be killed in an assassination to start the war Admiral Marcus wants?!? What exactly is Khan planning on doing there alone?
    2) Why does Khan think his crew is dead? Why is the admiral planning on having their bodies disposed of via using them to assassinate Khan himself? He was using Khan to develop this technology, wouldn’t he want to thaw another one of these guys out? And they’re really going to use 72 torpedoes??
    3) Where the heck are the klingons? They’re fighting a battle in klingon space, and just killed a bunch of them (and destroyed their ships) on their homeworld, and they never show up???
    4) Carol Marcus is acting all happy at the end when her father was just killed….. right.
    5) What the heck does Nemoy’s Spock tell this Spock that is of any relevance? Presumably Nemoy tells this Spock how they defeated Khan… in Wrath of Khan they went into a Nebula. What the heck does that have to do with transporting photon torpedoes that are about to detonate? Is it supposed to have some similarity to the detonation of the genesis device? Very very unclear what the point of that is.
    6) The ability to just phone up anyone… Nemoy’s Spock, or Scotty on a cell phone back near earth… totally ridiculous.
    7) The whole… suicide bombing due to getting Khan’s blood for your daughter… hard to buy that this father would be so caught up on saving his daughter that he would blow himself up along with all of his coworkers. It’s also stupid because Khan could easily have just bombed that place himself when he was working there instead of engaging in some elaborate plot to offer his blood to the dying child of some other star fleet lackey.

    I could go on but you get the idea. I also think that the “Khaaaaaaan” and death scene weren’t earned… more importantly, they were also goofy and poorly executed.

    • 5) The game winning strategy was lying. In Wrath, Spock exaggerated the repair times, which lulled Khan into a false sense of security. In Darkness, Spock lied by omitting the fact that the torpedoes did not have Khan’s people on board.

    • I like that as an explanation although I still do think it’s fair to say that lying was what resulted in their victory. It’s a factor, but was that really the deciding factor? I’d argue no on that. Khan says “so much the better” and pursues the enterprise even after having recognized that he had been lied to about their repairs.

    • I like that as an explanation although I still don’t think it’s fair to say that lying was what resulted in their victory. It’s a factor, but was that really the deciding factor? I’d argue no on that. Khan says “so much the better” and pursues the enterprise even after having recognized that he had been lied to about their repairs. Ultimately he just gets outmaneuvered in that nebula and defeated in ship to ship combat.

  21. Ugh… just realized that I’m reminded of the way that Lost worked… lots of “wouldn’t it be cool if X happened” thrown in the show, with nothing tying up into anything satisfying (also known as a good ending). Keeping my fingers crossed for Star Wars !

  22. I enjoyed this film from the vantage point of an average movie goer. It had action, (some) romance, a contained plot and had a few twists. For your average summer block buster, that’s all you need and this film had it in spades.

    As a dyed in the wool trekkie, I have to say, I was not the biggest fan of the film. There’s no way a movie could ever live up to Wrath of Khan. It is the gold standard in Trek movies. If I could have had a conversation with JJ Abrams a few years ago, I would have told him to steer clear of Khan. You will never top it, ever. It is an insurmountable mountain. Better to do something different and unique, rather than try to re-hash what came before.

    But, I never got that chance (nor will I ever).

    I felt the movie suffered horrendously from its inappropriate casting of Cumberbatch as Khan. I love Cumberbatch. He is amazing. His Sherlock Holmes blows the pants off any version since or yet to come. So understand when I say he was inappropriate for the role, I really do mean it. Khan is the kind of man who can look at a woman and maker her swoon. He is the kind of man who is both physically and mentally intimidating. He is a man of great personal magnetism. Cumberbatch fails on three of those criteria. He said he put on 25 pounds for this role. My question is – where? He’s thin as a rail. There’s no way a man as lithe as Cumberbatch could literally squeeze a man’s head to the popping point. Cumberbatch plays a good intellectual but he doesn’t make the average woman swoon and no man would ever be intimidated by his physical prowess, nor drawn to him as a charismatic leader of men.

    The movie really lost a lot of weight with me when it started to just re-hash Wrath. None of those pantomimed scenes earned their emotional resonance. This is only the second movie with this cast. Pine and Quinto are not, and never will be, Shatner and Nemoy. They will never have the on screen bond that the latter two shared because you simply cannot develop such a relationship in movies. You need a TV show, where you can watch their relationship deepen and strengthen over years. Movies are the highlights of life, at least by comparison. You cannot force emotional resonance out of thin air. The hand on the glass scene was wasted in this movie, most especially when they spoiled the resurrection a few minutes before with the “Khan has amazing blood” scene. Beyond the deep camaraderie shared between Kirk and Spock, what made Wrath’s scene so much more meaningful was that you did not know Spock was going to come back. It felt like his death was permanent. He even had a heartfelt funeral and everything. Kirk coming back was a no brainer because there’s no way Paramount was going to permanently kill Kirk in the second movie.

    Also, if they were going to do homages anyway, why the heck didn’t they steal the scene where Scotty is holding on to the mangled remains of his little buddy and utters the classic line, “He stayed at his post (choking back tears), when the trainees ran.” How cool would that have been? This version would have had even more weight than the original since Scotty’s buddy didn’t just show up for this film.

    Also, do Starfleet Personal NOT read history? I mean seriously! Khan ruled a huge swath of Asia and was the pre-eminant Augment of his day. Not knowing who Khan is, is akin to us not knowing who Napoleon or Hitler is. You may not know the finicky details but you KNOW who he is.

    Speaking of knowing people, WHY THE HECK WAS OLD SPOCK IN THIS MOVIE!? He had a perfect “passing the torch” moment at the end of the last film. Putting Nemoy in this film – and more importantly in the way he was used – was akin to a crime. Old Spock handed out, if I may borrow a phrase from Doctor Who, plot altering SPOILERS! It completely neutered New Spock as a credible character. Now every time the Enterprise gets in danger, we can expect New Spock to call up Old Spock and get the game winning plan? Ugh. Just terrible. Completely and totally terrible.

    To make matters worse, the lie that Spock told Khan was not of the same variety. The old one was a lie of exaggeration. The new lie is one of omission. Two totally different kinds of lies.

    While we’re on the topic of other movies, I hated the fact that – for the third time in a row – we see the David vs. Goliath ship battle. Seriously, when will this stop? We get it, the Enterprise has plot armor and will survive, at least to the point where it can take down the big bad evil ship. It’s a boring trope that has been way over played in the last few Trek movies. Move on, think of something different.

    As for the ending, why the heck was Khan re-frozen. What kind of civilization would allow a genocidal war criminal to live. He murdered countless thousands in London and San Francisco, not to mention all the horrible things he did in the 1990’s. There is absolutely no logical justification to keep him alive. Worse yet, he’s frozen. Even a tolerant completely off-the-deep-end liberal society would agree that that is inhumane treatment. Not to mention the fact that you are inflicting his wrath upon another generation down the line. Marcus tried to use Khan, there’s no telling to how deep his little conspiracy goes, most especially when Section 31 is involved. Thus, the only reason Khan lived was so there could be a sequel.

    Hopefully the squeal will be much better than this heap. Maybe they will actually get back to what Star Trek is really about – exploration of space.

    As a Trekkie, I give this movie 2/5 stars. As an average movie goer, I give this film a 4/5.

  23. Paul’s review is excellent. Nailed all the flaws which make this movie unsuccessful overall.

    The Star Trek mythos is so rich. Yet another movie centered on Khan was a poor choice and led to the issues Paul describes well.

  24. Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler

    You know what, they never called him Khan Noonien Singh. Not once. Just Khan. Maybe Cumberbatch was a different Augment with the same first name as Khan Noonien Singh. That would explain a lot of the inconsistancies between the TOS/Wrath Khan and Darkness Khan. They’re two separate people!

    That makes me feel a lot better.

    • The problem there is they were frozen before the incursion that split the time lines.

    • Assuming that nothing changed prior to the exact moment when old Spock and the Romulans appeared is really limited thinking of how time works. Remember, everything after that moment is significantly different, including future time travel stories. So things like the Temporal War depicted in Enterprise (well before Trek ’09 happened) will all be different, affecting events throughout history.

      This would explain things like how the Klingon ships would look different – clearly, much of what we thought of as the Star Trek universe was shaped by time travel.

      Or as a certain Doctor might put it, time is all wibbly wobbly.

  25. I thought this was a great movie. It captured the ethical heart of the Star Trek franchise much better than the first reboot movie. It is about exploration and a humanist ethical out look, not just space action (though there was plenty of that). It was refreshing to see a movie that condemns revenge instead of celebrating it. If you have been reading the ongoing Star Trek comic you will see how the “re-hash” aspect plays in. Just think of it as Star Trek meets “Sliding Doors.” How would things turn out differently for these characters if you change some of the initial conditions. I think the reversal of roles was clever and entertaining and I think Pine and Quinto did a superb job in playing them.

  26. SPOILERS
    SPOILERS
    SPOILERS
    SPOILERS
    I think I enjoyed this for the same reason I was supposed to enjoy FlashPoint. We get to see the same things happen, just under a different light. It calls forward that time travel principle, where there is death, there will always be death.

    What I am saying is: try as they might, by allowing Trek and Trek “Prime” to co-exist, they have made this entire new series a time travel story. Once you see it as that, you enjoy it that much more.

    It kind of reminds be of the Next Gen episode where Worf is jumping around the time streams.

  27. Me and the wife went to see this last friday night and boy were we entertained! I saw a few of the old movies 10-15 years ago but never was an avid Trekkie but this Star Trek reboot by J.J. Abrams is something for a younger generation but you know what? It’s okay!

    5/5 for me, the instant the credits rolled I begged my wife to go and see it again!

    And Benedict Cumberbatch was awesomeeeeeeeeee as much as in Sherlock (which, by the way, you all need to watch!)