First off, when I went to see Star Trek Into Darkness tonight there was a dude waiting in line in FULL Klingon makeup and it was so freaking cool. I thought I was all hip with my classic Star Trek t-shirt (as did he, by the way… he totally said “Nice shirt” as I walked by!), but this guy really went for it. He had some sweet Klingon robes and everything, and it looked like his lady friend was in a classic Star Trek uniform dress. I was impressed. Well done, random stranger!
Anyway, I’ve been a huge Star Trek fan since I was 8 years old, as perhaps evidence by the fact that I have a Star Trek t-shirt and I thought I was super cool wearing it to the theater tonight. I love the franchise (except Enterprise, but no one likes that), have SO many action figures, and spent significant portions of my childhood coming up with stories for my own Star Trek series. I love the first Abrams Star Trek, and I came into Star Trek Into Darkness as a big fan all around.
As a fan, this movie is amazing. It’s almost wall to wall fan service, but in the best way possible. There are constant references and jokes and nods to the original continuity, but not in a way that feels forced or pulls you out of the story. I mean, there’s a tribble! AND it’s important to the plot!
The many references don’t weigh the film down because it moves at a breakneck pace. This thing is epic, and hurtles from event to event, with things getting crazier by the minute. The plot starts off simple enough, with a Starfleet officer gone rogue, trying to take out the Starfleet brass, but it escalates from there and for pretty much the entire second half of the movie, everyone is perpetually almost going to die. It’s very much an action film, more explodey and chaotic than past Trek adventures, but it’s exciting and fun and just ridiculously entertaining.
Despite this summer action film quality, the characters are also well-served. Chris Pine is great again as Captain Kirk, totally capturing the spirit of Kirk without copying Shatner in a weird way that just works gangbusters for me. From tiptoeing around the Prime Directive to save a primitive planet to flagrantly violating it to save Spock, Kirk is full-on being Kirk from the get-go. And, of course, he learns and grows along the way. My favourite part of Kirk, though, is how Pine plays him as ALMOST dropping the f-bomb several times throughout the movie when he’s frustrated. We get a hint “f…” and then he just goes on to the next word. It cracked me up.
Zachary Quinto’s Spock is great as well, and a lot of the movie revolves around his relationship with Kirk. They aren’t adversaries anymore, but a hotheaded human and a logical Vulcan tend to butt heads. Nonetheless, the movie does a really wonderful job showing the love and respect they have for each other, and Quinto is excellent at putting just a touch of emotion into Spock’s near perpetual stoicism.
Spock’s relationship with Uhura gets a lot of attention too, and Uhura is far and away the third most prominent of the Enterprise crew, which I thought was cool. Though off the top of my head, I don’t think she passes the Bechdel Test. Still, she has way more to do in this movie and gets to kick a lot of ass, and Zoe Saldana does really well with the emotional and action aspects of the character.
The rest of the crew all get decent screentime. Simon Pegg is again hilarious as Scotty, John Cho gets to make Sulu a total bad ass, and Karl Urban’s DeForest Kelley impression just KILLS me. Everyone else is making their character their own, but Urban is doing a straight up DeForest Kelley impersonation as McCoy. Anton Yelchin’s Chekhov is a bit underserved apart from a lot of frazzled running, I suppose. He could have got a little bit more to do.
But really, Star Trek Into Darkness is all about Benedict Cumberbatch. I’m not going to tell you who he’s playing (there’ll be a spoiler section at the end), but he just slays it. He’s fierce and brilliant and fascinating to watch. He has a monologue in the brig that almost makes you feel bad for him and want to root for him, but then he turns ruthless and brutal and evil. And even then, you’re still sort of cheering for him because he’s Cumberbatch! It’s like evil Sherlock in space, and how can you not get behind that? He’s also surprisingly good at the fight scenes, like impressively so. For an English theater dandy, the dude is fantastically precise and violent in the action scenes. He even runs kind of awesomely! Everyone in the movie is great, but Cumberbatch steals the show for sure.
All of the usual things you’d expect to be great are great. The special effects are amazing, the score is killer, there are lots of cool and different outfits, the locations are vibrant and diverse. If, like me, you saw the trailer and thought: “How are they going to jam that many places and fights into one movie in any coherent way?”, don’t worry, they very much do. The pacing of the movie is smooth and engaging. Action scenes are peppered with jokes, emotional scenes often lead into increasingly bigger action scenes; the movie is never just one tone. It constantly cycles through emotions and characters while serving all of them properly.
I will say that I was outraged they labeled the Klingon homeworld as “Kronos” instead of “Qo’noS”. I’m still pretty irked about that. And, frankly, the movie is so much fun that it glosses over some not insubstantial plot holes and logic gaps. I mean, in the 23rd century, the Earth should have some sort of defense mechanism for falling/out of control starships that might crash into things, right? This has to have come up. The entire insane last hour of the movie takes place right beside Earth and no other starship pops by to check out the explosions and make sure their flagship is okay.
Still, the movie is so exciting and fun that you don’t even care. The constantly in flux fate of the Enterprise is much more interesting. All in all, I enjoyed myself immensely. The characters were great, the action was huge, Cumberbatch was amazing, and I absolutely loved it all.
Seriously, one of these is a DOOZY.
Look away if you haven’t seen the movie!!
Here are a few spoiler comments:
- I totally called it with Khan. And I LOVE that they did Khan. Cumberbatch’s take on him was so cool and different than Ricardo Montalban, but just as big and evil. There was a part in the movie where you just KNOW he’s Khan but he hasn’t said it yet, and he’s just monologuing away and I was dying for him to say he’s Khan but he kept skirting around it. It was frustratingly great.
- Really, the whole inversion of Wrath of Khan was super cool, particularly killing off Kirk instead of Spock. Well played.
- Though even I knew that they’d use Khan’s blood to bring him back to life, and I am the WORST at movie prediction.
- Killing off Pike seemed a little telegraphed too. I’ve seen enough J.J. Abrams stuff to know that father figures aren’t going to have a good time of it.
- Leonard Nimoy!! I had no idea he was going to be in it again. When new Spock asked old Spock if he’d ever had a run in with someone named Khan, I just roared.
- I didn’t get emotional until the end with “These are the voyages…”, so I was pretty proud of myself. With the first Star Trek, I was barely keeping it together by the time Thor died five minutes into it!
- So, where do we all think they’re going for the next one? Based on the accelerated timeline we seem to be seeing here, I think they’re going to go big and do something Borg related. Maybe something “early days of the Borg”, where the Enterprise wins but a part of it escapes to become the BORG Borg down the road.