My review of Star Trek Into Darkness

I don’t go to the movies very often. I think the last time I went to a theatre on purpose was to see the first of the current Star Trek movies, and then I only went because it was a private screening and I could reasonably expect the audience to shut the fuck up, turn off their damn phones, and pay attention to the film.

I planned to write a paragraph here detailing why I hate going to the movies, but I think I just covered it, so let me write a different paragraph instead, about how I finally found a movie theatre that I will go to as long as it exists: the iPic theatre in Pasadena (also called Gold Class, I understand) is the only way I will ever watch a movie again for the rest of my life if I can help it. It costs much more than a typical multiplex, but it is entirely worth it, and this theatre has replaced the Arclight (which makes me sad, but sometime in the last couple of years, Arclight stopped enforcing the shut the fuck up and turn you goddamn phone off policy that had made it such an attractive destination for me for so long).

I’ve really wanted to see Star Trek Into Darkness, but I had resigned myself to not seeing it until it was available to watch in the comfort of my own home … until Stepto, e, and my friend Jen all told me about the existence of a theatre that was actually enjoyable, instead of wall-to-wall bullshit advertising and people who have such little respect for the movies and the rest of the people in the audience, they belong at the gathering of the Juggalos instead of in a movie house. When I saw that one of these theatres was not only nearby but was also showing Star Trek Into Darkness, I looked at my schedule, gave myself an afternoon off, and took my entire family to see it.

We just got home, and the rest of this post will be about my first impressions of the movie. If you haven’t seen it, do not read past the jump, or scroll past the giant picture of Bender B. Rodriguez I’ve placed for those of you who came here directly. I will discuss specific plot points and spoilers. You have been warned.

The short version is: I loved it. I think it’s my favorite Star Trek movie ever, and I can’t wait to see what this crew does next.



Welcome to the rest of the post, person who has already seen Star Trek Into Darkness, or person who gives up his/her/its right to complain at me about spoilers because you were warned. Let’s talk about the movie, shall we?

I could have done without the whole beginning, which felt gratuitous and largely disconnected from the rest of the film to me, but I suppose they needed a way to set up Spock putting the needs of the many ahead of the needs of the one, or the few. I had a very hard time accepting that the Enterprise could sit underwater, but I’m willing to accept it and get over it. The makeup on those aliens was awesome, though.

I’ve read a lot of online criticism that Uhura didn’t do anything useful and was just there to weep and be weak around Spock. I honestly didn’t get that at all. She bravely faces down the fucking Klingons, knowing that she’s risking her life, and then is a badass during the climax when Spock and the ship need her the most. I suppose you can make an argument that she had no business bringing up relationship stuff with Spock in the middle of an important mission, but in a high stress situation maybe things bubbling beneath the surface just come up. It didn’t bother me, but I’m not a woman so I can’t speak to how women feel with the portrayal of 50% of the women in the movie. Yeah, there are two women of consequence in the film, and that is bullshit. So on the other end of the writing-for-women spectrum is the profound failure to do awesome stuff with Doctor Marcus. I was disappointed, and I imagine that there must be deleted scenes that make her much more interesting (I have no problem with Alice Eve’s performance. I thought she did a fine job with what they wrote for her). She’s so goddamn smart, and we know that she ends up inventing the goddamn Genesis device, so it’s a huge waste to make her little more than eye candy for Kirk. Putting her in her underwear was embarrassing to me as a member of the Star Trek Family, and served absolutely no purpose other than to make teenage boys feel weird, like when they climb the rope in gym class. I have no problem with Star Trek being sexy, but make it part of the story for a good reason, Damon Lindelof.

That said, not a single performance rang false to me, and I again wished I could watch this crew every week instead of once every few years.

I loved the pacing of the film. I loved how it looked and sounded, I loved the reveal of Khan, I loved the development of Kirk and Spock’s relationship. I loved the various nods to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and the original series. When Kirk and Spock traded places with their counterparts in The Wrath of Khan, it blew me away, and if the movie hadn’t worked so well up to that point, if they hadn’t developed Kirk and Spock’s relationship the way that they did, it would have been laughable. It speaks volumes about the writing and the film as a whole that they could take that risk and have it pay off.

Benedict Cumberbatch is one of my very favorite — excuse me, favourite — actors today, and he brought his brilliant mixture of confidence and strength to Khan in a way that, with all due respect, Montalban never did. Never once does Cumberbatch make the obvious choice, his performance is always subtle, always controlled, and when he finally goes full-Khan, scary as hell. Peter Weller’s Admiral Marcus reminded me of Nicholson in A Few Good Men, without the screaming and chewing of scenery, and his desire to provoke a war by any means necessary in contravention of his Starfleet oath was a fundamental part of what I viewed as the main message of the movie.

The entire film is about doing whatever it takes to protect and care for your family and those you love, and finding a balance between providing that protection in a way that cares for them without becoming the very thing you’re trying to protect them from. It’s a warning about the dangers inherent in letting vengeance eclipse justice, and reflexively choosing the military option at all times. It’s about everything America has done wrong in our post-9/11 world.

In fact, I was subconsciously thinking about life post-9/11 so much that when Khan crashes his ship into San Francisco — another commentary, I believe, on the dangers in creating a weapon only to have that weapon turned right back on yourself (see: The Taliban) — I flinched and my stomach clenched. It affected me in a visceral way that I was not expecting, especially in a Star Trek movie.

If the power of Science Fiction is to force us to confront subjects that are difficult or taboo, I will argue that Into Darkness does it as effectively as anything I’ve seen in years. And this leads me to answer another criticism I’ve heard frequently: Into Darkness doesn’t live up to the ideals Gene Roddenberry instilled in the Original Series and The Next Generation. Again, I can’t disagree with this more strongly. In the original series, against a backdrop of the Cold War, just a few years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Star Trek did stories about the dangers of unchecked militarization, the dangers of seeing only black and white in a conflict, and the power of the human spirit to put aside petty differences to work together to save us all. Against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, Star Trek dared to show a multicultural crew of men and women working together as equals to bravely explore the unknown. This is the legacy we attempted to live up to in The Next Generation, and though we didn’t always succeed, we still told stories about finding peace in the midst of war, standing up for truth at all costs, and most of all the strength of the family. It is on our shoulders that DS9, Voyager, Enterprise, and the first Star Trek reboot all stood, and Into Darkness does a fine job of respecting this heritage. And even though it doesn’t give us the same moral punch as Tapestry or Darmok or The Doomsday Machine or A Taste of Armageddon, (which it can’t, due to blockbuster film economics among other things), it still addresses a subject that is very relevant to our lives today. It also does that in a way that isn’t preachy, and it does it in a damn entertaining film that may just provide an infection vector for a whole new audience — the next generation if you will — to explore the existing Star Trek world.

But, ultimately, a movie should entertain its audience. It should thrill and delight and surprise us so much we want the whole thing to start over again so we can take the ride one more time. By that measure, Star Trek Into Darkness succeed beyond my wildest dreams.


129 thoughts on “My review of Star Trek Into Darkness”

  1. I just read this and found myself nodding through the entire post. You nailed it. You nailed every feeling I had through the movie.

    As a woman I’ll pipe up and say that, yeah, it’s entirely feasible for crap like that to bubble up at the craziest, most inopportune times.

    Anyhow, wonderful review and I couldn’t agree more. You put into words what I couldn’t (and still hadn’t been able to) after I saw it opening night.

  2. I found the movie to be a surprise based on the lack of information in the trailer but don’t you think of all the stories they could use doing more on the Khan thing is a bit much. Though it was great there’s so many other stories they could have done.

  3. First of all I also loved the movie, it was one of the best although I like most of the Star Trek movies..

    About theaters of today.. I really dislike sitting through 20 min of advertisements… This annoys me almost as much as having to sit through all the ads and trailers on the Blue Ray I just paid real money for and it won’t let me bypass… Can’t imagine how much of an issue it must be for you to go to a movie…

    And one more thing, why do people think they should bath in perfume or cologne before going to a movie? It makes going to the movies for people like me and My wife hard as we are both allergic to many of the popular perfumes.

    Anyway keep up the awesome work!!

  4. I agree with you about the iPic. I go to one in South Barrington ,IL and will go to no other theater. The food is surprisingly good and mine has a price fixed dinner menu for the show. However I do not agree with you that the cost of the ticket is expensive. For $18.75 here you get a power recliner with a free bag of popcorn a pillow and blanket. Now let be honest the drinks can be high but they are amazeballs. I did go see Into Darkness opening weekend there and also thought the movie was great! I am partial to TNG and wish they would have done a Q movie but that ship has sailed. Love the tabletop series and love the work you have done both in and out of the Star Trek franchise. Hope you keep going to the iPic and find it just as enjoyable as my wife and I do. It is a great date night and the 2 of us get a full night out for around $100 a sealt at twice the price in my never to be humbled opinion. Keep up the great work.

  5. This is exactly what I’ve been saying on reddit every time an Into Darkness bashing thread comes up.

    I thought the movie could have been better, but they definitely had a message that was worth sending in this film (I still have no idea what the “message” was in 2009, other than an origin story). I was bashing on JJ in the months leading up to this, and afterwords I was ashamed that I had, because I came into the film expecting garbage.

    The only thing that really bothers me was the portrayal of the Klingons. I don’t think they needed to be reimagined, and I really don’t like their new look. Not even a bit. Or their Bird of Prey, which looks more like a bug alien’s ship than the legendary Bird of Prey we all know and love.

  6. Excellent review. A friend of mine did not like the film and so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw it and it was fabulous. A few more strong women would have been nice. Although I believe it’s perfectly acceptable for a strong woman to speak her mind in the middle of a crisis, especially when she’s angry and been holding it in.

    Benedict Cumberbatch had me worried. He’s Sherlock in my mind, and does a fabulous job of it. But I should have known, he’s excellent at what he does and I did not once see Sherlock on the screen. This is a movie I will own.

    Wow, I could not agree with you more. Have you seen any of Cumberbatch’s interviews? I didn’t watch them until after I saw the movie. He said of Harrison, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” And I think that major difference between K1 and K2 is that K1 made choices based on revenge and a superiority complex; he was after all a product of the Eugenics War. K2 made choices based on survival and justice. This version did not cover the Eugenics War at all. K2 and his 72 friends were prisoners.
    I can see and agree with K2’s choices. And I could feel bad for him once I pieced together everything that happened in London with the hospital. They were used as test material by a military industrial complex building a secret weapon. That secret needed to be exposed. K1 sought nothing but destruction. K2 freed his friends but in a way freed the rest of the realm by exposing its nasty big (giiiiinormous) secret. Something, given the status of our own Us v. Them policies at work, is very timely indeed.

  8. Thank you, as someone who was watching Star Trek since it came on the air (though I don’t really remember it before reruns, given that was when I was a year old…), I agree that I see Gene’s ideals played out, the way he showed them best. Not in a group of perfect people living in utopia, but in a real feeling world where sometimes racism (Galileo 7), jingoistic politics (Star Trek VI) and other failings could still exhibit themselves. But where they were recognized AS failings (during times when they were often touted as virtues).

    The same with this movie. I am SO glad you caught the 9/11 context, the turning on its head of the cheap, emotionally manipulative theme of many action movies that ANYTHING is acceptable when you are ‘protecting your family’… by showing us that everyone in this movie, hero and villain alike, felt they were acting on that motive, from Khan and Noel Clarke’s character, to Marcus and Kirk. And that the answer is….no, not everything and anything is acceptable to protect your family, especially when you risk, as you pointed out far more eloquently, ‘t becoming the very thing you’re trying to protect them from’. I especially loved Scotty’s big scene and stand.

    And on another note, yeah, I hate that what used to be the special experience of going to a theater has become something almost to dread, and not just due to the price. SHUT the PHONE off.

  9. I’m afraid I agree with you almost totally, except in one spot and one spot only: The whole section with the guy who blew himself up in that Starfleet archive-which-later-turned-out-to-not-be-exactly-what-it-seemed-which-seems-to-be-too-often-the-case-with-recent-Star-Trek-movies. It just felt emotionally hollow to me, and frankly I didn’t see why this piece was in the movie. I felt that it would have been a better fit in maybe the second half of the movie, when McCoy is telling Kirk about the amazing regenerative powers of Khan’s blood, and it felt like it needed that voiceover instead of emotionally hollow points that felt eerily like they were going “Hey, let’s get through this really smart part so we can blow some ships up!”. Seriously, that’s truly lazy scriptwriting. Heck, YOU could’ve written a better movie than that, Wheaton. I think you could’ve written this movie to be something much greater than it was. I’ll give my thoughts on Man of Steel after I see that movie, but I don’t have very high expectations given how polarized everyone seems to be about the new movie, almost as polarized as they were about Into Darkness. Almost. I saw the good parts of STID but I felt that Abrams needs to give Trek a break for awhile, unless they can somehow give this group a TV series, which I would very much enjoy.

    1. Why this piece was in the movie was quite clear to me.

      “Is there anything you would not do for your family?” Like blow up a building full of people in return for his daughter’s life. The answer was ‘yes.’

      And I think we have to see that moment, complete with black smoke and screams. Without it it’d be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that Khan is just this bitter, articulate Brit. It’s important to see how far he will go; to see his savagery.

      To skip that. To just say, “Building go boom. (random number) died.” To have the first view of Khan being attacking the meeting, a viewer could view that as “not so bad” as almost legitimate. The viewer needs to see what Khan is willing to do for his family.

  10. Good review Wil. Also, to you, or any of your readers, if ever visiting the Portland, OR metro area (Vancouver, WA included), and desiring to go see a movie, check out the Cinetopia chain. After visting the iPic website, It looks like the two theater chains are very similar in amenities. My wife and I saw Star Trek Into Darkness in one of Cinetopia’s movie parlors. It was a nice cozy environment that would seat no more than 20 or 30 people, and is what I imagine a private home movie theater would be like.

  11. Totally agree with you, loved this movie, and I would really, REALLY love to see it again before it leaves theaters. Loved Cumberbatch’s performance, and I am now a fan.

    BUT….. I have one quibble, and I am the first to admit it’s a bullshit quibble, so don’t judge me! :^P

    It’s this: I can accept a Khan with a clipped British accent. I can even rationalize radically different facial features (Starfleet must have access to some kick-ass plastic surgeons, right?). But how in the name of Herman Melville does George Kirk’s absence from this timeline change the color of Khan Noonien Singh’s EYES? Abrams could have thrown the Trekkies a bone and had the makeup artists fit BC with some brown contacts.

    Otherwise, I’m on the same page with you Wil; and I think that Taliban reference is spot on. LLAP

  12. I completely agree, I loved it. However I can also see where some may say it is not Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, well really it isn’t. The original Star Trek was based on the Federation being a Utopia more than anything, that Mankind’s struggles had mostly been resolved, and as it progressed through the TNG series and movies that First Contact directed how this developed.

    In the reboot which is often referred to as an alternate universe ( I would consider it an alternate timeline, not universe) the focus of the Federation has completely changed with the destruction of Vulcan. This forced them to become more military organization as mankind now feels threatened due to Nemo’s actions.

    So while it contains some essence of the original timeline, it also has to stray from what the original peaceful nature of Starfleet’s mission to explore to become something else.

  13. We waited to see it as a combo birthday, fathers day outing thus avoiding the crowds. There was less than 10 people in the theater and we had the perfect center seats at the right height. We passed on the 3-D since I get sick to easily.
    I particularly liked the switching of roles for Spock and Kirk in the radiation chamber. It was so believable and so profoundly right. I had to smack my husband for revealing that the bad guy was Khan. He figured it out and checked online. Sharing with me was a bad move lol. I knew the character seemed familiar, but hadn’t made the connection yet
    Your description of the movie was so well done. I really enjoyed reading it and plan on making sure my friends see it as well. (and the husband so he can see I told on him lol)
    Oh and your right about the teen age boys with the skimpy outfits… even fully dressed they sure like those. I learned that from a boy in college who was much more interested in the girls on Star Trek the original than in me lol. I for give him though because he started me on a very long term addiction to the shows. My daughter caught it watching you in Generations lol.

  14. Your review would closely mirror my own if I could write as clearly as you.

    There were a few bits that rankled for me: The frantic and vicious punching for emotional relief, the really obvious tribble set-up, and the fact that there’s something special about Khan’s blood that isn’t present in 72 other genetically modified superpeople.

    I think this is a pretty timid step back in the direction of Roddenberry’s vision, though. I didn’t know him like you did, obviously, but the lack of racial and sexual integration really struck me. This isn’t a diverse and inclusive future. I appreciate the attempt to make some social commentary, but this is hardly the bold, principled stand for which Star Trek once stood.

  15. I enjoyed the film, but I disagree on a couple of points:

    First, and I know there was no need to see Dr. Marcus in her undies, but I didn’t find that scene all that gratuitous. She did ask Kirk to look away, so really we only saw because he saw. Now I know that’s pretty thin, but it also plays into Kirk’s insatiable reputation.

    Also I kind of flaked on the nods to Wrath of Khan. I’m fine with homage, but using major plot points and role reversal felt kind of easy to me, you know? I might have to go again to really know how I feel on this one.

    Overall I really liked the film. The Klingon sequence was fantastic! And yes, Cumberbatch is insane, in exactly the right way. =) Cheers!

  16. Thanks for the insightful and thought provoking review, Wil. I also think you nailed it. I agree they stretched my credulity a little with the Enterprise under the water scenes even though they were cool, but the acting and the nature of the story line was in my opinion, brilliant. Here in Australia, I went to see it on opening night at IMAX in Melbourne, and it was breathtaking seeing it in native IMAX mode as I believe they shot it that way. I also gave the technical guys 10/10 for the sound which was breathtaking.

    But back to your points – you are spot on about the relevance of this film and the messages it delivers. It is still very much Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek and I think he’d be proud to see what they did in this movie. I just wish, like you that we could be watching this crew far more often than once every few years.

  17. I see what you mean. The movie stands on its own as an amazing piece of storytelling. I also think that there are points in the movie where they .. well I wouldn’t call it the easy way out, but maybe something along those lines.

    The pacing is so different than in the TV show, and to a certain extent previous movies. I get why, to be honest. Seasons can have multiple story arcs running seeming at the same time over the course of months. Movies have roughly two hours. I loved the rollercoaster ride, but I think I may have enjoyed it even more if I could pull over and take a breath here and there.

    Star Trek for the Michael Bay generation. I feel conflicted. Either way, money well spent.

    P.S. Whomever cast Scotty deserves a medal. The writer for his scenes with (both solo and with his junior officer) is even better. Those two are hilarious.

  18. I’m of the opinion that Wrath of Khan is untouchable. Just don’t do it. Keep the bad guy’s name “Harrison”, QUIT BRINGING PEOPLE BACK TO LIFE, keep the “theme” of the ending but change it entirely, and you have a 100% better movie.

  19. Hi, Wil! I took my 15-year-old son to see Star Trek Into Darkness two weekends ago. Aside from watching the prior movie the night before, this was his first experience with anything Star Trek.
    Here’s the cool thing: we both loved the movie, but for totally different reasons. He loved the action sequences, and anything to do with Spock. I loved Chris Pine’s Kirk, as well as the references to movies and TV series gone by. I adore how the movie worked on both levels.
    My son has been infected with the Star Trek bug – we watched Wrath of Khan and are now in the middle of a ST:TNG marathon. I’m loving it.

  20. Wow.

    I generally agree with you 99% Wil Wheaton. Seriously. You’re awesome.

    But I had a very different take on this movie. I felt that they betrayed many of the things I love about Trek. I feel the pacing and direction were extremely weak.

    I guess it’s interesting how different perspectives can alter how we each view these things.

    Check out my nerdrage rant on Into Darkness here if you are so inclined.

  21. You summed up a lot of my thoughts on the film. I think you were maybe a bit more glowing, but all in all it was a good movie with a lot of entertainment value. I think the people who are bashing the movie are mostly nitpicking the nonsense parts (Why could they beam Spock out, but not beam the Cold Fusion bomb in? Why do they think their audience thinks that Cold Fusion freezes lava?)… but lose sight of the fact that the world of Star Trek, in general, doesn’t necessarily jive with what we know of science… so why start nitpicking now? Though admittedly, I wonder if perhaps Pike could have been saved if Kirk hadn’t thrown the nearest first aid kit into Kahn’s engine intake… Kirk, so brash. JJ Abrams knows how to make a movie, and he knows how to give the illusion of depth to a story. He’s a genius of putting things in motion that seem to hint at something bigger (Lost for example), and sometimes it seems like he loses track of his destination (Lost for example), and sometimes it ends up unraveling a bit (Lost for example)… but that’s okay, because experimentation results in the unexpected and that is what makes things exciting. I think he’s taken some risks with the series, and he’s pulled it off better than most would have. So what if it doesn’t ALWAYS make sense? It’s no more diminishing to the final product than the technobabble of TNG, or the cheesiness of TOS, or the Muppets in Jedi. It was entertaining, it was political, it was what a mainstream release of a Star Trek franchise should be, and he is producing a slick and consistent product.

    That said. Here is my dream Star Trek movie…

    Slash the budget by 60%…
    Star Trek, written and directed by Aaron Sorkin. Your chief expenditures will be the sets: hallways on the Enterprise and maybe a few hallways on alien planets, a Star Fleet Headquarters conference room, more hallways, and the staple Enterprise areas: Engineering, the Bridge, Sick bay. That’s it. Special effects? Does keeping a camera steady while moving in front of various crew members walking and talking count? Without action their fast-paced dialog will keep the movie moving as they delve into the finer points of the Prime Directive, the ethics of exploration and the role of self in an egalitarian semi-utopia facing the burden of its own convictions. At some point, someone will reference Shakespeare or the Vulcan equivalent.

    Ask me about my dream for a Quentin Tarantino Star Wars.

  22. well said. i agree completely about the parallels to today and the rightness of that in a rodenberry world.
    what i prefer about science fiction to comic book movies is the inherent cautionary tale they offer. a warning of the world-to -come as opposed to “what if a dude could fly?”

    did you see it in imax 3D? apart from the acting and writing, it was the most vertiginous movie experience i’ve ever had.

  23. I loved Into Darkness, but the thing that pulled me right out of the movie was the portions pulled from Wrath of Kahn. I thought those moments were the weaker part of the movie. Plus, a return to emotional and violent outburst Spock by having him scream Kahn’s name in a burning moment of passion? Wait, that sounds bad…

    I’m okay with Spock going off the rails emotionally again but I would rather have had him go cold, let him be the cold hard emotionless Spock after Kirk “goes cold” and then have him chase down Kahn (without screaming) and have his emotional outburst while he was beating on Kahn.

    I know they did it in the previous movie…twice even…but I thought doing it that way would make Spock seem even more unhinged by having him scream at Kahn while beating on him like Ralphie beat on Scutt Farkas in a Christmas Story rather than having him scream right after Kirk died.

    Give people that immediate “God, the Vulcan might actually kill him with his bare hands at any moment!!!” Not after a run through San Fransisco…which I don’t know about you, but after intense running in San Fran, I don’t feel quite as homicidal as I did when I started.

  24. My biggest quibble with the movie is very silly and shallow. Yeah, I had some problems with what I saw as the gratuitous shot of Dr. Marcus in her undies, but what REALLY bothered me was the bra. Really, costume designers? It’s how many years in the future, and clothing designers are STILL producing underwire bras that fit poorly enough that there’s spill-over at the top of the cup? I’ve spent enough years of my life looking for a better-fitting over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder that I would sincerely hope the state-of-the-art would improve at SOME point. Sheesh.

  25. I’m a huge fan of Benedict’s and he’s my favorite actor, bar none, as well, and I loved his portrayal of Khan in STID, but I think the choice to cast him as Khan was completely wrong because Benedict is White, and Khan is historically, going back to TOS, is not and was never meant to be. There’s absolutely no good reason a non-White actor could not have been cast as Khan. There are so many talented Indian, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese actors (to name only a few nationalities) J.J. could have chosen from.

    Gena wrote an excellent post on the Hathor Legacy about Khan and why the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch is Whitewashing ().

  26. Hello mr. Wheaton,

    my 2 cents.

    While I can appreciate using topical parallels as plot devices I’ve often felt Trek nods to be weak as balls,

    Eg, kurtwood Boddiker in the undiscovered country, ” this prez is NOT above the law” wink nod, omg superman IV the quest for peace..

    Are you sensing this isn’t some fawning fandom diatribe? While I haven’t seen the movie yet, I was able to postulate long before the AP spoiler laden reviews.

    Btw , you make a persuasive argument Fry,

    IMO, the most successful show to successfully weave dramoraltity tales and nonsuch was crafted by one of your own from the days of TNG, Ron Moore. With his reboot of BSG, I never felt it was as obvious and trite as the 9-11 parallels ( starfleet hq) . So here’s hoping that while the current crew’s and crop of writers’ shelf life hasn’t been pierce brosnan’d by email , Damon will choose to write an original story with a never before seen plot that utilizes canon only as outline and inspiration… Oh and if somehow JJ reads your critique and ensuing comments, I don’t mind the lens flare, just try to keep it in check with the twin suns of Tatooine.

  27. I have to say, I didn’t like this very much at all. Loved the 2009 reboot but this felt hollow to me. Ignoring some of the plot wholes, my main problem was Khan. Not really Benny’s performance, because he always brings it, but the way the character was written.

    Khan in the original series wasn’t really that interesting to me. It wasn’t until he had this hate and anger directed toward Kirk — where vengeance was the only thing on his mind — that he truly became an iconic villain.

    With the vengeance taken away he became more one-note. You almost didn’t need Khan. Any old super villain would have worked with only one or two lines of dialog changed.

    Any of us could play “What If” all day long. I just wished that if Khan needed to be used, use him in a way that turns what we know of him on its side. I give the PTB credit for trying … but they pulled their punches.

    All that being said, I’ll watch it again on video because I feel like I’ve been too hard on it. I wanted to like it … I still do.

  28. I just saw Into Darkness today, and I generally agree with your impression of it: it was incredibly fun and interesting to watch. There were just some parts of it that made me feel incredibly weird. The short list:
    1 the Dr Marcus shirt-removal incedent
    2 I respect and admire Benedict Cumberbatch’s acting, but the role of Khan could have been an amazing breakout opportunity for a POC actor
    3 the whole first scene with the gibbering aliens just … rankled with me
    4 admittedly I have limited experience with TOS, but the whole part where Scotty killed someone and then no-one ever paused to acknowledge the emotional significance of causing blue-shirt’s death seemed pretty off to me
    5 there were so many heroic moments accompanied by surging music that they all started to blend together for me about three-quarters of the way through
    6 were the catgirls really necessary? Or really, at all?
    I’d be interested for your opinion on my quibbles with the film, from the point of view of someone more Trek-affiliated.

  29. Hope I’m not unnecessarily nit-picking, and I frankly don’t want to cross into d*ck territory, but did so much sh*t have to be blown up? i liked Darkness enough to pay to see it twice, but I could’ve lived (better) with less mass-killing.
    Going beyond that, did the spectacle of this really need 4 years between installments? Like you, I’d be grateful for more of this cast. Not a bad pick among them.

  30. Nice review, Wil. Well said. I agree about women in this particular round of Star Trek. You’d think after all these years that there would be more prominent female roles. I wouldn’t have minded if they decided to switch some things around…maybe Bones wasn’t male but female? Maybe there was a strong female security chief? Dunno.

    I definitely cringed at the underwear scene with Alice Eve. Just seemed so adolescent with no point at all. I liked this explanation though I liked Conan’s take overall (apologies for the 1950’s style forced commercial before):

    For me, the little swap out at the end was…okay. I guess for people who never saw The Wrath of Khan it’s just fine. For me, I sort of felt annoyed. I see your point but personally I guess I’m biased. That moment in the original was very emotional for me as a fan. I loved Spock’s character and couldn’t believe they decided to do that. I figured it’d be just like they did in this version. Bones’d come up with some crazy cure and he’d pull through in the end.

    And I also agree with you about the SF scene. I guess 9/11 has left it’s mark on us where even fictional wanton destruction of so many lives isn’t something you can just throw away. At the same time, I suppose it adds to the power of it. As long as it’s not completely thrown away (see Man of Steel), it can definitely add to the drama of the moment.

    I think, though, it’s definitely time for a new Star Trek series. It’s been long enough and there are enough fans with kids who can teach an entire generation what the next, uh, new, next, um, generation is all about… :)

  31. I enjoyed the ‘I write like’ link in your article.

    Apparently, depending on the chapter of the story I’m writing, I either write like Isaac Asimov. or H.P. Lovecraft. I’ll take either comparison.

    Wil, are you satisfied with the level of ‘science fiction’ in the current genre of Star Trek?

    My partner and I have started to refer to this incarnation/reboot as ‘Star Trek: Pew, Pew Pew!’

    These are essentially action films. I’m not against action films. I like action films. And as action films, I think they are very successful. However, I see something as lost when Star Trek becomes just another action series.

    I miss a really good science fiction story. I don’t see writing as a priority for these films.

    Do you think it’s even possible to produce a well written science fiction story in the Star Trek universe, and still be a successful film?

  32. First off- iPic. Love it. We went through a phase of watching everything at iPic last year, and the place is amazing. BUT the last thing that we saw there was The Hobbit and, though I’m happy to have real food in a theatre, there was someone in there making a ridiculous amount of silverware-on-plate noise, and it was really distracting in a movie that I had been rabidly looking forward to. It seems like the best place to see movies is the Cinerama Dome. One-of-a-kind theatre that attracts a slightly different crowd.

    Second- I avoided all trailers and spoilers for Star Trek, just like any film that I’m REALLY excited for. didn’t go in with any idea of who Cumberbatch’s character was supposed to be, and I thought the reveal was great. Carol Marcus’s underwear scene did seem a bit gratuitous, but I found it to be relevant and funny with the knowledge of their original history.

    I really like Into Darkness. The reboot has been a great boost for audiences who may have no previous knowledge of Star Trek. There were some parts that were a bit iffy, but overall, I think it was amazing.

  33. I had one real problem with Star Trek Into Darkness.

    They are re-doing trek.. They are changing the story, the relationships between the characters, the way things happened. All that has been reset. I’m ok with that. They want us to essentially forget the original ever existed in a way. Base your knowledge on the series from what happened in the first movie and into the 2nd. But the problem is we barely know these characters. 80% of the first film they either didn’t know each other or hated each other. But we are supposed to understand this deep personal connection the crew has by the 2nd movie.. There isn’t enough to put that together in the 2nd movie so you are pulling from memories of the original trek series and characters. Its cheating and it pulls out out of the movie completely as things are changed. It makes intense moments where details are played differently distracting. It makes what could REALLY be heartfelt intense emotional moments almost cheesy and laughable.

    I enjoyed the movie. But I didn’t love it because of that reason. I almost wish there was a movie between this one and the first one. Or a series of shorts or something to better establish how the crew has jelled. How Spock and Kirk grew closer, even how Scotty and Bones were establishing their places on the ship in Engineering and Medical. I wanted MORE.. I thought Sulu and Chekov have been better fleshed out characters from the first one and for that reason I really got to enjoy them in the 2nd.

    Basically I think the movie will actually get better after a 3rd of 4th movie in the series. When you have a better feeling for who the characters are in THAT Star Trek universe

  34. Great flick to be sure, as was Man of Steel. I agree with your review and it makes me wonder what @SirPatStew thinks of the movie. Next time you roll into Vegas, do yourself a favor and check out the Galaxy Luxury+ theater for three reasons: 1. No cell phones or talking 2. Powered leather recliners 3. Beer on tap FTW

  35. I think this would work much better as a TV series because you could have episodes where you focus on and develop the characters like Carol Marcus and Uhura. As long as its movies you are kinda stuck with the Bones/Spock/Kirk as the trilogy.
    And Cumberbatch was a magnificent Khan.

  36. Loved it also! Growing up watching the original series, I loved that I didn’t have to fight to watch the one tv we had when it was on. The whole family watched. Star Trek has never failed to be insightful to the human condition while being entertaining. I avoid both the annoying people AND high ticket prices for movies at the theaters by going to matinee shows a week after a movie opens. Most of the time it’s like a private showing and any other people are mindful of being polite.

  37. I sort of liked the movie, and sort of didn’t. It’s like this: the people of 23rd century earth had an almost perfect understanding of human nature, and THAT’s why war is over, money doesn’t exist, women can wear miniskirts again, etc. You don’t lose those things because Vulcan is blown up by a random huge spiky Romulan ship (damn that sounds familiar). The whole J.J. Abrams ST universe doesn’t work for me, because the real Earth/Federation/Star Fleet does NOT have hidden war mongers in their midst (Star Trek VI be damned!). And also, because Star Trek is NOT about slam bang never let up action either. Ugh. I can just barely watch this movie because they did a pretty good job casting it, they did a a pretty good job designing it, and Benedict Cumberbatch is damn good. But that’s all.

    1. I saw this movie on a sneak peek and was so excited for it that I think I set it up to fail. Plus, I loved the 2009 film so much that my expectations were very high.

      So, guess what? I didn’t care for this movie. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it, either. I thought it was just so-so. The scene in engineering didn’t resonate at all. I just couldn’t get into it. I don’t care enough about these versions of these characters yet to get all worked up about the death. I just didn’t pick up on the establishment of the relationships yet with this crew. I haven’t bought into it yet, I guess. There are other things I could nitpick, but that would truly be nitpicking (yes, the Enterprise underwater is just plain silly), and other things I loved (Cumberbatch, Quinto, and Pine) or loathed (Carol Marcus), but the fact that I just couldn’t get into the end, which seemed like a rerun of Khan and then a too-quick reset button, sums this movie up for me. Enjoyable night out, but I won’t be buying it, unless my need for completion gets the best of me.

      All that said, I’m glad you liked it, Wil. To each their own. *Vulcan salute*

  38. It’s nice to see that someone agreed with me. The Kirk-Spock inversion resonated with me. I found it very moving and well-acted. I have friends who are big fans who absolutely *hated* it, said it took them out of the moment completely. I know there were plenty of plot holes to nitpick, but when the movie was over, my whole family was amazed and couldn’t stop talking about how much we loved it.

    We saw it in 3D. I know it does make people sick, but if you can handle it, I think they used it very well. Even toward the end, I noticed the 3D bgiving a real sense of depth and the vastness of space and the size of the starships. It was perfect for a movie like this.

    Maybe my tolerance is just higher than yours, but I see movies in the AMC in Arcadia quite often, and I’ve never really noticed a big problem with talking and cell-phone use.

  39. In addition to the Kirk/Spock engineering room reflection of their counterparts from TWOK, I liked another subtler aspect:

    In TWOK, Kirk laments his age. He’s afraid of being too old, and perhaps useless. At the end of the film, he’s asked how he feels. With a childlike grin of wonder on his face, he whispers, “young. I feel young.”

    In STID, Kirk is lambasted for being unprepared for command. Too cocky. Too immature. Toward the end, he’s matured, and given command of the Enterprise again.

  40. I agree with just about all of your review points Wil, thanks for the great writeup. I believe that the 2009 reboot was highly anticipated since most of us in the Star Trek fanbase thought the franchise was dead after Nemesis. Sadly there were some really wonderful acting moments in Nemesis that were simply crushed by the rest of the 2002 movie. Brent Spiner’s performance, forever attempting to bridge that uncrossable gap between machine and soul: I know nothing about acting at all, but to transmit this across a movie screen (or HDTV) cannot be easy acting, but he did it so well.

    The original Star Trek was really all about taking chances, which was part of the reason why it only lasted three seasons. TVs first interracial kiss! First TV show to morally discuss the implications of artificial intelligence! Special FX which by 1960’s TV standards were unthinkable! But most importantly, the characters were imperfect and flawed, even Spock, but despite their imperfections they were still able to find their way out of seemingly impossible situations. And that is really (I believe) what Star Trek is at it’s core: Escaping the unescapable. Think about it for a second. The Doomsday Machine: Indestructible! Travels faster than the Enterprises max warp! And Kirk is trapped! On another ship, and it’s freaking derelict! How, O how can the Great Kirk possibly survive this one, let alone save his crew? And yet he does! A nice bonus: The teleplay’s thematic logic actually works. Escaping the unescapable.
    That is really the magic of everything Star Trek. The Tholian Web. The Romulans and their cloaking. Near-infinite gravity wells too proximal to their event horizons. The Arrow Of Time. Monsters who are jonesing for salt something awful. The Borg! How the hell does anyone escape the freaking Borg cube? And yet they do. Always.

    The modern incarnations of Star Trek characters appear to rely more on luck than anything else though. I dont know if that is a good thing or not. We become so lost in the golly-gee-whiz two hundred million dollar CGI that we forget the reasonable probability that Spock was one lucky sunuvabitch to have landed where he did in the volcano. Ignoring of course the obvious and that was it could have been droned in, but that would make for a boring opener so let’s drop a senior officer in a pool of lava! AND ACTION! Certainly a long ways from chroma key, to be sure. So Captain Kirk is now a hacker. How he accomplishes the cheat in the 2009 movie goes completely unaddressed but it makes you wonder how he could be so brilliant at hacking a military simulation cloud computer array and yet he’s too stupid to figure out how to get Uhura’s last name, even when he’s sleeping with her green-skinned alien roomate.

    But Im getting away from the original train here, and that is Escaping The Unescapable. How did Roddenberry’s Kirk do this? He and the crew thought their way out of it, using intellect. Bones, I need analysis of this alien tissue! Scotty, I need more power! Spock, mind-meld with this freaking rock-thing so we can figure out what-in-the-hell is going on here on this mining colony! Intellect and teamwork, and by the time the Desilu logo illuminated the television screen the audience was still digesting what they just saw.

    So, now how do we Escape The Unescapable? Eureka! Red Matter! We don’t really need to think our way out of it any more, screw that, just get some Infinitely Powerful Material That Is Impossible as a story device and they can cook their way out of any jam! Even gravity! Even time itself.
    Don’t get me wrong, I loved the 2009 Star Trek and watched it probably 29 times or more but I have to admit I miss the days when the Crew solved problems as a Team, and with Intellect and not falling back on Infinitely Powerful Materials such as Khan’s SuperBlood or the quantally impossible Red Matter.

  41. Just wanted to say great review. I think this particular cast does one helluva job playing such iconic roles. The film was enjoyable, but something that I still can’t put my finger on bothered me about it. I’ll have to wait until it’s out on video and watch it again to try to figure it out.

  42. First off I have to admit although I watched all series over the years on various occasions, I was never a real Trekkie, and surely not a vivid fan as many here, BUT I really got into your/Wil’s all around work recently. And I not only refer to TBBT, Leverage or Eureka but writings, public D&D sessions (HI-LA-RI-OUS, heck I even listened to the audio-only stuff) and the anecdote-telling stuff one can find a lot of on youtube nowadays (and for some time already).

    So, I am less biased on the K1/K2 or the radiation chamber scene, but I know what I like personally and what I like for my kids to watch.

    The film was, to me, an action movie with a story line that arcs over multiple movies. That carries problems, especially if you want to throw those mentioned “nods” or “bones” out to the hardcore trekkies but still want to make an original movie.

    I liked the extremely good (or lucky?) casting choices (Scotty!!! and even Mr. Spock, even if Sheldon still disagrees :) ). Also I loved the fact that even I caught some of the already mentioned nods to the old ST series and movies.

    It was a fast paced experience, it was an action movie with a message. I do think they even tried to make so Mr. Roddenberry would approve it, but probably failed at times, but not too bad.

    Thanks for your writeup Wil. I have to say I liked it “as usual” :)

  43. In my experience, avoiding the won’t-shut-the-fuck-up and won’t-turn-their-goddamn-phones-off crowds is a lot easier if you go see a movie on Monday afternoon, even if it’s the Monday after opening weekend. I saw Into Darkness the Monday after it came out, at 4:20, and there were about 10 of us in the theater.

    Who says you have to see a movie at 9 PM on a weekend with all the dicks?

  44. So I agree somewhat. I think the themes that you saw in the movie were there, but I felt that where Gene Roddenberry would have put the theme front and center, it became too hidden in this movie. You had to think too much to get at the meat of it. So in that way I felt it was less a Roddenberry Star Trek movie.

    I also wasn’t a huge fan of the role reversal. Spock yelling “Kahn” just didn’t ‘feel’ right to me. Plus, the whole Spock-calling-Spock to get some hints was kinda ‘meh’ in my mind.

    However, I TOTALLY agree on the acting in this film. The characterizations were AMAZING, and I could watch a weekly show of this ensemble without question. The dynamic between Spock and Kirk was played perfectly but with just enough of a fresh take on it to make it even more vibrant. Scotty was brilliant, and Sulu perfect. My only quibble was the constant pithy sayings of Bones, but he delivered them so well I can get past the corn-factor.

    Overall, the timeline reboot has been a hard sell for me since the first re-make, but so far I’m enjoying the films and hope they keep improving and bringing the world to life for a new generation.

    Thanks for your review!

  45. The only major issue I had with the movie is the total mood-kill of Spock’s “KHAAAAAAAN!!!!”. The scene was a good blend of nostalgia and emotion, and then you get “KHAAAAAAAN!!!!”, to which the only appropriate response is uncontrolled laughter.

  46. I am a little surprised Wil does not talk at all about the whitewashing of Khan being played by a british actor instead of an Indian actor. Race has been such an important part of Star Trek and I thought Wil would be more aware and more vocal about the issue.

    1. It is easy to find reasons to like or dislike the movie. On the entertainment side, I enjoyed it, even though the Khan twist felt like a dud and reused the previous story template too much.

      However, I lost interest several times throughout the movie because of either bad laws of physics as we know it today, or either bad use of the Star Trek tech as we were brought to understand it :

      – The Enterprise undocks and goes straight to warp (shouldn’t the warp bubble tear the station apart?).
      – Does it really only take a couple of hours at warp speeds from that era to reach Kronos? That’s what it felt like.
      – They battle and cripple the ship around the Moon, yet the Earth’s gravity well! The EARTH! Shouldn’t they be at least part of the way in between both bodies for that story to be believable?

      Those are the most obvious examples I remember… and the reason I left the theater feeling this movie felt more like a joke or bad scifi than a true Star Trek movie…

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