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. Great. I really liked this movie. I didn’t have the opportunity to watch the first reboot movie before Into The Darkness – which I did as soon as I got home from the theatre – and I find both great movies. It’s emotional, visual and sound overwhelming.
    ” (…)and served absolutely no purpose other than to make teenage boys feel weird, like when they climb the rope in gym class(…)” – LMAO

  2. Oops. Meant to leave that above comment as a general comment, not a reply to Hugh, though it works there, too, I suppose. But I have PS regardless, so here I am.

    Regarding the infamous undies scene: exactly. I wrote a blog on this very subject after the similar shower scene came out. No, having a deleted scene of Benedict all pretty doesn’t make up for it. Both things only make sense if they further the story. Sigh. Thanks for getting that, Wil.

  3. Yes, thank you! I’ve got a friend that won’t stop nitpicking the movie (which I saw and reblogged your post on Tumblr on, thanks again), which is driving me nuts.

    I loved it, but there are two things that bothered me:

    How did they have a confrontation basically in earth’s orbit without attracting some Federation attention?

    And I echo the same thing everyone else is saying about Doctor Marcus. As a woman, I had no problem with the underwear scene, not because it fits her character, but because it’s so Kirk to look. But man, I wish she had done something other than being a damsel in distress.

    When I first saw the advertisements for Sherlock, I thought, “Benedict Cumberbatch isn’t very Sherlock-y at all.” And then I watched the show and was blown away. Now I can’t imagine anyone else as Sherlock, he played him so perfectly. So when I heard that his character might be Khan, I tried to contain my skepticism. Benedict Cumberbatch surprised me once before, so I reserved judgement to see if he would do it again. And did he! Wow, he can play one heck of a bad guy! If he wasn’t one of my favorite actors before, he is now!

    1. Oops, I forgot to add:

      I’m going to be in LA (and California) for the first time ever this weekend, including going to a friend’s wedding in Pasadena. So we may be stopping in to see a movie at iPic while we’re there.

  4. I have a feeling because of LeVar’s differences in opinion, he may respond appropriately with “Shut Up Wesley!” Although, maybe if he truly reads your post in full, he may change his mind about the film like I just did. Thanks for another great post Wil!

  5. I wish I could agree that this was a great film. I think J.J. Abrams has taken Gene Roddenberry’s vision and twisted it into an action film series. He seems to be trying to make Star Trek into Die Hard in Space. I found it’s references to Wrath of Khan lacking originality.


    When Kirk died at the end, I was glad, and hoped he would stay dead. I was glad because I think this whole reboot was a mistake. There are so many story lines they could explore, like Wesley Crusher exploring other dimensions, Captain Sisko’s life with the wormhole aliens, the aftermath of Voyager, a DS9/Voyager crossover movie, Worf’s next assignment (perhaps in command of a ship), Sulu’s adventures as captain of Excelsior, etc. Instead, they’re retelling a story that was already told, while abandoning Roddenberry’s vision.

    You might ask, “Why, if this guy hates the rebooted Star Trek, did he bother to see this movie?” The answer is that I need a Star Trek fix, so I’m willing to see anything the franchise produces. That’s also why I watched Enterprise.

    Paramount, please give us another Star Trek series. The movie franchise can wait for fresh ideas.

  6. One other issue with the film … and this is from someone who ADORES Benedict Cumberbatch, and I think his performance was stunning … is that Khan was supposed to be a Sikh. You would be hard pressed to find a whiter dude than Cumberbatch. So there’s some whitewashing going on hand in hand with a deficit in strong female characters … I don’t feel like that’s what Star Trek is about. That being said, I still thoroughly enjoyed the film and will add it to my collection.

  7. There were a few minor nits in this movie from my perspective. But the biggest failure? Cumberbatch. Don’t get me wrong — his acting was brilliant, his lines and nuances, spot on. But it’s the casting itself I object to. Where Abrams/Lindelof could have righted the wrong of having a (admittedly brilliant) Latino actor playing a North Indian Sikh, they went the opposite direction and got the most Ango-Saxon fellow money could buy. People are putting up the hugest of stinks over Tonto in the new Lone Ranger, but how does Khan Singh get a pass?

    Oh, I guess I could mention that OMG Starfleet/Earth security just dang well sucks on all levels.

  8. great review and it sounds like you found a great theater to see movies in.

    on a different note – you posted when Sandman Slim was on sale for 1.99. The third book – Aloha from Hell – is now on sale for the same price, $1.99 on Amazon. was wondering if you wanted to post that on G+ and other places like you did originally… you’ll reach more people than many of us on our own.

  9. I agree on almost every point, except the comments on the women in this movie.

    So, as a woman, I didn’t notice that the movie didn’t equally involve women. But then, the story wasn’t about the women to me. It was about Kirk and Spock (oh and that whole moral of the story thing, not to be flippant about it, but that’s already been covered pretty thoroughly). For me, a story can be enhanced with characters that are outside the central story, but if they intrude too much, they take away from the story. I saw the women’s roles in this movie as enhancements. I expect that Dr. Marcus will become central to another movie and will expect her to be on screen much more, but really her role in this movie was to set up her presence in this Star Trek universe.

    I also expect that the original film probably had a lot more of Uhura, but that a lot of that found its way to the cutting room floor because it didn’t really fit the central story and a movie that’s too long can kill its entertainment value.

    Finally, the underwear scene… Yep, it was gratuitous. So what? So were many of the half-naked women scenes in the original Star Trek. Kirk is known as a womanizing horn dog. At least in this case, she insisted that horn dog Kirk turn away. In fact, there are a couple of (important?) character values revealed for Dr. Marcus in that scene. The first is that she isn’t limited by the restrictions often placed on women–she can get naked in the presence of a man and not expect to be ogled or attacked. Second, she insists that Kirk respect her privacy and wishes, and she gets it.

    Oh, and also, as much as I would love to see this crew on a television series, I also believe that such a series would fail miserably. Why? Because the writing needs to be completely different for a TV series than a movie. Unlike the other movies, this crew was a movie crew first, and in my opinion, their development in the movies would overshadow a TV show, where people would expect the story to remain fast paced. Also, who would write it? Based on what I’ve seen, it’s pretty hit or miss with this group. From what I can see, a show based on this crew, if handled by these writers and director, would look like Lost. Enjoyable? Probably. Good Star Trek? Probably not.

  10. The other bit of modern social commentary I totally missed when I viewed and a friend pointed out to me was the whole “drone strikes to kill someone in a 3rd party territory”. Very relevant today, and I think it’s good that Kirk decided to go down and capture Khan instead of nuking him from orbit.

    I liked the whole klingon scene up until the end. I was – that’s it? They destroy a couple of Klingon ships, defeat their whole ground assault force, and nothing? A year later Starfleet has a memorial, but no response from the Klingons? It would have been better to make the memorial a few weeks after the event, with the rebuilding in the background, and then show a scene on Qo’nos with some Klingon warriors being berated/beaten/killed for losing, and really pissed off High Council declaring war. That would have made an awesome lead-in to a third movie about a FvK war.

  11. After seeing the movie I pre-ordered the 3D blu-ray on Amazon – I liked it that much.

    It was also cool to get on Netflix and watch “Space Seed” and “Wrath of Kahn” right after that. You can appreciate how much Star Trek has matured over time.

  12. Although I agree with you about theaters today, actually I watch movies at home because I don’t have to dress (up) and I can pause the movie when I need to release beer. I may be wrong, but I don’t think any commercial theaters are going to address these problems any time soon.

    I have not seen Into Darkness yet, but I read your whole review in spite of the warning. I think you really whet my appetite even more by revealing as much as you did. I am an old die-hard science fiction addict ever since I found Have Space Suit – Will Travel in the kids section at the library (uh, it was pretty new at the time) and I think a good plot and some social commentary are integral to what make SF what it is. Just as important though is a wild imagination, so for those who can’t summon sufficient “willing suspension of disbelief” the whole genre may not be as enjoyable. I would advise anyone to just think of the odd plot twists and things that don’t quite fit as Easter Eggs.

    One other thing… Please do not compare people who behave badly at the theater to Juggalos. If you don’t have any respect for what is going on around you, then you don’t belong at a gathering of Juggalos either!

  13. I like your mentioning of TNG episodes that had that moral punch but I would also include “Chain of Command” in that mix. It demonstrated, to me at least, what the real reason for torture is and the effects it has on its victims.

  14. Wow. Now I know why Sheldon hates you so much.

    Seriously, though, while I enjoyed the film, it seems to me to be more a connection of action sequences than a well thought out story, which is my typical complaint about Abrams movies. The actors are all fine in their roles, but I don’t get the gushing over Bendedict Cumberbatch’s performance. Gone are all of the charismatic nuances of Khan…now he’s just a really bad dude. Sorry Will, but I’ll stick with the more colorful and complex interpretation that Ricardo Montalban gave us, twice.

    And enough with the overuse of homages to The Original Series (and movies). Non-Trek fans won’t get them, and as a Trek fan, I mostly found myself rolling my eyes. But I can see the writers sitting back and thinking that they’re being really clever when they write a line about Dr. McCoy delivering a litter of Gorns.

    Overall, a fun movie, and I do appreciate that at the very end, Abrams left the story with a clean slate: a little more mature and wiser Kirk and company setting out on their 5 year mission. It allows the next director to take it whereever they want. Hopefully with a new, original story this time.

    7 out of 10

  15. I am happy to say that most theaters I have experienced in Iowa are full of respectful people and usually don’t have problems with noise and phones. Thanks for pointing that out. Makes me greatful as very avid movie goer.

  16. I saw Star Trek Into Darkness on a Monday evening. Had the theatre almost to myself. Very enjoyable. Will have to see it again to savor all the nuances. There should have been more than one tribble. Live long and prosper. \\ // _

  17. Sigh. I so didn’t want to disagree with you, Will.

    I’ve been watching Trek for 40 years. The original series was admittedly hit and miss. But when it was good, damn, was it good. TOS was the best thing on at a time when SF meant Lost in Space and Land of the Giants (which I actually loved.) It was as brave and deep as mid-60’s television could get.

    What I really wanted now was a Star Trek film as brave and deep as possible in the year 2013, not 1966. Yes, there was the trendy anti-militaristic theme, which was relevant and not preachy. But we also got a movie that was mostly dismissive of women, used serious issues as plot devices and wasted screen-time on irrelevant dialogue (Spock/Uhura) instead of better servicing other characters. I was mostly disappointed.

    Yes, there’s a lot of really good stuff in the film, including one of the best casts in any Trek incarnation, but overall it could have been better without sacrificing the Star Trek ethos or the action. One thing doesn’t affect the other. Everyone, including you, seems willing to acknowledge the faults of the film (underwater starship, anyone), but ignoring them altogether is like saying I shouldn’t worry that my car won’t start because it has a great stereo and thickly-cushioned soft Corinthian leather seats. Yes, that was deliberate. Ok, I’m being glib, but you get what I’m saying.

    I think, when we get right down to it, the difference of opinion – and this movie is shaping up to be the most divisive in Trek – is pretty simple: one group sees a well-made action film with post-modern sensibilities proudly wearing the Star Trek banner, whose faults are more than outweighed by its merits; versus, those who see the Star Trek brand exploited for the sake of a generic Summer blockbuster, thrown together from previous films (ST II & VI) and other recent action films, with a fashionable post-modernist anti-militarism (Read: anti-American foreign policy) theme popular with the international market.

    I guess I’m in the second group. Glad you enjoyed it though. That IS something I will consider when I watch it again :)

  18. You nailed many of my thoughts. I agree that Uhura had a much stronger role in this movie than she had through much of TOS. She didn’t really come into her bad-assedness in my mind until the movies.

    On a technical and more Star Trek nerd-fan note: I LOVE the new uniforms and the subtle touches. BUT — and here’s where we see that the female characters haven’t come as far as we’d hoped — why no rank insignia on the women’s uniforms? I know they didn’t have them in TOS, but if we can change the opening monologue from “no MAN” to “no ONE”, can’t we fix that?

    I liked this one WAY more than the first one — I truly like the crew, and did from the start, but the first one had so many gaping holes in just basic common sense and established ST canon that I couldn’t get fully behind it. (Who with any sense at all would give ANY third-year student at Starfleet Academy, even the legendary James T. Kirk, command of anything larger than a fucking shuttlecraft?) Yes, I get that it’s a totally different timeline, but come on. I felt that Into Darkness went a long way toward reconciling the new timeline with the old one, and I am honestly looking forward to the re-imagning of some of the older stories.

  19. I’ve seen footage of American screenings and it does look scary. Like a bunch of yahoos.

    But we have a solution to noisy theatre patrons here in Britain. It’s called British reserve.

    Always amazed when I hear that parts of a film had the audience cheering or applauding or booing. That would never happen here (or at least, I’ve never experienced it). You will get laughter for comedies though, but that’s a reflex action so we can’t help it.

    Also never know a cinema audience to clap at the end of a film. It’s a film. There’s no need to be polite. A live performance however will *always* get a round of applause, not matter how terrible. To do otherwise would be considered rude!



    PS I like Into Darkness a lot more than I did the first reboot film. It didn’t have the atonal slapstick humour that kept knocking me out of the drama.

  20. For me, it almost felt like two separate movies; the beginning (which I liked) and then the end, a re-hash of WoK.

    I get what you say about the Enterprise underwater but it gave us another great shot of her rising out of something so kudos to that!

  21. I just saw the movie last weekend with my son for his birthday and honestly thought it was great. It’s only the 2nd ST movie I’ve ever seen (the one with the whales being the first – see? that’s how much I’m NOT a Trekkie) but now I want to see them all.

  22. Honestly while I was watching this, I felt exhausted by the action. I really miss the interpersonal relationships with not only the crew, but the ship itself. I never felt bad for Kirk losing the Enterprise because he never had to personally clean borg off the deflector dish. For me, more than the story, the people on board have always been the biggest reasons I watch, and care what happens. If this is what needs to be done to keep Trek alive and evolving, I’m in. That said, I wouldn’t mind a new director for the 3rd and (final?) film. JJ did a great job so far, but the bar for action has been set so high, what in Praxis is the next one going to look like, Firefly meets Crank 2? We need a director that can bring some elegance and maturity to the last film. Risky you say? Risk is part of the game if you want to sit in that chair.

  23. Levar Burton said the movie is lacking Gene’s spark. For sure the man is gone, but I disagree on this for one big reason. They went to great lengths to cover the fact that Starfleet was NOT about war. It was NOT a military organization but about exploration. I think this is a point Gene himself would have been very proud of and something he held to heart.

    It’s funny, for me the Enterprise going underwater and even really hovering in the atmosphere was my biggest problem with the film.

  24. This is the first movie that I would see in theatre more than once. and I pre-ordered it the instant I got home. Cumberbatch was brilliant, I wasn’t surprised, I know he is, but I was still surprised how he NAILED it. Just nailed the crap out of it.

    I’m really glad you have an iPic, we have one here, as well as an Alamo Drafthouse and I will never watch a movie in a standard movie theater again. ever. it is worth the expense to have the right movie watching experience and as a result we have seen more movies in the last year than we saw in the 10 before that.

  25. I agree wholeheartedly with your review. I didn’t have any problems with how Uhura (one of my favorite reboot Star Trek characters) was written or the relationship moments between her and Spock, I only wish that they found more for her to do. The Klingon part was pretty badass though. I really, really wish they’d done more with Carol Marcus, but hopefully she’ll be involved in the next film. The scene with her in her underwear was completely unnecessary and had me shaking my head.

  26. I completely agree. Loved it. Benedict Cumberbatch is the man, and my only complaint is that I wish there was even more of him in it. I really felt like Into Darkness was trying to honor TWOK, not rip it off, and it definitely worked for me.

  27. Great review – I didn’t think the Wrath of Kahn redux worked as well as you did – I thought they should have come up with something totally new. These are new adventures after all. When I watched Into Darkness the first time I left feeling let down and disappointed because of that. I mean we know Kirk wasn’t really going to die, so it was a little pointless. Also, I don’t think their relationship was quite at that level yet, they are still building.

    That being said, a little while later I started thinking about all the things I did like about Into Darkness – basically everything you said in your review – so I went to see it again.

    Knowing what was coming made me enjoy it more. I still don’t love the final act, but I do like the movie. I thought the story was good. The cast is awesome – I think Karl Urban is great as Bones. I’m a huge fan of Simon Pegg and I think Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto do a good job as well.

    One thing that bothers me about the beginning – isn’t preventing the natural extinction of a species a violation of the prime directive? Why would Spock be so worried about the ship when he already violating the directive?

    1. Technically, they aren’t ‘naturalists’ who are just there to observe, and often don’t interfere because that corrupts the data of the study. The Prime Directive is about not interfering with the natural development of a culture (rather than a species) until they reach warp capability mostly because, I saw it, as experience showed that just usually turned out wrong, and so they weren’t all ‘imperialistically’ imposing THEIR culture on other societies and decreasing the diversity of cultures in the universe. So, the issue wasn’t interfering with the extinction, as that isn’t counterindicated (they have saved other species in the series before), as it was about being revealed doing so.

      1. Okay – but they have no idea what saving that species will lead to. They could be preventing some other species from developing. There’s just no way to know. I don’t remember any specific cases where they saved an intelligent species from extinction, but since I just recently watched Enterprise season one for the first time – I can say they dealt with it there. They decided they couldn’t interfere – they even said something like “perhaps one day there will be a directive that will answer situations like this.”

        I would have thought what they were doing was interference. Pike did say something about them violating a whole bunch of regulations, so I’m surprised Spock went along with any of it.

        1. From my experience, I always felt like they did their best to not play God. However, there was always that common thread of trying to save a species or world from destruction resulting from a “natural” threat (or maybe it should be a “cosmic” threat). Having a world’s population wiped out by a volcano would have meant the loss of an entire sentient species before it had a chance to evolve into a space-faring race. But if there were two competing species that were fighting each other, you rarely if even see Starfleet taking sides there. It’s only when the world’s civilization’s evolved to a point where they’re space-faring and are aware of the Federation that they’ll find themselves getting involved in disputes and the like.

          Of course, in the end, it really just was a plot complication (who remembers the Star Trek parody show? Plot complication!) to further the story. :)

  28. If you ever end up in Sweden make sure to try the movie theatre “Filmpalatset” in the town Bromölla. Its widely known as the best movie theatre in Sweden and nothhing I ever been to in the states beats it. Swedes travel from across the country to watch movies there. You won’t be dissappointed!

  29. Nice review. The only thing that concerns me with the “parallel storylines” is a worry that the next film’s plot will revolve around Spock going out to get take-out pizza for the crew and getting lost, so then they have to, er, search for him…

    Anyway, our whole family enjoyed it, including our girls, who have had limited exposure to Star Trek (yes, I know, shame on me). Though it was partially remedied. After seeing it we knew they should have some “background material” so we watched “Space Seed,” then Wrath of Khan. Then of course they had to watch ST III, then we watched ST IV…now they are asking to watch more of the original TOS episodes…

  30. I didn’t hate the movie because it’s just a movie and the purpose of a movie is to make money and appeal to a large audience. So it worked. I would like to offer my view on the Uhura outrage though because I do think that her character, and the treatment of women, was made MORE offensive because the vehicle used to deliver it is STAR TREK. The final frontier. Ground-breaking, beautiful,slightly ahead of it’s time, utopian, this is our vision of what we want the future to be, what we want to strive for – STAR TREK.

    I grew up worshiping Uhura because as a little brown girl growing up, there were not that many strong role models in Western media for me to have looked up to. I was Uhura for many Halloweens because I respected her and I wanted to be her. To see her go from an admirable, respectable woman to someone I would be ashamed to be friends with was hurtful.

    As the only woman in the movie who really does anything – she stood in her underwear last time around – now it’s her turn to do “real” things. Like perpetuate the myth that women are bossy, should be tolerated to screw up because they’re overly emotional and can’t handle real life situations without turning into a blubbering mess and you give them what they want because you just don’t want to argue with them. To this day, there is a conversation about women on the front lines of combat. The only actual female character in Star Trek deciding that right before combat is when she’d like to talk about her relationship really does a disservice to professional women. If this were the Fast and the Furious, fine, make your women look like idiots. But this is Star Trek and Star Trek gave us the original Uhura who did her job well, flirted in the mess hall but not on the bridge, and didn’t expect to be treated differently because of anything – race, gender, sleeping with a bridge officer – just on her own merits.

    “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. ”

    That is the worst part about this. That people walked away from that thinking that they’re being tolerant of women’s feelings because, awww the poor darlings, I’m not a woman so sure that’s ok that they really act and feel that way, sure that’s ok because they’re women and it’s a high stress situation so poor darling, needs to get some feelings off her chest. “It didn’t bother me.” You’re not a woman, so it shouldn’t bother you if they use the only female character to make offensive and stereotypical commentary and jokes about professional women? Awesome. What if it were a Chinese character that they were doing that to? Still not ok to be offended because you’re not Chinese? When Chinese people tell you it’s offensive and you’re like wellllllll I can’t really speak to that………cuz I’m not Chinese………You know its wrong. Or at least I really, really hope that you know.

    I hope that every single person who has seen this movie works with at least one woman who would never text about her personal life at an important meeting, would not take long lunches and skimp on work because of a break-up, would never make your life more difficult or jeopardize work or work projects because she is dating a colleague. I hope that women represent other women in a strong capacity and not in a way that continues to allow people to look down on us as being emotional, irrational and a distraction. I hope that when I make a suggestion, that people are taking me seriously and not muttering that they might as well let me try as there’s no use arguing with me because I’m a woman. Is it unreasonable to hope for those things? Is it unreasonable to think that in a vision of a perfect future, that professional women are represented and represented well? I didn’t think so. But here we are, watching our vision of the future, 40+ years after the original vision, and this is what we see? Its hard to watch.

    Sorry for the long post, touchy subject. Its expected in movies, but I was very hurt to see a modern Star Trek treat such a revolutionary character – for women and women of color in such a manner. And to see people defend that as the way women act, or should act is or that its reasonable to act in that manner is appalling to me. It shows me how far women still have to go before we’re taken seriously as professionals. As a young professional, it’s a tough truth.

  31. hate going to movie theaters too, but i had to see Star Trek – Tuesday afternoon was almost totally awesome, because it was almost empty. And I loved the movie very much, even that underwear scene, it was random and very much a matter of fact, it kind of worked with the whole movie, but what bothered me and what i could not quite understand why Spock did not open/break that darn door when Kirk was dying, if it was radiation, couldn’t they just decontaminate, or something, it after…Love the movie and love the cast, it must be very awesome to be part of it.

  32. Wil, sorry dude, I couldn’t disagree more. I think it is very telling about where mainstream movies are these days that this movie is so popular. I’m a Trekkie from way back, and I thought the “homage” to Wrath of Khan was ridiculous. Between being offended by the rampant sexism and racism, the amateurish writing, the constant (and outlandish) action sequences, and those silly light-flares, I left the theater quite disappointed. I was not surprised, however. I was expecting crap.
    With all that said, I still love you man!

  33. Thanks for your thoughtful review, Wil. Nice to have someone from inside the Trek family comment on the “Needs more Gene-bell” remarks coming from so many quarters. Like you, I thought this film did tackle some present day social issues in a Roddenberryesque fashion. What’s clearly missing from the old Trek vibe (both TOS and TNG) is actually the thing that is THERE way too much.

    Earth. There is just way too much friggin’ Earth in both JJ Abrams films. OK, the first one is understandable, what with the crew meeting at the academy for the first time and all, but here we are back again in “Into Darkness”! Hell, I live on Earth! It’s not “Earth Trek”! I want remote planets! I want derelict spaceships, dammit! I want space stations teeming with Tribbles and Harry Mudd! Is that too much to ask?

    Fortunately they’ve clearly set up the next film as the start of the 5 year mission. I just hope the first scene of that movie is about 100 light years from Earth and that’s the closest we get. :-)

  34. Pretty spot on review, Wil. I agree with it, and thought I’d share a few of my own thoughts. This comment might be kind of spoilery, so, read at your own risk. Fair warning.

    I think this was a pretty good flick, though not without its flaws. The biggest problem I had with it was the inclusion of Nimoy as OG Spock. If this crew is going to be its own crew, they need to figure things out for themselves. Having him around was necessary in the previous installment, but now that we’re in the new universe let’s let our heroes figure it out for themselves without texting Spock on New Vulcan or whatever.

    The underwear scene WAS pretty gratuitous, in retrospect. I get that these two had a kid in the previous continuity, but there’s plenty of more subtle ways to create sexual tension between them. There’s a fine line between a flirtatious beat and a striptease. At least the green chick in the last movie was making out with Jim, so there’s a reason nobody’s wearing pants. As far as this scene is concerned though, in the immortal words of Frau Blücher, “I suggest you put on a tie!”

    Is there some reason Admiral Marcus is American (presumably) and his daughter has that accent?

    The “super blood” deus ex machina was REALLY predictable. Kinda made Kirk’s “death” scene hard to swallow, even if it was a nice reversal of the roles from Star Trek II.

    For those who felt this flick–and maybe even the last one–wasn’t true enough to Star Trek due to its “less philosophy/science, more yippee-ki-yay, mother fucker” approach, I’d take some comfort in the fact that this latest installment ended with Kirk and crew finally blasting off on their five year mission, which could make for some very interesting confrontations, and opens up a world of possibilities for our heroes. I hope the Powers That Be take full advantage of this opportunity, and give us a fresh, exciting, new adventure in their next movie. I’m sure fans are hoping for the same.

    1. I loved the movie… and will comment further down, but I am with you. I leaned over and asked my husband if Spock was going to show up in EVERY movie saying “Well, I said I wouldn’t tell you anything about your timeline, but…. just this once…”…

      1. Yeah, I’m definitely hoping this isn’t going to be a trend. Having him around for the first one was fine, nothing wrong with a little nostalgia, but if we’re gonna take this crew seriously, they have to be able to bail themselves out of tough spots without having old Spock on speed dial.

  35. Benedict is such an amazing actor! First time I ever saw him was with the newest BBC adaptation of Sherlock Holmes and it’s EXACTLY how I envisioned Sherlock. A cocky, self righteous, sociopath, which some how you fall in love with.

    By far the best Sherlock ever! And hence I was very curious to see what he did to Kahn and my goodness, he took the part and added a whole layer of deceit and psychotic complexity to it. The tears for his fellowmen and yet a means to manipulate Kirk was impressive. You saw that he felt alone and missed his crew yet you also saw in a subtle way that these tears were a means to manipulate the Enterprise crew.

    I think Benedict launched himself on the the A-list of many-a-director with this performance. Which is sad for us Europeans because that’s another proper European actor stolen away by the deep pockets of Dullywood producers.

  36. Wil,
    Thanks for the review. I was wondering though why you (and so many other people) thought Carol Marcus was such a damsel in distress? I believe quite the opposite for several reasons:

    She is leading a one-person investigation of what the head of Starfleet is doing because she knows something hinky is going on. Her reason for doing this is never shown as an upset daughter getting back at her father, but someone that is genuinely worried that something is wrong.

    She is able to fabricate false orders to gain access to a starship so she can continue her investigation. I’m sure that was no easy feat.

    She saves Bones’ ass when they are trying to open a torpedo. Implied in that one is that she volunteered to help disassemble a torpedo. Granted all she did was rip out some wires, but she didn’t say, “Hell yeah beam me up!” when the torpedo started counting down like I would have.

    She is able to bend Kirk to her point of view; her talking to her father is the only thing that could save lives.

    Big deal that at the end of the movie she needs to be rescued. Rescuing someone is a great plot device. You know who had to be rescued in the last movie? Captain Christopher “I’m a badass and no amount of torture will make me give up secrets of the Federation’ Pike. Just because you need to be rescued doesn’t make you a damsel in distress, it makes you human. On top of that, when the rescue was underway she didn’t hide in a corner, she elbowed some guy in the face.

    I actually felt like she had much more to do than the original Doctor Marcus.

  37. I had very mixed feelings after seeing Into Darkness, I might watch it once or twice again but in terms of re-watchability, I don’t think it will stand up to the classics (II/III/IV/VI). As an action movie where you turn your brain off before the lights go down, it works. But expect a lot more from a Star Trek movie.

    It struck me as if the writers are either very well versed in the Trek universe and chose to sacrifice some things that you would expect to be there for the sake of making a Big Time Action Movie, or are only superficially versed in the Trek universe and it shows.

    Twenty-years-ago-me (the me that used to care a lot of Star Trek) would probably agree with this review, that “Star Trek into Darkness Effectively Destroys Star Trek”:

  38. I agree with a lot of your review.

    My family tends to watch a lot of movies at home, because of the lack of annoying people and massive reduction in cost. The fact that you can buy a movie on Blu-Ray for less than 4 people can go to see it in a theater is hard to get around. We also live close to a drive-in theater ( which is a fantastic (and affordable) way to see first run movies with the family.

    However, for a big effects blockbuster like Into Darkness, we went to a theater with an IMAX screen. And honestly, the film is visually so loud and the sound was cranked up so high – I’m not sure I would have noticed if anyone was talking or doing anything else in the theater during the film.

    I like both Montalban’s and Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Khan, but for different reasons. Montalban has the history of both series & movie with the character. Cumberbatch has the force of personality he’s put into the portrayal.

    I really like your reflection on Gene Roddernberry’s ideals and how they apply to our current time. I hadn’t thought about the Cold War updated to post 9-11 in quite that way before.

    I reviewed Into Darkness on June 9th.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the movie!

  39. I just watched a video tour of that theater, it literally has me speechless!!! My mind has been blown just from the video of that magical piece of heaven, if they had one in Pittsburgh I’d move in and turn it into my dream home!!!!

  40. I think I would have been fine with this film if it was just a generic sf action film, but it completely failed me as a Star Trek film. The entire screening, while my forebrain was enjoying the action, my backbrain was going “yeah but why did they do THAT? That was super-dumb and made no sense.” This fellow over at AICN nailed my feelings about the film perfectly: Including the question I thought I was the only one that asked, namely “If they accidentally got knocked out of warp between the Earth and moon, when the fuck were they PLANNING to leave warp?”

    All in all, too much lazy writing for me to really enjoy.

  41. My only real issue with the movie was the whole Kirk Spock reversal with the Kirk dying from the radiation. I just found it hard to believe that they were such great friends. They didn’t seem that close early on. With the movie, I kind of felt it was easier to believe because it had the whole TV series to build on and it was much harder here.

  42. We’ve been in love with iPic since they opened one nearby in Redmond, WA. We don’t get out to the theater much, but when we do, it’s always iPic (unless there’s a D-Box of the movie, like the Hobbit).

    Spot-on with the review, btw. (:

  43. I agree wholeheartedly with your review Wil. I do have to say though..


    I managed to avoid reading about the villain being Khan (not deliberately, just circumstantially). I so wish I could unlearn that the villain was Khan so I could re-watch it over and over… nerdgasm right there… *grins*

    Its a damn shame that JJ couldn’t work things out between Paramount and CBS around the TV rights, the end of that movie set up the crew for a TV series PERFECTLY, and I think would have been a perfect reboot of the TV series.

  44. My main problem with this movie is the same problem I had with the first. Uhura and Spock being in love. I find it strange and too much of a change from the original. I’m really not a fan of the new Spock (although Zachary Quinto is doing an amazing job)

    I also agree with Justin above this post, the Kirk/Spock friendship is not believable.

  45. First of all, thank you for saying something about the lack of females in this movie. I mean, we know that the bridge crew only has (classically) one female officer, but bringing in Marcus like that was an opportunity to show a strong, opinionated, capable, resonant, key character. Instead… it felt like we were just handed a Mary Sue and told to love her. Both the actress and the fans deserve better.

    And… WHERE IS NURSE CHAPEL??? *fumes* I’m sorry, but their callous dismissal of Chapel as a character with Marcus’s line just burned me. It wasn’t necessary to do that.

    Also, if we really wanted to bring in female characters and give them a larger role in a modern context, we could have done much more with Yeoman Rand. And even the suggestion of women in leadership was severely lacking. During that summit with the captains and first officers of the ships in the sector? How many women did you see around that table?


    The acting was brilliant. 100% agree with you there. I love this crew so much. The actors powerful in their roles, even though their characters are young. (Also… speaking of young characters… Wesley and Chekov go head-to-head in a competition to out-wit each other in engineering. Who wins?) And as for Cumberbatch playing Khan… his performance was brilliant, but I still have a hard time seeing a white guy play a character who was supposed to be from the Indian sub-continent. I know, it’s not the main thing, but it bothered me.

    I disagree about the pacing. I didn’t like it. A movie needs texture in its pacing. High-speed, fast-paced action sequences need to be interspersed with enough contrasting pacing to make them stand out. I watched a live performance of the Phantom of the Opera once, and I was struck not by the singing or dancing or acting, but by the fact that the cast NEVER STOPPED MOVING, and it was distracting. It was too much. And the same applies to STID. There are a few slower moments, but not enough to balance the movie. This is a movie, not a video game. There were several VERY powerful moments that needed to be drawn out more, given time to develop, and savored for all they’re worth.

    Kirk’s reaction to Pike’s death? Good god, man, Chris Pine’s acting was incredible there. Absolutely perfect… but we cut away too soon. We see Kirk’s brief moment of grief, but we don’t see the repercussions. We don’t see how deeply this REALLY impacts him. We don’t SEE that the loss of Kirk’s mentor and father figure drives him into a furious lust for revenge that causes him to toss aside his common sense and ethics. We know he’s pissed, but we don’t get the full impact of a very key part of the story.

    On the coattails of that bit, the scene were Bones tries to confront Jim after the attack on the leadership meeting was cut short. Bones is Kirk’s conscience, doctor, and friend. That’s his role in classic Trek, and we’re craving that now. A few more moments between Bones and Kirk would have served to develop that, where Bones confronts Jim NOT just about having been in a firefight, but also about the amount of stress he’s under, and the fact that he must be seriously grieving, and possibly not thinking straight. That would have been huge, and it would have been RIGHT. We see a hint of when Kirk says, “I’m fine,” and Bones says, “The hell you are.” But that needed to play out. Kirk’s vitals are off? WHY are they off? That would explain just how much stress he’s bottling at that moment. It’s key to the character in this story.

    Needed more crew reaction to Jim’s death. Needed more TIME with Kirk’s death. We never FELT the death. After that glorious, incredibly-acted death scene, we get barely 20 seconds being aware that Jim is dead before Bones sees the purring tribble and the whole thing becomes a race to get Khan. The death of James T. Kirk needs to have IMPACT. The audience needs to FEEL it. We didn’t get that. Needed to spend just a few more SECONDS with Bones reacting to Jim’s death. Even a few more seconds. That needed to sink in. He and Jim were (apparently) best friends at the Academy. We needed to SEE and FEEL that this man just lost his best friend.

    And we needed a bit more time after Kirk wakes up. That scene was so rushed, it felt like someone had laid a beautiful feast in front of you, allowed you to get two bites, and then grabbed the whole thing away before you could get your fill.

    – Not enough Bones. (Never enough Bones.)
    – Why did they have Quinto scream “KHAAAAAN!”??? That completely threw me out of what I swear was the best-acted death scene I’ve ever watched in any form of media, ever. I facepalmed in the theater, groaned, and tried not to cry at having the most heart-wrenching scene destroyed by a classic line that has become a joke over the past few decades.
    – Injecting platelets into the tribble? Why not whole blood? Or blood plasma? As a biologist, injecting a platelet fraction made NO sense, even as an experiment. Serum, white cells, stem cells… those would make more sense. [/bio-nerd]
    – I still don’t know why it had to be Khan at all. Why couldn’t they have created a new villain in this new storyline?
    – Why was Carol Marcus a weapons specialist? Why call her Carol Marcus at all? She had nothing in common with the original.

    That being said, yes, I loved it, even when I hated certain things. Which, of course, is why I spent three years after the 2009 Star Trek movie writing an epic set of Academy ‘verse novels to fill the three year gap and explain a whole bunch of things that made no sense where the movie left them. It turned into some great adventure, and now, I’ve got a massive plot for a post-Into-Darkness novel, and I’m four chapters in. Canon error? Apply fanfiction. Dear JJ Abrams: im in ur fandom, changin’ ur fanz’ head-canon.

    But I liked it enough to have seen it four times in theaters already (even with my tight schedule), and I plan to see it again. Besides, I need to have it memorized if I’m going to write decent-quality fanfic. (If you’re going to do something, you should do it well… even fanfic. ESPECIALLY fanfic, as far as I’m concerned.)

    Anyway, I’m glad you got to see this in the theaters. It was a gorgeous film, even with its faults, and I know it will end up on my shelves alongside the rest of my Star Trek collection.

    On a completely different note… BEER. Have you ever had Harviestoun OLA DUBH? Ale aged in Highland Park scotch barrels. It’s amazing. If you ever find it, TRY IT.

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