Originally published on the now defunct Newcastle Free Press website. Link unavailable.
Length: 132 minutes
Writers: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof and Gene Roddenberry
Director: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch
Release date: 9th May 2013
Star Trek: Into Darkness opened last week and has already been a massive success; it made a fantastically large amount of cash on its opening weekend and is looking likely to give Iron Man 3 a run for its money. I confess, I wasn’t too excited to see it, but a friend of mine was so I tagged along. It was… well… This is going to be a difficult film for me to review. It is so very flawed… and yet I really enjoyed it when I was watching it, though probably not in the way that was intended.
First things first: the story. I won’t go into the nitty-gritty here, but basically Starfleet take the Enterprise away from Kirk (Pine), due to his tendency to dick about and ignore the rules, only to immediately give it back when they are attacked by unstoppable badass and Machiavellian super villain John Harrison (Cumberbatch). The Enterprise pursues Harrison into a war zone under strict instructions to shoot a long-range torpedo. Clearly, they picked absolutely the wrong man for the job as – surprise surprise – Kirk does the exact opposite and captures him. There’s a plot twist that I am not going to spoil, the Enterprise gets the shit kicked out of it (as per usual), the day is saved and then they all boldly go where they have never gone before.
There are so many things wrong with the narrative that I simply cannot list them all here. Apart from plot holes that are never addressed – or if they are, it is with a series of deeply unsatisfactory explanations – there are so many things in here that just do not make sense. Many of these happen in the opening section, which sees Kirk and co. attempting to rescue a civilisation from an erupting volcano without letting their presence be known. The whole sequence is so intensely silly that it borders on parody, but it’s all so that J.J. Abrams can show the Enterprise rising out of the sea. Why was it underwater? Because it was, now shut up and laugh at Simon Pegg mugging to the camera.
A drinking game for you. Take a drink every time the teleporter would solve a problem that they are having. Double for every time it doesn’t work. You’ll be unconscious and drooling on the floor by the end credits.
The story is so bland and predictable that you can pretty much guess everything that is going to happen by the end of it. One moment that was intended to be a big deal literally made the audience groan because everyone had already guessed it. At its base the story is essentially a retread of the first one… which I am actually looking back on more favourably now.
Enough of the story; despite the problems with the material, all the actors are on top form in the film. Chris Pine does alright as Kirk, though unfortunately there is no Shatner impression in this one; Quinto is as brilliant as he was last time and actually gets most of the laughs with his deadpan delivery; Cumberbatch is brilliant as a villain and is clearly having a lot of fun and… Simon Pegg. I am a big fan of Simon Pegg, but his role in the first film was basically comic relief. Here, he gets quite a bit more to do and it just doesn’t quite work. Further, by giving Scotty so much screen time the audience spends less time with Cumberbatch’s villain and has less time to form any real judgement or connection with his character.
The real show stealer here, for me, is Karl Urban as Bones. He just is Bones. The mannerisms, the voice, the raised eyebrow: all perfect. He also has by far the funniest line in the film. I won’t tell you what it is, but you’ll know when you hear it.
Also, there are women in this movie. I am not intentionally being sexist, but as a friend of mine pointed out, they exist in this film solely to prove that Spock and Kirk don’t fancy each other. Zoe Saldana as Uhura gets slightly more to do in this film and Alice Eve’s Dr Carol Marcus does some stuff, but they are both basically reduced to plot devices and eye candy. In fact, in the latter case, they show Dr Carol in her underwear. For literally no reason… other than putting it in the trailer. Basically it’s just shameless objectification, and I would have liked to see them both do more in the film because they are good characters.
And yet, despite all these problems, despite the tedious story line, the eye-rolling moments, the endless bloody glory shots of the Enterprise rising out of things to the theme tune… I was really entertained. Not because the action was exciting or the characters were compelling, but basically because I found it really funny. It just manages to unintentionally toe the line between parody and homage; every cliché is straight from either the shows or the earlier films and it honestly made me nostalgic and made me laugh. There is one moment in the film that is the epitome of this… but to explain it would be to spoil it. You’ll know when you see it.
So, despite being a generic, predictable and fundamentally flawed film that makes me worried about the future of both this franchise and another important sci-fi series that has already been through tough times… I actually really enjoyed how bad it was. It is a chronically ‘safe’ film; takes no risks, does nothing new, dazzles you with pretty images (and lens flare, of course) but is of very little substance.
So yeah… now I’m worried about the new Star Wars films.