Movie Review: Star Trek Into Darkness
By Matthew Huntley
May 22, 2013
Editor’s Note: There are significant spoilers in the review below. Proceed with extreme caution if you have not seen the film and have avoided plot points thus far.
I have a feeling Star Trek Into Darkness will garner a lot of impulse clapping and cheering from Trek fans. After all, the movie gives them exactly what they want in terms of the beloved characters and a fast-moving sci-fi narrative. But I also think their enthusiasm will be short-lived. Eventually they’ll realize this sequel, much like its predecessor, functions more as a reminder of why the Gene Roddenberry-created universe is so endearing and less as an original story within that universe. It recalls the characters’ past adventures but doesn’t exactly provide them a new one, which is ironic given the series’ longstanding tagline: “To boldly go where no one has gone before.”
Like most big-budget Hollywood sequels, this one picks up shortly after the events of the first movie, which rebooted the Star Trek franchise by introducing us to the younger versions of the original characters. Even if you’re not a Trekkie, you probably know them by heart: Captain Kirk (Chris Pine); Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto); Uhura (Zoe Saldana); Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban); Scotty (Simon Pegg); Sulu (John Cho); and Chekov (Anton Yelchin). They’re all back and, once again, the screenplay doesn’t bother to develop them beyond what we already know or what the plot requires.
This might have been okay had the plot itself been more interesting, but even it feels like a retread of old material and a safe attempt to get on the audience’s good side. It retools the origins of the cherished villain Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch), who is made stronger and more menacing compared to when Ricardo Montalban played him in the 1960s TV show and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). I can just imagine director J.J. Abrams and the three screenwriters sitting around a table and planning the exact moment they felt the audience would let out a collective “Woo!” when the new Khan reveals his identity. It wouldn’t surprise me if they felt the character’s mere presence was good enough to win the audience over and assumed the rest would just fall into place.
Still, Cumberbatch is a superb choice for Khan. He has a towering presence and a fiery strength (not to mention a cunning wit), which are all the more appropriate considering Khan is a genetically altered superhuman. He tells Kirk about a cover-up by one of the heads of Starfleet, Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller), that involved the exploitation of Khan and his people so they could be used as weaponry against Starfleet’s enemy race, the Klingons. Khan awakens from his cyber sleep and convinces a desperate soldier to blow up a Starfleet command center in London, which is meant to instigate his vengeful plan to get the heads of Starfleet in the same room so he can kill them all in one fell swoop.