Movie Review: Star Trek Into Darkness
By Matthew Huntley
May 22, 2013
But Khan wasn’t betting on the plucky and quick-thinking Kirk to thwart his diabolical scheme. After Kirk’s mentor and surrogate father figure, Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood), gets caught in the crossfire, the mission to capture and kill Khan becomes all the more personal for Kirk and he’s tested to act within the confines of fair and balanced judgment (he’s no doubt influenced by his fellow crewmen, especially the ever-logical Spock). After Kirk beams himself to Kronos, the dark and dangerous home planet of the Klingons, it’s up to Kirk and the Enterprise gang to retrieve him, as well as unspool Marcus’ devious intentions.
Those already familiar with the original TV show or The Wrath of Khan will know the events of Into Darkness are meant to give the former supplemental backstory. And while Abrams and his filmmaking team are able to make “Darkness” fun and energetic, my overall feeling is that it’s more reiterative than fresh. It prompted me to ask a few questions, beginning with what’s the point? I mean, why re-introduce, re-inform and re-establish characters and plots that already exist? What do these updated Star Trek movies really bring to the table that wasn’t there before, in one form or another, or that the audience couldn’t have surmised on their own? Why not introduce a completely new villain into the mix, one that tests the pre-existing characters in ways we haven’t seen before? Why can’t these latest adventures be thought of as complete, separate entities, instead of as prequels to the films that take place in the relative future?
It just seemed like the whole point of a Star Trek reboot was to, in fact, revitalize the franchise, but I get the feeling Abrams and the studio are more keen on playing things safe and simply renovating old material instead of building something from scratch. Perhaps they were too worried about upsetting die-hard fans.
On the other hand, as mindless summer fun, Star Trek Into Darkness is solid entertainment. Abrams is a master of pacing and always keeps the story moving and coherent, even if the story itself is trite. We’re never bored and although the territory it speeds across feels overly familiar, the film’s momentum, special effects and ardent cast keep us engaged in the action.
These qualities will likely be enough to please most moviegoers, but I’m of the mind that if these new “Star Trek movies are meant to develop and push the mythology forward, it wouldn’t be right to simply settle for it being fun and exciting. We need to hold the narrative to a higher standard and demand the writers push it through a more rigorous creative process, one that results in a story beyond what we want to see and that merely makes us feel good and comfortable. Abrams and company obviously have the pull (and budget) to raise the stakes and take the series somewhere new and different. This may be riskier, but not knowing where you’re going is often the best way to discover a place you’ve never been, and is that not the underlying philosophy of Star Trek in the first place?