Home » Years » 2013 » Star Trek Into Darkness ••••

Star Trek Into Darkness ••••

StarTrekIntoDarkness_FinalUSPosterStarring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban
Director: J. J. Abrams
Screenplay: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof
Action/Adventure/Science Fiction, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 133 minutes


(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Well Greg, we just boldly went where no two nerdy middle-aged reviewers have gone before — to see Star Trek Into Darkness.

That’s right Scott. It’s a bold new adventure for the rebooted franchise. Let’s see if it lives up to the hype.

The movie begins with the Enterprise saving the planet Nibiru from volcanic annihilation. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) rescues Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) from the volcano, but in doing so Kirk reveals the starship to the planet’s primitive inhabitants, thereby violating Starfleet’s Prime Directive non-interference policy. Soon after returning to Starfleet, a secret Section 31 installation is destroyed by a former Starfleet agent named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), who also attacks an emergency meeting at Starfleet Command, killing Admiral Pike.

Kirk is now on a mission of revenge. He has been given the Enterprise to chase after Harrison who has hidden on the Klingon homeworld of Kronos. The Enterprise is fitted with 72 special photon torpedoes that Kirk has been ordered to rain down upon Harrison killing him. However, Kirk has a crisis of conscience and decides to take Harrison alive and return him to Starfleet to stand trial.

Greg, this is a worthy successor to J. J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot of Star Trek, which I found to be a much-welcome rejuvenation of the sagging franchise. I have to admit that I was nervous about this next installment — could it possibly live up to the high standard Abrams set in 2009? The answer for me is “not quite” but it’s still a movie that is loads of fun. Here we have a story that smartly pays homage to the original Star Trek movie series while simultaneously carving out an original tale filled with action, adventure, and some surprises, too.

I was not as impressed as you were, Scott. The movie is a technical marvel. The graphics, CGI, all the special effects are just amazing. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto did an excellent job of playing Kirk and Spock – even reproducing the close relationship that predecessors Shatner and Nimoy brought to the roles originally.

However, the story left me wanting. Sure, there are a lot of nods to the humor and repartee that we had come to expect from the original series. But writers Orci, Kurtzman, and Lindelhof mined the second Star Trek film (Star Trek II : The Wrath of Khan) for the plot elements for this new film. I was mildly disappointed when it was revealed that the fugitive Harrison was, in fact, Khan Noonein Singh. Surely, they could have found a new villain to fight in this alternative Star Trek universe?

Greg, I’m fine with the resurrection of Khan as a villain borrowed from the older timeline, especially since this rebooted Khan bears little resemblance to the original Khan. However, having said that, I would agree with you that future Star Trek movies had better not continue to recycle old characters and old plotlines, even if those elements are only mildly derivative of previous Trek movies.

Let me tell you why I rate this movie so highly. In the 2009 Star Trek reboot, we witness a terrific hero transformation in the character of James T. Kirk. In that film he evolves from total loser to sensational heroic Captain. It was a classic hero story and it worked. In this current 2013 movie, both Kirk and Spock take center stage as heroes who become transformed in two ways: (1) as individuals who each gradually assumes the good qualities that the other has, and (2) as friends who develop a deep and unshakeable bond. I found this to be very moving.

Scott, I agree with you on that point. The characters in this movie were given a lot more to do and we really got a sense of who they are relative to each other. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to like about Star Trek Into Darkness. All the players brought their A-game.

Still I think the writers and director J. J. Abrams went too far. They borrowed too much from the original. This is an all new franchise. There is an unnecessary cameo that does nothing to further the plot but pander to the fan-boys and possibly act as an in-movie advertisement for newcomers to the series to go back and watch the earlier movies. There is a reversal of roles in another key scene that I can only describe as ridiculous bordering on cute. And there are other annoyances that detracted from the seriousness of this reboot. Case in point is the cuddly character Keesner who follows Mr. Scott around. That creature could have been left out of the movie completely with no loss to the story. And why, oh why, does Uhura keep running from the bridge to sick bay and back again?

Another problem I had with the film is that it isn’t accessible to members of the audience who are not fans of the original series. There were scenes where Spock used the Vulcan Mind Meld and the FSNP (Famous Spock Neck Pinch) that went without explanation. I came across a great review by two Star Trek self-proclaimed “virgins” – their dialog was particularly telling as it exposed how the uninitiated had a hard time following the plot.

Dammit, Greg, you’re a reviewer, not a nit-picker. In every movie franchise, there are always a fews things that movie-makers assume the audience should know. Yes, Mr. Scott’s cuddly sidekick should be thrown out the nearest airlock, but this character is on-screen for only 20 or 30 seconds. Yes, the older Spock makes a brief appearance, but he serves as an important mentor figure for the younger Spock. Besides, old Spock is looking so Jurassic we should throw him a bone here.

My only issue with the movie was that its overall story arc was a bit fragmented, with one villain being the focus of attention, then a second villain, followed by a mission to save the ship, etc. I can forgive this imperfection because, overall, the conclusion of the film so very nicely calls back to the movie’s opening sequence, and lessons are learned that forever cement one of the most important friendships in science fiction history.

I enjoyed the development of the relationship between Kirk and Spock, but I wouldn’t call this story an homage to the earlier series. It’s more of a rip off. Still, I was entertained enough to see it twice, and try to unravel a couple of plot twists that eluded me the first time around. I give Star Trek Into Darkness 4 out of 5 Reels.

Happily, I enjoyed the portrayal of the characters I had come to love by these new actors. The interplay between Kirk and Spock as they solidified their friendship was touching. Quinto’s Spock is much more acerbic, which is a welcome coloring of the character. McCoy’s constant hand-wringing and folksy metaphors were well-placed. New player Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) was also a nice touch. For a great transformation of a friendship, I give the movie 5 out of 5 Heroes.

Movie: reel-4 Heroes: superman-5

Greg, despite differing here and there in our impressions of this movie, it looks like we’re giving the film the same rating. I also give Star Trek Into Darkness 4 Reels out of 5. It is exactly what people look for in a summer blockbuster — action, adventure, humor, heroes, villains, and an emotional rollercoaster ride that ultimately leaves us satisfied.

As you said, we witness our two heroes, Kirk and Spock, develop both as individual characters and as friends, despite vast cultural differences between them. I was torn between awarding them 4 or 5 Heroes but I think you’ve convinced me to give them 5 as well. The supporting cast was superb, and I’m curious how Kirk’s character will continue to grow without a central mentor character who bit the dust in this film. Overall, I loved this movie, but the jury is still out on J. J. Abrams’ rebooted universe until it shows me that it can deliver quality fare while also moving beyond the recycling of old elements from previous Star Trek releases.

Movie: reel-4 Heroes: superman-5


  1. Rodney Barnett says:

    I must agree with Greg on this one. I loved the movie, it was great. But my heart kinda sank when Kahn was revealed. I thought, “you gotta be kiddin'”. But, I would go see it again. I have noticed one difference between this and the last one. The soft porn and profanity have increased. I hope this trend does not continue.

  2. Vic Smith says:

    *** SPOILERS ***
    I saw Star Trek: Into Darkness on its first day of release. While I agree that the CGI was great, I was not enthralled with the plot or the characters.

    It was a retelling of the Wrath of Khan with a few odd differences. One is that Kirk saves the ship by going into the radiation filled chamber and dying instead of Spock, only to be magically revived by Khan’s blood. Really? C’mon that is somewhat far-fetched even for Star Trek. That was a big let-down. For a second there I thought that we were going to do a “Search for Kirk” movie.

    Bones delivered his Dammit Jim, I’m a doctor not a … (plot appropriate metaphor). They didn’t do anything for Scotty’s character except make him a jerk that can’t follow orders and kicked him off the ship, then turned Engineering over to the Russian kid who just learned how to drive.
    I was looking for someone… anyone… to have a moment where his/her world changed and then had to adjust to the new world and overcome his/her own demons and rise to the top for Truth, Justice and the Federation way. Instead we got a bromance between Spock and Kirk.
    The ending was lackluster. There was no real victory, they just stuffed the Khan genie back into his bottle.

    I have a problem with the basic story line that Admiral Markus released the Khan genie to help build Star Fleet into a military-based organization with advanced weaponry because he thought they needed to be able to protect themselves out there in the universe. Apparently the reason for Star Fleet’s existence was exploration only. Really? After the destruction of the Vulcan home world in the blink of an eye the Earth government was sending the Fleet out unarmed? To me, Markus is the hero. His spin into the depths of dispair that led him to think that Khan held the answer is the real story here. He is the Star Fleet version of Gen. Billy Mitchell. They were both vilified for taking a stand to try to save the good guys from certain destruction. Obviously Markus went about it in the wrong way but he was correct in his assertion.

    Moving on.

    So, Kirk gets the rebuilt Enterprise and a 5 year mission.

    Are we to understand that they built a new Enterprise, gave it to a junior Captain and sent him off without a plan? The ship had to have set the Earth government back a good fourteen and a half quadrillion pieces of gold pressed Latinum and he has no instructions other than go see how much trouble you can get into? The least they could do is give us a teaser for the next movie.

    And by the way, Kirk is patted on the back for saving his crew. I saw what I thought was a significant portion of his crew drifting off into space through ruptures in the ship’s hull. No thought was given to them by any of the bridge crew. I guess by “crew” they mean the principals of the bridge crew. Let’s face it, he lost a good part of his crew and his ship. It seems that no Star Trek movie is complete without destroying the Enterprise.

    I am sure the producers have some idea of what the next plot line will be. They could have given the Enterprise a real mission like, ‘there is a freighter stuck in the Motara nebula and the crew is losing life-support, “Let’s go see if we can help”’.

    I give it 2 Reels and 3 Heroes. 2 Reels for the CGI only. The story itself lacked originality. 3 Heroes because Kirk did learn to follow orders… sort of. Also Chekov learned how to shift into warp drive. (Just move the gear selector to “WD” and hold on).

    Would I go see it again? You Bet! It is still Star Trek and I am a big fan. But please, give me a good story I can sink my teeth into.

    Vic Smith

    • Vic Smith says:

      Oops, I forgot to answer the question “Why Uhuru keeps running to the Sick Bay and back again”. The Enterprise has 523 rooms and only one restroom and it is in Sick Bay.

      • Greg Smith says:

        *** SPOILERS ***


        Thanks for clarifying the “Uhura Conundrum”!

        I have to agree with most of your review. And thanks for the Gen. Billy Mitchell reference so that I would have to read the Wiki page. I have similar problems with the concept that Star Fleet is completely non-military. Surely there must be a need for defense in the galaxy? Or is that coming in a “Balance of Terror” remake?

        I gave the movie 4 Reels for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s a much better movie than some I’ve given 3 Reels to. Secondly, the storytelling was just perfect. Action intercut with drama. And Kirk/Spock intercut with Khan. JJ Abrams is incredibly skilled. I wasn’t bored for a moment. I would have given it 5 Reels if not for the abject rip-off of ST:TWOK.

        As for the 5 Heroes, I have to disagree with you on a few points. First, Kirk starts out as lacking humility. He gets his a$$ handed to him and finds himself apologizing to his crew for his lack of judgement. That’s a long way to fall. Finally, Kirk shows the ultimate humility by sacrificing himself for his crew.

        Spock starts out lacking an understanding of friendship and loyalty. He *is* loyal, but he is loyal to rules and logic. He comes to understand that loyalty is to be placed in those close to you. He learns to value his friendship with Kirk over rules and regulations. And, there is another heroic transformation – the bond between Kirk and Spock – which is arguably what Star Trek:TOS was really all about. We see how Kirk and Spock came to be so closely knit – which is something left out of the origin story in ST:2009.

        Thanks for the keen analysis Vic. We’ll be looking forward to more of your thoughts on our next review: The Hangover III!


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