Monday, January 20, 2014

Movie Review - Star Trek: Into Darkness

Wifey had book club Friday night with girlfriends so it was an ideal opportunity for me to get out one of my Christmas presents (Star Trek Into Darkness on DVD), crack open a beer and have some quality 'me' time.

I know it's a bit of an oldie, but I am about a year behind everyone else when it comes to films because of having kids blah blah blah, so anyway here's my review...

NB Here be spoilers!

Ben asked room service for a table and chairs
so he could sit down and eat his Pot Noodle.

The first Star Trek reboot in 2009 was pretty much a huge relief all round (I wrote something about Trek way back in 2010). With pacey direction by JJ Abrams and strong performances from some new young blood whippersnappers, the franchise was re-energised (excuse the pun) with a style and gusto good enough to rival anything Star Wars could come up with. The franchise was given a new lease of life and left audiences wanting more.

While STID (unfortunate acronym that – looks a bit like STD...) had a lot to live up to, it thankfully manages to move the characters and concept forward without falling foul of the usual sequel issues.

The plot centres around Khan (played by Benedict Cumberbatch), a genetically-altered 'superhuman' spy-turned-terrorist who threatens to bring the Federation to its knees in revenge for the ill-treatment of his fellow ubermensch. After Khan attempts to assassinate the Federation's top brass, the crew of the USS Enterprise dash off to go and get the bad guy, only to embroil themselves in a more sinister scheme that is potentially just as devastating as Khan's.

It was good to see the Enterprise crew together again, now a more solid team after having been on numerous adventures together in the interim.

The Khan story seemed a bit 'safe' to me, indicating that there is still something of a nervousness about messing about too much with the Trek universe (they even have to wheel out Leonard Nimoy again to remind everyone that this movie is, like, legit y'know). In addition, I was surprised at the casting of Cumberbatch in the villain's role. When Ricardo Montalban portrayed Khan back in the 60s, it was daring enough to have a latino actor command so much screen time, but by 2013 you'd think the media had moved on from such petty racial-political sensitivities and had the balls to enlist an actor of Asian origin (after all, Khan Noonien Singh's character has always been a Sikh from the northern regions of India). Instead they hire an English white man. Baffling.

Saying that, Cumberbatch is unsurprisingly excellent as the uber-intelligent baddie (in some respects, there was no need for him to be Khan – why not just create a new character and adjust the story accordingly?), playing a slightly darker and humourless version of his Sherlock persona. It was also an interesting idea to have the baddie put aside his differences temporarily and work alongside Kirk and his crew against another threat (Admiral Marcus, intent on starting a war against the Klingon empire). I also found it odd that Khan was portrayed as a terrorist, rather than just a straight-up bad guy. It seems in this post-9/11 world, if you want a really really bad guy they have to blow up places with suicide bombers (or the equivalent), just to emphasise to the audience that they are really terrible inhuman monsters. It's a lazy and predictable way of doing things, but I guess it is to be expected.

I wish Simon Pegg had tried a bit harder with his accent. Once or twice he would slightly slip into his English tones, which is distracting and would probably have exasperated the original Scotty, James Doohan.

Oh yeah, and someone should sack the futurist who works on these movies. Seriously, this is in the 23rd Century. Star ships and phasers are to be expected, but why are people having fisticuffs aboard mobile garbage containers? Surely we would have figured out how to deal with waste by then. Also, what idiot designed the warp core? All it needed was a few metal supports keeping the prong thingy straight during space battles and Kirk wouldn't have had to sacrifice his life fixing it.

But – I'm still saying I enjoyed the film. There were some nice little touches that referenced Trek well – Tribbles making an appearance was fun, and it was good to finally see the face of the Klingons (albeit very briefly) as they exist in this new timeline. It was also nice to see Noel Clarke in such a high profile production – even though he has very little screentime, his character was quite memorable.

Whilst far from perfect, Into Darkness is an enjoyable space romp that keeps the Trek-ness alive and has helped the rebooted franchise make a lasting mark – I just hope that Abrams' departure for the rival Star Wars universe won't have too much of a negative impact on the direction of the Enterprise crew.

No doubt there are plenty of good directors out there more than willing to take the helm.

Verdict: 8 out of 10


  1. I hated it. It screwed around with Trek canon FAR too freely. I felt betrayed. ;^(

  2. Ooh harsh! ;-)

    I know it's a flawed movie (aren't they all these days?) – but isn't the whole canon thing irrelevant given the 'new timeline' and everything?

    I do think 'Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan' is a far superior movie, despite the dated SFX.