Coming out of this movie, I was going “Oh man, that was awesome!”. And then I started thinking about it. As much as I loved the 2009 movie, I came out of this one surprisingly conflicted. Yes, I enjoyed it. At the very least, it’s a visually dynamic, action heavy movie, and that justifies the entry price. But I don’t think that the audience will appreciate it much because of a few scenes in the movie. This is not a spoiler free review, so continue with caution.
On the whole, Star Trek: Into Darkness was a good movie. Like it’s predecessor, it takes advantage of most of the cast. Each of them has their moments, and the they’re all excellent actors and have such a great chemistry that you’ll wish that they all had more screen time. That said, you won’t get a lot of all the characters. Sulu gets his moment as captain, Kirk, Spock, and Uhura take the spotlight, and McCoy gets some great one liners. On the other hand, Chekov is sidelined, as is the new addition to the cast, Carol Marcus, and Scotty isn’t around for half the movie, though he has a great scene early on, while arguing with Kirk over the use of the missiles.
In addition to the core crew of the Enterprise, there is another new addition to the cast in the form of Benedict Cumberbatch as John Harrison, or, well, Khan. Does he do a great job in the role? Yes. In fact, he blew pretty much everyone else out of the water, despite the rest of the cast’s considerable skill. However, he doesn’t get the time he deserves. From early on in the movie, any Star Trek fan will know that John Harrison is actually Khan. And, for everyone else, the “twist” that he is Khan won’t mean anything, especially since he’s so underplayed.
People who have seen Space Seed (which is one of two episodes of TOS that I’ve actually seen) and/or Wrath of Khan will know Khan, and know that he’s a genocidal maniac. Sadly, that doesn’t necessarily come across as well here. More than anything, the twists hurts the movie. It comes far too late in the movie, and before that, the movie basically just builds to that moment, which causes a lot of momentum loss.
Plus, there’s the whole split villain thing for the first half of the movie, with Admiral Marcus taking the focus off Khan, because of him trying to start a war with the Klingons. Seeing the Dreadnought class come out of warp in front of the Enterprise was a really awesome moment, but, sadly, Peter Weller fails in the role, and he’s taken off the table by Khan before his character can get fleshed out.
Even his motivation is questionable. Militarizing Starfleet just seems idiotic on it’s own, but doing it to start a war with the Klingon empire? Why? And his plan at the beginning, to send Kirk out to basically destroy an entire province of Chronos simply to kill Khan? Again, it just doesn’t make sense.
I was also astounded at how fast Kirk regained his command. I mean, he violated the Prime Directive. You don’t do that and just get your command reinstated like that, simply because an Admiral died. Speaking of which, Pike’s death was actually pulled off pretty well. Spock’s emotionless response was great, and Kirk’s response, which was the exact opposite was great as well.
From here, the movie builds momentum, despite the weird choices made by Admiral Marcus. Spock, Uhura, and Kirk going down to Chronos provides some awesome moments, especially between the three characters. The war bird chase, and the subsequent firefight with Klingon foot soldiers, is a lot of fun, especially seeing Khan just go at the Klingons.
In fact, up until the third act, there are only some small flaws. That’s when they being their re-enactment of Wrath of Khan, which feels odd. It is recreated, in some cases, shot for shot, line for line, except with Kirk nearly dying. But it all just feels unearned. Spock and Kirk haven’t known each other that long. When Spock nearly dies in Wrath of Khan, Kirk’s scream of KHAN! feels completely legitimate because of the years they’re had to build their friendship.
In this alternate time stream, they haven’t had that time to develop their relationship to this point. As much as I enjoy fan service, I don’t enjoy seeing a rehash of a movie that I love so much. It just feels odd, and completely took me out of the movie. And it made Kirk’s death feel inconsequential, because I knew he was coming back. They kept him dead for a while, but I still knew he’d be back.
The final showdown between Spock and Khan is awesome, especially since it’s not Kirk who gets the final battle. The very end of the movie is a pretty great as well, with the Enterprise leaving on a mission to explore the galaxy.
So, overall, Into Darkness was a good movie. The first two acts were great, aside from a few flaws. However, the Khan “twist” hindered the movie, and the recreation of Wrath of Khan left me wanting something else. This is JJ Abrams’ Star Trek. He created a new time stream, so why not create his own stories?