Star Trek Into Darkness Movie Review
So this little film called Star Trek Into Darkness is now in theaters, and it features among other things a scary performance by baddie Benedict Cumberbatch, lots of entertaining action scenes and the most horrendously bad ending in the entire franchise. Whether you can forgive the movie for its final 20 soul-sucking minutes will determine whether you'll give Star Trek a positive or negative grade [AUTHOR'S NOTE: Having watched the movie a second time, the ending isn't nearly as painful].
Even as I write this review, I am unsure of how to rate this movie. On the one hand, Star Trek Into Darkness is just as frantically fast-paced as the previous entry, which works most of the time except when it doesn't. The opening sequence - one that is much less memorable than what we saw last go-around - dives right into the action without much explanation, and with exception to a few talky scenes early on it's pretty much craziness from there on out.
Star Trek Into Darkness is 132 minutes long, and for the first 110 or so, the movie serves as a worthwhile sequel. J.J. Abrams once again directs, and the movie is just as flashy, frenetic and fun as you'd expect from one of his films (with lots of lens flares, of course). None of it is as good as the previous film, even though it technically has a more tangible villain than some angry Romulan dude who holds misplaced grudges for way too long, as the dialogue is just a tiny bit clunkier, the story a little too fast to let its plot points breathe and some characters are noticeably minimized - such as Chekov (Anthon Yelchin) and newcomer Carol (Alice Eve), who is introduced to look pretty and disable a bomb.
But for the first 110 minutes, Star Trek Into Darkness is a fun ride. Maybe the first 112.
Then, the movie takes a turn that should be painful for anyone who even remotely would refer to themselves as a Trek fan. I'm not a Trekkie or a Trekker (what's the difference again?), but as soon as I realized what the filmmakers were going to do, I was in disbelief. And when what I was scared of happens, I literally said, "What the f**k" out loud. And when Spock yells "Khaaaaaaan" doing his worst William Shatner impression, I literally - yes, literally - slapped my forehead in disgust.
Oh yeah, Khan's the bad guy in this film. No big mystery, since those have been the rumors for years and IMDB lists Benedict Cumberbatch as such.
But when you do Khan, you have to do it right. This is where J.J. Abrams and his screenwriting go off the reservation. Abrams has repeatedly said he was never a Trek fan growing up, which is fine and probably did help pull the franchise into the 21st century. But his lack of understanding of the franchise shows its ugly colors here, and boy are they ugly.
The Wrath of Khan is commonly considered to be the best Star Trek movie ever made. Why? Because it features a serious, gritty battle of wills between Captain Kirk and the superhuman Khan. It also features the most emotional and powerful moment of the entire franchise.
Abrams, for some stupid f**king reason (SPOILER), tries to play homage to this moment by essentially reintroducing this scene, but in a way that has no emotional resonance and simply does not work, nor is necessary, for the film to develop. In fact, for anyone who at least respects The Wrath of Khan, this series of moments will completely destroy the momentum the film had going for it.
To make matters worse, instead of having Kirk and Khan battle it out like a game of chess, Abrams and his crew resort to a forgettable climax involving a fistfight between Spock and Khan as they zoom around on a flying car. Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the co-writers of the previous Star Trek, returned for this film, but Damon Lindelof was added as well. Based on his credentials, I'm wondering if Lindelof took over writing the final minutes. After all, between "Lost", Prometheus and what has been well documented with the impending World War Z, he clearly doesn't know how to end a story in a satisfying way.
Star Trek Into Darkness is an enigma. It's a largely entertaining movie that captures enough of the magic from the previous entry to be worthwhile. Benedict Cumberbatch delivers a strong performance. The movie is action-packed. But it also has an offensively bad ending that fails to allow Khan/Cumberbatch, to truly stretch his muscles. This is one of those rare movies where I totally recommend seeing it, but despise it nonetheless.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.