Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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Star Trek Into Darkness

Film #312


After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.

Year 1, Day 319

BEFORE: At long last the wait is over. The sequel without a colon, Star Trek Into Darkness is finally in theaters. There has been much speculation as to what exactly this film will be about, specifically who Benedict Cumberbatch’s character is. Not knowing which rumors are true, and too afraid to read the Wikipedia page until after I see the film, I’ll leave all judgement of what is a spoiler and what information I’m willing to divulge until afterwards. Until then, set phasers to stun and prepare for maximum warp.

AFTER: Never underestimate how powerful a great ending can be. Also know when it’s time to leave things be. Star Trek Into Darkness is yet another powerhouse entry into the Trek franchise by J.J. Abrams. In many ways this film is what I was expecting and more. Many times throughout the film, I found myself anticipating (and correctly predicting) what would come next, only to still be shocked when said event actually occurred. But it’s not all praise for the sophomore attempt. While a lot impressed, other parts had me in a bit of déjà vu from the last Star Trek.

Don’t take that last statement as a knock against the film. If you take away anything from this review know that you will have a good time. Star Trek Into Darkness is everything and more you could want from a Trek film. As with the previous one you have the fantastic characterization of these iconic characters. Scotty (Simon Pegg) and Sulu (John Cho) are among the secondary cast that get moved up to the big leagues and really show their chops this time around. Scotty, as always, brings that comic relief we’ve come to know and love from the Scottish engineer. Sulu on the other hand, bluffs his way through a difficult hand with big players (McCoy’s words, not mine) and proves he is capable of taking the conn, not just the helmsman who doesn’t know to take the inertial dampeners off before going into warp. The action is also stepped up a notch with a lot more taking place on Earth (London, San Francisco) in addition to several alien planets (Nibiru, Kronos, Jupiter’s orbit). There is never a dull moment with this increase in physical actions (chase and fight scenes) as well as personal conflicts - Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) being the most notable and most entertaining.

Now we get into the interesting part: the story. I’m going to preface this here as I did in the “before” section: beware of spoilers. I will be as vague and general as possible, but if you want to go into the film with an absolute clean slate, you may want to skip this section (especially if you’ve seen previous Trek films). Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk. I mentioned that one of the best things the 2009 Star Trek did was create it’s own alternate universe where it would be free to go in it’s own directions and stray from normal canon. If there’s one thing that Star Trek Into Darkness does well it’s knowing how to play with audience expectations. For a solid chunk of the film (at least the first half, maybe a bit more) I was drawn in and hooked as I thought I would be. Abrams and his crew of writers crafted a great setting for a sequel to their first film. Time passed in between the two but it felt as if you never left the crew; you were with them on all the adventures they were. A great opening on the planet Nibiru grabs your attention right away and then you are subjected a lot of built-up tension. Much more than Star Trek, your left waiting. You never get bored because in these lulls your still preparing for something big to happen, but you’re still left with lulls. The entire introduction to John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) almost felt too mysterious; unnecessarily deceitful. Then you get to the turning point where all that setup starts to pay off: you find out what’s really going on with John Harrison, and for fans, parallels with traditional canon are made. Everything started to click and I was physically inching up in my seat, stunned that all of this was actually happening. Then the bombshell dropped. Without context this isn’t a spoiler, but when Spock strapped himself into the chair (I don’t think I can get more vague with that statement) I knew how things would play out. My jaw dropped and my hands covered my mouth - I couldn’t believe what they were about to do. Then that happened and I was even more blown away even though I was expecting it. Abrams was able to use my expectations against me to deliver an even bigger payoff. But then, they lost it. Abrams overshot his ending and brought the climax to a screeching halt, like the warp drive shutting off earlier in the film. I understand why the film ended the way it did; it was even setup while I was freaking out. But it would have been more powerful and more controversial (think: Inception) had the film ended ten minutes earlier.

Most of that probably won’t make sense until after you see the film yourself, but my overarching point is this: I was blown away by Star Trek Into Darkness. There were many times where I was physically responding in my seat to what was going on on the screen. Abrams does a great job at making a sequel in terms of bringing the characters, action, and story forward in a logical way and one that’s extremely beneficial to all parts. However, some major red flags were left that prevented a roller-coaster ride of a film from reaching its apex. While the references to past Trek material were key to the more shocking and entertaining moments, some were too over the top. One was the aforementioned final ending (as in, after where it should have ended) and the other big one happens a bit earlier where they, quite literally, bring in a deus ex machina (and by literally I’m referring to the “deus” part).

A lot of this disappointment may be due to my desire to see the film end at a more critical point and after a second viewing, knowing the twists and turns, things might be different. What you should know is that, either way, go and see this film (I’d recommend not in 3D - there have been much better uses and implementations than in Star Trek Into Darkness). There may be times where you question things and wonder what is yet to come. I can assure you that Abrams does deliver not only a great Trek film, but also a well-done film in general. My questions and concerns only speak to how open this film will be for debate and that is a good thing. As Spock would surely say, it would be illogical for you not to see this film.

Star Trek Into Darkness opens in theaters starting May 16, 2013.

RATING: 4 out of 5