So, we went and saw Star Trek Into Darkness tonight. I did not have high hopes. I’m pretty eager to dig up spoilers on films I like, and even though JJ kept as tight a lid as possible on this production (more on that later), pretty much the entire plot found its way onto the interwebs weeks and weeks ago. And I was not happy about what I heard.
Let’s do this differently. I’ll start with what I didn’t like. I’ll try to be as spoiler free as I can, but if you haven’t seen it yet, you might want to skip this post.
First and foremost, I think the writing on this movie (the script, the plot) was lazy and sloppy…like the preceding Star Trek movie (2009). There are plot holes you could fly a starship through…big lapses of logic. Things work when the writers need them to, then inexplicably don’t when the writers need them not to. Transporters have become magical devices that can beam people to distant planets, yet debris or energy fields or whatever constantly render then useless (again, when the writers need it to be so).
Things move awful fast in this movie, and since its creators seem hellbent to turn Star Trek into an action franchise, it’s probably a good thing. Because the action masks a lot of plot problems that you ignore while they’re happening, yet scratch your head about after the movie is over. Again, I had a similar complaint about the 2009 movie. Thing move too fast, and the plot moves too fast. In the 2009 movie, we’re expected to accept that Kirk went from Starfleet Academy to captain of his own vessel in, I don’t know, about three days. Really? Here there are similar rushes to move the plot along, which result in some fairly significant disconnects, especially on an emotional level. And it’s the emotional level they really want to hit with this film, but they don’t give you any time to let it have some impact.
Finally, about the writing. You’ve been given the reins to a unique, successful franchise. You made a movie in 2009 that was at least original. And your sophomore effort is to crib from the one acknowledged classic Star Trek film, The Wrath of Khan? Really? How about doing something new and exciting, something unexpected? But no.
I will not spoil the character Benedict Cumberbatch plays. Suffice it to say that if you know or if you are familiar with Trek, you will know the character and the resonance he brings to the awkward, Byzantine plot. If not, you will have no idea and so it doesn’t matter. And here’s the thing, one of the two main problems I have with JJ Abrams. I understand not wanting the details of the movie released too early. I really do. But the active misdirection this director dabbles in is, I think, disrespectful to the fans. And self defeating in the end. I don’t really believe in this whole notion of “We’re making a Star Trek movie for people who don’t necessarily know or like Star Trek.” Really? Will he be applying this misdirected logic to Star Wars Episode VII? I think not. His constant playing with the fans about who Benedict Cumberbatch is or isn’t playing I thought was irritating, and it served no real purpose other than to magnify the “Who cares?” aspect of the whole thing once the film starts. And once the big reveal is made.
The second main problem I have with JJ is his constant, unrelenting need to tell everyone every time he’s interviewed that he wasn’t a fan of Star Trek. OK. We get it. Shut up. The two films you’ve produced illustrate that. These two films aren’t Star Trek. I’m sorry, they’re just not. They’re unrelenting roller coaster rides, unadulterated action films with little time for the niceties of coherent plot. And if that’s your thing, great. But it ain’t Star Trek.
As I said, I walked into the film really expecting to not like it. And you know what? I did like it. A lot. It’s so relentless, so in your face, so needy as a film that it’s almost impossible not to like it. Its special effects are fantastic, the musical score is awesome, the set pieces are fantastic and the actors continue to demonstrate that the person who cast them in the 2009 movie deserves a big raise. Pine is Kirk in this picture. Love me some Shat, but Pine has embraced the character and has found his own way to be Kirk. Quinto was remarkable as Spock. I’m beginning to think that Urban is actually channeling DeForest Kelley. Simon Pegg as Scotty is marvelous. And everyone else is great, too. And while Benedict Cumberbatch is (inexplicably) not a Sikh or an Indian (oops), he is formidable in this part.
Sure, its plot is wonky. Sure some of the scenes make little sense when you think about them later. Sure, they cribbed from Wrath of Khan (a far better movie). But damn if it wasn’t fun…even if it wasn’t really Star Trek.
I will see it again. At least it was better than Iron Man 3. Here’s hoping Man of Steel is awesome!