I am not a Star Trek fan. I know as much about Star Trek as you learn by just being a human on Earth. I know the names of most of the Enterprise Crew… Oh! I know the “Enterprise.” I know what a Vulcan is. And a Klingon. And Warp Speed. And we’re starting to reach the extent of my knowledge here... I saw Star Trek Into Darkness. And I felt like a kid who just transferred to a new school and picked the only table of friends who’ve known each other since birth to sit down with during lunch.
They’re all talking about “Randy’s Mom’s hilarious pancake that one time,” and I come from a place that called pancakes ‘flap jacks’ so I’m all confused. The film was big. It was explodey. It was a boring, boring, boring Summer Action Flick. It didn’t look all that spectacular. And the lens flares! My God the lens flares! Star Trek Into Darkness consisted of two main elements:
1) Giant set pieces (meaning fights, explosions, general 10-minute action scenes that don’t advance the plot more than an inch)
2) The winkiest, noddiest, most alienating inside jokes I’ve ever seen in a major blockbuster.
The whole thing felt like a Star Trek nerd going “Ehhh? Ehhhh? See what I did there? Remember that? From the other thing?” I can’t say exactly what “the other thing” was (except in one or two very obvious instances), since I haven’t seen any of the other things. For all the inessential dialogue and exhausting fight scenes, the entire plot, “twists” and all, is contained in a speech that lasts about 2 minutes. And it’s very difficult to follow. This leaves the audience with almost nothing to latch onto except the familiarity of the numerous references and callbacks to other movies and episodes in the franchise. But then, why see the film? Why not just catch up on the franchise?
Star Trek Into Darkness plays like Battleship, if you were also watching some old Star Trek episodes on your iPhone in the movie theater at the same time. If you’re a giant Star Trek fan, you may enjoy that, but I’m curious why. After terrorist attacks in London and San Francisco, the Enterprise Crew embarks on a diplomatically inadvisable manhunt on an alien planet; a plot lifted directly, almost farcically, from the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden. Apart from the terrorists revealed (I guess?) motivations, there is not much more of a story. Beyond the nearly non-existent plot, the completely unsurprising plot twists, and the resolution that’s so quick you’re not sure if it actually happened or if the third act is yet to come, Star Trek featured some distracting scientific flaws. I’m not scientists, but can objects in space go from still to “barreling towards Earth?” There seems to be some lack-of-gravity in the way.
On the same token, if a space ship jostles around, can its crew really start falling through the hallways? Surely any kind of simulated gravity would be pulling the crew down toward the floor and not in some cardinal direction (considering they're in space and there are no directions). How about, if a hole is blown into the wall of anything in space? Can you just hold your breath, hold onto something, and survive? Or would your insides explode out of your ears? It seems pointless to set a film in space if you take advantage of the cool zero-G aspects of space exactly none times. And beyond that, you actually ignore zero-G and pretend there’s gravity, atmosphere, and oxygen. The performances were all decent, with just enough camp to make it feel authentically Star Trek. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin, Karl Urban, and Jon Cho felt like a family on screen, which definitely made the viewing experience more tolerable, especially with such an emphasis on how “your crew is your family” in the script.
Benedict Cumberbatch was excellent in his cold, unfeeling evilness. Newcomers Alice Eve and Peter Weller turned in fine performances, if a little flat given their characters’ enormous stakes in the plot. Ultimately, Star Trek Into Darkness is a throw-away Summer film with a lot of recycled material. The film’s case is not helped by the fact that it’s only the second major blockbuster to come out this year, after the absolutely phenomenal Iron Man 3 (you can read about the differences between the two films in our Iron Man 3 review). See it, or don’t. You probably will. Just don’t blame me if you come out of the theater confused, disappointed, and maybe a little tired.