How to watch this:
- Wear a Starfleet shirt
- Wear Vulcan ears (or Shatner's old toupee)
- Watch The Wrath of Khan first
- Make sure you go to a theatre with a large silver screen
- Rinse and repeat
I've seen this three times, and might see it a fourth. So that should disprove any notion that if this film doesn't live up to the freshness of its predecessor then it's a disappointment. It's still lovable, and still has many things that make Star Trek great. The bright colors, the imaginative fantasy, and the many elements that make science fiction fun. This reflects the imagination I had as a kid.
It's debatable whether or not this film will please Trekkies or not. The way I see things, the one thing that all "true" Trekkies have in common is that infinite combinations form infinite possibilities, and no one is alike. This is because to be a geeky fan is to be opinionated, and to have a definite sense of how things ought to be. Ergo, a superhero film will never please everyone, no matter how good. I used to think that the Dark Knight films had universal praise and formed the greatest blessing ever to Batman fans, but I have encountered Batfans who detest them and think that Nolan did a gross injustice to the character. So therefore, Star Trek Into Darkness could either be the best thing to happen to the franchise or the worst, depending on who you ask, although I don't think that it's too controversial. It fits well with the new tone set by the previous installment. That was the film that made Star Trek cool again, but it was to the style of Star Wars. J.J. Abrams was a huge admirer or Steven Spielberg and Star Wars, and between that director and those films, he found the inspiration for his style. So this new film feels a little like it's playing Star Wars's game, minus the outright war. That might annoy people who would rather Star Trek be a little more slow-paced and distinct from the mother-of-all-franchises to which it is often compared.
Fans will be rewarded, however, in its many references to classic Star Trek lore, from The Trouble With Tribbles to - not surprisingly - The Wrath of Khan. In fact, I slipped up and accidentally called this movie The Wrath of Khan when talking with my cousins, because there were so many references, which just goes to show that it's still the greatest Star Trek movie ever made. 2009's Star Trek is, in my opinion, the second best. Both have very moving stories about the Enterprise's crew and how they underwent definitive and permanent character change. What made the last one extra impressive is that it started with some of the characters right at birth and build them up from scratch, which was a very engaging journey. Into Darkness does not benefit from an origin story. It introduces Carol Marcus, but she's only an inclusion, not a central point to the story, and doesn't have her own origin story. In fact, none of the characters goes through any apparent journey, for which I really can't credit this for being the best Star Trek film.
Nothing truly gets resolved. At the end of the movie, there's no permanent change to the status quo, and I think that's why I wasn't content. Things were touched upon, but they didn't get enough time. Whenever the movie had what looked like a slow moment, when things got a little more somber, something would come crashing in -often literally - interrupting the scene. I can't, therefore, say that it did a good job of building up those iconic moments.
So those were my concerns. However, Abrams made this movie with the intention of it being a standalone, something that someone could watch without having any prior experience with Star Trek, even the 2009 film. So I know where this film comes from. That's why I still really enjoy it and try and see it as an entertaining fantasy adventure with cool warp space jumps, aliens, voices, costumes, and sound effects. Oh, and lots and lots of lens flares. It isn't a weak film at all. Why else would I watch it three - possibly four - times?
So, in spite of the lack of game-changing character development, there were certain people who had major moments in the limelight. What pleases me most is that with this second film, the actors fit more and more into their roles. Whenever iconic characters get recast, longtime fans can get uncomfortable because they feel like they're betraying the original actors who defined the roles in the first place if they embrace the new actors. Yet, I now see that everyone in this cast, save for Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto (who will never replace Shatner and Nimoy), has the potential to be just as iconic as the original actors. Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Karl Urban, and Anton Yelchin are taking ownership of these roles. I think it helps that the rest of the crew in the original series wasn't quite as flamboyant, and a little more subdued compared to the larger-than-life performances of Shatner and Nimoy, whereas Pine and Quinto must embrace a subtler approach with their characters in order to fall into imitation, while the other actors can add energy to these characters that wasn't fully exploited back in the day. The eminence of most of the cast had room for promotion, but by the time Shatner became Admiral Kirk and Nimoy the Ambassador, there were no new levels to go to, metaphorically speaking. So now Scotty is Super Scotty, and Bones is Super Bones, more themselves than they ever were before. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the blazing new characterization given to Chekov, who's a far more distinct personality aboard the ship than he ever was in the past.
Because of this, I can't fault the film for having little in the way of milestone character developments. It seems that it geared more toward cementing the legacy of these characters, and demonstrating the new status quo established at the end of Star Trek. Abrams plays with the characterization of the crew members, perhaps not twisting them to their limits but showing off what's fun about them. The person who benefits the most from this is Scotty, followed closely by Chekov. This was Scotty's movie to shine. The story didn't revolve around him, but considering that he appeared closer to the end of Star Trek, it's fair that he should get more screen time and a greater taste of the action in this highly anticipated sequel.
Chekov, meanwhile, sent a chill down my spine when he received Kirk's order: "You're my new head of engineering. Go put on a red shirt." I won't tell anyone what happened after that, but it was a major moment in the film for me that stood out.
I'm just going to squeeze this in here and say that "Cupcake" from the previous film made an appearance, even though he's entirely minor. I really appreciate the consistency that they have with these extras, because it's good to feel that these films pay more attention to continuity than the Original Series was infamous for lacking, and it makes the world seem more real, solid, and tangible.
The main new character from Star Trek canon that Into Darkness introduces to the cast is Carol Marcus. Even though she has yet to be fully developed, I appreciated her involvement. She was an element from The Wrath of Khan who had a vaguely defined history with Kirk as some sort of love interest. Like so many things in this film, that was only touched upon, but it certainly had a sense of going somewhere. She was only a small element from the original films, and yet she had a distinction of mother's Kirk's son. Since then, this character needed more development, a full story of her own, and I like that this film opens that up.
Benedict Cumberbatch, as expected, played an excellent villain, and this was certainly a movie where it was the villain's moment to shine. It's not quite The Dark Knight or The Silence of the Lambs, especially since his rivalry with Kirk isn't quite as personal, but John Harrison was a cool villain with complexity and was very nice to look at. The only real problem with him was that the film needed more of him, more of his villainy, because I could stand to see it. However, casting Cumberbatch is slightly controversial, and he might not have fit his role as John Harrison. I won't explain why...You'll just have to see the movie to know what I'm talking about.
By the end of the movie, I felt that the franchise was really ready for another television series. I think that's what this is leading into. I have know way of knowing that for sure, but those are really my hopes. What would excite me the most about this is that Carol Marcus would make the most amazing change to the status quo, while being entirely appropriate. She's the perfect addition if there's to be a fresh take on the Original Series, and will give it the ideal "new" feel, because what the new series would need is a certain chemistry that should have been there before. That is, Carol Marcus, whose legendary but untold love story with Captain Kirk should finally get the weight it deserves.
Looking further into the future, there are other characters I really want to see, preferably in a full-blown film instead of in the series. This movie had a great villain, but I was really hoping for Gary Mitchell. I really want the villain in the next film to be Gary Mitchell. I also wouldn't mind a return of Khan, because I can only imagine how much damage he and all of his followers could do after the standards set by the lone wolf villain in Into Darkness. Charlie X would be incredibly interesting as well, though I could stand to see him in an episode rather than a standalone movie. I want to see Spock grow a beard, and not just for an episode but for a whole movie, which Zachary Quinto has mentioned, though I wasn't sure if that was in jest. Finally, I really, really want to see Saavik's origin firsthand in order to keep the freshness of the 2009 Star Trek.
So in all, it's a good movie, and I highly recommend seeing it. Just not in 3D. I tried 3D first, and it really wasn't doing it for me in this film. Star Trek just works so much better in 2D, especially on a bigger screen. Watch it, several times, and if you're single, gather the courage to ask someone out to see it as a first date. Or don't. I didn't, either, so I won't judge you. Just make sure to have fun.
Oh, and for the record, the reason why it took me over a week to write this review was because it's extremely difficult to talk about this film without giving away major spoilers. The most awesome things about the film are things I can't even touch on. So therefore, in order to truly express myself, and to say the one thing that simply must be said, I must for the first time ever use a spoiler tag in of of these reviews: