Sean K. Cureton

A Fun Piece of Star Trek Fan Fiction from a Non-Trekkie

In Movie Reviews: 2013 on May 28, 2013 at 11:57 am

Theatrical Poster

Star Trek Into Darkness
Directed by J.J. Abrams
3 out of 4 stars

Star Trek Into Darkness is the second installment in the J.J. Abrams Star Trek Universe, which doesn’t count for much if you consider yourself a fan of the existential sci-fi found in the original television series of the 1960’s. Abrams, who made his first entrance into the canon of Trek with 2009’s Star Trek, is not a “Trekkie.” Abrams has always been more of a Star Wars fan, and as such prefers explosions and over the top CGI to character development and psychological realism. It is therefore unthinkable as to why Abrams would have taken on the task of revamping Star Trek for a new generation of viewers in the first place. Nevertheless, 2009’s Star Trek does exist in all of its simplified glory and hyper-sexualized veneer, masking the underlying fact that Abrams’ Star Trek is not really Trek at all.

The disappointments that can be found so abundantly in Abrams’ first installment in his new Star Trek series are still present in Into Darkness, but this time around there is also a lot to love for even the most fanatic “Trekkie,” still waiting for a call from Starfleet to take him away from the confines of his mother’s basement. Star Trek Into Darkness is still as exciting and action packed as Star Wars, but is allowed more time and space to develop the established characters from the original series in a way that feels more truthful to Gene Roddenberry’s philosophical intentions. In this installment in the Abrams ‘Verse, Spock’s duality as both the robotic Vulcan and the emotional Human is given more time to grow, creating space for a discussion of pain and the logic and reasoning behind such an emotion’s repression or expression. Additionally, characters such as Scottie (Simon Pegg), Chekov (Anton Yelchin), and Bones (Karl Urban) are able to more fully embody their roles, with the actors really breathing life into their characters in a way that was only hinted at in the 2009 film. Where Abrams’ first film felt like a self-indulgent entrance into the Star Trek canon, Into Darkness feels like a true starting point for this new series that is both respectful of the original series while expanding upon it with the added flourishes of an individual director’s sensibilities.

Unfortunately, not all is well with Star Trek Into Darkness, as might be expected with any film written and produced by the likes of Damon Lindelof. The film’s main villain, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, suffers from the fact that he has been severely underwritten. Instead of being a multi-faceted individual with logically sound arguments and ideals of his own, Cumberbatch’s Khan is reduced to the familiar territory of the revenge plot, wherein everything he does is sufficiently sinister only to the point of an established personal vendetta. Abrams’ Khan thus follows in the steps of Nero (Eric Bana) from 2009’s Star Trek, who was likewise played with a villainous relish that was unfortunately lacking in any underlying substance aside from pure and unadulterated evil. To make matters worse, the rationale of much of the film’s plot is passed over rather quickly, leaving the viewer with only a bare bones understanding of each character’s motivations and the far-reaching implications of their actions. Such an inattention to pacing and narrative clarity is par for course with Abrams and his collaborator Lindelof, but it is unfortunate to see said issue persist in what is otherwise a great film.

Nevertheless, flimsy villains and narrative pacing aside, Star Trek Into Darkness is well worth your time, and stands up to the established Star Trek canon in a way that even Abrams himself could never have anticipated to achieve as a “Non-Trekkie.” Into Darkness is great fun, and offers the kind of depth and insight into its iconic characters that 2009’s Star Trek glossed over, with all of its sleek special effects and youthful vibrancy on display as a poor substitute. While there is still plenty of room for improvement in the Abrams ‘Verse, there is also, thankfully, plenty to enjoy that is not clouded over by Abrams’ penchant for CGI action sequences or Lindelof’s tendency for faux-intellectualized inscrutability. Star Trek Into Darkness is a really fun installment in the Star Trek canon, leaving the viewer in a state of eager anticipation for the next installment in the series.

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