Movie Review - Star Trek Into Darkness

My complaint about the previous film by J.J. Abrams was that Star Trek (2009) was a betrayal to the 40-year history originated by Gene Roddenberry. Even though Roddenberry described Star Trek as a space western, his show was more of a thinking man's western dealing with social issues of the day in disguise. Roddenberry's 1979 film was more in tune with Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey than George Lucas' Star Wars.

J.J. Abrams has made no secret that he is a fanboy of Steven Spielberg and consequently Spielberg's best friend, George Lucas. It's why Abrams' Super 8 is basically a carbon copy of Spielberg. It's also why Abrams is going to direct the seventh Star Wars feature, set for release in 2015. Yet, considering this film, that notion seems redundant. For all intents and purposes, this film is the seventh Star Wars film.

Writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof have crafted a film, a second film, that is more in spirit of George Lucas' canon than Gene Roddenberry's. It's Star Wars with the occasional use of Star Trek lingo like Prime Directive and Klingon. The writers don't seem to understand what any of those things mean or why they're significant. The writers only feel the need to throw that lingo around in a vein attempt to dupe dedicated and non-discriminating trekkies into buying this bait.

The opening scene of this film is almost beat-for-beat the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). The plot includes contrivances from various other blockbusters like Skyfall, and like with The Dark Knight Rises, the film really muddles or outright bungles its villain or villains.

I could go back to the argument that the interpretation of Captain James T. Kirk and Science Officer Mr. Spock are damn-near opposite to the characters that Roddenberry created. J.J. Abrams' movies want to portray Kirk as a bed-hopping womanizer who's unsure of himself and they want to portray Spock as way more emotional than often makes sense. I can put all that aside, but even without the context of the film, actions of characters don't add up and neither do certain plot points.

Spoiler alert!

The movie opens with Kirk and Spock trying to save life on a planet that will be destroyed by a volcano. The life on the planet includes a primitive humanoid species that knows nothing about outer space or interstellar technology. Kirk and Spock are officers within the United Federation of Planets, an organization that represents many planets across their quadrant of the Milky Way Galaxy that have the ability to travel long-range through space.

One tenet of the United Federation of Planets or just the Federation is called the Prime Directive, which states that officers are not allowed to interfere with the natural development of a planet that doesn't have the ability to travel long-range through space, normally via Warp technology. This is especially true of planets where the people are so primitive that they haven't developed electricity yet.

The problem is that the people will be killed by the volcano, but Kirk and Spock with their powerful spaceship called the USS Enterprise have the technology to stop the volcano and save the people. Kirk's interpretation of the Prime Directive is such that they can use that technology to save those people as long as they do it secretly. Admiral Pike who is Kirk's superior officer disagrees and suggests any involvement is a violation of the Prime Directive.

Spock later reveals that he can't lie and that he's a stickler for the rules, so the question is why did he go along with this mission in the first place. He should have objected or we should have seen him argue non-participation because not seeing that but then later seeing him be such a stickler of the Prime Directive doesn't ring true.

Chief engineer Mr. Scott aka Scotty has the ethical fortitude that Spock should have. I'm not so sure Spock would ever resign or just walk away, but Spock seems like he would have made more of a stand. Dr. McCoy is more or less a parody of the original character. Navigator Mr. Chekhov is selfsame and acts more as comic relief. The only character that comes off as credible is Helmsman Mr. Sulu.

The villain is John Harrison who is an altered interpretation of Khan from the iconic film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). As a side note, this makes the third Star Trek film in a row to pull or blatantly rip off The Wrath of Khan. The producers of Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) as much admitted it. The previous film by J.J. Abrams pulled the idea of the Kobayashi Maru from The Wrath of Khan. Now, this one is outright taking the titular character.

What the writers did, which I thought could have potentially been brilliant, was they turned the tables and made Khan someone whom Kirk and Spock had to ally. I liked it because it was different and took steps toward a direction that I wish The Dark Knight Rises and Skyfall went. The film briefly subverts expectations but by the end falls to obviousness and predictability.

I will say that I appreciated for the first time seeing someone on the bridge of the Enterprise wearing a seat belt. The image of the Enterprise falling from the sky was a good visual effect. Lastly, of all the actors, I was only impressed with Noel Clarke, a British black actor who plays a father whom is manipulated by John Harrison. Clarke's was the only performance that I thought was interesting.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 12 mins.


  1. Good review Marlon. My favorite movie of the year for quite some time, even though I think about its problems every once and awhile, and they really get in my head. Oh well, still a fun ride nonetheless.


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