Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Star Trek (2009) was a pretty dumb movie, but it at least seemed to be the result of a deliberate choice to dumb things down, and make it clear that Star Trek isn’t just for geeks anymore. Call me a hopeless optimist, but there was still every reason to believe that the sequel would be a little bit smarter.

In the future, I’ll be careful what I wish for, because in their attempt to craft a less stupid follow-up, director J.J. Abrams and crew have given us a film so convoluted as to be nonsensical. I doubt the filmmakers themselves fully understand the movie they made. Star Trek Into Darkness is a film that desperately wants to fight above its intellectual weight class, but only ends up getting caught in the ropes.

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Into Darkness was released in the same month as Iron Man 3, and it’s uncanny how the two movies share all the same failings: A plot that’s too complicated for its own good. Forced attempts to be more grim, dark, and violent than its predecessor. A villain with opaque motivations. I don’t think any of this is a coincidence; I think we’re seeing the full impact of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy on the summer blockbuster movie season, with every popcorn franchise trying to outdo each other in being “darker and edgier”. The latest Star Trek installment even has “Darkness” in the title; How much more obvious could they get?

And more “darkness” seems to go hand in hand with making the villains’ schemes as muddled as possible. I think the intention was to position the bad guys in a morally gray area, instead of making them outright evil. But we spend so much time trying to grasp the villains’ backstory and objectives that we never get a chance to be swept up in the story. By the time Into Darkness gets to an admittedly impressive final action sequence, we’re too disengaged to care.

Years ago, Abrams gave a now-infamous TED talk where he literally pulled out a Mystery Box to illustrate his love of mystery as a storytelling device. And as his body of work proves, he values having mysteries much more than actually providing satisfying answers to those mysteries.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

In Star Trek Into Darkness, Abrams has stuffed Trek into his Mystery Box, whether it needs to be in there or not. And much like with Cloverfield and Lost (both made with his creative stamp of approval), when he finally opens up the box, one can only wonder why he bothered with all the secrecy in the first place. Perhaps in the near future, Abrams will realize that it’s perfectly acceptable for a character to be who he says he is, and to be doing things for clearly stated reasons.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Our tortuous tale begins with the Enterprise on a primitive planet of red flora and chalk-faced inhabitants living a stone age existence. Kirk and McCoy are currently being pursued by these aliens because Kirk (displaying Captain Archer levels of idiocy) has made off with one of their sacred artifacts.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

They dive off a cliff and swim to the Enterprise. Yes, they swim to the Enterprise. For no particular reason, the ship is staying out of sight by parking itself underwater. (Well, the reason is obvious: it’s to provide a trailer-worthy shot of the Enterprise coming up out of the ocean later.)

Meanwhile, Spock is using a “cold fusion” device to keep a nearby volcano from erupting and wiping out the natives (helpful hint: just because something has “cold” in the name doesn’t mean it can freeze lava). But the Enterprise can only beam Spock out of the volcano at close range, meaning the ship will have to rise from the depths and reveal itself to a primitive race, in a clear violation of Starfleet’s Prime Directive.

Spock is willing to die to preserve the Prime Directive, stating that the “needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” the first of many obnoxious callbacks to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. (To be fair, an episode of Enterprise established this as a Vulcan proverb. But what are the odds the screenwriters knew that?)

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

The ship emerges from the water and they rescue Spock from certain death, but he’s mostly annoyed that they disobeyed regulations. Except, just a few minutes ago, Spock plainly said he was stopping the volcano from erupting to save the planet’s inhabitants. I’m pretty sure that’s a far worse violation of the Prime Directive. (But again, to be fair, an episode of TOS did feature the Enterprise attempting to divert an asteroid to save a primitive species.)

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Back at Starfleet HQ, Kirk gets chewed out by Admiral Pike. He’s having second thoughts about promoting Kirk to captain, and entertaining the notion that maybe he wasn’t ready. Really. Do tell. I’m pretty sure this is exactly what happens when you take a guy who’s a week out of the Academy and hand him the keys to a starship.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Starfleet actually wants to send Kirk back to the Academy, which I find to be a simply hilarious punishment, but Pike convinces them to instead demote Kirk to first officer of the Enterprise, with Pike returning as captain.

Meanwhile, there’s a terrorist attack in London. An enigmatic figure named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) has blackmailed a Starfleet officer into carrying out a suicide bombing at a records depot.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

In accordance with protocol, there’s an emergency meeting of all starship captains and their first officers (how does this work, exactly? Would all captains currently out in deep space really be called back for one meeting? You’d think by the 23rd Century they’d have the hang of teleconferencing). And this meeting just happens to be held right in front of some huge windows. Hmm…

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Kirk is the first one to figure out that Harrison bombed the depot as a pretense for getting all the captains in one place. Sure enough, the meeting is suddenly attacked by a shuttle piloted by Harrison. As various extras are blown away, Kirk is the only person who even attempts to stop the assault. We do briefly see some armed guards arrive on the scene, but of course they have to be totally useless so that Kirk can save the day.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Harrison’s shuttle is damaged, and Kirk watches him beam away. And then Kirk gets a big emotional moment when he learns Pike was killed in the attack.

He later finds out that Harrison used Scotty’s “transwarp beaming” formula from the previous movie to transport himself directly to Kronos, the Klingon homeworld. Kirk lobbies the head of Starfleet, Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) for the opportunity to personally go after him.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Admiral Marcus reveals that the “records depot” was really the headquarters of Section 31, Starfleet’s covert operations branch (as well as an organization that keeps popping up in Star Trek despite not being a terribly interesting concept). Marcus explains that Harrison is actually a top Section 31 agent who went rogue. So wait, blowing up that building wasn’t just a pretense for getting all the captains together in one place? Or it was?

Marcus gives Kirk the go-ahead to take command of the Enterprise (meaning that “demotion” lasted all of a day and a half) and go after Harrison. But he can’t enter Klingon space because that could be seen as an act of war. So in a transparent jab at the current government’s use of drones, Marcus orders the Enterprise to stay at the edge of the Neutral Zone and fire special, long-range torpedoes at Harrison that the Klingons won’t be able to detect. And while this isn’t the first time Trek writers forgot that the Neutral Zone separates the Federation from the Romulans, not the Klingons, this may be the first appearance of a “neutral zone” between two governments with no actual diplomatic relations.

Scotty doesn’t like the idea of going on a military operation, or taking on mysterious weapons with classified contents, so he dramatically resigns. And so Chekov, of all people, becomes the new Chief Engineer.

Along with the new fancy torpedoes, the Enterprise also a gets a new science officer, Carol Wallace (Alice Eve). For a pointless twist, she’s eventually revealed to be Carol Marcus, Kirk’s future baby mama (per Wrath of Khan) and daughter of Admiral Marcus. I’m not spoiling anything here; The inclusion of Carol Marcus was announced early on, so I guess this mystery wasn’t worthy of the box.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

On the way to Kronos, the Enterprise breaks down for unknown reasons. Meanwhile, the whole crew has shamed Kirk out of the plan to take out Harrison from afar, so he decides to head up a landing party and pilot a shuttlecraft to personally apprehend him.

They get to the planet and are soon confronted by Klingons. This is the first time Klingons have appeared in the reboot series, and they look suitably intimidating. But more importantly, they have forehead ridges, which gives hope that the silly “smooth head virus” from Enterprise will never be spoken of again.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

The Klingons attack and Kirk and the gang are vastly outnumbered, but Harrison appears and saves them all. It turns out he’s such a boss that he can singlehandedly defeat dozens of Klingons and destroy multiple warbirds with one big-ass gun.

He demands to know how many of those special torpedoes they have on the Enterprise. When he learns the answer is 72, he quickly surrenders. Which immediately prompts the question: They needed 72 torpedoes to kill one guy?

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

They put Harrison in the brig, where he gives up a set of coordinates, and also tells them to take a look inside the torpedoes. Kirk calls up Scotty back on Earth, and has him travel to those coordinates. Scotty takes a ship to Jupiter, where he discovers… the Monolith! Actually, he discovers a secret shipbuilding facility that’s frightfully easy for him to sneak into.

Meanwhile, Carol Marcus and Dr. McCoy open up a torpedo, and inside they find… a person, cryogenically frozen.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Lots of mysterious goings-on so far, right? You’re intrigued, yes? Well, here comes the big payoff! Stand back, because J.J. is opening up his box…

Spoilers follow (obviously)…

Harrison reveals his name is really Khan. He’s the genetically enhanced superman who once ruled over a quarter of the Earth’s population, but then fled in a sleeper ship sometime in the early 1990s. I’m just going by the backstory given on TOS, by the way, because none of this is mentioned in the film. When he says his name is “Khan”, no one has the slightest idea what he’s talking about, and Spock has to get on the horn to New Vulcan so that Old Spock can fill him in.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

I have no idea why they felt compelled to bring Leonard Nimoy back for another cameo. Seriously, they couldn’t just look up Khan in the ship’s computer? In 2013, I can type “Cumberbatch” into Google and find out his dog’s name within two minutes. And not one person on the ship is familiar enough with 20th Century history to recognize the name? I mean, Picard once mentioned Khan in the same breath as Hitler! If some German dude with a tiny mustache came aboard the ship and said, “Mein name… is Adolf,” would everybody just stand there looking confused?

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

The movie then piles on the exposition: Following the destruction of Vulcan in the first movie, Admiral Marcus began aggressively scanning Federation space. He found the Botany Bay, and apparently champing at the bit for a war with the Klingons to bring about a more militarized Starfleet, Marcus revived Khan and put him to work building advanced weaponry. You read that right: he brought in a guy from the 20th Century to help build weapons more advanced than the ones invented hundreds of years later.

Marcus forced Khan to help by holding the other 72 members of his crew hostage, but Khan was able to secretly hide them inside torpedoes he was building (and now we know why there are 72 torpedoes—72 is the number of surviving crewmen on the Botany Bay, straight from “Space Seed”). Admiral Marcus got hold of these torpedoes and put them aboard the Enterprise, somehow knowing the Enterprise would fire all of them at Khan, killing two birds with one stone. Or rather, killing one bird with 72 stones.

And it seems Marcus also sabotaged the Enterprise so that it would be stranded in Klingon space. The idea was that after firing torpedoes at Kronos, they would be discovered by the Klingons, who would then destroy the Enterprise and thus provide a pretext to war.

Which raises another question: Why did Khan transport himself to the Klingon homeworld in the first place? This would seem to imply he was still going along with Admiral Marcus’ plan to start a war with the Klingons. But he transported there just moments after trying to kill Marcus.

And why did Khan hide his people inside torpedoes, instead of, I don’t know, waking them up so they could help him fight back against Marcus?

Eventually, Admiral Marcus himself shows up in the big ship Khan helped him build, called the USS Vengeance. Now that Kirk is onto the plan, Marcus intends to destroy the Enterprise himself and blame it on the Klingons.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Is everybody following all this? Maybe it’s just me, but this seems like a ridiculous number of hoops to jump through to start a war. Can’t he just pretend the Klingons had something to do with 9/11? (As a point of fact, one of the screenwriters is a 9/11 “truther”, so one doesn’t have to look far to find the origins of the conspiratorial aspects of this story.)

But before Marcus can destroy the Enterprise, it turns out Scotty snuck aboard the Vengeance and sabotaged it, which may be a callback to Scotty sabotaging the Excelsior in Search for Spock (if so, it’s an unusually subtle homage for this series). Soon, both ships end up back near Earth, and Kirk and Khan must space-skydive over to the Vengeance.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Khan kills Marcus and takes over the Vengeance. He intends to destroy the Enterprise, but Spock beams all the torpedoes over to Khan’s ship and detonates them. Both ships are now badly damaged and plummeting towards Earth. The Enterprise’s warp drive can’t start because the spark plugs are out of alignment or something, so Kirk takes it upon himself to kick them back into place, even though doing this exposes him to a lethal dose of radiation.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

The ship is saved, but Kirk is now “dying”, and he has a moment with Spock where they say goodbye from opposite sides of a glass door. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a word-for-word, beat-for-beat remake of Spock’s death scene in Wrath of Khan, only with Spock and Kirk’s roles reversed. And at the end, Shatner’s ridiculous “KHHHAAAAANN” yell gets reassigned to Spock.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Is this really what Abrams thinks his audience wants? A copy of another scene they liked in a different movie, only with all emotion and meaning drained from it? The original version was moving because it played out between two men who had spent decades forging a loyal friendship, whereas this version of Kirk and Spock hardly know each other.

Nevertheless, Kirk’s “death” awakens Spock’s bloodlust. He beams down to Earth to apprehend Khan, and very nearly kills him, until he finds out Khan’s blood has special properties that can bring Kirk back to life. This was set up earlier, in a painfully obvious bit of foreshadowing. McCoy essentially interrupted the movie to tell everyone in the audience that he was injecting Khan’s blood into a dead tribble. The tribble comes back to life, and whatever works on a tribble must also work on a human, right?

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

And so, Kirk is brought back from the dead. Which means his big “sacrifice” ends up being more of a minor inconvenience. This also means that, sadly for the writers, they won’t be able to make the next movie The Search for Kirk. And as many others have noted, this also means Dr. McCoy has just invented the cure for death.

And then we get a generally upbeat finale, even though we just witnessed Khan causing the equivalent of about a dozen 9/11s by ramming the USS Vengeance into San Francisco. But hey, since they already cured death, bringing all those victims back should be a snap!

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

And in the closing moments, we learn that the famous “Space: the final frontier, these are the yadda yadda” opening credits spiel heard on TOS and TNG is actually Starfleet’s official “Captain’s Oath”. Get out of here with that nonsense.

This would be a great film, if films were judged solely by how much emotion is expressed onscreen. In this movie, Kirk cries, Spock cries, Khan cries—when Jim Kirk die, people gonna cry! But despite the cast’s best attempts to sell you on the gravity of this story, it never comes close to making sense. And the more one tries to peel back the layers of the plot, the less sense it makes. The last Trek movie to provoke this reaction in me was Insurrection, which is definitely not something any film should aspire to.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

At no point does Khan feel like the same character we saw in “Space Seed” and Wrath of Khan. Cumberbatch is a good actor, but there’s no trace of Montalban’s raw animal magnetism in this Khan. And casting a pasty Englishman as an Indian Sikh certainly doesn’t help matters.

I know some view this as another example of Hollywood whitewashing, but it’s hard to get too outraged, considering this particular Sikh was originally played by a Mexican-born Spaniard. Do I wish Abrams would have tried a little harder to find an Indian actor to play Khan? Absolutely. Because then everyone would have easily guessed the villain’s identity ahead of time and Abrams would have had to ditch the mystery angle completely.

There was no real reason to put Carol Marcus in this, other than as another heavy-handed allusion to Wrath of Khan. She’s only useful in one scene, where she defuses a torpedo by… pulling the thing off the thing. Even her being Admiral Marcus’ daughter turns out to have no impact on the story. And they even contradict what little we know about the character: In Wrath of Khan, Carol Marcus was horrified at the prospect of the Genesis Device being used as a weapon; She sure as heck was not a weapons expert.

Well, I do know another reason they put Carol Marcus in this, and it seems to come down to a three-second shot where she changes clothes and Kirk sneaks a peek at her in her underwear. It’s a sleazy bit, not because of the bare flesh on display (especially considering some of the lingerie-like outfits worn by guest actresses on TOS), but rather the awkward way it’s forced in, and the awkward way she’s posed. She doesn’t look like someone who’s been caught unawares; she looks like an actress who’s been told by the director to put ‘em on the glass.

Caption contributed by Winston

I thought about including a screenshot of Alice Eve in her underwear, but screw it, I’m better than that. Just google it, it’s all over the place.

The Uhura/Spock relationship, mostly played for laughs in the previous film, is now front and center, and the movie suffers because of it. I’m reminded of how early on in TOS, they considered making Yeoman Rand into Kirk’s girlfriend. This movie reveals what a drag that would have been. Every time Kirk got himself into a dicey situation or joined a landing party, he’d have gotten yelled at for not “thinking about us”. Risk is their business, and Uhura should be enough of a professional to know that.

Okay, fine, I don’t blame Uhura for getting upset, but having a “talk” while on a dangerous mission in enemy territory is petty and ridiculous. They even had to lampshade it with Kirk saying how ridiculous it was for them to be arguing over relationship issues at that particular moment.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Chris Pine is… well, he is what he is. He’s toned down a lot of his frat-bro mannerisms from the first movie, and you can’t blame him for the awful lines he’s asked to say (I’m still trying to wrap my mind around “Sometimes, I want to rip the bangs off his head”), but there’s still a captain-shaped hole at the center of this film. Unfortunately, having spent two movies charting his alleged growth into a mature leader, there’s no getting rid of him now. So instead of complaining, I’ll simply keep with the whole War on Terror theme and paraphrase Rummy and say that you don’t go to a Star Trek movie to see the cast you wish it had.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

In the Self-Defeating Easter Egg Department, we get a scene where Admiral Marcus walks past scale models in his office of important ships in the history of star flight, in a callback to Decker showing V’ger-Ilia all the ships named Enterprise. There’s a variety of prominent vessels here: the Wright Brothers’ plane, the Space Shuttle, the Phoenix, the NX-01, and… the USS Vengeance? It appears Marcus is openly displaying a replica of the top secret Section 31 ship that Khan built for him. What does he say to people who ask him about it?

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Remember how Star Trek Nemesis tried to remake Wrath of Khan, and they totally missed the point of the Kirk/Khan dynamic by giving us a Khan-surrogate with no personal history with Picard? Incredibly, Into Darkness has made the exact same mistake with the actual Khan character, by bringing him in long before he has a reason to hate Kirk. What I’m getting here is that everyone in charge of this franchise for the last 10 or 20 years has been fully aware that Wrath of Khan is the most beloved Star Trek movie, but none of them have ever figured out why.

But hey, maybe comparing this movie to Wrath of Khan is unfair. Given the prequel timeline, this is actually more of a remake of “Space Seed”. But even “Space Seed” worked better, because it gave us a glimpse into future Earth history, and we got to meet a villain partly responsible for World War III. Into Darkness completely glosses over that backstory.

Khan has two big defining events in his history: One, he was part of the Eugenics Wars (never mentioned here) and two, he was stranded on a dead planet for 15 years, driving him to an insane quest for revenge against Kirk (doesn’t apply here). Remove those two events, and there’s absolutely nothing that distinguishes Khan from any other villain, like, say, rogue Starfleet officer John Harrison. Can we open up Abrams’ Mystery Box and find out why he bothered to bring back Khan in the first place?

The problem with the first two movies in this reboot series is that they seem to have been primarily a business decision by J.J. Abrams to take over a big budget tentpole franchise, thus raising his profile (and salary). And it seems to have worked; he just landed his dream job of directing the next Star Wars film. Congrats to J.J.! Here’s hoping that the studio replaces him with someone who actually gets Star Trek, and is interested in doing something more than reimagining moments from the franchise’s glory days.

Ah, who am I kidding? Get ready for the Borg to show up in the next one.

TV Show: Star Trek
Tag: The Star Trek Movies

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  • Doc Skippy

    Much of Into Darkness’s inscrutable stupidity is understandable (though not forgivable) once you learn (as I just did) that it has a 9/11 truther as a writer.
    I’m no fan of hard sci-fi, and I’m perfectly fine with Treknobabble solutions to typical Trek conflicts, but is it too much to ask for Hollywood writers to have AT LEAST a high school graduate’s knowledge of science? In this film, the head-slapping “cold fusion” thing. (Good lord, isn’t Treknology, even in the TOS era, so far advanced beyond cold fusion as to make the concept of cold fusion being a Trek solution laughable? They have TELEPORTERS, for Chrissakes!) In Prometheus, the explorers doffing their helmets in a POTENTIALLY HOSTILE ALIEN ENVIRONMENT. Seriously, astronauts were taking off their helmets in Cat Women on the Moon 60 years ago – hasn’t filmic sci-fi moved at least a little beyond that?
    But back to this movie – the only nice thing I can say about it is that it has Peter Weller in it, and boy do I like Peter Weller.
    Wasted opportunity – why wasn’t the USS Vengeance made to look more like, oh, say, the Enterprise E or some other TNG-era ship, which would be VERY advanced by TOS standards and would have given the fanpeople a little tweak?

    • CaptainCalvinCat

      Doc – if you ask me: The Vengeance has some resemblances to the Enterprise-E. Look at the shape of the saucer-section, look at the position of the warp nacelles, look at the ships “torso”… it is a darker version of the Enterprise E.

      @Dr. Winston O’Boogie: This movie might be the newest updated version of TWOK, but Khans wrath is not focussed on Kirk. No – Kirk is a hinderance, an annoyance, but not the subject of Khans hate. That would be Admiral Marcus, a.k.a. the guy, that Khan thought of, that he killed his 72 crewmates, a.k.a. his family.
      So, this is a tale of a guy, who -again – seeks revenge, just as in TWOK, but not against Kirk, but against that other man.
      Think of it as: “What TWOK might have been, if we’d had been following another ship around and Kirk would have been an asshole.”

      Plus: In this movie, Carol Marcus was horrified too by that weapon.

      • Muthsarah

        “Dr. Winston O’Boogie: This movie might be the newest updated version of
        TWOK, but Khans wrath is not focussed on Kirk. No – Kirk is a
        hinderance, an annoyance, but not the subject of Khans hate. That would
        be Admiral Marcus, a.k.a. the guy, that Khan thought of, that he killed
        his 72 crewmates, a.k.a. his family.
        So, this is a tale of a guy, who -again – seeks revenge, just as in TWOK, but not against Kirk, but against that other man.
        Think of it as: “What TWOK might have been, if we’d had been following another ship around and Kirk would have been an asshole.”

        Really makes it sound like Abrams and company wanted to make a Star Trek movie while including the least amount of Star Trek possible. Just enough to hook the nerds, no more, and focus everything they can on telling a story that has NOTHING at all to do with the title franchise. Which, I guess, would support the good Doctor’s opinion on Abrams’ true motive. He’s just strip mining millions of fans’ happy memories for his own sake (to ruin another franchise), without caring how he was screwing up any hopes for a more faithful reboot. If THIS is what fans consider Trek to be…I can’t imagine there’s hope for ANY producer or director to take up the reins and repair the damage that’s been done. I don’t know how they can make any new Trek movies or shows now that the image of the franchise has been stained by these movies about angry college kids running around, solving groovy non-mysteries, all with bright lights constantly zapping the audience in the face. How do you come back from that?

        • CaptainCalvinCat

          Okay, let me ask you this question:
          In that modern world we live in today (which might be a blessing or a curse), how would you update Star Trek?
          Sorry to say that, but IMHO, there are just two possibilities: Get modern (which is more or less what Abrams is doing – style over stubstance) or stick to your old values, BE about something and then risk, that only a fraction of those, who should come and see you, really come – because you’re to old-school, too lame, too boring.

          A “classic”-Trek tale? That might be a disaster – okay: the critics might praise it, but what do they know?

          • Doc Skippy

            But let’s not forget that the most reverently Trek movie, The Motion Picture, DID do fairly good business (nowhere near as good as WoK, but not poor enough to scupper a sequel, obviously). I contend that a movie LIKE TMP (but not as long or as boring), one that stays true to the Trek ethos, could be made today for a fraction of the cost of TMP. For me, I think it comes down to a change in the Hollywood business model – in other words, stop trying to make HUGELY EXPENSIVE MOVIES that can only succeed if they bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. All the attendant risk avoidance (i.e., dumbing down and actioning up) is basically turning all genre films into the same few films, which is NOT good.

          • Alan

            Incredibly, TMP outgrossed WoK, and indeed I think it outgrossed all the other TOS movies. Adjusted for inflation, TMP was for some reason the highest-grossing of all the first ten Trek movies.

          • Muthsarah

            Well, while it might be a non-starter, I think it’d be better to update Trek by keeping it on television. You don’t need such a huge budget, you don’t need to introduce the universe and characters to a mass audience all at once, while telling a story that would appeal to enough people to justify a $200 million budget. Once you bring that much money into it, you make it nearly impossible to NOT make a movie so superficial and action-dependent that it doesn’t resemble anything that Trek was based on. Even the good TOS movies built off of the TV show and the audience’s (even the casual audience’s) basic familiarity with it. As has been said plenty in this comment section, WoK built off of the Kirk/Spock relationship, while Search for Spock, Voyage Home, and Undiscovered Country had a lighter tone that gave the supporting cast a little more screentime. If you know only the most basic things about Kirk, Spock, the Enterprise, and the Federation, you can jump into any of these movies (maybe not SfS) and not feel too lost. But they couldn’t tell a meaningful story if they had to spend the first half of the movie delivering backstory and basic exposition necessary to bring mass audiences up to speed. If they had, there woulda been only another hour left, tops, and that isn’t enough time to tell a good action/adventure story. That’s enough for a few stunt reels and a bunch of expensive special effects.

            If I had no choice, if it was big screen or nothing….I’d probably recommend sticking with a familiar crew, yeah, even if you make ’em all younger, but NOT make it an origin story. Jump in, in media res, already on the ship, with the crew assembled, have bits of early exposition (like, I dunno, a Captain’s Log or something, and maybe another for Spock, and maybe a side character to show up, tell Kirk and company about a problem, then either leave or get killed), focus most of the action on one or two characters, plus a villain, and just don’t throw anything too heavy at the viewers. Budget it at $60 million or so, and go. You don’t have to dumb it down too much, and you don’t need to try so hard to run away from what the long-time fans wanted. ’09 wanted so desperately to re-invent EVERYTHING about Trek, while “paying homage” with pointless, unsatisfying, often infuriating callbacks, thinking that’s what Trek ultimately was about – the stuff on the surface. We got the ship, we got the uniforms, there’s a Klingon, what else do you need? What’s that? Good writing?! People sorting through thorny issues that perhaps have some relevance today?!! NERD!!!!!!

            Enterprise and the TNG movies didn’t fail because Trek fans didn’t want to like Trek anymore, or because there wasn’t still a more general interest in movies about aliens and spaceships and stuff, they failed because fans, critics, and casual viewers alike thought they were poor products. Change the management, but keep the format: hour-long, on TV. The movies were always more hit-or-miss, and with how budgets are, you make it necessary to find a product that pleases everyone. And Trek NEVER had that much appeal. It should never have been a tentpole movie. Not unless, maybe, it was coming off of a hit TV show.

          • Monophylos

            In that modern world we live in today (which might be a blessing or a curse), how would you update Star Trek?

            Answer #1: Don’t. There are other stories to tell.

            Answer #2: Go the “Knights of the Old Republic” route: come up with a setting far removed from the world of familiar Star Trek (like, 500 years in the future or something) and then just tell your own stories there.

            I have to laugh at your notion that Abrams is being original and “modern”. He’s got a superficially modern style but he’s not doing the slightest thing original with his storytelling. Both the 2009 Star Trek and Into Darkness are slavish retreads of old Trek plots spiced up with fanservicing references to other Trek plots. They don’t feel original or modern; they feel like third-rate high-schoolish productions of old Trek scripts. You know how Hardware Wars is basically just Star Wars only played by a cast of losers and dorks? That’s Abrams’s Trek: he’s got a much bigger budget than Ernie Fosselius but the same sort of cast of Sci-Fi original-movie rejects.

          • And between those two extremes nothing else exists?

          • CaptainCalvinCat

            Yeah, the thing in the middle would be, what we call the “eierlegende Wollmilchsau” – a jack-of-all-trades-device….
            It would be something a BIT modern (style over substance) and yet BE about something.

          • Greenhornet

            They COULD do something with the other crews of the Federation fleet. Do it like this:

            A big star cruiser is traveling along with a small escort ship and the captain says “This is where we part company”. Up until then, the camera focused on the big vessel, but now, as the huge orchestral score blasts out and we get a beautiful sweeping view of the capital ship, the music goes down to a quartet while the camera pans over to the “torpedo scout” or whatever it’s called.

    • RobMcCune

      Given that Abrams and co strip the original franchise for references about as shamelessly as they strip the women in the cast, I’m actually surprised they didn’t model the Vengeance on a TNG era ship.

  • “Ah, who am I kidding? Get ready for the Borg to show up in the next one.”

    That’s all too plausible given the popularity of zombies and that after TNG Borg were more or less turned into zombie equivalents (ZOMBIES…IN…SPACE!).

    • Greenhornet

      I hated the Borg Queen. In my opinion, it was a mistake to give her a personality (What does a Borg need with a personality? to paraphrase Kirk). She should come off as cold and menacing, not like a grade-B villainess.
      And by the way, why did Picard get a NAME as a Borg? What made him so special? I thought they were all just parts of the Borg machine, all one mind, making up the whole. So instead they are made up of slaves and rulers? So they are less like a single entity and more like communists?

      • mamba

        Agreed, her entire existence literally undoes the Borg as a concept.

        As stated, thy have a collective consciousness. That means as a defining feature, they do NOT have individual thoughts or identities…they are a collective. They basically pool their brain resources and act as one…one THOUGHT, one mind. Cool and scary.

        Then all of a sudden they have Locutus…who they say “speaks for the Borg”. Ok fine, they wanted a singular voice for Enterprise crew members to interact with (for whatever unknown reason) and they gave him a name. Still semi-ok, as it was clear that he was still a borg collective, and that “picard” no longer existed, what we saw was just a borg puppet they singled out and named for convenience (ours).

        Then the queen arrived, and she’s 100% independent and NOT BORG. She literally undoes the entire concept, the entire advantages of being Borg, and furthermore, you expect the other Borg to grab her and assimilate HER as she clearly goes against the values of the Borg. They as a collective are better than her, period. That’s the point of Borg. and with her, all respect for what they achieved with this techno-race vanished into thin air. Ugh!

        They could have even saved face by stating that she created the Borg as an experiment or something, and it got out of hand but they revere her as their creator, or something like that. But NOPE, she’s just a special Borg…they they somehow don’t see as weak. They as a collective mind don’t actually think…they just follow HER mind? Billions of minds acting as one…and yet HERS is louder as their queen? BS I call!

        • Greenhornet

          “…they wanted a singular voice for Enterprise crew members to interact with…”
          Yeah, that makes a kind of sense; it makes the threat personal for the crew. Psychological warfare, I can dig it.

          • Bear of Poop

            I don’t know that the Borg should even be able to conceive such a thing. It would be like a human deciding hey, I’m going to do all my interaction with you via my lymphatic system.

  • Christopher Trevino

    I thought this movie was okay when I first saw it, but I kept thinking about it. The more I thought about it, the more I realized just how screwed up it was. Benedict Cumberbatch and Peter Weller were great, but that’s about it. I’ve always said that if the movie ends up making you root for the villain, they’ve done something wrong. The villains are the only ones driving this movie (which is basically evil vs. evil with the “heroes” stuck in the middle). I couldn’t stand that pointless underwear shot of Carol Marcus, or that scene with Kirk and the cat-girls for that matter. I know the Kirk character is a ladies man, but original Kirk had some class about it. The death scene they ripped off from “WoK” just made me laugh. Jim Parsons on The Big Bang Theory did a better job (not to mention it being a true homage) when he shouted “Wheaton!” than the new Spock did when shouting “Khan!” (which just felt weak and forced). Can you tell I’ve been waiting for this review? Good job, by the way, Dr.

  • I blame TNG, starting with “Pen Pals”, for developing the bizarre notion that certain extinction through mindless natural processes is somehow part of a culture’s normal development, and that the Prime Directive states that utter and involuntary annihilation of an entire society due to forces completely beyond its control is preferable to the slightest risk of them finding out there are space aliens.

    • RobMcCune

      Speaking of which, there was actually a TOS episode where the Federation decides to give guns to a stone age planet to counter the interference of the Klingons giving guns to certain tribes. In that episode it was also established that Kirk had been to that planet before and revealed at least some information about who he really was to some of the locals.

      • Yeah. It’s like TNG decided to have Picard go to the other extreme. “Oh, your whole planet is about to blow up? Sorry. I can’t contaminate your species’ natural development by doing anything to save it. Too bad you haven’t developed subspace radios yet. Then I would be obligated to respond to your pleas.”

        • RobMcCune

          The worst part of Pen Pals was the part where they tried to justify doing nothing was part of some cosmic plan, nature or evolution. That reasoning basically solidified the Prime Directive as an excuse for captains to abandon people in need, and a get out of responsibility free card when it was clearly meant that to prevent imperialism and social engineering.

    • Monophylos

      Oh, God, you’re so right there. “Pen Pals” was bad enough, but then came “Enterprise” and its infamous genocide episode…

      • Matthew Given

        Yeah I stopped watching the show after that episode because I wanted to punch all the characters and shove Archer out of the nearest airlock. At least in Pen Pals Picard decided he couldn’t leave an inter race to die and in TOS Kirk was allowed to get involved if it would save lives. Star Trek lost it’s soul with that episode of Enterprise and it never got it back.

  • Cameron Vale

    I honestly believe that J.J. Abrams will mostly be remembered by posterity as an inferior variant of Michael Bay, and Bay will mostly be remembered as a frequent director of Jerry Bruckheimer films.

  • TheScottCSmith

    I had the same exact reaction you did — Kirk and Spock haven’t known each other long enough for Kirk’s “death” to have any kind of emotional impact. When Spock died in “Wrath of Khan” the characters — and we, as an audience — had a history with them that made Spock’s death and sacrifice meaningful and heartbreaking.

  • I have described this script as “studded” little bits of metal punched into it to form a pattern, but tacky and ultimately without merit.
    If you keep putting in little references and move things along fast enough people will not be able to tell that your movie doesn’t make a lot of sense. Like “Prometheus”.

  • Muthsarah

    I can’t muster more than a few sentences. Haven’t seen the movie. Won’t see the movie. Won’t EVER see the movie. Hated ’09, heard plenty of this one before, that was enough. Forever.

    Anyway, exactly when did “needlessly, contradictorily convoluted” come to be the new normal in Hollywood? The more complicated they try to make big action movies like this (AND TREK IS NOT ABOUT ACTION!), the stupider they come off. Conan the Barbarian (the Arnold one) was simple as hell, and prolly had more brain cells in it than this one. Hell, ANY Arnold movie made more sense than ’09, and many of those were, often rightly, considered to be dumb action movies, the kind you watch with your brain shut off, just rolling with the twists. But every action movie nowadays adds layer after layer of pointless callbacks, muddled conspiracies, needless plot twists, obvious foreshadowing, and general illogic….they’ve gotten even stupider. More effort –> lesser result. Even in the “nerd franchise” of Trek. And the audience is eating it up, like studios’ve tricked them into thinking complexity in film, no matter how flimsy, is good.

    Until now, I had felt Braga’s take on “complexity” was about the worst thing to ever happen to Trek, taking it down a road where twists justify themselves and being able to take nothing at face value was the ideal context for drama (Phantasms, Frame of Mind, Emergence, plus so many from Voyager). Now, I almost miss that idiot. And that thought makes me wanna go off and cry somewhere.

    “Okay, fine, I don’t blame Uhura for getting upset, but having a “talk”
    while on a dangerous mission in enemy territory is petty and ridiculous.”

    Oh, just perfect. A Jadzia/Paris moment too. Are they only borrowing the worst aspects of Trek? Do they hate us that much?!

    • Thomas Stockel

      It’s a good point: simple does not mean dumb.

      • HeppStarr

        That’s true. While I’m glad EVERYONE here is in agreement with the correct assessment of this “new” ST’s shortcomings by following the “needlessly, contradictorily convoluted” and “darker and edgier” template that most action-adventure movies are suffering through nowadays, I’m disappointed that NO-ONE is/was willing to voice the same charges against the latest “James Bond” movies, as represented by the utterly pretentious bull$#!+ that goes by the name of SKYFALL (and its equally joyless predecessors, the overrated “Casino Royale” and incomprehensible “Quantum of Solace”). I don’t get why THAT long-winded, self-important drivel got a virtual free pass from criticism while this… THING called “Into Darkness” is actually called out for the over-hyped, disrespectful fraud it really is.

        • Muthsarah

          Well, the simplest answer is that Trek fans are probably a lot more likely to take issue with tonal shifts than Bond fans, because they have a tradition of nit-picking (and, perhaps, of defensiveness as regards their fandom). The franchise has gone through some major shakeups in the past, and they never went over well, at least at first:

          1. TOS –> TMP (scale, use of effects, major focus on two new characters)
          2. TOS –> TNG (all new cast, very different aesthetics, general crappiness of first season)
          3. TNG –> DS9 (no longer on a starship, sharp turn from Gene’s idealism)
          4. VOY –> ENT (prequel idea unpopular, violated continuity early, general crappiness)

          But the biggest was the shift from a serious morality play about adults and exploration into a hyper-kinetic action movie starring college kids, filled with arbitrary name-drops and from straight-forward “save Earth/save the universe/save the Vulcan” plots into massive conspiracy theories. It dwarfs any changes the Bond movies even made (including the shock at seeing Lazenby in place of Connery, but I wasn’t there).

          Bond movies have always been action movies with a focus on sex, gadgets and exotic locales, even if the popular conception of these terms have changed significantly over the years. Also, Bond movies have had mainstream appeal since the beginning, and tend to follow the same types of formulas; Casino Royale, while a lot more serious (and less gleefully stupid) than the Brosnan films, wasn’t a huge departure from License to Kill. Bond’s had lots of dark moments, and he’s always been a killer. Yes, Skyfall’s plot was convoluted, but I think that had as much to do with the movie’s focus on technology as the villain’s main weapon, and the difficulty in visualizing for the audience how a computer genius makes for a threat to MI6. It was handled poorly, I think, but if you look beyond the weak villain (Bardem did a great job, though), it’s really not that different from the rest of the franchise: Bond travels the world, meets and perhaps sleeps with exotic women, gets barked at by M, runs into the villain, gets captured, is toyed with, escapes, then tracks him down and has a big shootout with him and his flunkies. It just wants to go about it dark and serious instead of breezy and sexy. I don’t know if that’s simply due to the expectations of action movies today (you’re not allowed to smile anymore, and no, I don’t know exactly when that started), or because the filmmakers didn’t know how else to place Bond in an age of espionage where technology is everywhere and he can’t simply walk into a casino, chat up the villain under an assumed name, lay down a straight flush, and then steal his girlfriend without a billion-dollar surveillance and identification system detecting him en route and sending the big bad a text with his face right on it and a one-button means to send drones to blow him up before he sets one foot out of his Aston-Martin. James can’t save the day with wits and charm, he has to push himself to the limit for two hours, because physical skills and personality don’t cut it alone anymore. It’s less like a dance and more like Olympic-level athletics. Bond might as well be a robot. It would probably be better, story-wise, if they moved him back to the 70s or earlier, but then, that would alienate the casual moviegoer. So…I guess where I was going was that technology is a ready-made deus ex machina, a game-breaker, for anybody to break out at any time, and the supervillain techgeek is now the new scariest thing on the big screen. Even the Joker relied on some wonderful toys. And how do you do a tech geek supervillain? Play him for laughs, like Goldeneye, or give him an incredibly-complicated plan, something way over the audience’s heads, just to overwhelm their ability to follow along. Complicated = smart. Sorta.

          And for the record, I don’t object to either franchise for being “dark and serious”. WoK was dark and serious. SfS was dark and serious. Some of my favorite TNG and DS9 episodes were dark and serious. It’s just all the layers the writers are adding to the story, either because they want to convince themselves that they’re clever, or the producers feel that overstimulation is the best way to keep an audience rapt. A complicated but subtle story would risk being boring, but a complicated and fast-paced story would be safe, as frenetic action sells well to general audiences, and any plot holes can be safely covered by moving onto the next scene before the seams burst on the previous one. You don’t have to write something good, just something big. And I guess that’s easier.

          • HeppStarr

            And now all three of you have proven my point about the Double-Standard I see at work here: Diss Trek for selling-out to the herd mentality, but DON’T attack Bond for the same thing because it doesn’t apply since it’s an “improvement” over the “bad” Brosnan/Dalton/Moore-whoever movies before it and blah blah blah with the apologist, over-analyzing, enabling CRAP that those very same “herd” supporters hide behind to justify their favor for something they NEVER liked or understood in the first place, as these “new and improved” Daniel Craig movies are just a FAD for them to make themselves look “cool” by association. With that in mind, I have NO interest in participating in any further “debate” since clearly your minds are already made up on where you stand, so what’s the point? If I had to explain it, you still wouldn’t understand. Good day.

          • Muthsarah

            Firstoff, Dalton’s films were good, and Dalton himself was an awesome Bond. Had he been in OHMSS, it prolly would have been the best of the lot. Let there be no mistake there. Brosnan and Moore are another matter.

            Modern action movies are bleak and humorless, have been for years, and that transcends franchises. Again, I don’t know where that started, but I’m confident that Goldfinger (let alone You Only Live Twice) could NEVER, EVER be made today. Too goofy. It would come off more like an Austin Powers movie than a legit spy thriller. To the masses, at least. For the record, I love YOLT (not so much Goldfinger).

            And are you raging at US, for not agreeing with you hard enough? Take a nap already.

          • HeppStarr

            “Take a nap already”. That’s rich coming from someone who posted a two-page long diatribe that went on forever detailing a bunch of pseudo-intellectual twaddle in a transparent attempt to justify their own smug self-seriousness.

            And no, I *don’t* care if anyone doesn’t agree with me. Nor did I explicitly *say* that Dalton’s Bond films were BAD; just that I implied that the IDEA of his movies being “bad” alongside Moore’s and Brosnan’s is a lazy generalization for “the masses” to justify their sycophantic over-praising of Craig’s “Bonds”, which is akin to a nine-year old bragging that HIS sports hero is the best because *everyone else’s* SUCK.

            THAT is the line of thinking I object to here on this board. I had hoped I had made that clear *twice* already, but once again you’ve proved my point that actually explaining it won’t make anybody here understand it any better. I guess I’m just too simple to handle a few eggheads around here.

          • Muthsarah

            “Pseudo-intellectual”? I’m not even close to being up to that level. I just rant ‘cuz I like it. You are currently arguing (I guess) with something who only sporadically acknowledges the Backspace key.

            This board is a pretty civil place. If you don’t agree with someone else’s opinion, that’s fine. I don’t think anyone here is out to convert anybody. You say A, someone else says B, everyone speaks their peace and leaves. However, you seemed to be taking things rather personally and were very dismissive back there. And if you had actually left the conversation back when you implied you were going to (us not being worth it, to paraphrase), we wouldn’t still be here. Bear in mind, I was the one most in agreement with you.

            I understand why someone wouldn’t like Casino Royale or Skyfall, especially if they tend to prefer the Bond films of the 60s and 70s. They’re obviously inspired by the success of the Bourne films, completely different beasts, full of “gritty, visceral, realistic” whatevers (at least Casino Royale and Skyfall have some style). I’m a little more accepting of them than you are, I kinda agreed with your take, and offered up a possible explanation for why they were as they were, mostly to entertain myself. I had no idea where I was going when I started with it. And that was it. What’s to get so worked up about? I think you’ll find there are more than a few contrarians here, and I doubt you’re the only one who doesn’t care for those movies. There’s no need to be so defensive.

        • Thomas Stockel

          Personally, I liked Casino Royale and I’ll explain why. After the last two disastrous Pierce Brosnan outings with lame villains, recycled plots from earlier movies and ridiculous action sequences Daniel Craig’s Bond was refreshing. He was physically vulnerable, there was a minimum of gadgetry involved and when he got blindsided by Vesper it was an event that had a lasting impact into the next film. Except for Bond’s wife dying I don’t think there had ever been a case of a “Bond girl” having any sort of impact like that. Craig’s Bond felt a bit like Connery’s in that he was not as smooth or as dashing as later models; he was rough around the edges and felt more ruthless in a way Lazenby, Moore and the others didn’t to me.

          I just found Casino Royale refreshing. But there were a lot of problems with Quantum of Solace despite the Vesper angle, among them Bond becoming seemingly super human again, and us getting another weak villain who just did not seem all that impressive. As for Skyfall, it was hit and miss for me. While I enjoy re-watching ‘Royale, I really don’t have an urge to see Skyfall again.

        • CaptainCalvinCat

          Did we watch the same “Skyfall”-Movie?

          I’m more of a Pierce Brosnan-Bond-Kinda-guy… I like the more “silly” adventures, I like Roger Moore as the more sarcastic, cynical, way-over-the-top Bond, the same way Brosnans last outings were and – I have to admit: Skyfall was back in that place. It was over the top, it had humour in it – I liked that more thatn those other two Craig-Bonds, which I sat through and thought: “Yeah – okay… not my cup of tea.”

          And from the Craig-Bond-movies, Skyfall is definitely the one, I am thinking of watching more than once.

    • JD

      movies goers are getting dimer

  • Toby Clark

    “And while this isn’t the first time Trek writers forgot that the Neutral Zone separates the Federation from the Romulans, not the Klingons, this may be the first appearance of a “neutral zone”
    between two governments with no actual diplomatic relations.”

    Since there’s been references to a neutral zone between the Klingons and the Federation since Star Trek II at least, I don’t think the writers are the ones forgetting things.

    I’ve been fairly forgving to this one, giving it a 9/10 on IMDb, but the thing that irks me most is the bit where Spock describes Khan’s past actions as “the mass-genocide of any being you find to be less than superior.” Something that he explicitly wasn’t guilty of in Space Seed: “There were no massacres under his rule” “No wars until he was attacked.”

    • But he is the bad guy. We can’t portray the bad guy as anything other than a bad guy.
      He’s the bad guy.

      Moral complexity? WHAT?

  • Thomas Stockel

    All I can say is, I wish I could have written an analysis of this movie as well as you did.

    I cannot stress how much I despise this film. So much so that now more than ever I regret my purchase of the first Abrams Star Trek DVD. If this is how he handles beloved franchises then I cringe at the thought of what he is going to do to Star Wars. Then again, after the anal raping Lucas did to his own property can it get any worse?

    • Thomas Stockel

      Wow, two negative votes. Was the “anal raping” line a bit much?

      • Alan

        Not enough, really.

    • RobMcCune

      can it get any worse?

      Depends, since Into Darkness and Nemesis were remarkably similar, which do you hate more? The slow-paced, pompous, inept, and grandiose slap in the face, or the moronic, ADHD, shameless, rapid fire slap in the face?

      • Thomas Stockel

        Man, it’s like asking which STD you want to contract…

        • RobMcCune

          From the director who caused that itching and burning comes the next installment in the epic series that gave you that rash 10 years ago…

        • CaptainCalvinCat

          And THIS is probably the reason, why the movie was not called “Star Trek: Darkness”. ^^

      • at least the pompous can put you to sleep, good for curing insomnia. The ADHD idioticy can only create irritation and motion sickness. So the pompous wins.

  • Alan

    When Quinto shouts “Khan,” he’s just making a face, not really emoting. At least when Shatner screamed “Khan,” you could see him actually internalizing the rage that drove the scream. I don’t understand why so many people like Quinto’s performance.
    As for Cumberbatch… holy jeez, how do you open your mouth that damn wide, and why the hell would you do that? I don’t think even a white shark can open its mouth that wide.

    • Toby Clark

      Keep in mind though that Kirk wasn’t all that outraged – the scream was a bluff to cover up the fact that they had a plan to be rescued in a matter of hours.

      • Alan

        If so, then Shatner’s phony outrage was more convincing than Quinto’s real outrage. Which is an even harsher criticism of Quinto than I was originally making.

  • Monophylos

    I didn’t hate this movie, to be honest, and I didn’t walk out of the theater feeling angry and cheated (as I did after Attack of the Clones for example). But the whole affair was skating dangerously close to self-parody even before Quinto’s big moment and when he does finally yell “KHAAAN!” he tips the movie right over the edge. It didn’t ruin the whole movie for me but it was a dreadful lapse all the same.

    The same atmosphere of immaturity that the 2009 Star Trek had, like it’s Daddy Dress-Up Day at Starfleet, pervades this film. Only Bruce Greenwood comes across as a mature professional and he dies after five minutes of screentime.

    Another telling difference: Spock’s self-sacrificial death in Star Trek II is the crux and climax of the movie; the space battles and action sequences, in a way, are simply a prelude. In Abrams’s film, however, the death of Kirk is merely a prelude to an action sequence–a really aimless one, too. Just where is Harrison going at the end? Really it doesn’t matter I suppose so long as there’s an excuse for a chase.

    As for casting the world’s whitest man as Khan…well, do we really know that’s his name? Maybe it’s “Caan” in this alternate timeline.

    • Thomas Stockel

      Oh thanks for that. I now have an image of James Caan chewing scenery as Khan in my head. 🙂

    • RobMcCune

      Another telling difference: Spock’s self-sacrificial death in Star Trek II is the crux and climax of the movie; the space battles and action sequences, in a way, are simply a prelude. In Abrams’s film, however, the death of Kirk is merely a prelude to an action sequence–a really aimless one, too.

      Not to mention in Wrath of Khan Spock’s fate is mirrored by the death of Preston after the first battle and the death of Cpt. Terrell on Regula 1, you’d think that Abrams might get the point. Qunito’s KHAAAAN!! shows just little JJ and co understand if they think yelling like that adds to the drama of a scene, let alone one where the events are enough to carry the scene. Not to mention yelling like that almost never works, The Empire Strikes Back being the only exception I can think of, and Wrath of Khan getting half credit since even though the scene works, the clip from it has become a punch line.

      • Also, in Wrath Of Khan, Kirk is playing out desperation to Khan, when in fact he had already set in motion a plot to caugh Khan by suprise. In that famous scene, Kirk is pretending desperation, he’s acting!

  • Gallen_Dugall

    Minor point to major point. Bones goes out of his way to say that he synthesized Khan’s blood. Fans know that Federation technology’s ability to replicate things is limited but here it is specifically and directly mentioned that they can make as much as they want. Esentially the same deal with the interstellar transporter.
    I think in both cases what we have is JJ acting out on his hatred for the franchise by ripping up the conventions of a reset at the end of an episode, and without these the franchise cannot work like it originally did. It is the basis of episode television – imagine if each Twilight Zone episode had to take into account what happened on previous episodes. A thoughtful examination of an idea requires a common starting point and because the franchise no longer resets it can no longer do anything other than double down on the action and stupidity for each iteration.
    Frankly the free to play Star Trek Online game, set in the aftermath of the JJ verse creation, has “episode” plots much more interesting than anything JJ has managed to come up with. Granted the game has issues, but it hits the right notes enough of the time for a single play through. Just don’t put money into it.

  • Jim Royal

    What bothers me the most about STID is what they’ve done to Kirk.

    a) They turned Kirk into an incompetent who got his job because of nepotism.

    b) By the end of STID he should be under arrest.

    Consider: Kirk does very little to merit the repeated hand-up that Pike gives him. Pulling strings to get him into officers training, assigning him as first officer (twice), assigning him as captain… Kirk never graduated the academy. He’s not qualified for any of this, and as we see I’m STID, he’s not yet capable to handling the job. The only reason he got the job is Pike.

    And seriously, why is Kirk not under arrest? Imagine if a member of Seal Team Six captured Bin Laden instead of killing him, and then let him go, while handing him the keys to a fully loaded Apache gunship. That marine would never see the outside of a prison for the rest of his life.

    Kirk does the same, yet is rewarded with his dream job. The ending of this movie make me ill.

    • Monophylos

      What bothers me the most about STID is what they’ve done to Kirk.

      He’s just some stupid kid! The original “Star Trek” had its many defects but you have to grant the show this: it managed to get across the idea that Kirk was, despite his relative youth, a seasoned career officer. He wasn’t awarded his job; he rose up through the ranks and had already been through a lot before he became captain of U. S. S. Enterprise. Not all of those experiences were good or honorable (q.v. the glimpse of his past we get in the episode “Obsession”.) Abrams’s Kirk, though, is just some pampered, overgrown teenager who got into Starfleet only because Pike needled him about living up to the memory of his dad. Always there has to be some pathetic emotional reason why people do things on screen these days.

      You know, it used to be that people made movies about experienced, professional men in their middle age doing difficult jobs. I suspect though that Hollywood collectively decided at some point that such movies weren’t going to appeal to the 18-25 set. So now we’re inundated with movies and TV shows in which all the main characters are feckless teenagers or twenty-somethings motivated entirely by personal feelings. I find myself thinking of movies like The Guns of Navarone and how if that movie were made today Mallory would be twenty-five and he’d be intent on his mission not out of professionalism but because his dad didn’t love him or because the German commander of the Navarone fortress had stolen Mallory’s girlfriend or some other such rubbish. It’s just hopeless.

      • Jim Royal

        The idea of telling a story about a 25 year-old Kirk — even an incompetent Kirk — is not a bad idea. Having Kirk screw up badly and then living with the consequences of his actions would make for a great story.

        And I have to wonder if this kind of character development was in the script at one point. Pike tells Kirk point blank that Kirk’s arrogance and recklessness will get people killed. This is blatant foreshadowing. And of course, this is exactly what happens — tens of thousands of people die because of Kirk’s false belief in his own infallibility. Yet the movie incongruously rewards Kirk for this epic failure while playing happyhappy music.

        In the history of cinema, have we ever seen a movie protagonist so manifestly fail to save the day and yet remain unaware of it?

        And why do audiences cheer this?

        • Jason Withrow

          Well, there was Man of Steel, just prior. Awful trend? Uniform corporate interference? We just don’t know.

          • CaptainCalvinCat

            You can’t compare “Man of Steel” with “Star Trek: Into Darkness”. From what I’ve heard, this superhero-flick continues the trend of dull, humourless movies – something that Into Darkness does not.
            It might be a loud, sometimes stupid action-piece, BUT there are humourous moments in there, which – in my book – is something, I like.

          • Jason Withrow

            I don’t mean in general, I just mean in terms of what Jim Royal was saying, “failing to save the day” and having it ignored by the film, the protagonist is “incongruously reward[ed]”. Is that not the major complaint against Man of Steel? It’s been said over and over since, here and otherwise: that Superman left half the city devastated, causing billions in damages and thousands of lives lost, all brushed under the rug because mentioning the damage would ruin the adrenaline? As I understand it, that’s exactly what Jim was talking about in STiD.

        • KilliK

          because the audiences are fucking idiots.

          • Jim Royal

            So it seems.

            I was even unhappy with the ending of Star Trek 2009, where Kirk gets the Enterprise permanently. I would have been delighted with an ending where Kirk graduates as a full Lieutenant (instead of an Ensign, as he would have normally).

            I could picture a final scene with Lieutenant Kirk and Captain Pike on the bridge, with Kirk gazing at the command chair, reflecting on the fact that he had surpassed his father’s accomplishment. Pike would say, “You will sit in that chair again someday.” And Kirk would reply in a cocky tone, “You’re damned right I will.” And he’d go off to a posting on some other ship. That final scene would have had me beaming.

            And it would have prevented some of the stupidity of the sequel.

    • Hyatt

      And seriously, why is Kirk not under arrest? Imagine if a member of Seal
      Team Six captured Bin Laden instead of killing him, and then let him
      go, while handing him the keys to a fully loaded Apache gunship. That
      marine would never see the outside of a prison for the rest of his life.

      Kirk didn’t exactly do that.

      He also gave a hostile foreign power reasonable pretext to demand his extradition or even declare war, as he invaded their territory and destroyed one of their patrols. Plus Sulu declared his intention to bombard Qo’noS while identifying himself as a Starfleet captain.

      • Jim Royal

        True, the Seal Team Six analogy is inexact. Unlike the analogy, Kirk was acting under duress. But his choices nonetheless lead to the San Francisco disaster. He bears some responsibility for the deaths of tens of thousands, and he doesn’t even appear to be saddened by that. Nor does anyone else in the movie. I’m outraged that Kirk would be rewarded for so spectacularly failing to save the day. Better the Enterprise be lost with all hands than permit Khan to do what he did.

        The ramifications of the Qo’noS incursion had occurred to me. I’m assuming they will be the pretext of the events of next film, which will almost certainly be about a war with the Klingons.

        • Hyatt

          But his choices nonetheless lead to the San Francisco disaster. He bears
          some responsibility for the deaths of tens of thousands, and he doesn’t
          even appear to be saddened by that. Nor does anyone else in the movie.

          Yuuuup. I think we’re supposed to think that Kirk’s sacrifice in the warp core redeems him for all the bad decisions he makes, but besides his death not sticking or having any effect on his character, him going in to fix the core personally was the wrong thing for a captain to do in his situation. A captain needs to live and be willing to send his crew to their deaths to save the rest.

          Really, the more you examine Kirk’s actions throughout the movie, the worse he looks. He doesn’t just enable a terrorist to destroy a chunk of the city, he also in all likelihood started a war (assuming that the next movie doesn’t drop that premise). Even if he hadn’t committed criminal actions, he’s a piss-poor captain based on his non-criminal actions.

          • Jim Royal

            I think we’re supposed to think that Kirk’s sacrifice in the warp core redeems him for all the bad decisions he makes…

            I think its worse than that. I think the writers are expecting us to not even notice that Kirk is making bad decisions throughout the film, just like we’re not supposed to notice that Marcus’s diabolical plan is fundamentally unworkable because none of the 72 torpedoes have fuel. Kirk does a brave thing at the end of the movie, and that’s all we’re supposed to remember.

            But, y’know, there’s nothing wrong with Kirk screwing up. And there’s nothing wrong with him screwing up and not noticing — if that were the story they were trying to tell. If a guy who screws up manages to succeed in spite of himself, well, that’s a vision of a dystopic world. If he screws up and eventually falls flat on his face, that’s a life lesson (or a Road Runner cartoon). But this movie is neither of those things. It celebrates incompetence in grandiose fashion, and I’m not sure if Orci, Kurtzman, and Lindelof are even aware of it.

          • I don’t think they are. I think they based Kirk’s ascendency on their own careers’s tragectory in Holywood and they view it as the proper way to reach excelency.

          • Muthsarah

            Hmm….so you’re suggesting the tired “man/boy/girl (never woman, sadly) of DESTINY” isn’t just a lazy way of appealing to the audience’s self-immersion fantasies, but a creative wellspring for narcissistic writers? I’m astonished that I’ve never thought of that….

          • Nothing prevents it from being both,

  • Cristiona

    Peter Weller plays a badguy? I’m shocked! Shocked!

  • usuck

    Can’t wait for them to ruin star wars…..

  • I hate the first Abrams Trek movie because of it’s stupidity and ineptitude as cinema and it’s complete disrespect and contempt for Star Trek caugh me unawares. I wasn’t expecting such a relentless assult on my and everybody else’s intelligence and good will. Not to mention the complete despise for a classic like Star Trek.

    But i can’t take Star Trek Into Darkness as anything other but as comedy.

    Being already wary of the incompetence of the filmmakers of the first movie, i knew not to expect anything other but more terrible cinema and total misguideness from the second film. And on that my expectations were met and even surpassed.

    So much so that for the second movie my attitude was more chilled, and i took to watching it with the same fascination somebody watches a carcrash, to marvel at the maginitude of the destruction.

    Also, to take it a comedy. STID is the year’s best involuntary comedy of the year. The movie is hilarious for how bad it is as cinema and for how misguided and contempt it shows to Star Trek. It’s like watching a bad clown show, and you laugh AT the clowns, not because the clowns are funny.

    STID is hilarious because it’s so bad as cinema and it’s so bad as Star Trek. The first movie infuriated me, but the second gave me my greatest laughs of the year.

  • Daniel

    I Thought it was fun and action packed anyone who says otherwise are appropriately called ‘faggots’

  • IMB Seventy

    I admit the film has problems, a lot of them even serious, but I still like it. I don’t love it, and there’s been far better Trek films (and far worse), but in the end, it’s okay, imo. I kind of agree with the Nostalgia Critic more in regards to this film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8endmbdxQ

    I can understand why people hate it though.

  • Although I don’t love Abrams’ direction, I think the primary problem is with the WRITERS. JJ can direct the thing competently, but if the script sucks — and it really, really does — then all the direction in the world won’t save it.

    They need to get D. C. Fontana or Leonard Nimoy or someone who UNDERSTANDS Star Trek to write the script for the third reboot movie. But the suits at Paramount won’t, because they don’t even know how little they know.

    • Muthsarah

      I don’t think the suits are ignorant; their rejection of the past is deliberate. They’re not even trying to make movies that resemble Trek-that-was. They’re trying to create something new entirely, something that has nothing to do with the rest of the franchise barring a few recognizable symbols for marketing purposes. They want to create movies that have more to do with The Dark Knight or The Avengers, current models for action blockbusters, than they do with Best of Both Worlds, City on the Edge of Forever, or, as backwards as it may seem, even Wrath of Khan.

      That’s why they keep going to hack writers (literally, people who write for hire rather than write with any sort of particular passion for the project) and hired a director who had never even seen the shows or movies. They don’t want someone with ANY attachment whatsoever to the old ways. They feel that by handing the reins over to people who know or care nothing about the franchise, they can ensure that they don’t focus on anything but the budget and the box office. These are assembly line productions; they don’t want any fans mucking up the creative process.

      EDIT: Just to pre-empt: Obviously, there are parallels here to the production of Wrath of Khan itself. The suits likewise took the reins away from Gene and handed it over to professional moviemakers who had no ties to anything Trek. Harve Bennett had known nothing of the franchise before he was hired, but he did go back and watch all the episodes BEFORE he started putting the story together, and based it around a returning character who would have genuine meaning to the fans, while still being interesting enough in his own right. And while he and Nicholas Meyer did try to add a different spin which would have a more generalized appeal (as opposed to Gene’s idealized naval-gazing), they didn’t make any major changes to the universe or the characters, only how the story would be presented to the audience. It would be the equivalent of the recent movies de-aging the crew as they did and having a little more focus on the action scenes (and making the characters a little less one-note), but keeping everything else more or less consistent, instead of changing everything about the characters but their names and putting them into a generic action movie.

    • No, the problem is both the writers and Abrams. Abrams trained this writers as they are, they are his long time collaborators. It’s impossible to criticise this writers and that not falling on Abrams as well.
      And Abrams’s directing is godawful. A man obsessed with making his movies look “cool”, for a very poor definition of cool, and his precious mystery box non sense, at the expense of everything else.

      If Abrams brings this nonsense to his Star Wars movie, the fans are in for a rude awakening.

  • T. Morrissey

    I doubt that being an Indian Sikh is inherent to Khan’s character. With all the other stupid shit to criticize in this movie, why bother with your pointless racial nitpicking?

    • Khan is a sikh, that’s established right away in the very introduction of the character in the TOS episode “Demon Seed”. Kahn itself is a name that’s very common among sikh males, it’s as common among them as Smith in english, and if i’m correct, the name doesn’t exist in other people beside the Sikh.

      • Muthsarah

        It’s fairly common throughout the Indian subcontinent. It’s especially common among the Sikh, yes, but not unique to them.

        • Khan means lion in the sikh language, ence why it’s such a common name among that warrior culture.

      • CaptainCalvinCat

        The episode is called “Space seed”.

  • Chris Palmer

    What really irks me, in addition to all the other stupid shit this movie pulls:

    First movie takes place largely inside V’Ger and that fucking huge cloud. Climax of movie occurs at the actual V’Ger site.

    Second movie takes place mostly around an anonymous planet picked for Project Genesis. Climax of movie is a dogfight in a nebula.

    Third movie takes place on Genesis, when we’re not wherever the regulars are. Climax of movie takes place on Genesis.

    Fourth movie takes place mostly on Earth of 1986. The climax involves a chase through a hospital and a rescue in an ocean, but given that the movie revolves entirely around Earth, this can be forgiven.

    Fifth movie concerns a madman taking the Enterprise to the centre of the galaxy. Climax occurs in centre of the galaxy.

    Sixth movie takes place on both the Enterprise and Rura Penthe. The climax of the movie involves the Enterprise and a Starbase.

    Generations is about some guy and a really flimsy excuse to fire a missile into a star. The climax occurs on Veridian III.

    Fist Contact takes place in 2063, but the climax occurs aboard the Enterprise.

    • Chris Palmer

      My phone is buggering this up, so:

      Insurrection takes place entirely in the Briar Patch and the Ba’Ku homeworld.

      Nemesis is all about Picard and some guy who looks nothing like him. The climax takes place in a blatant ripoff of the Mutara Nebula.

      Then we get two movies in a row that are focused on destroying San Francisco. Hell, the other planets are little more than window dressing, when they’re not pissing off the cameo.

  • Brian Shanahan

    First of all top review, never saw the film myself, after seeing the first one (and about a week later realising that it was “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”) and hearing my brother’s recap of his viewing, I knew it wasn’t worth two hours of my life. But everything I’ve heard about Abrams second film ties in very well with what you say.

    Second: “And at the end, Shatner’s ridiculous “KHHHAAAAANN” yell gets reassigned to Spock.”

    Which in Wrath of Khan happened half way through the film, when Kirk was “trapped” on moon Regula 1 was orbiting. The film seems to have missed the point of the over the top scream which was essentially a fake-out to Khan, in order to get him believing that Kirk was helplessly trapped without anybody coming for him. Kirk knew different (we were just after seeing “If we go by the book, like Mr. Savik says, minutes will seem like hours, and hours seem like days” scene) and wanted Khan to stick around long enough that Scotty could do his magic with the duct-tape, and therefore the Enterprise would be able to stop the Reliant, instead of slowly losing ground to the less beat up ship in a chase.

    Sticking it to the end serves no such or similar purpose.

  • Nathan Obral

    I saw this movie as part of a date with my ex-girlfriend – emphasis on the EX. She really liked it, herself a Trekkie, just like her eventual husband (again, there’s a reason she’s my ex-girlfriend!). The ruination of TWOK really stuck out like a sore thumb to me… but I played dumb and said I liked it. Bad move on my part. I had to see it again for a second time in the theater about three weeks later.

    I’m not a Trek devotee (I dug TNG because of LeVar Burton and Reading Rainbow) so maybe I’m not one to judge. But this movie sucked. Whoo boy did it suck.

  • Michael Micucci

    “In accordance with protocol, there’s an emergency meeting of all starship captains and their first officers ”

    Even from the very start, this is retarded. In accordance with protocol?? What the hell? The protocol of the Federation in a terrorist attack is to put all of its highest ranking officers and commanders together in a single location? Even today, we aren’t that imbecilic. Look at 9/11. The very first thing U.S. leadership did was separate the president and vice-president so they would never be in the same place at the same time (THAT is _real_ emergency protocol, compared to this swill). And no military commanders in a time of war or threat would ever gather in one spot, for the EXACT REASON that it is too easy for an enemy to decapitate your leadership in one strike.

    Is Abrams really an idiot? I mean, seriously, looking at ’09 and then this crap. This is Idiot Plot, Ball, World, goddamned Universe-whatever-you-want-to-call-it. I can’t even take the rest of the movie seriously when the supposed “brilliant minds” in the story are displaying monstrous levels of idiocy right from the get-go.