I was very sorely tempted to write my review thusly:
Dear ScienceFiction.com readers,
Star Trek Into Darkness was awesome. Go see it.
But as I drove home from the theater, congratulating myself on a review that was succinct, and to the point, I started fully digesting the movie.
You see, I’m used to being critical. It’s my job to be. And when I say critical, I don’t mean being negative for the sake of being negative. I mean watching, and understanding why certain elements have to be certain ways, and questioning if there could have been better ways. That’s why I’m known as being a Star Trek critic (mostly in the negative sense), despite what I think is an obvious love for the series.
My point in all this is that Star Trek Into Darkness was so unabashedly catered to me that it was hard to be critical. They knew I would say something about using a senior officer and sending him into a volcano, so they mentioned it was stupid. I think they must have predicted my thoughts on the treatment of women in the movie, because the women were pretty much bad ass, though it goes without saying that the movie still didn’t pass the Bechdel Test. They played on every trope they could think of to twist it in order to delight me, be it with a tribble, or the ending scene of The Wrath of Khan.
But that may be the problem, and where the critical part of me finally steps in. As a Trekkie, they did everything possible to indulge me short of introducing the Borg. The movie basically groveled at my feet, and offered me inside jokes and canonical references to appease any wrath I may have had towards story (including the death of a character I was not prepared to let go). For anyone else who isn’t a Trekkie, I’m not so sure if this movie is good. Unfortunately, I can’t speak for that particular population, for I left them in my review mirror as I drove away at warp speed a long time ago. I don’t even know what it’s like to not to be a Trekkie anymore, but I understand it is a legitimate state of being. Naturally, not one I’d care to indulge in, but I can acknowledge that it exists.
I do not know, then, if the villains motives seem plausible because I already know his backstory backwards and forwards. I do know that they only described his backstor in one sentence, and it was more of an aside to say to the audience “oh, yeah, he’s evil, but there’s a lot of action going on and we don’t have time to expound on how and why we found this out or why Kirk doesn’t seem to know who the villain is because he obviously didn’t take history classes at the Academy”. I don’t know if people saw Sulu taking the Captain’s chair as unnecessarily wasted screentime, because as a Trekkie, and a fan of George Takei, I already know what an important step it is for Sulu to be even just an acting captain. I don’t even know if people really thought the Klingon scene (which seems like it was there to just inject two more action scenes) needed to be there, though I suspect they are setting up the third movie with it. So much of the movie makes sense to me because I have been so heavily steeped in Star Trek my whole life, I can’t step outside of it. My very bones are soaked in it.
I couldn’t even judge the crowd’s reaction because it was Sneak Preview night, and no one else but Trekkies were there. Naturally, everything was applauded, and fists were thrown up in the air when Original Series references were made. It’s hard to know if I was riding the energy of my brethren, and thinking the movie was amazing, or if it was truly amazing.
Now, I’ve heard a lot of things, that diehard Trekkies don’t like this movie, and that only non-fans will like it. I can’t really speak to that. I know that when Trekkies complain about the reboots, its because the movie isn’t in the original spirit of the show, and focuses more on action. Don’t get me wrong, this movie has plenty of action, but I think it was more in keeping with the original series. There are major moral and ethical dilemmas that drive the plot and I can’t think of anything more Star Trek than that.
That being said, I did go with a friend who is not a Trekkie, who thought she’d watch all of Star Trek before she saw the movie and then realized how many hours of her life that would actually take (she got to episode 12), and she still loved it. And for you non-Trek fans who like scifi, that’s really the best recommendation I can give you.
Now, I’ve tried to review this as best I can without spoilers, but for the Trekkies who have seen it, or the Trekkies who just don’t care, here is a more honest opinion about the movie.
In case you wondering if I was right about Benedict Cumberbatch playing Khan, I totally nailed it. Unfortunately, that means that the first thing to be critical about is the “whitewashing” of Kahn’s character. That being said, Cumberbatch played him beautifully, and as much as I’d like to poo-poo his heritage, I find that hard to do when Khan was supposed to be from India, yet was played by Ricardo Montalban, a Mexican.
Still, the point remains, representation still doesn’t remain Star Trek‘s strong suit.
I hear a lot of complaints about Khan’s reveal, and frankly, I thought it was beautifully done. I think his character, though more rage-filled (and deservedly so, considering what he had gone through in this timeline), was perfectly written to encapsulate his personality. We know Khan is vengeful when it comes to family, we know he’s brilliant and a good fighter. There is very little from his performance or his storyline I can poo-poo, so I’m going to have just disagree with my fellow Trekkies in this one respect.
But let’s move on to the other thing I’m sure is going to make Trekkie’s more than a little annoyed when they stop being entertained by the movie and it’s multiple explosions and start thinking about it. Dr. Carol Marcus, in this universe, became a Weapons Specialist instead of a Molecular Biologist, which really irks me because if there was anything Marcus was against, it was the militarization of anything. The problem with this change in her character is that Marcus’ timeline was only significantly altered when Vulcan blew up, and by that time she was probably already ready to graduate the academy, and it seems unlikely she could easily move over into being a weapons specialist when she was previously a scientist in that short amount of time.
Other than that, though, I’m sure this movie will please everyone, the only downside to this movie being Quinto’s “Khaaaaan!”, which felt more out of place and pandering than I think it was originally meant to be. I’m not sure if I even approve of Spock crying. Yes, I want to know that he feels something about Kirk’s death (which is Spock’s death at end ofThe Wrath of Khan), but so far we have seen Spock convey strong emotions without every actually having them in a conventional human sense, and I loved that. I didn’t feel like his break of character was appropriate for the moment, and his yelling of the name “Khan!” would have been far more chilling if he just darkly muttered it with resolve in his eyes.
But really, these complaints are minor in the grand scheme of things. For someone who is beyond critical to the point it’s hard for me to sit down and enjoy a movie without looking at my watch anymore, I was on the edge of my seat for the entire movie, and more than a little sad when it ended.
All in all, a worthy sequel to a reboot that is breathing new life into the franchise, and it is well worth the watch.