Friday, May 17, 2013

Review: "Star Trek Into Darkness"

I like to think that, when compared to other critics, I'm pretty easy to please. Silly plot holes, odd dialogue, unfinished effects, etc. can be forgiven, as long as I leave the theater thinking and excited. I'm not asking for much; treat me like a mature human being, and I'll treat your movie with respect. A simple request that can be easily met, I believe.

Sometimes one moment - just one - can nearly ruin an experience for me. The movie as a whole might be superb, but this one sequence can stick in my mind and tarnish the good feeling I was having. It's like having a pounding headache with no pain reliever in sight. It. Just. Hurts.

Can such a headache be excused in time?

After watching Star Trek Into Darkness, I'm certain that such a bad feeling can be soothed. Left alone, I rather enjoyed most of what I saw. Kirk and his team get caught up in a manhunt for a former member of Star Fleet turned terrorist, only to uncover a plot to start a war. What unfolds is not exactly the "chess game" that was suggested in the marketing, but a conflict that finds them defending the very core of the franchise. When assigned to a kill mission, the crew of the Enterprise mostly object. Scotty even quits, stating that Star Fleet is not supposed to be militaristic. It's clear that Mr. Scott would not agree with simply assassinating Osama bin Laden. We're better than that, he might say.

A "war time" Admiral creates a highly weaponized ship, meant specifically for a battle with Klingons, with the help of the agent turned terrorist. Comparisons to Donald Rumsfeld / Dick Cheney and the War on Terror are obvious, but in this story (unlike in the real world), the violence monger is actually going against the grain of the society he lives in - trying to force a peace minded world to go along with his one man war. Through this, Kirk and Spock confront their own violent tendencies, and thankfully learn to make the right decisions despite their emotions. In our world, they would probably be reprimanded for going against official orders. But, Star Trek shows us a future interested in the betterment of life. A possible future, I would hope. This is a  classic Trek tale, without being too traditional.

Many have been worried that this new Star Trek would just be about shooting lasers and not the discovery of new worlds and ideas. Into Darkness features action, yes, but what it does is pit a crew that wants to do exploration (traditional Trekkies) against a crew that just wants to fight (Hollywood). The series doesn't "boldly go" yet, but they do "engage" that topic. And, in the end, they will "make it so".

So, what's the problem?

Well, I can't really get into it without spoiling the movie. What I will say is that, at the climax, we get something that I really didn't expect: a near verbatim recreation of a famous scene from a previous Star Trek movie. I actually threw my hands in the air out of frustration and embarrassment. How could they do this? Who thought that was a good idea? It's lazy fan service and a non creative reference, I thought. Such a shame. Into Darkness was going great, being a fun, well told, sci space adventure. What problems the first movie had regarding that Trek feel, this one fixed. It even confirmed for me that J.J. Abrams was a very good choice for Star Wars Episode 7.


I once suffered a week long headache, that was eventually cured with a medication I didn't even know I had all along. This week, my headache was short, and medicated rather easily. A twitter conversation helped me understand that A) Star Trek has always referenced itself, in one way or another B) The scene made sense in context, and was actually integral to the movie and C) One perceived hiccup shouldn't damper an overall fun event.

Remember how in From Paris with Love, John Travolta made a horrible reference to Pulp Fiction by mentioning the Royale w/ Cheese? Or when in Be Cool, Travolta danced with Uma Thurman? These are the scenes that cause major migraines. These are the call backs that make me mad. When you've made a genuinely good movie, and decided to do a twist on a famous moment from the same franchise in that movie, that's acceptable. Especially for Star Trek.


Indeed, time heals all wounds, sometimes faster than expected. And that only one wound was described ought to be a compliment by itself. J.J. Abrams may not have been a Star Trek fan growing up, but he finally understands that old Trek feel. That is the medication to any one scene that might ail you. Request met, I say.

3/5 - 4/5 *s, depending on how I'm feeling at a given time.   

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