Star Trek Into Darkness, Minus the Star Trek

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Why does a movie centered around space travel feel so claustrophobic?

The first movie, though rather insubstantial, had some impressive special effects and noteworthy cinematography. It was crafted with skill and presented with clarity, as much as you could see that clarity through all the lens flares. Star Trek Into Darkness feels like it was made by someone who saw the first movie and tried to mimic it while stuffing itself with all the classic Star Trek tropes it can. On three separate occasions we are introduced to the Enterprise with the same crescendo booming. And then there’s a tribble in one scene to establish a more than ludicrous plot point (For those of you not Star Trek savvy, probably most of you: tribbles are little balls of fur that multiply like space rabbits).

I wouldn’t call it a bad movie, but at the same time I can’t call it a Star Trek movie either. Sure the names are the same, the costumes, the philosophy of avoiding interference with fledgling species, but that’s all on the surface. Star Trek has always inhabited the “gray area” (or a better term might be the neutral zone) between what’s black and white, right and wrong. It presents a dilemma with no easy answer, and shows how its characters who all have varying thoughts on the situation try to fix things. It takes different viewpoints and tests them against each other, looking for what would be best and what would be most ethical. It was just as much about thinking and reasoning as it was about action and phasers. But this new J.J. Abrams version isn’t so cerebral. On the surface, it’s Star Trek but the similarities end with the last letters of their names. Change them and this could have easily been Star Wars 7. Change them again and this could have been a movie based off a story by Robert Heinlein or Isaac Asimov. But it doesn’t take any time to dwell on what it’s showing us in the way a science fiction author might. The movie is in such a rush to get from plot point to plot point that if you don’t immediately accept what’s going on you won’t have time to think of its implications or consequences. It works to the plot’s advantage because there are several holes that no one either thought about or knew how to close up before the film was released.

It’s really quite frustrating. A movie is supposed to be a tour guide, showing us the most exciting parts of a story, and making sure everyone has a clear understanding. This felt like a coked up Seth MacFarlane journey. The story is there, but it moves really fast. And sometimes there’s references which are fun little moments. But they are either too fleeting for those who would care about them, obvious and forced, or they drag on for the longest time and proceed to have no effect on the story at large. I would explain what the dragging ones are, but that would get into spoiler territory. To give it final yay or nay, think about it like this. If you liked the first one, you’ll probably like this one since it’s a lot more of the same. If you like action and cool special effects, you’ll probably like this one since it’s a lot more of the same. If you like Star Trek the series, don’t see it.


So to get into it, there are Klingons and there is Khan. Khan is a super soldier, created and then left cryogenically frozen in space, only to be thawed and used as a means of creating new weapons for The Federation. What is the point of his being here besides having a name that will cause some of the audience to audibly gasp when he says it for the first time? Because this is a movie that movies quickly, there’s no time to stop and meditate on who he is, what he’s doing, and what he represents. John Harrison could have been his name the entire way through as just another humanoid alien or even a smart, roguish mercenary and nothing would have changed. Klingons are an alien race whose culture is based entirely around honor and warriors. Though they are referenced in the main thrust of the plot, they aren’t seen for more than five minutes and in my book that means they are pretty much only referenced. It’s like if in the first one the Romulans who traveled through time were only talked about and the entire movie was about the destruction of Vulcan. They are a part of the story, but they could be easily interchanged with pretty much anything. There’s nothing about them that says they have to be the bad guys. And since here they aren’t the bad guys, they are inconsequential. It’s all just to say, “Hey remember these guys? Here’s what they look like with even more money budgeted for make up!” It’s just sort of hollow.

Beyond thinking that it looked nice, there isn’t anything too memorably about this movie, nothing that even lasts long enough to talk about with friends or family on the ride home.

By Marc Price

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