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5 reviews, 25 user ratings

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Star Trek Into Darkness
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Where Is V'GER When You Need It?"
2 stars

Whether or not you enjoy "Star Trek Into Darkness," the twelfth big-screen installment of the seemingly endless science-fiction franchise, will depend to a large extent on what sort of expectations you have going into such a thing. If you are simply looking for a slick, effects-heavy extravaganza filled with chases, explosions and fistfights, it should prove to be more than satisfactory. On the other hand, if you are still laboring under the impression that "Star Trek," at least in its classic form, represents something a little more ambitious and thoughtful than that--that it was a sci-fi narrative that derived as much excitement from the idea of seeking and discovering new worlds and civilizations as it did from the standard action beats--then this film will come across as a wildly derivative and largely inert sequel that is more interested in blowing things up and borrowing heavily from its own past than it is in finding a new manner of honoring those ideals.

The film opens with a prologue that borrows heavily from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and finds Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), the newly minted commander of the USS Enterprise, forced to violate Starfleet's Prime Directive in order to save the life of his friend and second-in-command Spock (Zachary Quinto) during the theoretically routine observation of a primitive planet threatened with destruction from a giant volcano. In response to this rule-breaking act of heroism, Spock writes up Kirk to Starfleet command for his actions and Kirk is stripped of his ship while Spock is reassigned to another crew as a response. It hardly matter because almost immediately afterwards, a facility in London belonging to Starfleet is bombed and the culprit appears to be one of their own--an officer by the name of John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) who has gone rogue for no known reason.

This attack proves to be merely the prelude to a greater act of savagery by Harrison and as a result, Kirk returns to the captain's chair of the Enterprise and is charged by the no-nonsense Starfleet top dog (Peter Weller) with tracking him down to the Klingon planet of Kronos and taking him out with a newly-developed photon torpedo. This is a move that is highly illegal, goes against the very nature of Starfleet itself and could trigger an interplanetary war with the Klingons if they are captured. Additional questions are raised with the arrival of a comely new science officer (Alice Eve) who turns out to not be exactly who she claims to be, though she looks good enough in her underwear for Kirk to give her a pass. Eventually, they arrive at Kronos and encounter Harrison and without giving anything away, let me just say that the questions surrounding his identity prove to have some shocking answers that could result in the destruction of Starfleet itself and it all ends, as apparently all films of this type must, with a couple of characters pounding the crap out of each other hundreds and hundreds of feet above the ground.

Although J.J. Abrams' 2009 reboot of the "Star Trek" franchise proved to be a critical and commercial success, I was not much of a fan of that film or the approach that Abrams and screenwriters Robert Orci & Alex Kurtzman chose to take with the material. The original series was an adventure show, of course, but it also took pains to balance the action stuff with a real sense of wonder about the possibilities of interstellar travel (then a big deal in the years leading up to the moon landing) and the moral and philosophical questions that might arise in dealing with people from other worlds. Granted, a lot of that was done because it was a hell of a lot cheaper to film than big special effects but it is also why the show has continued to mean so much to so many people in the decades since it went off the air. In addition, the chemistry that developed between the cast members over the course of the series was so convincing that by the time they made the leap to the big screen, their adventures there--especially in the great "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan"--had the kind of dramatic impact not often seen in sci-fi spectaculars of the time.

When he took over the franchise, Abrams could have chosen to either slavishly follow in the path that the late Gene Roddenberry developed when he created the series or he could spin things off in a completely different manner in order to make it his own. As turns out, Abrams, Orci & Kurtzman chose a middle road that was clearly the right move from a commercial standpoint but which proved to be fairly unsatisfactory as far as I was concerned. In some regards, things were different--perhaps none more than the budding romance between Spock and Lt. Uhura (Zoe Saldana)--while others remained resolutely the same. The only trouble is that the new stuff often felt forced, as if it was trying a little too hard to be new and different without actually doing anything with those changes, while the more familiar stuff just felt strange in the way that it tried to draw on the goodwill that the franchise had generated over the years via in-jokes and the like without ever really earning the right to do so.

More problematic was Abrams' decision to recast "Star Trek" as a standard-issue Hollywood blockbuster with a breakneck pace, rapid-fire editing and giant set-pieces featuring orgies of special effects mayhem that had no real idea of what to do with any character not named Kirk or Spock. The result was a film that called itself "Star Trek" and featured all the familiar names and places but which felt like just another bit of expensive and easily forgettable multiplex fodder. (Seriously, unless you have watched it in the last week or so, do you actually remember anything specific about the plot of the last "Star Trek" movie?)

Going into the screening of "Into Darkness," I was hoping that history would repeat itself and that Abrams, Orci, Kurtzman and co-writer Damon Lindelof would correct the flaws of the previous film and come up with a story that truly lived up to the ideals of "Star Trek" while also working as a stand-alone film for newcomers in the way that "The Wrath of Khan" surpassed the rather logy "Star Trek: The Motion Picture." Alas, not only have they failed to correct those hiccups, they seem to have gone out of their way to accentuate them further. Instead of developing an original story, the writers have jerry-rigged a narrative that borrows so heavily at times from past "Trek" adventures, especially in the last half-hour, that it veers past conventional notions of homage and into outright theft. In addition, when things grow tiresome or a distraction is needed to get from one illogical plot point to the next, Abrams throws out a bunch of in-jokes (no doubt many more than the ones I caught) to placate fans while bewildering the non-Trekkie types.

My problem is not so much that they have taken this material, mixed it up a little bit and then called it their own as it is that they are clearly using it to generate feeling and emotions in long-time fans of the series that they frankly have not managed to earn on their own. Towards the end, for example, we get a near beat-for-beat recap of one of the most memorable scenes in the history of the franchise but Abrams doesn't seem to realize that the reason it worked was because we had developed such an innate knowledge of the characters over the years that their actions had a real impact.

Here, they just seem to be going through the motions and there is an overriding sense that the filmmakers just got lazy and decided that what worked in the past will do so again. They also try to replicate Roddenberry's conceit of devising futuristic stories as a way of commenting on contemporary issues by raising any number of parallels with 9/11 and its aftermath but the results in that regard feel more exploitative than anything else--there is a bit in the end credits that dedicates the film to post-9/11 veterans but that hardly makes up for the bad taste that the site of a starship hurtling towards a crowded building inspires.

There are other problems as well. Although Abrams has proven himself to be a fine filmmaker with more modestly-scaled projects like "Super 8," he seems a bit lost when dealing with something of this size and scope. The action scenes are loud and chaotic and, with a couple of exceptions (such as Harrison single-handedly bringing down a wave of Klingons), put together in such a unfocused manner that it is often impossible to figure what is going on at any given moment--he seems more concerned with sticking in as many artificial light flares as he can (which become so distracting that they all but ruin Alice Eve's big scene) than in staging his action material in a clean and efficient manner.

Additionally, the film once again fails to find anything to do for anyone other than its central characters (which is a problem since Chris Pine is still kind of obnoxious and off-putting as Kirk)--the familiar faces go through their familiar paces without getting much of anything to do (with MVP honors once again going to Karl Urban, whose take on Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy" basically steals every scene that he appears in and even a couple that he doesn't) while most of the new characters are barely sketched in, leaving those actors high and dry (though the sight of Buckaroo Banzai heading up Starfleet did bring a bit of joy to my heart). The only one of the newcomers who makes even the vaguest impression is Benedict Cumberbatch but even he is hampered by the fact that when all is said and done, he is playing just another bad guy who speaks with a British accent and whose line readings send the whole thing veering close to the realm of outright camp.

Although "Star Trek Into Darkness" is marginally better than its predecessor, there still isn't much on display here that will interest anyone who isn't already a devotee of the franchise and even some of them may find it becoming a little tiresome after a while. And yet, even though I am now 0-2 in regards to this current incarnation, I still hold out some hope that everything will eventually click together and that we will get the "Star Trek" film that we really deserve instead of something like this, which is like floating around endlessly in circles in a crippled spaceship while waiting for a dyspeptic Scotsman to fix the warp drive. Come on, this is a five-year mission we are talking about--surely someone can carve two strong hours out of that.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=20210&reviewer=389
originally posted: 05/16/13 15:54:12
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User Comments

10/29/16 morris campbell killer sequel lots of fun purists stay away 5 stars
12/29/15 onix fiero fun and entertaining film. if you are looking for old trek this isn't it. but still fun. 4 stars
6/16/15 Bents Simply a straight-up action film - but a very good one 4 stars
3/20/14 Jack Star Trek into darkness: Idiots in outer space. 1 stars
1/27/14 Charles Tatum Great stuff, despite the naysayers! 5 stars
10/16/13 jeanne For 50 years, Kirk has been an immature jackass. My cat is a better captain. 1 stars
10/15/13 Carl Very enjoyable film. I have to knock off just a bit for not addressing Khan's heritage. 4 stars
8/31/13 Eggy Joe Repetitive, weak characters and unoriginal. Disapointed. 3 stars
7/22/13 TalynofTexas Exciting movie although it drags in parts and the ending is over the top. 4 stars
6/12/13 Marty Action was top-notch with great effects. Characters fun but shallow. 3 stars
6/07/13 Carol S Absolutely amazing! Both my husband and I enjoy it! 5 stars
6/05/13 gc A shot-for-shot remake of spocks death scene from ST 2, this is the best they can do? 2 stars
5/28/13 ThaDude Trek fans needs to get out of the 60's, the new films are what this franchise needed. 5 stars
5/26/13 jamiebraun Best star trek movie Ive seen in a decade 5 stars
5/26/13 Jeff Wilder Well-done Trek film. Best since First Contact. 4 stars
5/26/13 Philip Slick production that moves like lightning but ultimately hollow. 3 stars
5/20/13 kevin lause The villain makes this worth seeing. 4 stars
5/19/13 Koitus Good movie, especially if you are a Trek fan! 4 stars
5/19/13 THOMAS LEE Boring, inept, and irritiating. And that was just the cinema audience... 1 stars
5/18/13 Durwood Great effects and ok plot but a little wimpy with the don't go after terrorists message. 3 stars
5/17/13 Mishyana Original ST gets more credit than it warrants, this gets less. Both are good. 4 stars
5/17/13 Bob Dog Star Trite... 1 stars
5/16/13 mr.mike A few notches below the !st . still quite good. 4 stars
5/15/13 radium56 Fast paced & entertaining. 3D transfer unnecessary, occasionally awkward (seen in IMAX) 4 stars
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  15-May-2013 (PG-13)
  DVD: 10-Sep-2013


  DVD: 10-Sep-2013

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