Film Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

It has been a rough year, and a rough month, and a rough few weeks.  I shouldn’t have taken time away from family and work, but I decided to finally take in the new Star Trek film.  Obviously, if you haven’t seen it, and intend to, don’t read further.

 

Kirk and McCoy are on a planet inhabited by some primitive race, and they are being chased in a scene not to dissimilar from the famous opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  It turns out, this is a distraction, as Spock is being lowered via shuttlecraft into the volcano which is next to the village, about to erupt and wipe out the emerging civilization.  McCoy and Kirk eventually dive off a cliff, where we find the USS Enterprise hiding underwater.  Spock is stuck in the volcano, and Kirk breaks the Prime Directive (the law of the Federation forbidding any interference with the natural evolution of primitive cultures)by flying the Enterprise out in full view of the natives to beam him out of the volcano before volcano stopping device goes off.  Spock is upset that the law was broken, and Kirk and McCoy are both miffed that Spock is ungrateful.  Spock’s girlfriend, Uhura, is upset that he was so reckless and not thinking of themselves as he was about to die.

Back on Earth, an officer goes with his wife to visit their daughter who lays dying in a hospital.   A mysterious stranger approaches him offering a cure, which he soon delivers on ….

Back at Starfleet Command in San Francisco, Admiral Pike, Kirk’s mentor and father-figure is incensed that Kirk , who was supposed to be strictly observing this planet, not only risked the crew and ship to ave the planet, but then broke the Prime Directive.  Kirk tries to explain, but Pike won’t hear it … Kirk wasn’t ready for the command.  Kirk is busted down to first officer, with Pike back in command of the Enterprise, and Spock is reassigned.

In London, with his daughter cured, the officer now must pay for the miracle.  He walks into the basement of an archives building in London, and blows the building up.

In San Francisco, Star fleet Command assembles, and determines that one of their own officers, a John Harriman, was behind the bombing, and managed to escape from the building with some unknown materials.  Kirk is the only one to ask “Why bomb a library?”, and when the head of Starfleet, Admiral Marcus, asks for his answer, Kirk responds that such an event would gather the leaders of Starfleet into one room like they were now.  No sooner has that been said, than a ship appears outside the windows, and begins shooting the place up.  Kirk manages to jury rig a way to bring the ship down, but not before Harriman transports away.  When Kirk returns to the meeting room, he finds that Pike has been killed.  Scotty determines that Harriman stole his long distance beaming formulas, and is now on Cronus, the home planet of th Klingon Empire;  an empire that has seen increased tensions with the Federation.  Kirk goes to Admiral Marcus, demanding the Enterprise back so that he can hunt Harriman down.  Marcus agrees , and even goes a step further.  Marcus believes that war with the Klingons is inevitable, but now is not the time to start a war.  He offers Kirk a salvo of newly created photon torpedoes which can be fired from the neutral zone and approach by stealth, killing Harriman at his isolated outpost.  Kirk readily agrees, but Spock privately informs him that this is all wrong … that the Admiral is approving an act of revenge killing that could very easily trigger a war.

Once aboard the Enterprise, Scotty refuses to accept the transfer of the new torpedos, since he cannot determine what is inside of them (they are shielded against scanning), and Starfleet won’t tell him what is inside.  Kirk orders him to approve the transfer, and Scotty resigns rather than back down.  Checkov is named new Chief Engineer.The ship also gets a new science officer, who just happens to be a weapons specialist.  Spock quickly figures out that this new science officer is here under false orders, and is in fact Carol Marcus, the Admiral’s daughter.  She has become concerned about her father who has been acting more and more strangely, and has been obsessed about the Klingons of late.

Kirk decides that Spock is right, and rather than fire the torpedoes, he uses captured civilian ship to travel to Cronus and arrest Harriman.  Upon arrival at the Neutral Zone, the warp drive conks out, though Kirk leads a raiding party to Cronus while repairs are being made.  They are discovered by a Klingon patrol, and after a firefight, Harriman arrives and begins kicking serious Klingon ass.  He then surrenders to Kirk.

Kirk and company smell a rat.  this guy is a slick operator, wiped out a Klingon garrison single handed, but surrendered way too quickly.  When pressed, Harriman finally tells the truth.

Harriman is in fact Kahn Noonian Singh.

After the event of the lat film which saw Earth almost destroyed, and with a threat against the Federation from the Klingons looming, a top secret rogue part of Starfleet Intelligence called Section 31 (a group that was very big in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and whose origins were shown in Star Trek: Enterprise) realized that the Federation was really to wussified to stand up to the Klingons and any other threat.  Searching their history books, they realized that in Earth’s Eugenics Wars of the late 20th century, a group of genetically engineered “supermen” escaped Earth after trying to subjugate it by unleashing a genocide against weaker humans.  Section 31 found Khan’s ship, and revived him, keeping his crew (family) frozen as hostages to control him.  He helped the federation design weapons and tactics to defend Earth, but was also laying low until he could find an out.  He realizes that Kirk has a conscience, and might help him.  He asks Kirk to open the new torpedoes.  when Dr. MArcus and McCoy manage to open them, they find that Khan had managed to replace the warheads with the cryogenic tubes of his crew.  He had hoped Kirk would fire them, and that he could safely land them and rescue his people … but then he asks Kirk to consider that his warp drive got knocked out, that his was likely planned, and that Admiral Marcus likely wanted the Enterprise to be caught and destroyed to trigger the war he had wanted.  Khan even gives Kirk the coordinates of the secret Section 31 base around Jupiter where they are building new warships.  Kirk calls Scotty, and instructs him to investigate.

 

Admiral Marcuse shortly after arrives in his new dreadnought .. kind of a cross between the Galaxy class Enterprise from the Next Generation and a stealth fighter).  Admiral Marcus orders Khan to be turned over, which Kirk refuses.  Marcus then fires on the Enterprise, seriously damaging it, buying only a little time when his daughter begs for mercy.  Just as the death blow is about to be delivered, the dreadnought’s systems shut down … compliments of a stow away Scotty!

Kirk and Khan transfer over and gain control of the bridge, but once they are in control, Khan turns on Kirk.  He demands Spock transfer the torpedoes over.  Spock does so, and then beams Kirk and party back to the Enterprise, though before he can destroy the Enterprise, the torpedoes explode.  Sending both ships crashing to Earth (Spock had gotten some advice that he should do this).

A part of the engine is out of alignment, and without fixing it, the ship will crash.  Kirk manages to knock Scotty out, and races into the radiation soaked chamber to effect repairs.  Kirk dies in the process, and Spock is there to see his friend die.  Khan’s ship crashes, leveling most of San Francisco, and escapes.  Spock goes after him, in a rather exciting chase that ends when Uhura comes to Spock’s aide.  McCoy, who had been studying Khan’s blood, realizes that he can revive Kirk, and manages to do so.  In another Raiders homage, we see the croygenic tubes of Khan and his crew sitting in a warehouse that is being closed.

The film ends a year later with the re-dedication of the Enterprise, the crew (plus the lovely Dr. Marcus) now assigned to a five year deep space mission to explore strange new worlds and to seek out new life and new civilizations and to boldly … you get it.

Let me start with what I don’t like.  First, JJ Abrams needs new camera equipment, because his lens flares are still a problem.  Second, I really don’t like the new formal uniforms (seeing Spock wearing a hat just seems weird).

What’s to like … quite a bit.  First, JJ Abrams rolled the dice big on making big changes to the Khan story line that was so big in Star Trek II.  Handle improperly, this franchise dies for another decade.  Instead, he found a new and intriguing way to bring the character into play, while simultaneously paying homage to the established past of the show (I thought it was great to use Section 31, something not too well known to old Trek fans).  Just as Heath Ledger had big shoes to fill as The Joker, Dominic Cumberbatch had to follow Ricardo Mantalban.  Because of the changes to the character’s situation, Cumberbatch did not have to recreate the roll, but rather had liberty to take Khan in a different direction (in Star Trek II, Khan is half-mad from being marooned on a planet for 20 years … this Khan had been living in civilization, under duress, for a few years).  Cumberbatch is not as over the top and mad as Mantalban’s Khan, but he is more cold, more reptilian, and more calculating.

While certainly fraught with deus ex machina, the switch on which character dies is interesting.  Kirk’s dying words are also somewhat unexpected.

While Scotty has always been a bit of a comic relief character (and he remains so in this film, it was really good to see him given a pair of testes to stand up to Kirk and show that when it came to right and wrong, there was no compromise.

In some ways, this was an improvement over the last film, which was good in its own right.  I’m still not sure I like the whole Spock-Uhura thing … but I give credit that there was a more than token attempt to give each character something to do other than “hailing frequencies open” and “Aye, aye, sir”.

All-in-all, a positive step forward for the franchise.

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2 Responses to Film Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

  1. Alan P says:

    Finally saw this in 3D on Saturday. It was a lot of fun, but it seems like they tried to cram a lot of story into one film.

    It’s hard to watch these new films and realize that the crew is all still getting to know each other. I’m used to the original series cast, where the films were set after their 5-year mission and they are already a close-knit team. The setting for the new cast is interesting, in that they are a number of years earlier than the films of the original cast. I’m wondering if that space probe is still on it’s way looking for whales. Spock might think to mention that so they can start learning to speak whale now. Maybe they can hire Dori from Finding Nemo.

    I also had a handful of problems with the film:

    * The argument about their relationship between Uhura and Spock on the way down to Qo’noS was out of character for them. I expected two professional Starfleet officers to keep that stuff together, especially since they were in the middle of an incredibly dangerous situation. Clearly it was important to describe Spock’s feelings about death, but this was not the time – the writers should have found another way. And maybe we all could have figured it out from Spock’s reaction when he mind-melded with Pike at the time of his death. Again, they just had too much story to tell.
    * While I loved the gratuitous shot of Carol Marcus standing in her underwear, it really didn’t have an appropriate place. In the original Star Trek universe she was a very strong character. I hate to see that they’ve changed her into some T&A. And what the hell was she really doing on the ship, anyway? And what kind of security do they have that she could just sneak on under false pretenses? It was just a ridiculous part of the story. It seems like the writers were in a hurry to get her into the story – again, they had too much story to tell.
    * It bugs me that the original Spock keeps showing up. And he picks and chooses what events from the future he wants to share. come on, man, either spill it or get the hell out of the film!
    * Now that I’m a parent, I can understand how strongly someone feels about their children. You will do anything to protect them. But I’m not sure that I would trust meds from a man that I don’t know, use them to save my daughter, then kill myself and dozens of others in an attach that compromises the security of the secret military installation at which I work. I mean, you have to think through to the endgame, and this guy clearly did not.

    • teganx7 says:

      >>The argument about their relationship between Uhura and Spock on the way down to Qo’noS was out of character for them.<>While I loved the gratuitous shot of Carol Marcus standing in her underwear, it really didn’t have an appropriate place.<>It bugs me that the original Spock keeps showing up. And he picks and chooses what events from the future he wants to share.<>Now that I’m a parent, I can understand how strongly someone feels about their children. You will do anything to protect them. But I’m not sure that I would trust meds from a man that I don’t know, use them to save my daughter, then kill myself and dozens of others in an attach that compromises the security of the secret military installation at which I work. I mean, you have to think through to the endgame, and this guy clearly did not.<<
      This is a common enough plot device, and while I agree with you in principle, not having kids, it is difficult for me to make a definitive statement one way or another.

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