For a while I had decided on skipping Star Trek: Into Darkness, JJ Abrams’ sequel to the 2009 reboot. I did enjoy the last one, in spite of myself, but the prevailing sentiment I was getting about Into Darkness was that it was insanely dumb and not worth ticket price.
But eventually I thought to myself “What the hell, maybe I’ll give it a shot. There was bad press for that last Spider-Man movie and I actually enjoyed that one. Maybe if I just go in with low expectations I’ll be pleasantly surprised”.
I’m not normally one to write detailed descriptions or plot summaries, but I think the best way to give you an introduction as to how mindbogglingly stupid this film is is to take you through the opening scene, because it really does set you up quite beautifully for the kind of experience you’re in for.
The film opens with Kirk and Bones getting chased through an alien forest by some spear-throwing, loincloth-clad natives like Jim Carrey at the end of Ace Ventura 2. The natives, incidentally, are all the color of day old cream, almost as though someone sensed they were a hair’s width away from a massive racial shitstorm and made the natives as not black as possible. Apparently, the Enterprise was doing a routine survey of the planet and found the nearby volcano was on the brink of eruption, which would destroy the entire planet somehow, and decided to swoop in and save the day by…..and I want you to pay attention here, lower Spock on a cable from a shuttle craft into the volcano, so he can drop some kind of anti-volcano device into it. Of course, why this involved Kirk stealing the natives sacred scroll thingy, or why Kirk and Bones had to go near their village in the first place, is never explained.
Likewise, why they couldn’t just teleport the anti-volcano device INTO the volcano, in spite of the fact that they later teleport Spock out, is likewise left a mystery for the ages. This is a recurring theme, you’ll find. Apparently in the last few years transporter technology has become fussier than a videogame cartridge from 1995, and only ever works when the script calls for it. But after a few close calls, they all get safely back to the Enterprise, which has been hiding…..underwater in a nearby lake. Why is it in the lake? Why not in space, it being a space ship? How did they get it there without any of the natives seeing it? How did no one in the entire film making process think “Wait, this makes no fucking sense”? The movie seems to meet all these questions, and the many others you’ll doubtlessly have after watching the film, with a resounding “because fuck you”.
I could really spend the entire review pointing out the many, MANY logical inconsistencies, terrible decisions, lazy plot devices and general stupidity of the movie, but there are plenty of people already doing that. This IS the internet, after all. So suffice to say, the movie’s dumb. Moving on.
From that little adventure, the Enterprise crew heads back to earth, where a mysterious terrorist played by Benedict Cumberbatch is causing all kinds of havoc for the Federation bigwigs, and after Cumberbatch lures the Federation’s best and brightest into the most obvious trap in recent film history, Admiral Robocop sends Kirk and the Enterprise out to kick his ass.
From a technical standpoint, Abrams’ usual signatures are on full display. Lens flares out the butt, shaky, unsteady camera work and selective focus during fight scenes, it’s all par for the course. When the camera is being held steady and isn’t awash with blue-white light, there isn’t anything particularly interesting to look at on display. The Enterprise in the new timeline still looks like the inside of an Apple Store, and the looks we get at various Earth cities are probably the most dull, generic looking futuristic cityscapes I’ve ever seen on film. Similarly, Federation dress uniform is now a gray tunic with a peaked officer’s cap. At least Next Generation gave its main characters a fashionable frock for formal occasions.
On the acting front, most of the characters have become more caricatures in the years since the last one. I actually really liked Karl Urban’s Deforest Kelley impersonation in the last one, but by this point it feels more like something you do to get laughs at parties than an actual performance. Simon Pegg’s Scottish antics as Scotty have similarly been dialed up a notch. For all its faults, the last movie at least had the plus of a fairly strong cast that gelled as a unit. This time around, the gel’s gone a tad moldy after too long in the fridge.
Star Trek: Into Darkness is, as we’ve covered here, a definitively dumb movie. But what’s worse, it’s not even the fun kind of dumb, the kind of dumb you can laugh at. This is the kind of dumb that just makes your soul ache at how little thought went into it and how little almost anyone involved seemed to give a shit about crafting an interesting narrative or inventive action scenes. Remember that scene in the first one where Kirk and another cast member suit up in space-suits and skydive towards a narrow target at breakneck speeds in a scene tailor made for the shitty tie-in videogame? They do the exact same scene in Into Darkness, but the big selling point this time: they’re going sideways instead of down. That’s literally the most innovation or originality you’re gonna get in this one. A scene you’ve already seen, but rotated 90 degrees.