Star Trek: Into Darkness

BEWARE: SPOILERS. 

Also: Benedict Cumberbatch being scary. So be more beware. 



My wife and I went to see this movie last night. We both thought it was fantastic, and a good expansion to the reboot of the franchise. I’m breaking my review down into the main characters and a few thoughts on the clever twisting in this film, as well as some things I didn’t like so much.

Handy pictures included if you had no idea what these characters looked like.

Spock



It seems to me that JJ Abrams has a total man-crush on Spock. These films are really more about Spock than Kirk so far, and this film really solidifies it to me-sure, Kirk has a major push in character development during the film, but Spock really gets the limelight, especially as Cumberbatch’s only real opponent-Kirk is pretty much in over his head against Cumberbatch. Spock, not so much.

And boy does he kick that ass. Spock wasn’t a particularly physical character in the first of these new films and it’s been a long time since Star Trek even had a Vulcan main character in anything worth watching, but we get fairly graphically reminded that Vulcans are not only a great deal more intelligent and rational than humans, but also much, much stronger than any human.

Yes, Khan, this includes you as well.

Spock’s shutting off of emotion from himself is handled well, too. I tend to think Spock is actually afraid of his emotions and what they can make him do….the three or so times he’s allowed himself to get angry in the new films he’s actually borderline terrifying.

Spock also makes a pretty good allegory for mankind in general-at his best he’s compassionate, thoughtful, and kind; at his worst, he’s gonna kill you with his bare hands, motherfucker. 


Kirk

Kirk, well, is Kirk. He gets to do quite a bit of growing up in this movie, including dying, which is usually kind of a big deal and has a way of redefining your priorities.
I’m not actually being sarcastic, there. Death, metaphorical or otherwise, is a main component of what is called ‘the hero’s journey’ (breakdown here) in film and books and other sorts of entertainment. Kirk dies to save his ship and crew and comes out less juvenile and reckless. He starts off the film brash and kinda dumb; at the end he’s really come into his own. 
The death scene itself is a mirror of Spock dying in Wrath of Khan. While that film’s death scene is IMO better-acted (at least partly because Leonard Nimoy is just plain awesome and the two actors had worked together for over a decade when it was filmed), the importance of the scene speaks for itself.  I won’t lie and say that I particularly like Kirk as a character-he’s a pretty distant third for me behind Picard and Spock as far as main characters go-but Chris Pine does a pretty excellent job as him. 
Uhura

Uhura is also in this film.

 I don’t really have much of an opinion about her character beyond that. My wife isn’t a fan-she thinks she comes off as very stereotypical and also vindictive and passive-aggressive, plus unprofessional in how she doesn’t separate her relationship with Spock from how he’s the First Officer and sometimes has to do dangerous things.

The original Uhura was pretty awesome though. She was like helpful and funny and stuff.

Khaaaaannn!

Five years ago, an actor named Heath Ledger took an iconic role and made it his own, superseding (at least in my eyes) the previous actor to play that role. Did I mention I wasn’t expecting that to happen?
If you die after making a film, making Jack Nicholson look like a loser
in your final role is ALWAYS a good move. 


With Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan, I think it’s honestly happened again. Ricardo Montalban’s Khan is iconic for alot of reasons and I do think he’s great as him, but Benedict’s Khan is easily the most menacing villain Star Trek has ever had (besides Patrick Stewart in Best Of Both Worlds); the above picture captures him pretty well I think, but you really need to watch the movie to see just the sheer menace he portrays. He’s sneering and arrogant, like your usual British villain…but he’s also utterly insane and the personification of chaotic evil. There’s no rhyme or even real reason to his actions; he just does things pretty much because he can-he offers excuses about it being about his crew, but expecting anything he does to save them just sort of falls apart. Strong villains in movies don’t happen a whole lot these days, but Benedict Cumberbatch is a fantastic exception to that.
Spock And Khan: Maybe the best protagonist/antagonist match in all of Star Trek

My favorite part of this film is that the primary confrontation is not Kirk and Khan; it’s Spock and Khan. Khan is a far, far better foil for Spock than Kirk; I said early that Spock (typically, anyway) represents what is best about humanity. Khan is humanity at our absolute worst, and that he’s very literally “evil Spock” (far stronger, much smarter, and utterly ruthless and reactionary) is just icing on the cake. Kudos to Abrams and the writers for crafting a great confrontation between the two without diminishing Kirk’s character in any way. 
Klingons!

The Klingons make their first appearance in the new timeline in this film. I’ll say I was impressed, both with how Kronos looked and how the Klingons were presented-utterly terrifying opponents. Their brief screen time does a great job of establishing them as likely future villains.
Something I did not like very much at all

That being the “Starfleet is up to evil shenanigans” subplot. JJ Abrams seems to like his 1980s tropes a lot, and so far the one where the military/government is up to no good has shown up in both Super Eight and Into Darkness. That’s two out of his four films and it’s honestly getting a shade tiresome, especially when it didn’t really affect the direction of the plot at all-I don’t think the film would have changed at all with this element being absent. Government paranoia was occasionally a theme in The Next Generation, but when it’s coming from a guy who made a film about this very topic barely five years ago it’s starting to get tiresome, IMO.
The Score

Michael Giachino has been crafting music for Abrams since Lost premiered. Here’s the Lost main theme, for those of you who don’t know it:
Giacchino has moved quite well from television to movie scores; a lot of his musical”likes” can be heard in Cloverfield’s Roar!, which plays over the end credits of that film and also serves as a fair amount of inspiration for his Super Eight score:

It does not, happily, have much in common with the new Star Trek score, which is good. The score itself is pretty good, and a solid improvement for the villain’s theme over Nero’s theme in the first of these. It’s available for purchase on Google, Amazon, and iTunes; here’s a screenshot of the sixteen tracks available:
I strongly recommend buying it. The fewer copy-and-paste-from-another movie jobs we get in movie scoring the better.
All in All:

The good: 
Spock. 
Spock vs. Khan.
Michael Giacchino’s score.
Leonard Nimoy’s cameo. (seriously, Nimoy is such an underrated actor. He just nails his scene here and the pain the old Enterprise’s confrontation with Khan causes him just flows off the screen)
Kronos. Gorgeously hideous cityscape, that.
The bad:
Lt. Uhura. Stop being borderline useless and stereotypical, please. The original you was far cooler.
The ugly:
Nothing, happily.




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