Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Movie Review: Into Darkness

If you are here for the Random Acts of Kindness Blogfest go here.  Otherwise, keep reading.

Quick note to all readers: I don’t know how to write a review about this movie without giving away the main detail that other reviews I’ve read always avoid and since I was so grateful for other bloggers who warned of spoilers in their reviews I’m going to do the same and warn you that if you haven’t seen the movie yet you should skip this review. 

Ok, are they gone?  Only people who have see the movie left?  Good, read on.

I liked the movie, let me say that first before I start complaining.  It’s still a really solid cast, all of the traits we hold near and dear about the characters from the original series are still plain to see and the banter that takes place between them is, in my humble opinion, the best part of any of these movies.

There were some pretty emotionally poignant scenes appropriately timed to intersperse with heavy action and explosions galore.  And the action was fun, well done with great CGI effects and didn’t subtract from the plot.  It’s not easy to deal with heavy emotions in an action movie and I think this film does that balancing act very well.

Plus they evaluate a lot of pretty important topics for our time: militarism vs. terrorism  and the question of whether or not a preemptive strike crosses that line, the emotional process we go through when dealing with grief and how this affects our behaviors and can steal who we are and of course the greater philosophical question of how mankind can balance its intellectual abilities with its savage impulses.  And the final message that “There will always be those who mean to do us harm.  To stop them, we risk awakening the same evil within ourselves.  Our first instinct is to seek revenge when those we love are taken from us.  But that’s not who we are…” is a great one.  And well put given the things that America has dealt with in the last couple of decades.

There’s a lot to like in this movie and I still give it a good rating overall.  But I do have one rather major concern: I’ve already seen it.

Except that when I saw it, it was called The Wrath of Khan and it had a different cast, different themes, a different canon and a different ending.  You may argue that this is clearly not the same movie and technically, you’re right.  But with the way most remakes work today- in that they’re re-imaginings rather than strict retellings- it still falls into that category.

Don’t get me wrong, I like some of the changes they made.   Benedict Cumberbatch was a great Khan, more cool steel than the fiery passion of his predecessor.  And the twist of Kirk giving up his life to save the Enterprise rather than Spock was interesting and had me thinking pretty heavily about that first death scene so many years ago and how this one was like a mirror image.  And I did not miss those horrible sand worm monsters that Khan used to torture/take over Chekov- those things gave me nightmares like you wouldn’t believe.

But the thing that changed the most- the canon- is exactly what made it not work for me.  In the original, Kirk and crew are old.  They’re moving towards retirement.  They’ve finished their five year mission and then some and have been forever changed by it and because of that they’re smarter, more experienced and more aware of their own failings that could cause failure.  And this is why they get through it the way that they do.

In this version, Kirk and crew are still babies- the beginning of the movie is all about how much Kirk still has left to learn and how his decisions can lead to cataclysmic results if he doesn’t start slowing down and seriously considering the consequences of his actions.  I.E. the complete opposite end of the spectrum from where the heroes were the first time around.  And yet, they’re still able to outsmart Khan- who everyone keeps talking about as if he’s the smartest man in existence- and come out of it relatively unscathed. 

And the fact that Kirk died for a total of five minutes before they figured out how to save him was entirely too anticlimactic for me.  In the original, Spock was dead.  Like DEAD dead.  “All dead” as Miracle Max would say.  And we didn’t really know if he was going to come back.  In this version it’s like “Oh, he’s dead- but we can save him!”  And then in the next scene he’s quipping with Bones again.  Totally different.

What’s my point with all of this?  Simply that I feel like they could have made a better movie.  The first one was something totally new- a new villain, a new canon to play around with and new cast trying to add elements to the characters we know and love.  This one was a re-imagining of a story already told and while it was certainly a new spin, it wasn’t new.  I just hope that next time they decide to take the series to a place “no one has gone before” for real.


  1. Spoiler warning for my response too!

    I so agree on having seen this movie before, I have been biting my tongue not to call it Star Trek II when talking to friends who haven't seen it yet, because it so is.

    I did love the new Khan, though. They picked the right actor for that role and in this re-imagining, I think making the change in his demeanour fits with the mood of the movie - ST II was an 80's movie, with 80's hair and 80's bravado, and BC's Khan was very much for this generation.

    It was a fun movie, but, yes, you're right, a new plot would have been even better. Good review!

  2. One big difference is the timing, though. Wrath of Khan took place twenty years after their first encounter with Khan. This movie was that first encounter with Khan. And this time, they have him under control.

  3. It was a great movie, but yeah a lot of it was rehashed.

  4. Bev, your post makes me almost want to try to watch the whole thing. (Almost.)

    Very thoughtful, I enjoyed reading your review for a number of reasons.

  5. I saw Wrath of Khan when I was a little kid (like, really young) so I don't remember it. My ignorance means I enjoyed it quite a bit! ;)

  6. Great review: you caught all the stuff I did and then some. I thought the potential militarization of Starfleet was interesting, too, and caught that theme as soon as the officers had that meeting with the rogue admiral. If you've seen Battlestar Galactica (the reboot), you might be reminded of The Pegasus, that other lost-in-space refugee ship that's taken a different tactical approach for survival. I thought some of the moral questions raised in both Into Darkness and The Pegasus were pretty interesting. When you really are facing annihilation (clearly the case in BSG, less clear in Star Trek), your moral guidelines shift. Ender's Game deals with this issue, too, and also confronts it more directly than Star Trek. When you're facing a Really Bad Enemy, how much killing is justified?

    Regarding the obvious parallels with the War on Terror, one review I came across raised this (excellent) point: "So the big message is, to sum up, we should capture terrorists and give them due process. The plot, though, suggests that we should kill them." Kirk was supposed to represent the due process path, but it looks like Marcus was right about Khan, doesn't it? I mean, that Khan was too dangerous to live.

    1. You know, I just finished watching BSG but I did not make that connection at all. I think maybe because the Pegasus crew was so overt about their disregard for the cylons and tortured and killed them without thinking twice about it whereas this admiral was sort-of hiding his true motives until that end reveal.

      We got that Pegagsus movie they did and they've made interested in watching it now.

  7. Big old spoilers from me, too!

    I predicted Kirk dying six months out. You can ask our mutual friends - I could not shut up about my conspiracy theory. And honestly, I would have loved him to stay dead, not because Pine isn't good (I think he's a splendid Kirk), but because it would have shaken up the ship so much, and because Sulu had a lot of promise in that chair. I was pretty sure they'd bring him back, and Chekhov's Antidote is on the wall in Scene 2, but I'll agree that he could have been dead longer. It didn't hurt the film for me, though, because the antidote plot device was the last verse in the movie's theme against violence. It condemns terrorism, military industrial complex, preemptive strike, risking one's crew, and then we get altruism to save the many from the guy who risked everyone to save Spock in the opening. Then we get Spock wanting to kill to avenge, and because the cure is available, Spock's inclination to vengeance is wrong. Not just morally, but practically, he will doom his friend if he kills in retaliation. That was gutsy in a way that no other blockbuster works.

    1. "Chekhov's Antidote." :) We called it that, too. You have to love that Chekhov is both a character in the movie and the guy who says if you got a gun (or a dead tribble) in Act 1, it has to go off in Act 3.

      I didn't get why Spock had to bring Khan back alive, though. Surely the transfused tribble blood had the same stuff in it. Also, all those other bodies in the torpedoes ... they're all the same genetically engineered superbeings, right? So anyone's superblood should have done the same trick. And finally, dead people can still provide blood, provided you get it from donor to recipient fast enough. I think. Anyway, this is why people hate going to movies with me. :D

  8. I keep seeing reviews like yours, good but not great kind of reviews. I was all ready to see this until I watched the last one. I hadn't seen it and borrowed it from a friend last weekend. While I liked it, it really lessened the desire I had to see the new one. I'm not sure why. I'm not a fan though and only have vague memories of The Next Generation floating through my brain. Into Darkness sounds like a wait until DVD kind of movie for me.

    1. If you are not a fan of the original series I would imagine that these movies are easier to like simply because there's no preconceived notions about the characters, the ship, the entire Star Trek canon. I'm a relatviely hard-core fan so i'm harder to plase because I have all that already in my head.

      And I loved the first one precicesly because they didn't muck up the characters, the ship and the whole Star Trek universe. They brought in a brand-new villan, changed up the canon to give out beloved characters new (really intense) struggles and threw in some new stuff. It was great. And that's exactly why this one was so disappointing- I wanted something new like they did in the first movie.

      My point? I think I would've liked it a heck of a lot more if I hadn't had Wrath of Khan in my mind so I suspect that someone without that history could really get a kick out of it.


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