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The Sunday Film Review: Star Trek: Into Darkness

Posted on by sam

Star Trek Into Darkness

J. J. Abrams (2013)

I’m not an expert (I’m a wannabe), but I’ve been developing a bit of a theory on why some film franchise reboots work and some go the way of Liberal Democrat pledges. It’s imaginatively name ‘Sam’s motherfucking theory on reboots’. Successful reboots (Batman, Spiderman The Incredible Hulk, James Bond like eight times) deliberately take established stories/characters and move in another direction, they make appreciative nods towards their predecessors work, but stick firmly to their own take on the story. The crap not so successful ones (Star Wars prequels, Superman, Terminator, Rise of the Planet of The Apes………..no I will not move on, shut up) simply rehash the previous work or worse yet, jar and change the story in a way that completely undermines the originals.

Good theory huh.

I didn’t write a review of the first Star Trek reboot because finding an interesting way of writing ‘it’s functional’ is as tedious as trying to think of a good analogy. for tedium Here’s a brief summary. The original Star Trek was…….. functional, it needed to set up a new take on the characters and it did (they’re younger and cool and attractive and poor people/wannabes like me want to be them). It took it’s time, focused on the characters relationships to each other, and used action sparingly to add to the story rather than tell it. In fact, apart from the bad Romulan dude Nero (Eric Bana, who was/is awesome) that travelled back in time after a disaster to sit around and not warn anyone about the disaster, the reboot managed to avoid making anyone look like a stupid arsehole. It served its function, albeit a limited function as spending so much time building the characters made for a fairly brief story, put another way, the rebooted Star Trek story was 1/3 training, 1/3 character building and 1/3 adventure. Also I#m a big fan of films that feature lens flare every 40 seconds. Nonetheless, I’ll admit, I was interested in the sequel.

Now that sequels out, and it’s good, I’m happy, success.

Written By Sam ‘Also a Boris Johnson Love child’ McKinstrie

………………. Hmmmmmmmmm, finished much quicker than usual, well suppose I’ve got time to write more, ok, plot summary time!

Plot Summary

There’s a good start; on a distant planet, we join the now graduated crew of The Starship Enterprise functioning as a fully-fledged team. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), runs around with his mouth open, Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy (Karl Urban who I forgot was in Ghost Ship) looks disapproving and speaks expository dialogue, Spock (Zachary ‘I survived Heroes, hooray!’ Quinto) demonstrates repeatedly that he’s a bigger badass than Kirk, while Nyota Uruha (Zoe Saldana) continues to annoy purists by dating Spock rather than being forced by an evil alien to kiss Kirk.

An elaborate set piece featuring a volcano and Spock trying to sacrifice himself, only to be saved by Kirk, later, and the actual plot of Into Darkness gets going. Normally Starfleet wouldn’t mind a captain saving a crew member’s life from the clutches of an active volcano, but everyone’s in a bit of a bad mood because a dude ‘named’ (wink wink nod nod) John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), is in the process of committing several terrorist attacks. Harrison has another name, one Star Trek fans will be more familiar with, and if you read pretty much every other review you’ll see what it is, but I enjoyed finding out for myself and I’ll be damned if I’m going to put in an unnecessary spoiler for the sake of having a spoiler, so look it up yourself.

The terror attacks allow for the re-introduction of Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood), who, in an admittedly dick move, is ret-conned into not be disabled anymore, the introduction of Robocop Admiral Alexander Marcus (Paul Weller) and a plot line involving missiles, along with the admirals daughter Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) and some interestingly designed Klingons.

Finally, the rest of the crew return and each get their own special ‘heroic’ moment; Hikaru Sulu (John Cho) talks to someone firmly, Pavel Chekov (Andrei Yelchin) runs around and does some balancing, while most interesting of all, Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg) gets to stand up to Kirk on principals. Still has that annoying Star Wars dwarf thing with him unfortunately, but luckily those scenes are brief.

Plot summary ends.

Written by Sam ‘Was beamed up once, don’t remember much but still have the anal probe to show for it’ McKinstrie

……………………….. ah, still more time to write something, well then, here’re five reasons why I really enjoyed Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Number 1: I’m not a Trekkie/Trekker, hardcore or otherwise: I barely watched the original series, only ever watched Next Generation sparingly because I liked The Borg and Q (and very little else), didn’t bother with Deep Space Nine till years later, only watched Voyager because the makers hit upon the money idea of having a sexy Borg female at the exact point I hit puberty, and that other series that was a prequel, can go fuck itself.

A lot of memories involving a lot of tissues


My Trekkie friends hated the remake and probably don’t like this one either (I can’t be bothered with the forty minute rant I’ll encounter if I ask) because it’s not the original. I like the new franchise precisely because it’s not the original. It tied everything together with a pompous, Doctor Who-esque time travel plot point and left itself free to spit in the faces of Star Wars ‘fans’ (are there any left) everywhere.

Number 2: It’s a character driven action film. Speaking of my Trekkie friends, one thing they universally hated was the idea of Spock and Uhura having a relationship, because in the original she kissed Kirk and that put a middle finger up at racism or some such. I said the relationship was a brilliant move because a relationship between a human female and a Vulcan (or half-Vulcan) dude would be interesting and different, they responded by beating me up. But a blood transfusion and sequel later and guess who’s laughing, actually that’s not really fair, one thing Trekkies rarely ever do is laugh at anything that isn’t Star Wars related. In Into Darkness……………… yes that’s the correct structure to begin that sentence with………… Spock and Uhura go through relationship arguments, it lead to my favourite line in the film, Kirk turns to Uhura and exclaims ‘You’re arguing with Spock, what is that even like?’

Which is kind of the point being made, it’s an interesting story element, Scotty standing up to Kirk in principle and resigning is another, these are little character moments that round everything and give the story an interesting depth. Ok there are still Bones scenes, and Kirk opening his mouth like a sea bass every time he gets punched, but there’s also an effort at emotional stuff and it works. It’s sort of like JJ Abrams watched Star wars episode 2 and said, here’s how you do a real relationship, take that Mr Lucas.

Number 3: The action is part of a bigger story, you know those films where action gets thrown in because that’s what the makers felt you’d pay for, at the expense of stuff like character development, atmosphere or a story making sense?……………. you know, basically every Star Trek Next Generation film. Into Darkness is an example of how to avoid having action that gets in the way of any of that, there are some great action scenes littered throughout, but they’re all brief, well executed and part of a set up to a bigger story. There’s a moment half way through involving a shoot-out at the ok-Klingon coral. It turns out to be one of the most significant moments in terms of the story and revealing what’s going on, why? Because just as the fight gets going, it abruptly ends and we finally get to meet ‘John Harrison’. What could have been a ten minute Klingon shoot fest instead became the point at which Into Darkness turned it up to eleven.

Number 4: There aren’t any deliberate or lazy mistakes: I don’t like the comedy side kick Scotty runs around with, I thought Carol Marcus’s introduction was shoe-horned in, I don’t particularly care for Kirk. These are all criticisms, but they’re the right kind of criticisms, they’re criticisms of a wannabe who, when given a choice of characters, has chosen the ones he likes and is critical that they bothered with the ones he didn’t. It’s not plot holes, complaints of laziness, poor or superficial characterisation, a lazy rape scene or me feeling like I’m thought of as a mug. Effort has been taken to entertain me, and aside from The Captain Pike-disability dick move, I feel the makers of Into Darkness genuinely cared if I enjoyed their film. They don’t, in fact they couldn’t care less how I felt about it as long as I paid for it, but I felt like they did, and that ladies and gentleman is filmmaking. They even had another Leonard Nimoy cameo to try and help Trekkies make the transition into something action and simple.

Number 5: Zachary Quinto: In the original reboot, Spock didn’t get a lot to do, his planet got destroyed, his mother died in front of him, and Kirk wound him up to the point he broke the ‘no emotions ever’ Vulcan rule, so a lot of stuff happened to him, but he didn’t do a lot. It was Kirk’s story, Kirk and his stupid open mouthed ‘I’ve just been punched’ expression had all the interesting moments and lines. But Kirk can only take a story so far, so a lot of the focus in Into Darkness is placed on Spock, and by none-existent God is that a good call. Spock is a cool, interesting character, and Quinto is, in my wannabe opinion, brilliant at portraying him, he makes nods to Nimoy’s take on the dude with the weird ears (also brilliant) and then goes his own way. I almost became a Fanboy and cheered Spock during every clever quip or punch thrown, I didn’t, because I was a Terminator Fanboy and will never love a film franchise again, but you get the picture.

Written By Sam ‘bored of this gimmick yet?’ Mckinstire

……………………ok a little more

Right then, a conclusion, I really enjoyed Into Darkness, I enjoyed it so much I found myself checking into the chances of a third film, (basically it’s a cert there’ll be one), I recommend it if you like big action blockbusters the likes of which the nineties used to deliver, except with better pacing.

I told that to someone and they presumptuously said, well Sam, must be looking forward to Abrams picking up the Star Wars mantel then, to which I replied………………………………………..y-No, no I am not.

The original Star Trek wasn’t wrecked, it didn’t required fanboys to dislike at least the three most recent film installments in order to call themselves fanboys. The original series had a generational gap between itself and the new installment, and there was a whole new amount of technology to play with, to deliver something that felt refreshed and new. Star Wars on the other hand is dead, it’s been dead a long while, it’s so dead you could say Disney bought a corpse. The problem is, and here’s a thing about film, no one director makes a film great or not. Sure I love the auteur theory as much as the next pretentious arsehole wannabe, but truthfully, films are a collaborative effort, don’t believe me, look what happened when that George Lucas, ‘genius’ behind the original three Star Wars fans had free reign to be in charge of everything. JJ Abrams isn’t going to save Star Wars, just like he hasn’t saved Star Trek. He’s talented and he might even make a decent film, but it’ll still suck in the context of Star Wars, know why?


Get over it.

Written By Sam ‘so long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye’ McKinstrie

Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP

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