[Review] - Star Trek Into Darkness, In IMAX (Spoiler Filled)

[Author's Note: This is a companion to my review of Into Darkness, which can be found here. I suggest you read it to get my impressions of the film in general, and come back here for my thoughts on the specific, spoilerific aspects of the film. You have been warned.]

Courtesy of Paramount Studios.
Is it wrong that one of my favourite things about Into Darkness was, because I went to one of the IMAX fan sneak peeks last Wednesday, I got this bloody lovely poster as a free gift? Does that make me shallow?

Into Darkness is a film that presents some interesting ideas, leaves them all behind in the second act in favour of fist fights and ray guns, and then reveals it's true nature in a "twist" that completely undermines the rest of the film.Not only undermines it, but flaunts the fact that it is stealing from a better film, and calling itself bold and original. Not only is that insulting, but it pretty much goes against the whole point of rebooting the franchise to begin with.

Hit the jump for the review, where the needs of the spoilers outweigh the needs of the few.

"I am Khan."

To say I am disappointed is an understatement. Here I was hoping that all that misdirection was actually a smoke screen, setting us up with the assumption that Khan would be the role, when actually it was just John Harrison, original character and unprecedented threat. The reboot films had the opportunity, and as perfect casting in Cumberbatch as the originals did in Ricardo Montalban, to create a definitive villain from which all future instalments would look back on and strive towards. Instead, the inclusion of Khan will generate nothing but an eternity of comparison between this and the superior film, Wrath of Khan (as this review will no doubt demonstrate). The film will never exist on it's own, and Cumberbatch's performance will never stand on it's own, as it could.

Worse yet, by making Harrison Khan, the rest of the film from that point on stops being Into Darkness, and is only just a remake of Wrath. A bad remake. Which isn't meant to be the point of doing this. They've been doing that in the IDW comics series, and it was only when they started telling original stories that it got any good. Star Trek wasn't a remake, or a retool of any specific episode or film, it was an original story, with original villains, setting up established characters in new and exciting ways. Things were unpredictable, dictated by the quality of the story rather then an adherence to homage or because that was the way things happened before (see Vulcan's fate for a ready example). The final third of this movie is just a straight up remake, done in the overly flashy and less meaningful way that most remakes are, except using the exact same lines, and the exact same situations, only without any substance or complex emotion behind it. There are scenes in this film that are literally cut and pasted from the Wrath script, with some character names changed. That isn't writing, and Kurtzman, Orci and (sigh) Lindelof should be aware they didn't do their jobs.

And it was a pointless happenstance. With the exception of two scenes, removing references to the character as Khan and replacing it with Harrison change the film in no way. And those two scenes could have been removed without incident, or explained away with a changed bit of dialogue. Involving Khan was not necessary for the dexterity of the film, it was fan wank at it's worst. To me, Harrison was a far more compelling option, and Khan deflated almost of the excitement that had built up over the course of the first half of the film. Harrison is established as being a rogue agent for Section 31, essentially making him Silva from Skyfall. That is all the explanation you need for why he is a brilliant tactician, and a genius when it comes to developing technologies, not that he is a 300 year old criminal from an age where warp drives didn't exist. His super blood could be given some technobabble explanation, and his motivation could be as simple as Starfleet took away his non freezie-pop family to force him to work for them.

The Leonard Nimoy cameo, and I cannot claim that my first emotional response upon seeing him again was not one of glee, could have been excised entirely, and should have been, as it provided nothing other then a confirmation that Khan was indeed not to be trusted, and undermines the beautiful send off to the character and the actor that was the first film. It undermines his very presence if Spock is able to simple call his future self for pointers, and despite the elder's insistence that he won't give him the answers he wants, he does anyway. So what was the point of it other then to dance around the fact that Khan killed Spock, and Nimoy's reaction was not nearly emotional enough upon hearing his name, even for a Vulcan. And it destroys the one interesting thing the film had going for it, that once Marcus is revealed to be the bad guy, Khan might be a creature of circumstance, and a valuable asset to Kirk. Without events transpiring as they did in the Prime timeline, Khan is an extremist, yes, but someone you can work and reason with. And is apparently now a white skinny guy. But on elder Spock's word alone, Khan is doomed.

The end of the film didn't work for a couple reasons. First, this is still early days for these versions of these characters. They've known each other for maybe a year at most. Kirk explicitly states that he doesn't trust Spock at the beginning of the film, and Spock does not yet believe in Kirk. They haven't even built the foundation of their relationship yet. Wrath took place after these character had decades of friendship behind them, trusted each other more then anyone else in the universe, and that Spock's death was a gut wrenching statement about how far each was willing to go for the other. Here, Kirk's sacrifice (which was completely empty thanks to the least subtle Chekov's Superblood I've seen in a while) carries none of that weight. He dies to save the ship, to protect his crew, but his and Spock's reactions to his death are selfish. They only want to know how they should feel, not how much it means to the other. It also doesn't help that while Spock's death was simple and straight forward, Kirk's was a ridiculous set piece filmed in a McDonald's PlayPlace.

What made Khan so effective as a villain originally was that, in the entire film, he never lays a hand on anyone but Chekov. He's an intellectual villain, destroying them from afar with his mind rather then through brute force. This film forgoes all that in favour of fist fights. Indeed, the big climax is nothing more then a lowest common denominator brawl. Spock, the most intellectual character on the show and one of the great fictional champions of mind over matter, gets into fisticuffs with the greatest tactician in the universe on a skiff, and that is as much a statement about the rest of the film as anything else.

The writers also ramped up the references to the original series to a degree where, in the first film it was playful and fun, but this film it gets annoying and distracting. Bryan Burk, producer on the film, has said that it was meant to be a Star Trek movie for someone who has never seen Star Trek. That couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, it was more isolating and less accessible then the first film. And then it was also alienating to those long time fans that were expecting something more, something deeper. Instead, the film feels like a very expensive Robot Chicken sketch.

I mentioned in part one of this review that it is time for Abrams to leave this world behind. And his commitment to Star Wars, and the studio's desire to have the next Trek film out for the 50th in 2016 makes his presence behind the camera all but impossible. And I'm fine with that. The franchise needs a new direction (and certainly new writers), ones less concerned with appealing to fans or not making a "Star Trek" Star Trek film (or trying to be both at once), and someone interested in making a damned good film, with heart and brains, that everyone can be proud of. And Trek has proven many times in the past that it can be done.

Looks like we might be back to the old on-off nature of the Trek franchise. So, I guess that means things are looking up for the next one.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


  1. Good review Clark. Go see this movie, it's great for Star Trek fans and it's great for just movie fans in general.