Wednesday, May 22, 2013

More Like Star Trek Into Discord: Our Review of "Star Trek Into Darkness" (2013)

Directed By: J.J. Abrams (Super 8

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Benedict Cumberbatch

Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action & violence

Run Time: 2 hours, 12 minutes

Synopsis: When Starfleet is viciously attacked by a terrorist from within their own organization, Captain Kirk (Pine) leads his crew on a perilous journey to capture the fugitive - a mysterious figure named John Harrison (Cumberbatch), who may hold secrets about Starfleet that can do more damage than he could ever done alone.


Andrew: Hello dear readers! This past Thursday Sarah and I saw Star Trek Into Darkness, J.J. Abrams' highly anticipated sequel to his 2009 reboot, which sees the return of all the major actors in their roles from the first one - Chris Pine as Captain Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, etc. - and also adds some new yet familiar faces to Abrams' new take on the series.

Sarah: We'd been looking forward to Star Trek Into Darkness for quite some time because the 2009 film is one of our absolute favorites (as you can see HERE in my Top Ten Favorite Movies), but what made us really excited about it is our main man Benedict Cumberbatch plays the main villain in the movie, a mysterious terrorist named John Harrison. We love Cumberbatch from Sherlock and think he's just fantastic. So we were very excited to see this one.

A: Indeed. And in full disclosure before we dig into this review, I've seen STID twice now - once in 3D at a screening the day before its release, and then again with Sarah in 2D. But this movie seems to be getting some split reactions from fans on the blogosphere, but has been getting generally positive reactions from reviewers and movie-goers. STID currently holds a solid "A" from CinemaScore and is 88% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

S:  Also in full disclosure, we're going to talk extensively about the plot, so ***SPOILER ALERT - DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW IF YOU DON'T WANT PLOT SPECIFICS SPOILED FOR YOU**

Like seriously, we're going to talk about Benedict Cumberbatch's character, John Harrison (center), and
how it affects the rest of the movie. If you don't want to know, stop reading.

Okay, so what did you think of Star Trek Into Darkness?

A: Well, from what I've read online, there seems to be three camps on this film: people who loved it, people who hated it, and people who noticed some flaws but generally liked it overall. I think I'm in that last group. There are some things that I think J.J. Abrams and his entire crew did incredibly well, but there are also some things - especially towards the very end - that just didn't work for me.

S: I felt there were things that were just wrong.

A: What do you mean by "wrong?"

S: There are things that just aren't correct, or just felt wrong. Here's our first big spoiler, so seriously, if you're reading this and don't want the movie to be spoiled then stop reading, but the biggest part that felt wrong to me was the scene where Kirk dies in the same sort of way that Spock does at the end of Wrath of Khan. When Spock yells, "KHAAAAAN!" it was NOT Khan's fault that Kirk died! So not only did things not feel right to me but there were some plots holes, too.

A: Right. So let's get into this: A big thing people have been talking about and hating on this film for is because of the excessive amount of fan servicing Abrams and the screenwriters - Alex Kurtzman Roberto Orci and Damon Lindelof - did. Things like callbacks to "Star Trek: The Original Series" and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan...and then of course casting Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan Noonien Singh. A lot of people did like the fact that a British Caucasian man is playing a character that is supposed to be from India...

S: But even the original Khan wasn't played by an Indian actor. Ricardo Montalban was Mexican, wasn't he?

A: Yes he was. But the thing is that the movie, for the most part, is on its own merits. It's a totally new story for these characters for about three-quarters of the way through the film, and then the final act...

S: Starts to look very familiar, where it hearkens back to The Wrath of Khan.

A: Exactly, and that's when it starts to go off the least it did for me, and I think it did for you as well.

S: Mhmm. Yeah, it lost me there. And I'm afraid my expectations for this film were so unbelievably high that it was going to be difficult for this to live up to them. The reboot was so amazing and so new, but I do think that they made a mistake with...if they were going to reboot the entire series, I feel like they made a mistake having Khan as the bad guy and linking it back to the original series with another appearance by Leonard Nimoy. That bothered me a little bit because it's its own story. This should be its own story in this new parallel universe.

A: I was okay with them using Khan for a few reasons. One is that lately in movie, especially big blockbusters based off of famous source material, we've been seeing the most prominent villain appearing in the second film. We saw this with Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2 and The Joker in The Dark Knight, and at least in the case of those two, those were the best films in those trilogies. So I'm okay with Khan coming in the second film because they've already established the reboot in the first movie, now you have to take it somewhere bigger and hopefully better.

While he's not as exotic-looking at Ricardo Montalban was, we still thought Benedict Cumberbatch's
portrayal of Khan was a strength of the movie.

The problem to me was with the fan servicing. I'm okay with Khan because even in this rebooted universe, Khan was still a warlord years before Kirk's dad gets killed in the new timeline. I look at the use of Khan in the same vein as when Old Spock essentially tells New Spock that he and Kirk will become best friends - it's pretty much destiny, despite the alternate timeline. There are some things that will still happen, they'll just be altered a bit.

S: Okay, I'll go with that.

A: So I'm cool with Khan being used because now he's brought back from his slumber in a completely new world, and they can do different stuff with him. And they were doing so well with him at first! I think the first three-quarters of the movie work really well, but then they try to shoehorn in the ending and it really falters.

S: Absolutely. Yeah, it didn't bother me that Benedict Cumberbatch plays Khan, we love him, and maybe it's because we love him that it didn't bother us so much. He has great acting chops, his voice is amazing, and I do like that they lent themselves to the possibility of more Khan appearances. Because in the original series he has one episode in the show and one movie. That's it. So this was better to me because maybe they'll use him in future appearances.

A: Here's the only other problem I can see with them using Khan here: J.J. Abrams tried to keep it a secret.

S: Marketing-wise that was a huge mistake.

A: He gambled and I think he lost, because you're using the biggest villain in the series and you're keeping it a secret. That should have been the centerpiece of the marketing campaign. So they tried to keep it a secret and then there's a scene where Cumberbatch says, "My Khan." And if you're new to the series? There's absolutely no backstory. You're just like, "Okay..."

S: "Who is Khan and why is he important?" Yeah, if this is your introduction to Khan...the only reason we know he was a warlord years ago is because we know the original take on him. We don't know that from this movie.

A: Exactly. I mean, that bit comes out later in the film when they finally say what he did, but even at the time of the big reveal Kirk has no reaction to it.

S: He's just like, "Okay. And?" So that's another scene that fell flat for me.

A: I guess they should have done something different than what they did. They did try something different and it just didn't work. All that said, I still loved this movie.

S: I felt that there were missed opportunities in this movie. I felt that they could have done more with the relationship between Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood) and Kirk. They start to touch on it and then it fizzles out.

A: That was a bit of a recurring theme in the movie.

S: Then there was Spock and Uhura's relationship. There's a build-up of tension between them, but that's quickly followed up by an explanation and all of a sudden that's over. So I thought there were so many missed opportunities. Not just with Khan, but all the little things between the rest of the characters, too.

That's where it missed the mark for me, and I struggled a little bit with that and I struggled with the retread of the Khan stuff because I wanted this one to be new! I don't want to go see a remake...

A: But it's not a straight remake.

S: It's not, and that's not what I meant, but that's what it sort of ended up being. Toward the end that's what it sort of becomes.

A: It feels like it towards the end. But there are a lot of differences. They just tried to do a twist on it.

S: They should have just left it alone.

A: Another thing like you were just talking about, with something fizzling out? The filmmakers chicken out on their own convictions a number of times, but none so much as at the end when Kirk dies. Kirk dies of radiation poisoning from fixing the warp drive - which happened to Spock in Wrath of Khan - and then there's a deus ex machina where it turns out Khan's genetically enhanced blood and cure diseases and revive the dead, so naturally Bones is able to use Khan's blood to bring back Kirk. And this happens like, ten minutes after he dies.

S: Yes! So all of sudden everything's okay??? They should've had that been at the very end and left us wondering what's going to happen from there, like they did in Wrath of Khan! If they were going to kill off Kirk, they needed to stick to it. But that was a missed opportunity like we were talking about. I get why they did it the way they did, it's a blockbuster movie and you don't want to alienate the casual viewers or the die-hards, but it was really lazy.

A: It just left a bad taste in the mouth. Okay, I want to stop harping on the negatives of the movie and talk about some of the positives, of which there were many. The best thing about the entire movie is still the cast...

S: They really did do a good job of casting these roles.

A: The chemistry between Chris Pine's Kirk, Zachary Quinto's Spock and Karl Urban's Bones is still top-notch. They're funny together, Saldana's still great as Uhuru...Anton Yelchin's Chekov kind got short-shrifted  ...but Simon Pegg's Scotty got more screen-time here, which I felt was a good thing!

S: Oh definitely. Simon Pegg is hilarious and after not coming into the last film until more than halfway through, I was glad he was there from the start and even got some important stuff to do in the plot.

A: I've always liked Bruce Greenwood as Admiral Pike. I like the addition of Alice Eve as Carol Marcus, even though she didn't have much to do. Peter Weller was pretty great as Starfleet Admiral Alexander Marcus...I don't know, I just thought the casting overall was top-notch. Especially Cumberbatch, I thought he was great in his role.

We like Alice Eve from her turn in She's Out of My League and we liked her here, too. The topic of whether
this shot from the movie is gratuitous, though, is for another discussion.

Was there anything about the cast that bothered you? Did it lose it's spark at all?

S: Nope, it lost it's magic for me. I don't know why, but I think because the first one was so new and so one knew what to expect. And now we know what to expect and I thought it was going to be bigger and better, and I don't know if that that was fair to this movie or not, but it just fell short for me.

A: Oh no, I meant did the cast lose any of its spark.

S: Oh! Oh, no no. I thought I answered that question. No.

A: I meant more like, this movie is just funny. There are a lot of funny moments, one-liners, responses to other lines, it's just humorous. Which carried over from the first one.

I loved the music. Michael Giacchino is great, I love his work and I hope they bring him over to do the music for Star Wars: Episode VII, although I'm sure John Williams will still do it.

S: This movie looks great. The CGI is still fantastic...

A: And it looked great when I saw it in 3D. I think we need to see this one again so you can see it in 3D.

S: Well they added something in this movie...okay, this movie looks beautiful, the series still looks amazing, but the sparkly warp trail that gets left behind when the Enterprise goes into warp speed? That was absolutely ridiculous.

A: What?? You thought that was ridiculous? I liked it!

S: But the reason I find it ridiculous is because it looks like they added it purely for 3D. Like they added it just so it would look cool in 3D.

A: I doubt it, because they post-converted this movie. J.J. Abrams didn't want this to be in 3D. He shot it normally and with some IMAX stuff, but it was after the fact that Paramount wanted it post-converted.

S: I don't know why it bothered me, I just know that it did.

A: Honestly I think this is the best post-converted 3D movie we've seen.

S: I think it was literally because they would go into warp, and instead of that feeling that they got sucked into space, that silence that I feel is so appropriate and felt so believable? They got rid of that and left these sparkles with a sparkly sound. It was like when Tinker Bell goes to the top of the castle at Disney. If they hadn't lingered on that, if it hadn't been the focal point of every warp from behind, I wouldn't have had a problem with it. But they focus on it EVERY TIME they jump into warp speed. I found it ridiculous.

A: I guess I don't get why you didn't like it.

S: Well it will bother you now.

A: No it won't, I've seen the movie twice. I enjoyed it both times. I looked cool to me! I thought it was a neat little addition. Just in general, this movie looks great. J.J. Abrams does a fantastic job of directing action sequences, no one can argue that. Now, arguably some of the action sequences weren't organic, specifically the climax, but they're still framed well, acted well, they look great...this dude is going to make a great-looking Star Wars movie.

S: Oh yeah. Yeah, I guess.

A: Was there anything about Star Trek Into Darkness that you legitimately liked?

S: Well I liked that there was another Star Trek movie. I liked that fact.

A: You like that it exists.

S: I like that it exists. I like that there was a second one, I like that Benedict Cumberbatch is in it, I'm glad Simon Pegg got more screen-time...but I felt that there were too many things that turned me off. I don't know.

A: What did you think of the plot? I know we've focused a lot of this review on the last 20 or 30 minutes, but what about the entirety of the plot?

S: I liked it but there were so many holes that I got distracted from the rest of the movie.

A: There are some final things I want to get your take on. A big part of the focus in this film is on Kirk and Spock, again. That's the whole heart to the first movie, the original series, and it's a big focal point for this one - how Spock's human side still hasn't come out as much as Kirk wants, like when Spock turns Kirk in for breaking the Prime Directive at the beginning of the film

S: Ok, to me there were a number of times that the relationship between Kirk and Spock did not feel organic. I feel like the relationship between these versions of Kirk and Spock are being forced on us almost. I felt like...I don't know why, but it didn't feel organic to me. At no point prior to the very end did Spock show any kind of emotion for Kirk. Zero. None whatsoever. Like, he couldn't have cared less. And I think there was more shown in the 2009 version than this one. What happened? You would've expected their friendship to have grown and blossomed in-between the two films, but it felt like an awkward relationship to me.

I felt that Spock and Uhura's relationship grew more than Kirk's and Spock's. So when they're trying to force the relationship between the two guys it just felt ridiculous to me.

Sarah felt like the classic relationship between Spock and Kirk didn't feel adequately 
formed between the two films, while Andrew liked getting to see the relationship grow more.

A: Okay, this is good!

S: Wow, it really sounds like I didn't like this movie.

A: It really does not sound like you liked it at all. I didn't find the Kirk/Spock relationship forced, personally. I felt like a lot of what they did at the beginning of this film kind of, not negates the first one, but you're right - enough time should have passed that these two guys should have bonded a little more than it seems like they have.

S: Yes! These two have been the commanding officers of the Enterprise for years now, so their friendship should have grown, they're friendship should have been stronger already, and Spock should've known how Kirk would react to things.

A: True, but I do feel like their relationship does grow as the movie progresses.

S: Correct, as this second movie progresses. And I understand that, but some of that should have taken place off-screen. I felt like there was too much of a gap.

A: While I agree with your basic sentiment, I still liked watching their relationship grow. I liked seeing when Kirk starts listening to Spock. I don't want that stuff to have happened off-screen too much, otherwise we don't connect with them as much.

S: I mean, I guess to me the relationship between Kirk and Spock is such a classic friendship that, at least in the originals, they have such a repertoire this one the repertoire didn't even come in until the end.

A: But you have to remember in the original series they've been working together for years. For years. Like, Kirk has 15 years worth of training before he even becomes a captain.

S: I guess.

A: The second time I saw this I noticed things I hadn't seen before, like when Spock is mind-melding with Admiral Pike as Pike is dying...Quinto's look...he's feeling Pike's fear and solitude.

S: Yes, but I wanted to feel that more. I wanted that to have actually been something or lead somewhere because Kirk wasn't there for Pike's death. I wanted that to lead somewhere and it just didn't for me. I was like, "Ugh!" That was the first missed opportunity of the movie.

A: What do you mean by missed opportunity there?

S: I wanted it to have been like Spock had felt the compassion that Pike felt for Kirk, and that Spock would've shared that later with Kirk to comfort him as he was dying.

A: Gotchya.

S: So I just felt like that was a missed opportunity, you know because they led us to believe that there was such a father-son bond between Pike and Kirk.

A: Okay, I like where your head is at. That was a dropped ball I guess. But I thought they brought it around nicely later when Spock is telling Kirk and Uhura how Pike had been afraid as he was dying...

S: And that Spock had felt that same way when Vulcan was destroyed, so he didn't want to feel that way again, right...

A: But they brought it back around later when Kirk is dying, and Kirk is telling Spock how he's afraid, and how Spock felt that not only with Vulcan and then with Pike, but he's feeling it now with Kirk and he realizes that he actually does care about him. He's getting upset because his friend is dying and he knows the feeling he's going through. I thought they kind of brought that around nicely.

And we haven't even talked about the Klingons or the lens flares! There are Klingons in this movie, and for a pretty good section!

S: Mmm, they don't quite look like Klingons.

A: Well when they take their helmets off they do. It's a different look for the Klingons, but I dug it. At least the Klingon we see without a helmet in this movie looks huge, he's got some cool tribal looking things going on, his eyes are scary looking...

S: I don't know, I just thought, "That's not a Klingon."

A: I'm fairly certain the Klingons are going to be the antagonists in the third movie...

S: At least they should be.

A: This review/discussion has been pretty long, and honestly there's a lot more we could talk about. We could talk about the science of the movie, the politics...there's tons to talk about. But did you really just not like it?

S: I'm trying to think of redeeming qualities that I liked about it.

A: I'm surprised you're struggling to do so. I found so many.

S: I think I was just so distracted by the dropped balls and missed opporutnities and the f'ing sparkles that I had a hard time enjoying it. It looked beautiful. It looks perfect. I think they made a mistake with showing the Excelsior class starship in the trailers, because that scene would've been awesome not knowing it was coming.

A: Here's my last thing I want to touch on, and something I really enjoyed about the movie and the 2009 reboot: J.J. Abrams and his crew are doing a good job of making this a Star Trek for our generation. This story is about how after Nero effed up the timeline, destroyed Vulcan and attacked Earth, Admiral Marcus is now afraid of what else is out there that could attack and he's militarizing Starfleet. It's a parallel to what happened with America after 9/11. They mention it time and time again in the movie that the Federation and Starfleet are supposed to be a peace organization - they're supposed to go out and...

Andrew liked that Peter Weller's Admiral Marcus is a metaphor for the United States' and George W. Bush's
response to 9/11. Plus, ROBOCOP!

S: Explore strange new worlds, yes.

A: But the key conflict is that after Nero's actions, Admiral Marcus has made it a focus to be able to attack first and to be able to defend. He has turned Starfleet into...

S: A military.

A: Exactly. I think that's an interesting concept and a cool take on this new storyline.

S: Well the words that they use is "recruit." That's interesting because you don't normally recruit for a peace-keeping organization, you recruit for military purposes. I think the words they use have definitely focused on how they're not necessarily a peace-keeping organization anymore.

A: Not anymore, yeah.

S: And these movies will have a lot of action, they won't be like the Star Trek series of old.

A: I agree with you, it shouldn't have been in the trailer, but the idea behind Marcus unfreezing Khan to help him bolster Starfleet's fire-power was a neat idea. I was really digging it. I liked that Khan felt he was being used and wanted to get back at Marcus. Then they took a wrong step in trying to make it too similar to Wrath of Khan at the end. If they didn't do that, then I don't think so many people would've had so many problems with it.

Alright, let's wrap this up then. Final thoughts?

S: You have to see this in theatres regardless. If you've been waiting for four years for it to come out like we have, you gotta see it in theatres. It's a blockbuster that needs to be seen on the big screen. If you're a fan of the first one, I think you'll most likely like the second one, even though I didn't. If you've never seen any of the originals, I think this one will be great for you. If you're a fan of the original series and the films with Kirk and them, you might have some problems with it.

(Individual Scores - S: 3/5  A: 4/5) 

Photo Courtesies:,


  1. Good review. For me, this was a bunch of fun that never missed a beat, no matter what it did. Yes, even Alice Eve's scene kept me going.

    1. I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially in 3D, as I was blown away by probably the best post-converted job I've seen yet. We might need to try and see this again in IMAX 3D and see if it changes anything for Sarah. We're still very much looking forward to the next installment, even if it's without Abrams.

  2. I have never been a Star Trek fan as I didn't want the shows or the previous movies before JJ Abrams. I really like this however one however. For whatever reason I always thought that JJ Abrams wasn't really catering to the fans of the Star Trek, but just lightly touching on that universe in all the big ways (the relationships, the catchphrases, the characters) to bring in new fans (like me). Yes, I didn't know the background of Khan but I knew that he was some sort of established villain in the Star Trek universe and that this movie was going to begin to "establish" him for people like me. For me, "I am Khan" wasn't a "you know who I am, Trekkies" but more of a "take notice of me, I'm not a throwaway villain, I'll be important later on". I felt casting a different kind of actor was another way of separating it a little (the whole controversy to me is silly... but then again, I'm not a Trekkie). I'm not saying it was a right or wrong decision on their part, just that it was always what I thought.

    I did find alot of problems with the movie though. Most of it regarding how contrived alot of things were. I don't really think anyone bought that they were going to kill Kirk; there is still at least one more movie in the works.

    Wait, wasn't it Khan's fault though that Kirk died? He was the one who injured the ship so he indirectly caused his death... so I didn't see how that didn't go with Spock's reaction.