Into Darkness is an enigma of a film. There is no doubt that it is masterful science fiction storytelling written and directed by some of the best in the business. I came out loving the film until I really sat down to think about it. Taken as a science fiction film the movie is fantastic and really does try and push the boundaries. But as a Star Trek film it ventures into familiar territory far too often.
WARNING MAJOR SPOILERS!!!!!
It is impossible to give Star Trek Into Darkness a review without giving away major spoilers, consider yourself warned!
The biggest flaw of the new movie is its failure to realize its potential. With the first film Abrams managed to give the franchise a clean slate and left the door open for any number of story lines to unfold. But instead of delving deeper into the mythology of the series he decided to go with Kirk’s nemesis Khan as the main villain.
Let’s get one thing straight, the entire cast did an amazing job with the material. Cumberbatch made a fantastic Khan and really owned a role that, after Ricardo Montalbán, set the bar very high. Unfortunately, he was extremely underutilized. For being the central villain, Abrams didn’t really give the new version of the character much room to breathe and come into his own. It was assumed that the audience already knew everything about him so no extra history was necessary. And that’s the major fault of the film.
By relying on old standards it never fully comes into its own. Different elements of the Star Trek universe like Sector 31 and the Klingons make appearances but only in passing. There are some truly fantastic stories to tell but Abrams doesn’t seem that interested in telling them, just setting up epic action scenes and making nods to fans of the series. While that works on the surface, it does not make for a quality movie.
Part of the issue may be that Abrams is a self-professed Star Wars fan. He has actually gone on record as saying he was never a big fan of Star Trek, not the best person at the helm when it comes to getting deeper into the established universe. Khan is not Darth Vader, he is not the only evil out there. Throughout the Star Trek series Kirk and his crew faced many evils but from deep space and within themselves. There are entire worlds waiting to be seen and brand new ones to be made up.
In the film’s defense, it is defiantly one of the most densely packed science fiction films in a long time. There are subtle references to everything from Ray Bradbury and Doctor Who to Star Trek: The Next Generation and Indiana Jonesscattered throughout the movie. For seasoned geeks it is a smorgasbord of pop culture references. What it boils down to is that Abrams is clearly a good fit for the Star Wars universe. It is no coincidence that he has stylized much of the newStar Trek timeline much the same way Lucas did the original series.
If you consider Into Darkness a dry run for Abrams than the Star Wars community can rest assured that it is in good hands. As for Star Trek, I think it is time to bring in a true fan that understands the way Trek works.