Earlier this week I had the opportunity to watch Star Trek Into Darkness in glorious 3D. My overall impression: What a ride! Below I’ll give a few more of my thoughts.
Minor spoiler alert: If you haven’t yet seen the movie, it would help your enjoyment of this new film to first watch the fantastic 1982 movie, Star Trek II. That’s all I’ll say about that. :-)
BIGGER SPOILER ALERT – There be major spoilers below the trailer!
Things I really enjoyed:
- The nonstop action. The budget is reported to have been in $185 million range, and it’s put to good use. Much like the 2009 movie, the visuals are stunning! The 3D was very good, though it wasn’t totally necessary in order to enjoy the movie. It added depth to the scenes, and there were just a few flying-into-the-camera moments. However, I think this movie will be perfectly enjoyable in a 2D format.
- The lens flares. I know, I know. I’m weird that way. Lots of people don’t care for them, but I think they add a sense of urgency and realism to the scenes.
- The overall story. Star Trek is not so much about the action (even though there’s a ton of it in this movie), but it is about the characters. And there are some real gems with regard to character moments. It seems like this crew is slowly coming together as the family that we remember from the Original Series, and I very much appreciated that. But since this is part of the new time line, there are new twists (e.g. Uhura/Spock) that help keep things interesting.
- The casting. As with the 2009 movie, they really nailed the casting. Of course we remember how awesome the cast was in the familiar Star Trek roles (there are some angles where Zachary Quinto looks eerily like Nimoy, and Karl Urban absolutely nails the voice and mannerisms of Bones). Benedict Cumberbatch brought a slightly different sense of menace to the Khan role, with an epically-bassy voice.
- The references to other Star Trek movies and series. Major spoiler – I LOVED the Kirk death scene and its homage to Star Trek II. You knew that Kirk wasn’t going to stay dead, of course, but it was poignant and magnificently played by Pine and Quinto. I also got a kick out of the mention of Deep Space Nine’s Section 31. The reference to Nurse Chapel and the presence of Carol Marcus were cool (though her accent and background are quite different in this movie than in the other timeline). And I thought the model ships on the desk of Admiral Marcus were very neat. I was really hoping I could have freeze-framed the movie at that point to get a closer look at them. I noticed the Space Shuttle Enterprise, The NX-01 from Star Trek: Enterprise, and Zefrem Cochrane’s warp ship, among other things. And the original theme in the credits is awesome.
- This brings me to the music. When I first heard the new Star Trek theme from Michael Giacchino in the 2009 movie, it just instantly felt like, well, Star Trek. It is every bit as memorable for me as the theme from The Motion Picture/The Next Generation, First Contact, and others. I’ve seen some criticism that it gets reprised too much during the two movies but I don’t care. I love it. I have both soundtrack albums (from the new movie and from 2009) and they are both fantastic.
Things that I didn’t care about (or that slightly annoyed me):
- Some of the hand-to-hand violence is over the top for me. This was especially true for the skull-crushing of Admiral Marcus. Even though it happens offscreen, it really did not need the rather disgusting-sounding sound effects to go with it. Ugh.
- Kirk is a ladies man. We get it. But we didn’t need to see the bedroom scene or the Carol Marcus change scene. They added precisely nothing at all to the story. Fortunately, these both combine for maybe 10 seconds of screen time and are easy to skip.
- What the crap is up with the transporter technology? In the television series, the transporters were very much a short-range device (the Vorta’s transporter across the wormhole in the 2nd season cliffhanger of DS9 notwithstanding). But in Star Trek Into Darkness (as in the 2009 movie), we see transporters being used over the distance of multiple light years. And then we see the crew of the Enterprise having to return to the ship in a shuttlecraft. There is simply no consistency and the writers need to be extra careful about this – a transporter that can take you anywhere at any time is a very powerful plot device.
- The warp drive as depicted in these movies. In the other movies and television series, warp drive was much more fluid and defined. Ships could definitely follow each other at relative warp velocities, and the faster you went, the more energy that was required. This was also a part of balancing the powerfulness of the different species. For example, the Romulans in TNG couldn’t go as fast as Starfleet but they did have better weapons. And warping within a solar system was generally a no-no for fear of hitting something. Impulse (sub light-speed) engines were used within a solar system, and the warp drive was for interstellar space. This added immensely to the dramatic tension in TNG’s tour-de-force, The Best of Both Worlds, when the Enterprise had to slow to impulse in their quest to catch the Borg before the Earth was assimilated. Unfortunately, this type of element is entirely missing from the rebooted movies.
- Starfleet looks like a sleazy organization at worst, or incredibly disorganized at best. There is little sense of a true chain of command. The premise of the 2009 and 2013 movies involves the idea that an officer fresh from the academy (Kirk) can be made a captain of a starship, even though that ship (presumably) has more experienced officers. When Scotty resigns, the youngest officer on the ship (Chekov) is made the chief engineer even though he was not part of the engineering crew and certainly had less experience than a real Starfleet engineer. Admiral Marcus is able to create an entire, massive battleship (presumably) undetected. Then he tries to destroy the Enterprise and everyone on board, even after Kirk offers to give himself up for the sake of his crew. I mean, DS9 had its moments of showing human flaws in the organization for the sake of the Dominion War effort, but in my opinion STID was simply over the top for no good reason.
- And how is Starfleet so small that the leaders of the ships in the fleet could all be gathered in a smallish meeting room? And why on earth would you do such a thing in a non-secured room, or when advanced communications allows people to communicate remotely in real time?
- It wasn’t explained why the Enterprise had to be under water at the beginning. Or maybe I missed the explanation. For me it seemed strange for, you know, a space ship to be hiding underwater.
- And: the new Enterprise is still too big for my tastes. I much prefer the original version or TMP-refit version :-)
In a nutshell:
- These were ultimately minor quibbles (or should that be “tribbles”) that I had. Ultimately, I did enjoy the show. A LOT. While STID should be enjoyable for a non-Trekkie, there is plenty in the movie for those of us who follow the Star Trek universe. I’ll definitely be picking it up on Blu Ray when it’s released in that format!
What did you think of the movie? Comment below!