Star Trek: Into Darkness - Josh's Impressions (!!SPOILERS!!)

!!WARNING!! !Large SPOILERS for Star Trek: Into Darkness ahead!!

In the years leading up to the 2009 Star Trek film, Nic and I had our concerns about the proposed reboot. “What would this change for the franchise?” we thought. We went into the film expecting to absolutely hate it, but to our surprise, it wasn’t all that bad. Sure, there were way too many lens flares, some minor canon issues, and a much missed sense of heart that the series is known for, but overall, it was a decent film.

In the years leading up to the newly released, Into Darkness, our concerns were even greater. Our main concern was the rumor that the new film would have Khan Noonien Singh as its main villain. This was something that made both mine and Nic’s eyes nearly roll completely out of our heads.

Khan is considered one of the all-time best villains in the history of Trek. I can see where folks are coming from, and I could probably agree with them. He was cold, calculated, and willing to accomplish his goals at any cost. Good fictional villains tend to have those kinds of qualities.

As I’ve mentioned in my recent articles, I believe that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is a highly overrated film. It’s a great movie; don’t get me wrong. I just believe that there are better movies in the franchise. But in all fairness, that’s subjective and overwhelming majorities disagree with me. That being said, why repeat something like that?

When it was announced that Benedict Cumberbatch was playing an unnamed villain in the new movie, I was actually kind of relieved. I thought, “Well, at least it’s not Khan. I mean, the dude looks absolutely nothing like Ricardo Montalban, so it couldn’t possibly be Khan… Right?”

Oh how wrong I was.

When the first trailers were released for Into Darkness, I was unimpressed. I was still under the impression that this would be a “Khan-less” movie, but the overall look of the film was too… well… Star Wars-ish. From everything shown in the trailers, it looked like the majority of the flick took place on Coruscant, the Republic capitol in the prequel trilogy (and later home of the Empire). Mostly though, it was the trailers’ over-emphasis on action, whereas I was kind of hoping for a little lighter, more thought provoking Star Trek film. I thought that since there was a ton of action in the first one, maybe it might be a good idea to get back to the heart of the franchise by taking it down a few notches. Apparently, the folks over at Paramount disagreed.

That brings us to the week of the new film’s release. I said to myself, “Well, the movie looks kind of bland and I don’t mind seeing spoilers for a movie I’m skeptical of, so I’ll check out the Wikipedia article real quick for a synopsis.” When the page loaded, the first word I saw under the plot heading was… “Khan.”

I’ve gotta admit… I had quite a bit of nerd rage at that moment. I didn’t even read the entire synopsis. Once I saw that Khan was the main villain, I couldn’t bring myself to read the rest. Did the revelation that he was the main baddie curb my opinion of the film once I watched it? Not really. In fact, it’s my personal opinion that Khan was actually the best thing about Into Darkness (along with Karl Urban’s continuously spot-on portrayal of Bones). He doesn’t really look like Khan… he doesn’t really act like Khan… but hey, Cumberbatch plays a really good bad guy. And honestly, once he shows up in the movie, it kind of… VERY slightly starts feeling like Star Trek. But I think that’s mainly because a good portion of it at that point starts taking place on the Enterprise itself.

So what about the rest of the film? I can honestly say that I did not like it. Again, my opinion is not based solely on the fact that Khan was in it. I didn’t like the movie because 90% of it didn’t feel like Star Trek. I felt as though if the characters weren’t wearing Starfleet uniforms and the main ship didn’t look like the Enterprise, it literally could have been ANY sci-fi action film. Before the movie started, there was a trailer for the upcoming, Ender’s Game. That movie, Into Darkness, After Earth, and Oblivion look like they could all be sequels to each other and all part of the same franchise. Apparently, Damon Lindeloff, one of the movie’s 3 writers suggested the title of the film should have been Star Trek: Transformers 4. I know that he was only joking, but I think that statement pretty much sums up what Into Darkness is: An overblown action movie that completely apes the most well-liked Star Trek movie of all time.

And boy does it ape it.

I understand that the writers were trying to be clever with their twist on The Wrath of Khan, but to take a bunch of iconic scenes from that film and jamming them all together in order to replicate the same emotional effect? Get outta here. If you’ve seen both movies, you know that I’m referring to the end of TWOK where Spock sacrifices himself to save the Enterprise and her crew. Spock is dying, leaning against the glass in the engine room, and he and Kirk share a touching moment which sums up their friendship. Into Darkness tries to do the exact same thing (recreating the scene almost verbatim), only this time, it’s Kirk who sacrifices himself.

As dumb as trying to ape an iconic scene is, I don’t think the writers understood why the scene works better in TWOK and IS so iconic. I mean, for all intents and purposes, fans thought that Spock was dead after that movie. That’s why his death resonates so well. They had taken a beloved Star Trek character and killed him off (very heroically), and then shot him out of the Enterprise in a photon torpedo. He was gone. Fans didn’t know there was going to be a Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. In Into Darkness, we’ve only gotten to know the new, younger Kirk and Spock over the course of ONE movie. General audiences aren’t going to care about that. Plus, since it’s pretty standard that movies are done in 3’s nowadays, everybody knows that Kirk was in no real danger. Also, as Nic pointed out, fans of the original series got 3 seasons of a television show to build the friendship between Kirk and Spock. You KNEW they were friends, thus it was easy to understand Kirk’s sadness that Spock had died. Since fans of the 2009 movie only had the (again) ONE movie to go on (a movie where Spock is pretty much a ding-dong head to Kirk 99% of the time), why would Spock be so outraged over Kirk’s death?

So was Into Darkness a terrible film? No. Well… not if you don’t really care for Star Trek. If you’re a long-time Trek fan like us here at The Inner Dorkdom, then yeah, you’re probably going to have your share of problems with it. If you’re a person who just likes to see the latest summer popcorn movie, you’ll probably like it. I like popcorn movies too, just not when the words “Star” and “Trek” are in the title. I expect a certain “something” when I go to see Star Trek, Star Wars, or any other established franchise film. I expect a certain mood, atmosphere, and characterization, but I just didn’t feel that with Into Darkness. And I didn’t feel it because I honestly believe it wasn’t there at all.
I came out of the movie theater pretty depressed. My only thought was, “This is the future of Star Trek.” There was a hope that as the movies continued, the writers would get us closer to what the franchise is all about, but instead we’ve been pushed further away. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the day that someone who was previously involved in Star Trek before the reboot takes over the franchise.

I’m probably going to have my fingers crossed for a LONG time.