Blu-ray Review: Star Trek Into Darkness
A warning: I will discuss the secrets of Star Trek Into Darkness openly throughout this review.
Four months ago, J.J. Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness (the title stultifyingly missing the necessary colon) was released in theaters to a baffling amount of critical praise. The film currently has an 87% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which confuses and worries me. The film is being released on Blu-ray and DVD on the 17th of September, which will perhaps allow fans of the film (and I know there are a few out there) to review and re-analyze the film, and perhaps discover how shabby it is.
I should perhaps qualify this review with the fact that I am personally a big fan of Star Trek going all the way back to the original series. I am also one of those obnoxious sci-fi nitpickers (the ones you commonly hear referred to in reviews and editorials, but rarely actually meet) who resents that Abrams reduced the ordinarily mannered and pseudo-intellectual Star Trek into typical summertime action shlock. Yeah. I'm that guy.
So perhaps it won't come as much of a surprise when I announce – perhaps boldly, but without reservation – that Star Trek Into Darkness, the 12th film to be based on Gene Roddenberry's enormously popular 1966 TV show, is the worst in the long-running franchise.
This was the conclusion I came to when I originally saw the film four months ago, and I was hoping that a revisit to the film would perhaps shed some new light as to what Abrams was trying to do, what the themes of the film were, or would, at the very least, allow the film to grow on me a little bit. Sadly, the film doesn't become more sophisticated or exciting upon a repeat viewing. Indeed, this is one of those rare films that doesn't seem to alter when you go back. It's going to be exactly what you recall from the first time. It's not complex or sophisticated enough to warrant further exploration. It's just as thudding now as it will perhaps always be.
The filmmakers prided themselves on keeping the identity of the villain a secret until opening day, but knowing that Benedict Cumberbatch plays Khan will not color your experience. Indeed, the fact that he is Khan is almost disappointingly arbitrary.
But to the film itself: Star Trek Into Darkness – being the second film in Abrams' new rebooted version of the franchise – is, as far as I can tell, a spiritual remake of 1982's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The story is much different from the 1982 film – Into Darkness involves a secret plan to hide the bodies of 300-year-old super-soldiers inside photon torpedoes, and an equally secret plan to star a war with the Klingon empire – but many of the elements are the same. We have the same villain, Khan, still on a mission of revenge. We have the same one-on-one starship battle in a remote nebula at the film's climax. And even a lot of the dialogue from the 1982 film is repeated shamelessly here.
“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” the famous “Khan” scream, and almost the entire Spock's Death scene are are carried over entirely in tact.
Rather than use the settings, famous characters, and generally thoughtful ethos of “Star Trek” as a jumping off point to update the series into a new modern visual idiom, the makers of Into Darkness have taken a far tackier approach which reeks of laziness and even some cynicism. What they did was take what small visual iconography the general public already kind of associates with “Star Trek” (the uniforms, the ships, the catchphrases), and wrap it around the skeleton of a pretty generally bland summer action revenge plot.