There are some spoilers in this ramble-review, therefore, don’t spoil the movie for yourself.
I loved the first Star Trek (2009) and that love has grown even stronger after those close to 20 times I’ve watched J. J. Abrams bring that final frontier onto my screen. So one could only imagine my excitement when I was sitting in the cinema and waiting for Star Trek Into Darkness to blow my mind! But nobody, including me, could have predicted the fact that my mind was so intact that I wanted to blow it off myself.
Now, to be fair, I was super exhausted that day and most likely sleep deprived, which might have influenced me a bit but when a movie can’t pick you up when you’re down (and tired), then I don’t know what can. Another factor that could have altered my perception towards a more negative side, was the 3D aspect – I don’t like it and I usually dislike the movies in 3D but I can hardly say it’s a pattern. The reason I’m explaining my situation is because I myself want to justify my surprising dislike towards Star Trek Into Darkness due to my infinite love towards the movie that came before it. So much waiting and all I can think of is that it disappointed me while everybody else seems to love it. Therefore, for couple of days now, I’ve been trying to find reasons outside the movie to understand why I didn’t adore Star Trek Into Darkness; those two (I was tired + 3D) were the only ones I could think of…
Before I start discussing why I didn’t enjoy Star Trek Into Darkness, I should create a brighter mood by stating the things I did like. I loved the visual feel of it all – it had a big budget and it showed! The color scheme was quite delightful with starting off red and then gradually going darker as the movie progressed (into darkness indeed) and there’s not much bad one can say about the outlook. Seeing the familiar faces like Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, John Cho and Anton Yelchin was emotionally rewarding. An extra prize was Benedict Cumberbatch in all his mighty – sadly his shower scene was cut out. Naked or not, Cumberbatch’s Khan is still probably one of the most thought out villains currently on screen with clear motivations and brains to support his evil plans. Basically, visuals and the villain worked, it was the overall story line that didn’t win me over.
Bottom line of the argument I’m making against Star Trek Into Darkness and my average rating (3/5 which honestly is partly this high because of my love for the first movie) is that it tried too much. The ambition to show so much in those two hours, visually as well as plot wise, was eventually overflowing in every scene and dialog. While sometimes ambition is worth some praise (The Place Beyond the Pines for instance), other times it just smothers the greatness to unnecessary mush that seems to drown everything around it. There’s a lot of mush in Star Trek Into Darkness and most of it is caused by the need to create problems between the characters and some of it is created by the action scenes where the deadly situations don’t even get properly finished. In one particular scene, Kirk and Scotty are barely hanging on to this thing and Chekov appears to take Kirk’s hand in the very last minute – in the next scene their already running somewhere. If there’s no time to finish a heroic rescuing scene, then there’s just too many things happening!
While I understand that some of it might be the result of editing, with the fast cut-offs and the choppiness of individual story lines, it still comes down to the screenplay. Though the world seems to be against me (IMDb rates the second movie higher than the first), I think Star Trek was better than its sequel because it was clean and simple. Into Darkness already started off messy: why were Kirk and Bones stealing that scroll when they left it behind while Spock had a pretty intense situation going on inside the volcano? Wasn’t the volcano and near-death experience enough excitement and didn’t it justify the troubles that followed on its own? Then followed the back-and-worth-situation: Kirk was demoted, went to have a drink what seemed to be the same day just to have another conversation with Pike where he promoted him – it could have been written in as a single conversation but that would have been too simple.
Then there’s another question: what was the point of old Spock? Obviously young Spock called him to find out more about Khan but I can’t recall we as viewers ever getting a proper answer to that question. I understood that Spock gave Spock the answer how he beat Khan but since he knows everything wouldn’t he have known about the blood? Or is it just me trying to answer every tiny problem that the plot has while I’ve never really done it with other movies. Well, it’s more to do with the fact that I want to prove that the screenplay is too messy. Why add old Spock when he really didn’t do anything – nor did he have any answers worth actually telling the viewers cause his scene was cut off pretty fast. The answer is simple, I’ve already mentioned it, Star Trek Into Darkness wanted to show too much with too little time.
While it really seems I’m one of the few who has something bad to say about Star Trek Into Darkness, I’m sticking to my opinion. Maybe it’s something to due with my nationality because an Estonian film critic also disliked it: maybe the personality of Estonians is too dark to go further into darkness. I could speculate for days, but it won’t change the fact that I left the cinema with mixed feelings. On one hand, I love Star Trek and I like/love most of the actors, on the other hand, I can’t see myself loving a movie that was so all over the place it made me shake my head in disbelief. If it hadn’t been in 3D, maybe I would be less angry (I have glasses and the double glasses thing is uncomfortable) but I can’t go back now. Into Darkness follows Star Trek with more EVERYTHING and because of it, for me personally, the second movie took itself far away from that simplicity and heart the first movie had created.
PS: If I’ve sounded overly dramatic in this review its because of my love towards Star Trek (2009). When you love something, you expect more, so therefore I was greatly influenced by the first Star Trek while watching this one. Since it didn’t live up to my own personal hype, it was a disappointment – it doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie… it just means I expected it to be something else.