Okay, right off I’m going to say the very first thing that came to mind when this movie was over:
“Thank the Great Bird of the Galaxy that I did not waste $28 to see this in a theatre.”
Yes, I easily resisted going to this movie when it hit the circuit, due to expectations that it would be a sloppy retelling of The Wrath of Khan, which wasn’t a great movie to begin with. But a colleague asked me to see the movie at some point, because he wanted to know my opinion of it, especially given my love of Star Trek and my opinion of Wrath of Khan. It just came available for rental on cable, so I’ve dutifully thrown away $6 and watched it with my wife.
So, without further ado, I am here to report that this Star Trek movie was ridiculous. Patently. Ridiculous.
At this point, I’d like to go on record saying that I believe J.J. Abrams is following a plan that I understand. We all witnessed this on Lost, in fact. Abrams likes stories that allow actors to react and emote to the best of their melodramatic ability, and he purposely sets up moments to allow them to do exactly that. I call them “pushbutton moments,” largely iconic and blatantly obvious moments for the actors to prove their talent against. Unfortunately, Abrams likes to do this at the expense of the story itself. He plugs in these pushbutton moments, whether they make any logical sense or not, in order to get the reaction shots he wants. Lost was chock-full of such moments, and chock-less of story sense along with them. STID was exactly the same. (Spoilers follow, because, frankly, this movie isn’t worth saving for anyone.)
The script (because I don’t want to actually refer to this as a “story”) built most of its pushbutton moments around the most incredible series of coincidences ever seen in the history of Mankind: Moments like Kirk’s out-thinking a roomful of Starfleet Command’s finest by deducing Khan’s intent to attack Starfleet’s commanders… mere seconds before a ship appears outside the window of the conference room and opens fire. And the hits keep coming and coming, right up to the last moments when Kirk, who has just died, is upstaged by a miraculously-revived tribble that provides a way to save him.
The script also made extensive use of “geek moments,” individual scenes or bits of dialogue that a hardcore Star Trek fan would recognize… for instance, a comment that recalls the character Harry Mudd from the original series, and a tribble that happens to be handy in the medical bay for McCoy to experiment with. Dialogue recycled from various past movies and TV episodes were also peppered in, creating in myself a noticeable wince whenever they occurred. I quickly lost track of the number of times I muttered to myself: “Don’t say it… don’t… oh, Christ, you said it…”
The movie managed to make a wonderful mockery of science—even Star Trek science. And that’s scary. From the very beginning, when Kirk and McCoy dove into an ocean and (apparently using jet boots) swam hundreds of meters deep in seconds, risking the bends at worst, and certain puncturing of their exposed eardrums at least, in order to reach an Enterprise that was submerged under the water. A spacecraft so huge that occupants require shuttles and transporters to get to the ground, but which can suddenly support its own weight, plus the weight of tons of water, and fly through the atmosphere as easily as a bird? Please.
The transporters turned out to be excellent plot complication devices, often operating in only one direction (and never the right one); we are presented with advanced torpedoes that can travel through star system distances… using fuel-based rockets; and the ship! Abrams has created a ridiculously humongous Enterprise, with ridiculously humongous open spaces throughout it, for two obvious reasons: One, because he believes Ridiculously Humongous equals Cool; and Two, because ridiculously humongous open space means he can blow ridiculously humongous holes in the hull, for the express purpose of sucking ridiculously humongous numbers of anonymous crewmen out into the void, kicking and screaming all the way. This ship is filled with more open spaces and fatal-plummet-sized sections than the interior of a Hyatt Regency, proving that Starfleet’s engineers are clearly no smarter than Abrams is.
And oh, yes: Apparently Abrams has decided that when a starship goes into warp, now it should leave a smoking trail behind… like it’s burning space-rubber.
But guess what? I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet.
STID is not a Star Trek movie.
To be honest, it’s not the first Star Trek movie that wasn’t a Star Trek movie. And this is its greatest failing, even beyond its nonsensical script, manufactured pushbutton scenery-chewing moments, botched science and insane design. But it’s certainly one of the least Star Trek of movies.
In one scene, Scotty tells Kirk, “I thought we were supposed to be explorers!” He’s right, too. Star Trek is about exploration, discovery, action guided by thought and discussion, and applying the best of human talents to solve problems. STID was all about death, destruction, revenge and punching their way through obstacles. Star Trek is about seasoned experts, where STID is about snot-nosed brats that ignore rules and mouth off to superior officers… and these people are given command of the newest, most powerful ship in Starfleet? IqnaH QaD.
Star Trek was a series about the human adventure in space. Its stories were so good that, even with bargain-basement special effects and cheesy monster costumes, the original series still shines through. Abrams’ movies have gone in exactly the opposite direction, giving us beautiful special effects in exchange for characters that are two-dimensional caricatures of their original selves, and cheesy stories. But then, Abrams himself has confessed that he never liked Star Trek as a kid. Well, that much was obvious in 2009.
So, to sum up: Star Trek Into Darkness sucked. Yes. It did. We can only hope and pray that any future Trek movies will do without the present creative team, because they don’t know what they’re doing—unless, of course, it really is their intention to drive the franchise into the ground for their new Star Wars bosses’ benefit.