Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
May 25, 2022 7:24 PM - Subscribe

When the crew of the Enterprise is called back home, they find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization has detonated the fleet and everything it stands for, leaving our world in a state of crisis. With a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction. As our heroes are propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart, and sacrifices must be made for the only family Kirk has left: his crew.
posted by gauche (26 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I saw this one in the theater and just re-watched it. I'm surprised to find it's never been posted here.

My main thought after both viewings is that it is a huge missed opportunity to do something different. The first NuTrek sends us off into a parallel universe that is unmoored from our original canon. We are given the promise of new adventures with our old friends, the TOS crew.

I spent the first two-thirds of the movie hoping the writers would embrace the possibilities in front of them, and instead they re-railed the narrative. I'm talking most specifically about Khan's villain turn after the defeat of Admiral Marcus. Up to this point he's been a dangerous foil but not wholly unrighteous (although I suppose in my version of the script he doesn't open fire on Captain Pike in the first act). He and Kirk have made common cause and worked together. Kirk & crew have a lot to deal with in terms of having learned about Section 31 and this darker Federation lurking within the bright shiny one that we know and love. Khan is if anything a victim of the Federation. I'd have loved to see a Star Trek in which Khan is at-large and an uneasy occasional ally of a Kirk who is struggling to reform a Federation at odds with itself. That would feel like a new universe with new adventures for our old friends, as well as, I think, drawing out some of the old Trek ethos of cooperation and loyalty rather than military might.

Instead, we get an inverted remake of Spock's death scene from the Wrath of Khan. We get a "KHAAAAAAAAAN!" scream that makes no sense. And the death -- meant to echo of one of the most moving scenes in Trek, which left Spock dead for much of the following movie -- is in this case immediately deprived of its weight by Dr. McCoy whipping up a cure for death, but just this once, as a treat.

Other thoughts: Admiral Marcus is in the fine old tradition of Federation badmirals, and Peter Weller is well-cast in the role. Alice Eve does what she can with a relatively thin role as Marcus's daughter Carol, in this universe a weapons specialist. Benedict Cumberbatch is believable as Khan although more austere and less imperious than Montalban's take on the character. This is Khan as spy and assassin, rather than Khan as warlord and king. Of the other bridge crew, only John Cho's Sulu gets a little characterization during some time in the captain's chair. The others ... have things to do, but reveal no new depths.

I feel like Zoe Saldana's Uhura is done a particular disservice. She bravely faces danger a couple of times, but most of her characterization is as Spock's annoyed (ex?) girlfriend who feels Spock is not adequately concerned for his own safety. It's some Archie and Veronica-level writing, and Saldana does what she can with it.

I think my problem with the NuTrek movies is that they too-slavishly attempt to recreate scenes, borrow lines, and re-use set pieces from earlier Trek, but do not appear to understand the themes and ideas that animate the franchise. Come to think of it, this is the same weakness that Abrams showed in The Force Awakens (and perhaps Rise of the Skywalker, which I've not seen).
posted by gauche at 8:17 PM on May 25 [8 favorites]


I thought that this was the weakest of the Kelvinverse movies. It had no sense of scale. They could just whip on over to the Klingon planet, then whip back, then while facing the Vengeance, there was no one else around. (I also had "no sense of scale" issues with TFA.) I felt that having Khan in this movie was gratuitous, especially with Spock's Khaaaan which was just there to repeat the line from TWOK. And let's not forget the gratuitous striptease.
posted by Spike Glee at 9:26 PM on May 25 [4 favorites]




(and perhaps Rise of the Skywalker, which I've not seen)

Treasure this time in your life.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:46 AM on May 26 [20 favorites]


Some good thoughts from fleacircus' previously link:

Stitcherbeast on how they could have leaned harder into making this an alternate timeline.

fleacircus on why the "KHAAN" scream worked in TWOK and doesn't resonate here.

headspace on why the inversion of the death scene came too early in NuTrek.

There's also some very good discussion throughout that thread about the whitewashed casting of Benedict Cumberbatch in a role that is supposed to have been Sikh and was originated by a Latino actor, including ways the script could easily have dealt with the casting issue.
posted by gauche at 5:13 AM on May 26 [3 favorites]


What makes ST:Into Darkness such a frustrating watch is that it totally botches both being a sequel to Star Trek, and being a remake of Wrath of Khan, misunderstanding the whole point of both and ST in general.

We already saw how Kirk became captain and assumed responsibility in the last film, all that character work is undone and replayed here to less effect (and its not like the first film was a masterclass in characterization either.)

All the schemes by both the good guys and the bad guys are laughably stupid. The scene where Khan reveals his identity in the cell is played so dramatically from the audience but none of the characters actually there would know who Khan is so the whole thing comes off like a pantomine where everyone is speaking to the people watching the play instead of each other.

The film looks good, I guess.
posted by AndrewStephens at 5:14 AM on May 26 [3 favorites]


I think my problem with the NuTrek movies is that they too-slavishly attempt to recreate scenes, borrow lines, and re-use set pieces from earlier Trek, but do not appear to understand the themes and ideas that animate the franchise. Come to think of it, this is the same weakness that Abrams showed in The Force Awakens (and perhaps Rise of the Skywalker, which I've not seen).

I think that there's absolutely a parallel between the way that Abrams treated the two venerable SF movie franchises; there was the first movie, which set out to revive a moribund franchise that had had some not-great stuff happen in the early aughts, and didn't so much reinvent it as just put a shiny new gloss on it, but wasn't bad, and then there was Abrams' second movie, which really just shat the bed. (There were even the movies by someone else, The Last Jedi by Rian Johnson and Star Trek Beyond by Justin Lin, which, while not perfect, had a number of good things about them that Abrams' movies lacked.) This movie tried plundering The Wrath of Khan while studiously ignoring the fact that the franchise had already tried that with Star Trek: Nemesis, which was one of the things that had put it on life support in the first place. Whitewashing Khan, retconning the Augments' blood to basically be a miracle cure for everything (including death), blatant fanservice with Alice Eve, and oh yeah, the plot being inspired by Roberto Orci's 9/11 trutherism.

So, in other words, not a favorite of mine.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:16 AM on May 26 [7 favorites]


And let's not forget the gratuitous striptease.

Memory Alpha has this to say about that:
Showing Carol Marcus changing into her flightsuit in Star Trek Into Darkness was motivated by Director J.J. Abrams wanting to appeal to Star Trek's male fanbase which is fairly large. That the film would show Dr. Marcus in her underwear was heavily discussed during many story conversations between the screenwriters as they contemplated how they were going to justify that. Originally, Kirk would have stumbled on Marcus changing as she prepared to open the torpedo in space, but the budgetary limitations prevented the writers from setting the disarming scene in space. Orci acknowledged that having her consequently change into a flightsuit was not as necessary as showing her change into a spacesuit.

The writers approached the subject from the point of view that, like in Star Trek II, Carol Marcus was again to be represented as bold in her interactions with Kirk, despite each of them being another form of their character than from The Wrath of Khan. "We figured, how do we harness the spirit of that in this scene," recalled Alex Kurtzman "and that's ultimately where we came to it from [....] It's not something that we went into blindly and certainly we all sat in a room going, okay, we're going to be criticized for this, but how do we justify this in a way that feels like it was thought about?"
I dunno, guys, does it feel like it was thought about?

If anything, this makes it worse. They had many story conversations about Alice Eve taking her kit off. They knew they had to get it right, had to justify it in the story. And ... they did this.

ETA: That article does explore Eve's own feelings about the scene, and I do not mean to detract from her apparently positive experience. But the scene felt to me, and to I think a lot of viewers, basically to have HORNDOG written all over it.
posted by gauche at 6:03 AM on May 26 [5 favorites]


This is the only Star Trek movie my wife ever liked. Which means it is the worst Star Trek movie ever made.
posted by briank at 6:05 AM on May 26 [4 favorites]


was motivated by Director J.J. Abrams wanting to appeal to Star Trek's male fanbase which is fairly large

Hey guys my mom says I have a glandular condition alright?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:24 AM on May 26 [5 favorites]


Reading the previously, it's interesting that a lot of people blamed Lindelof more than Abrams. With nine years (!) of new stuff since then, including Watchmen and Rise of Skywalker, it feels like the ground has shifted.

But yeah, Abrams's space movies have absolutely no sense of scale; it's further to the chemist's than to the next populated planet. Even in the first movie they do the 40 light years from Earth to Vulcan in THREE MINUTES, and they beam across interstellar space on to what's equivalently the head of a pin moving faster than light. It's moderately acceptable in Star Wars but doesn't work in a universe that's supposed to be our future. And there was his entire thing of saying in interviews before the movie that Cumberbatch wasn't Khan, he was a new character, you'll see, maybe he's Gary Mitchell!--and then he turned out to just be Khan.

That's probably the thing that soured me on this movie more than anything else--that he tried to make a mystery box out of something that wasn't. I still haven't seen Into Darkness--the only bit other than some mid-season Voyager that I haven't--and that's despite the fact that I own it on Blu-Ray because someone (well-meaning!) gave it to me years ago. Maybe one day, with a couple of episodes of Strange New Worlds saved up as a palate cleanser, I'll give it a shot.
posted by thecaddy at 6:58 AM on May 26


all that character work is undone and replayed here to less effect (and its not like the first film was a masterclass in characterization either.)

NuTrek is basically "what if (character) but we turned one or two traits to 11?" NuKirk is over the top brash compared to actual Kirk (go watch TWOK again and tell me that's a brash, cocky, overconfident man). Spock's internal conflict between human and Vulcan is on maximum overdrive, so that he's a constant pile of barely suppressed rage. And so forth.

I've written before about how this film could have been really different and interesting, and I know these thoughts have been shared here too. But beyond the plot problems of Into Darkness, there's a fundamental issue with the characters - NuTrek doesn't have characters, just sketches.
posted by nubs at 7:38 AM on May 26 [5 favorites]


> "Spock's internal conflict between human and Vulcan is on maximum overdrive, so that he's a constant pile of barely suppressed rage."

The most hilarious thing to me about NuTrek is that it was LITERALLY "Spock needs to be louder, angrier, and have access to a time machine."
posted by kyrademon at 8:10 AM on May 26 [6 favorites]


it's interesting that a lot of people blamed Lindelof more than Abrams

After The Leftovers and HBO's Watchmen, it seems to me that Lindelof is the talented one, and Abrams is all sizzle, no steak.
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:11 AM on May 26 [5 favorites]


All flare no lens
posted by fleacircus at 1:10 PM on May 26 [19 favorites]


All red, no matter.

(Re: this film? Let's just say my original comment in this thread was deleted for being too venomous.)
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:21 PM on May 26 [4 favorites]


One of the many reasons that this movie didn't work is that ST:WoK built on many, many years of fan love for those characters as portrayed by those actors. In WoK, they'd been friends for many years. In Darkness they were still young'uns. Just doesn't resonate.

I'd have rather they embarked on something entirely new than a half-ass attempt to cash in on one of the better moments from the TOS crew.
posted by jzb at 8:05 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]


It made no sense, having rebooted Star Trek for a new era and a new audience to trade on old canon in this way. I took friends to see Star Trek (2009) that had never seen Star Trek before. They didn't know who Khan was. They enjoyed this film because of the cast/crew of the Enterprise, but why saddle it with a villain from the original series and movies. Why not keep re-inventing the universe? It's a parallel universe for a reason - so they aren't saddled with history.
posted by crossoverman at 9:46 PM on May 26 [3 favorites]


Showing Carol Marcus changing into her flightsuit in Star Trek Into Darkness was motivated by Director J.J. Abrams wanting to appeal to Star Trek's male fanbase which is fairly large.

Soooo...Lemme get this thinking straight. You have a large fanbase that happens to be male. Now, “fanbase” would seem to imply that these are people who, because they are fans, will eagerly come and watch the movie. Because, y’know, they are fans. People who are attracted to your product and inclined to spend their money on it. Because, fans.

Yet, for some reason, you feel there is a distinct need to “appeal” to these supposed fans by undressing a woman for no reason that actually serves the plot. Uh huh.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:20 AM on May 27 [5 favorites]


After The Leftovers and HBO's Watchmen, it seems to me that Lindelof is the talented one, and Abrams is all sizzle, no steak.

This is what I've said from the moment Abrams started working on the big SF franchises: Abrams is best as the pitchman who comes up with an initial concept built around one or two big bold questions, casts the leads, and shoots the pilot, and then is out the door on to the next thing. He leaves answering the questions and developing the actual story to more detail-oriented nerds with more idiosyncratic tastes and ideas about the world, like Damon Lindelof or Rian Johnson or Justin Lin. You might like what those guys give you or you might not, but it's something.

You don't want Abrams hanging out in the kitchen for the whole meal, because once you get past the stylish presentation, his approach to story/character/theme are fairly pedestrian and he will try to serve you a metaphorical bowl of Spaghetti-Os with a lit sparkler sticking out of it. And that is what this movie and TROS are, the most mundane possible treatment of the series' themes dressed up as grand spectacle.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:17 AM on May 27 [9 favorites]


There are many, many things that infuriate me about this movie, many of them already addressed above, but the whole "Abrams lacks any sense of scale" thing is just maddening! It drives me so bonkers and it's in his Trek films and in his Star Wars movies and I just get thrown out of the film every time. In this one, the part that really got me was when the Enterprise was disabled in orbit around the Moon and then moments later is crashing into Earth's atmosphere. It's like, we know the moon is far away from Earth because we can fucking look at the sky and see it! To quote a better bit from The Force Awakens, "That's not how any of this works!"
posted by dellsolace at 9:19 AM on May 27 [5 favorites]


bowl of Spaghetti-Os with a lit sparkler sticking out of it. And that is what this movie and TROS are, the most mundane possible treatment of the series' themes dressed up as grand spectacle.
posted by Strange Interlude


Thank you for this metaphor, it perfectly describes this movie for me!
posted by bleep at 3:06 PM on May 27


the part that really got me was when the Enterprise was disabled in orbit around the Moon and then moments later is crashing into Earth's atmosphere.

If the Apollo missions had not been back in a previous millennium, the audience might have recalled that even purposely heading from the Moon to Earth took us three days. Here is seemed to be about ninety seconds -- whoopsie!
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:57 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


NuTrek is basically "what if (character) but we turned one or two traits to 11?"

I have complained about always-grumpy McCoy in the Kelvinverse films more times than I can count.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:30 PM on May 31


Dammit Jim, I’m a caricature not a doctor!
posted by nubs at 5:28 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


ST: Into Darkness was a film so full of plot holes, bad science, plot holes, no science, plot holes, and incredible white-washing that IO9 felt it necessary to post a brutal takedown in the form of a FAQ. They take no prisoners.
posted by Ber at 9:11 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


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