Let me start with a spoiler warning–it is too hard to discuss this film without plot specifics.
I loved Into Darkness for what it is, but at the same time sort of wish it wasn’t that thing. Does that make sense?
Into Darkness is still set in the alternate timeline created by the events of JJ Abrams Star Trek reboot, and we are just on the cusp of the crew beginning the 5 year mission that the original series covers. Kirk begins the film as captain of the Enterprise, but is soon stripped of that title when he violates the prime directive. During an exploratory mission that reveals a planet whose civilization is in danger of being wiped out by a volcano, Kirk decides that saving Spock is worth revealing the presence of the enterprise to this un-technological civilization. This is a gesture that Spock has trouble understanding as he is not yet capable of valuing relationships over Starfleet mandates. The tone is now set for one of the major themes in the film–the meaning of friendship.
Shortly after these events Starfleet falls victim to a terrorist who then flees to the Klingon home world. Before you know it, Kirk is back in control of the enterprise and heading out on a seek and kill mission, armed with new weaponry that Starfleet is readying to combat the increasing hostile nature of the Klingons.
The theme of the greater militarization of Starfleet as a result of the first film’s events is timely, and Spock’s objection to the find and kill nature of the mission, as opposed to capturing and holding a trial, is relevant. So far we have an exciting premise, political allusions, and great characters–a pretty great set up.
This is where the divisive nature of the plot kicks into high gear–you see it turns out that the terrorist in question is actually Khan, who in this timeline has been defrosted a lot earlier as a super soldier to combat the Klingons. Khan is not interested in being Starfleet’s pawn, and wants to save the other 72 members of his crew, who are housed in Starfleet’s new missiles. The strike on Khan will wipe out all trace of his colony, burying this military mistake.
From here on out the movie becomes an alternate version of the rightfully revered Wrath of Khan–the greatest of all Trek films. This begs the question, if Abrams work so hard to set up a new premise for Trek that allows them to move away from established Cannon, why go right back to such holy ground in the second film? I think they did a great job with this material, but I wish this wasn’t the material they chose to tackle. With so much endless possibility in the Trek world, why retell a film that nailed it the first time?
In an interesting twist Khan is not the true villain here…that role is really filled by Admiral Marcus…a military man determined to wipe of Khan and the others at all costs, and also to begin aggressions with the Klingons. He is manipulating Kirk, Khan, and everyone in between. Again this adds to the films theme of military aggressions over taking morality, exploration, and common sense.
However, the heart of the film is the bond forming between Kirk and Spock. The film essentially puts them in the mirror positions of the events of Wrath of Khan. Spock is left to man the bridge (Phoning for help from Spock Prime on new Vulcan allowing for a Leonard Nimoy cameo) while Kirk has to make the great sacrifice to save the crew. All of this works, although not as well as it did in Wrath of Khan because in this reality Kirk and Spock do not have nearly as much history behind them.
I am really torn on this one. I really did enjoy the film, and for the path they took I feel they hit a homerun. However my mind keeps turning to the untaken path. I can’t help but wonder at what could have been if these characters were shown tackling completely original adventures. Here’s hoping for next time.
- Star Trek Into Darkness review (webnerhouse.com)
- Star Trek: Into Darkness (moviemaniac1268.wordpress.com)
- Review: Star Trek Into Darkness (lebeauleblog.com)
- Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) (seeingthingssecondhand.wordpress.com)
- Has “Star Trek” Changed Its Mission? (spinoff.comicbookresources.com)
- STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS Spoiler Review! (badassdigest.com)