So they made a second Star Trek film. So I went to watch it. It was an OK action flick but suffers from major flaws that I will enumerate over the course of this spoiler filled review.
As with the first new Star Trek film, Into Darkness is a well made and visually spectacular 2 hours filled with action set pieces and explosions, aided by a fine cast. Unfortunately, as with the first film, the story is a terrible mess and the script is no better. In fact, Into Darkness is almost the same film as Star Trek 2009, with a crazed mad man seeking a stupid revenge.
But Into Darkness is also a semi-remake of Wrath of Khan, probably the only Star Trek film that counts as a excellent film outside the world of Trek. Turning Wrath of Khan (a cerebral battle of wits in which Khan and Kirk never meet) into a dumb action film (which ends with a long fist fight on top of a moving vehicle) did not go smoothly. Although Into Darkness keeps referencing the older film and the old series in general, the shoehorned lines and situations only remind the viewer how much better constructed Wrath of Khan was.
The biggest problem is Kirk. Into Darkness starts with Kirk getting demoted for being a dick. Star Fleet must be very lenient on gross insubordination because they only demote him one grade, and he gets command back 15 minutes later after a short lecture. Then the Enterprise is sent on a mission to track down the terrorist with a scheme so harebrained that even Kirk eventually realises it is a stupid idea, but comes up with an even worse idea by himself. Kirk then allows himself to be used by said terrorist even though he knows it is a trap. These are are actions of an idiot, not a captain. Because something similar happened in Wrath of Khan, Kirk sacrifices his life to save the ship for no reason but gets better.
Now I know that these film are explicitly not trying to be exactly the same as the old Star Trek, but this is some really weak writing. The original Kirk was a fairly level headed dude who generally followed procedure and only pulled out the audacious moves when faced with insurmountable odds. You could see why he was liked and respected by the rest of his crew. New Kirk is obnoxious and immature, and would be a danger to the ship if he was in charge of the laundry, let alone in command. I know the arc of the Into Darkness is supposed to be about Kirk learning responsibility, but a) that was Kirk’s arc in the first film, b) he is already captain here, and should act like it, and c) Into Darkness pretty much drops any pretense about character arcs after the first 30 minutes. Spock has much the same problem, his story in this film is exactly the same as the in Star Trek 2009.
Into Darkness goes overboard with weird little bits of continuity, strangely refusing to go its own way. I did like that in a film that cost $190 million, the tribble was still just a lump of fur but it was there for no particular reason except as a reference. Other callbacks are shoved in only for the audience and don’t make sense in the context of the film. The scene where Khan reveals himself is staged as if it is a major revelation, but none of the characters present have a clue who Khan is. This type of pantomime dialog where characters speak to the audience instead of each other gets very tiresome.
Having said all this, there are worse films you can spend your money on. Star Trek : Into Darkness requires that you shut down all higher brain functions, but once you accept that then, just like the first film, it has its charms. The best I can give is a lukewarm recommendation.