Star Trek into Darkness (2013)

There’s that old saying, “if something looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.” Well… maybe.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve seen Star Trek into Darkness. My first impression was that I liked it. After I let it stew in my mind for a while, I started thinking about plot holes, character inconsistencies, and about Star Trek as a franchise.

There are fun moments in the movie. For The opening scene is fun and fast paced. There are winks and nods to other Star Trek series and Klingons as potential villains. We see the return of Khan, which I called as the most likely villain after watching Star Trek (2009).

J.J. Abrams takes liberties with the familiar old characters of the original series. Fair enough; new generation, new take on old characters. That being said, I think the key element missing from Star Trek into Darkness was the fact that it was missing heart.

The original Star Trek series aired from 1966-69. There are 76 episodes that lasted three seasons. The show was a ratings failure in it’s initial run. When the show was sold into syndication it began to reach it’s target audience. In 1979, the first Star Trek movie was released; Star Trek the Motion Picture. The movie was slow paced and left many bored, but it made enough money to create future movies.

I think what made the movies work was that the actors knew the characters and knew each other. They knew how to play off of each other’s ticks, quirks, and reactions. Shatner, Nimoy, and DeKelley could have ad-libbed a movie by themselves. (That might explain Star Trek V.) If you look at the Trek series that follow, by the end of their seven year runs (4 for Enterprise) the actors knew their characters and each other very well.

When Star Trek Nemesis (2002) came out, I said, “well, that’s the end of the Star Trek movie franchise.” It was made by a director who had never seen an episode of Star Trek and it showed. The characterization was dull and flat, the action was stunted, and we had a new villain we had never seen before who was far from intimidating.

Seven years later, Star Trek (2009) was released. It caught the spirit of the original series. It was fun, action packed, and had a good story. Wow, the reboot worked in a very Star Trek kind of way. I was looking forward to Star Trek into Darkness.

Here’s what I noticed. The three year gap between making movies plays a toll on actors. The actors did a good job acting as Kirk, Spock, and the crew however it felt like they were acting, and not really interacting the way people do who are familiar with each other. The film is supposed to have a tear-jerker Kirk-Spock friendship thing, and to me it fell flat and nearly wrecked the movie. It seemed to almost be a spoof of Star Trek II at some point. Spock acts un-Spock-like and becomes a typical action hero during film’s climax. All he needed was a cheesy tag line.

Even though these are familiar characters, we’re not familiar with the actors playing them. The actors have their own nuances they’ll bring to the parts. As such, I think it was too much to ask the audience to be really pulled into the Kirk-Spock friendship arc the way the movie did. For me, it nearly ruined the movie.

Other Nitpicks:

The Klingons… the forehead-ridges on the Klingon heads were too perfect. Watch Star Trek the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise and you’ll see variation in the forehead-ridges. With a uniform look, the Klingons seemed almost CGI and not like they were there.

Scotty needs to ditch the “cute” little alien buddy. The gimmick wore itself out in Star Trek (2009.)

Good stuff about STiD:

The movie had a good theme. It plays on America’s war on terrorism and aspects of what does it take to maintain a democratic and free society when secret government plots aim to destroy the freedom the citizens fight and strive for.

The movie is action packed and has a complex story. (Although the story seems like it was cherry picked from Star Trek Next Generation and Deep Space Nine plot lines.)

The actors do a good job playing their respective roles and each of the characters have key things to do in the movie. Unlike other Trek films, the crew in the new movies each have roles. Uhura has a key role with the Klingons, for example.

Overall, I’d say it was a good movie. It had elements of Star Trek, but it didn’t quite feel like a Star Trek movie. I think if the actors continue to play the characters for a couple more movies, then we may get a movie that feels like a Star Trek movie. I’m not sure how to hammer the point across. I guess it’d be like listening to a music group play Beatles songs. They may sound and act like the Beatles, but they’re not the Beatles.

So, I’d give the movie three out of five dilithium crystals.

Finally a prediction, I’m going to predict we’ll see the Organians and the Klingons in the next movie. Abrams is now working on a new Star Wars movie. That is not a job I would wish on anyone. I think Abrams will create a Star Wars movie that looks like a Star Wars movie, but will lack the heart of the originals. I’m sure I’ll like them, but there will seem like something’s missing. However, Star Wars will be a different blog entry.

Live long, and prosper.

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