I really admired J.J. Abraham’s first movie from the Star Trek reboot. He needed to find a way to keep a rabidly dedicated and deeply critical existing fan base happy while trying to revitalize the Star Trek universe for a new generation, with new actors. By jumping to an alternate universe, created by one of the original cast, he gave everybody a new sandbox to play around in, not weighed down by decades of pre-existing lore. Fans would be able to enjoy new Trek while not having their original universe tainted. Abraham also proved that he was not afraid to shake things up a little, straight away blowing up a planet that was always around in the original setting.
Okay, so he also proved that he wasn’t above the occasional sloppy scripting. In particular the scene where Spock (2.0) throws Kirk off the ship and the whole bit that follows with the original Spock, makes absolutely no sense. (Not just the brig, but exile with a likely lethal outcome? Bones and all the rest of the bridge crew would just go along with that? Wouldn’t it also go against Starfleet directives? And it’s an unbelievable coincidence, the original Spock just being there at just the right place and time. Literally unbelievable.) You could debate the merits of how the universe was reinvented. The Enterprise has turned into an Apple store, riddled with lens-flare? The ones in charge are all fresh out of the Academy? Temporary job openings are just filled by whichever person in the main cast hasn’t had attention for a while, no matter what their actual field of expertise is?
So Star Trek is a series of slightly dumb action movies now. That is the trend emerging after having seen the second movie (Star Trek – Into Darkness). It is a very enjoyable ride, but parts of it don’t stand up to inspection. (He didn’t scan them beforehand? Really?) It is still a little bit ballsy and gives respectful nods to the second movie from the original run (Wrath of Khan) while giving events a new spin. Some of the nods are fun and some are forced. Especially a legendary moment of rage that is transferred here from Kirk to Spock, misses the mark emotionally and just makes you roll your eyes. There is such a thing as trying to be too meta. It breaks immersion. I had expected some kind of real divergence from the original universe, to show viewers that anything could happen now. Spock was killed in the second movie from the original run, after all, even if it didn’t stick for long. Into Darkness teases that it will pull the trigger on something similar, but not at all convincingly, because it throws the moment to someone you know will not be written off. And it doesn’t even wait for the next movie to have scifi-magic come to the rescue.
Still, Into Darkness is a lot of fun. The cast is clearly psyched to be there, there are enough one-liners that land and there are cool action sequences to hold your attention. Benedict Cumberbatch is great as the villain whose name people guessed straight away but everybody kept being mysterious about nevertheless. He doesn’t quite get the ending he deserves, adding to the anti-climactic feeling the final scenes leave you with. Those final scenes also suffer from amnesia about various plot threads. But who knows, maybe they’ll pick them back up again in one of the no doubt many, many sequels.