To review this movie without giving away any serious spoilers would be difficult at best. So let me say what I can first…
I laughed and I cried.
This movie is largely about Kirk’s development as a character.
Benedict Cumberbatch gave a stellar performance.
Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy is still my (and my husband’s) favorite character in the reboot universe, as he was in the 2009 movie.
You can enjoy this movie with limited Star Trek exposure (you should probably at least see the 2009 film), but the more Star Trek you have seen, the more you will appreciate the movie. And if you do enjoy J.J. Abrams’ Trek films, you should really go back and watch the original source. It’s not as polished and sometimes it’s hokey, but the heart is there, and you can more fully grasp the meaning of what happened in this film.
And let me warn you, I’m about to get super Star Trek nerdy.
Now for the spoilers! I have whited out the spoilers so you can scroll down to comment without fear if you’re not ready, so highlight the white parts to read if you are ready. (Also, any links you click on will contain spoilers for various series in the Star Trek universe and other movies, so do so at your own risk!)
Comparisons to the Original Source
So there was a lot of talk about John Harrison when he was announced as the villain. Even before, it was widely speculated that he was actually Khan, who long-time Trekkies know from The Original Series episode “Space Seed,” and the movie Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan (Wait, this wasn’t Star Trek 2? No it wasn’t! In fact, it’s the 12th Star Trek movie.) Some believed it, some didn’t. Most of the time, I was in the camp who believed he wasn’t. I mean, Benedict Cumberbatch looks nothing like Khan! (Click here for a picture reference) I thought I would be disappointed if he was Khan. But I also wanted to keep an open mind.
When watching the movie, probably about ten minutes in there was a dead giveaway for me that Harrison was either Khan or involved with augments somehow (if you don’t know what augments are, your homework is the aforementioned “Space Seed,” as well as the Star Trek: Enterprise episodes “Borderland,” “Cold Station 12,” and “The Augments), and that was when he told that man that he could save his daughter’s life. Genetic engineering was clearly involved.
I also nearly cheered aloud when Section 31 was mentioned (Your homework to learn more about Section 31 is the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes “Inquisition,” “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges,” “When It Rains…,” “Tacking Into the Wind,” and “Extreme Measures,” as well as Enterprise episodes: “Affliction,” “Divergence,” “Demons,” “Terra Prime.” (Those these episodes will make more sense and mean more if you watch the entire series, so essentially I’m telling you to watch everything. 🙂 )), and am glad that brought it up. I think Section 31 is a great element of the Star Trek universe because it shows a darker underbelly of the Federation and that it’s not perfect (I know Gene Rodenberry is rolling in his grave as I type this, but it’s true). Though I found it odd they didn’t debrief Kirk and crew about how they shouldn’t mention to anyone ever. Hmmm…
I decided to embrace Cumberbatch’s character as Khan while watching the movie. And then when Kirk went into that radiation zone, I once again knew what was going to happen…
Seriously, you need to watch Wrath of Khan.
Kirk was going to die. Spock was going to see him die. It would be the reversal of The Wrath of Khan, where Spock died it Kirk had to watch. And I was stunned that J.J. was actually doing this! Was is a rip-off or an homage? I mean, this is a alternate timeline, so I suppose a lot of it can play out similarly yet different (but don’t get me started on how different the uniforms and interior ship designs are and yet most of the Enterprise crew is the same… I’ve always had a problem believing alternate reality stories. But anyway, tangent over…). But I was crying in the theater, tears rolling down my cheeks, as I watched the scene between Kirk and Spock as Kirk died play out. So I accepted it. (By the way, to see a comparison between the death scenes in this movie and in Wrath of Khan, click here.) I decided I really appreciated most of what J.J. portrayed in this movie with this timeline, borrowing from original elements that Trekkies already know and love.
I thought the film did a good job in continuing Kirk and Spock’s relationship as we saw how it was set up in the 2009 film. Though Spock is half human, he generally chooses his Vulcan side, which drives Kirk, who is very much human, crazy, but he also has a lot of respect for Spock. And though Spock doesn’t always show it or even always know if himself, he has a lot of respect for Kirk. I think the death scene was so poignant for me because of how well-developed this relationship was in J.J.’s version of Trek, because when I cried, I cried for these characters, not the original ones. BUT I also think the background I have with the original ones certainly added to the emotional element. And though I still find Spock’s relationship a little unlikely (which was how I felt with the 2009 film), it was nice to get some human moments from Spock that helped lead up to later in the movie (“I choose not to feel…).
Have I mentioned that Benedit Cumberbacth was awesome as John Harrison/Khan? Because WOW, he was. Even if you are a Trekkie and know better than to trust Khan, it was easy to find yourself halfway wonder if there was any way this Khan might be different. But he isn’t! It’s true, he does love his crew like family, but he does not care about anyone at Star Fleet one iota. I find it kind of interesting that Star Fleet and Section 31 actually woke him up to work as an intelligence agent… and when I say interesting I am not sure if I mean that in a good way. It just seems unlikely, since they have banned genetic engineering after all. But who knows. Maybe they were truly desperate. But despite this, I thought he was a good villain, much stronger than Nero from the 2009 movie.
As mentioned before, Karl Urban as McCoy is my favorite of J.J.’s Enterprise crew. He just hits him dead-on without being just like DeForrest Kelley. It’s the perfect blend of new character with old character. I can’t say enough good things.
Simon Pegg as Scotty would probably be my second favorite. I really enjoyed him in the last movie and this one.
The rest of the supporting cast was great as well, though Sulu and Chekov’s air time was pretty limited (as my husband said when we talked about Sulu’s time in the movie: “at least he got to be Captain for a little while.”). Zoe Saldana as Uhura again portrayed her as a strong yet feminine character, and I felt Alice Eve did the same for new character Dr. Carol Marcus (well, new to this film because, you guessed it, Carol Marcus is also in Wrath of Khan). I wish we could have seen more of Marcus in this film, but hopefully we will in the future.
I enjoyed the story overall, and once I accepted the borrowed elements from Star Trek past, I embraced those elements and thought the new twists that were added all worked together nicely for this film. I love how the story opens feeling very much like classic Star Trek with bright colors and an alien planet, and then descends into a darker feel much more reminiscent of series Deep Space Nine and Enterprise. I felt the pacing was mostly on point, though the last maybe ten-ish minutes were a little off in some ways. I’m not unhappy with the ending, but it felt a little strange to have the big climax of Kirk dying, then this chase scene with Khan and Spock, and then have a wrap-up after Kirk is saved and the movie tries to quickly tie things up so much so that we leap forward to a year in the future so we can see a new Enterprise and be all set up for a third movie (or a new TV SHOW!!!! Which I want so badly, but due to rights issues is not very likely to happen). I did love seeing Khan frozen again, with a hint of a smile on his face, and though before this movie I was not gung-ho for anymore Khan (despite how much I’ve told you to watch The Wrath of Khan I don’t entirely love it the way most Trekkies do), I DO like the concept a lot and I felt this movie did a lot for it, to the point where I would be completely happen to see a return in another movie. Though preferably a TV show. Sigh.
Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the TRIBBLE! Watch “The Trouble with Tribbles” and “Trials and Tribble-ations” ASAP. You will thank me.
I think I’ve said enough now. So if you saw the movie, what were your thoughts? If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?!
I would give Into Darkness 4/5 stars, or on a 10 star scale, 8 stars.
Want to see what others thought? Check out these reviews too:
Hmmm … I have a comment about one of your complaints, but I don’t know that I can white it out here. I’ll phrase it fairly obliquely as “certain organizations have been proven to have no concern for regulations, only results” and trust that you follow.
Ah, OK, that works for me then.
That said, excellent review. I agree with quite a bit of what you said. I thought the brief cameo late in the movie was a perfect touch, too.
That was a nice surprise!
I don’t think I can avoid spoilers in this comment, so…
Yes, yes, on Karl Urban, and on the tribbles.
YES on feeling sympathy for Khan even when I know I shouldn’t. When he cried about his crew, I definitely had a moment of thinking, “We’re actually going to get a GOOD Khan!” And then the movie went on and oh wait…never mind. But it’s brilliantly done.
I have to disagree, I don’t feel a lot of the relationship between Kirk and Spock, certainly not to the level that it was in Wrath of Khan. However–there IS something there, it’s just different. These two are obviously at the beginning of their friendship, rather than the years of partnership the other two had already experienced. So…I guess I do feel for them, but in a lesser way.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and linking to my review. 🙂
I will say it’s been a few years since I’ve seen Wrath of Khan… I wish I could remember my reaction the first time I saw it… I think it shocked me but I don’t think I cried (pretty sure the only other Star Trek movie that has made me cry was Nemesis). And the new Spock/Kirk relationship certainly wouldn’t mean as much without the old one. So I don’t know if I stand 100% by my statement or not. I mean, I WAS crying for new Kirk/Spock, but I don’t know if I would have felt their connection so strongly if I had only seen the 2009 movie… especially since I wouldn’t have known that the roles had been reversed previously.
Yay, great review! I did read all your spoilers, even though I am not as well-versed in the Star Trek universe as you are. I absolutely LOVED this movie, and I basically have zero experience with TOS or the original movies. My husband knows about Khan, though, so I’m hoping he and I will go back and watch the original movies soon. 😀
Glad you loved the movie too! You should definitely check out the original movies, though I’ll warn you about the odd-numbered ones, ha ha. The odd-numbered movies that focus on the original series are not as highly regarded as the even- numbered ones.
Ha, interesting! I’ll probably watch them all eventually anyway. I can’t seem to get enough of Star Trek! 😀
You should watch them all just for the experience. You can’t have too much Star Trek anyway! When my husband and I were talking to each other about how people should watch the original series and movies if they like the new movies he said, “You have to get through the first 100 pages to really appreciate the last 100.”
Interestingly one of the problems a friend of mine had with the movie was actually Benedict Cumberbatch playing Khan. I don’t know anything about the original actor who played the character, but from what I understood he isn’t white? She basically saw it as Hollywood whitewashing the character. Because I don’t know anything about it, I had no problem with it because Cumberbatch was an awesome villain; just brilliant. But what do you think of it? thanks for linking up my review Amy!
The original Khan is definitely not white, but I think they chose Cumberbatch for the role because of his credentials, not for his looks. Everyone is raving about him, so I’m not really sure they could have chosen anyone better. He completely sold it.
Oh I’m not saying that Benedict Cumberbatch wasn’t amazing in the role. Far from it, so I hope you didn’t take any offense to what I said! I just thought it was interesting and like I said I know nothing about the Star Trek Universe. John Cho also made a comment in an interview about Khan where he was asked who he his favourite villain was and Cho said “Ricardo Montalban as Khan. He was badass.And a man of colour I might add.” I just think the whole debate about is interesting. I hope my comment didn’t offend you, because it wasn’t meant to be offensive at all! I’m sorry if it did!
Sorry if I sounded offended, I wasn’t at all! I was just answering your question about what I thought of him being cast. Despite the physical differences I think he was a great choice too. I actually haven’t heard any debate of it yet other than what you mentioned, and I had been somewhat expecting more of an outcry… Not necessarily with just the look of Khan, but also what they chose to change and keep the same in this movie versus Wrath of Khan.
I listened to an interesting podcast today where they reviewed the movie and they talked a little bit about the casting of Cumberbatch. One of the reviewers mentioned they knew someone who made a comment about it being a Hollywood whitewashing thing, but she actually felt they could have been making a statement about how anyone of any color can be a terrorist. Here’s a link to the podcast show if you’re interested in hearing it: http://trek.fm/the-ready-room/the-ready-room-97-bones-playing-with-a-tribble.html
You might want to skip through the first bit where they talk about Trek news.
Ricardo Montalban (the original Khan) was the Mexico-born son of Spanish immigrants, so while “of color” as John Cho stated, that is still a bit different than an Indian Sikh.
That said, I think there is enough room in this to assume that nu-Khan could have had his appearance altered to avoid someone matching John Harrison with Khan from historical record. Again, this is certainly not something that is beyond S31.
Just a thought.
I love your review and enthusiasm! I like seeing big fans embracing the new as well!
Thanks! I have to admit I’m a pretty new fan, not a seasoned one, but I have seen all of Trek. The first time I saw the 2009 movie, in fact, I had not seen all of Trek yet so when I watched it again the first time after having seen it all I was like, “Wait… how could they blow up Vulcan?!” I finally understood how my husband had felt when he saw it, ha ha. I still like the 2009 movie, but I do think Into Darkness was better and more in Trek spirit.
I completely agree with you!
Glad you liked it 😀 I forgot to say on my comment on your gust post that I loved Into Darkness… I was just curious about why some Trekkies (love that term) disliked it so much. Anyways. I really liked the villain Khan and completely agree when you say Benedit Cumberbacth sold it– his performance was just… wow!
The movie did seem a little rushed towards the end, but I didn’t mind it that much. The chase scene WAS pretty awesome 😛 Great review!
I know there are several people who felt like the movie ripped off Wrath of Khan, which I can get, but I think there are differences enough. There are also people who don’t like how different some of these characters are compared to the originals, or the “JJ timeline” in general. I have some problems with it, but overall I accept.
My husband also liked Into Darkness, and he’s the one who got me into Trek. He thought it was a lot better than the 2009 movie.