“You don’t rob a bank when the getaway car has a flat tire.”
– Leonard “Bones” McCoy
Should the first film in a series that was made during a writers strike, with its fair share of plot holes and underdeveloped characters, be more entertaining than its sequel which was released four years later with the exact same filmmakers involved?
No, it should not. But we live in a world where that’s a reality with J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek Into Darkness,” the sequel to the 2009 rejuvenation of the 40-year-old sci-fi franchise.
I’ve seen the movie twice now, Wednesday night at midnight and again Sunday night. Any issues I had with it were mostly put the rest upon revisiting it except for the film’s conclusion. Thanks to the need to placate fanboys by replicating some iconic moments from Trek’s past and an ending that is exact copy of the first except with Carol Marcus thrown in, you have too much reliance on what’s came before and not enough new thresholds crossed.
“Into Darkness” has everything that made the first one enjoyable: great action, humor and an incredible cast with enticing chemistry. It even has a more compelling villain than Nero in the form of Benedict Cumberpatch’s Khan.
But aside from Kirk, Spock, Uhura and Scotty, the rest of the main characters are present simply to perform the functions they served in the first Trek without any tangible character development. Karl Urban’s “Bones” spouts humorous metaphors and warns Kirk not to do things and the writers further prove they don’t know what to do with Chekov by sending him to Engineering for the whole adventure (red shirt and all).
There are some really powerful moments in STID, but none of them quite reach the heights of the opening sequence from it predecessor. Though one of those moments is ripped out from under you 5 minutes later while in previous entries they waited at least one movie.
STID is a more well constructed movie over the 2009 entry, but it’s guilty of what movies like “Iron Man 2” and “Transformers 2” did: take what made the original so fun and then try to do more of it and even repeat some of it. Sequels should be about building on the already strong foundations and charting new territory. Lighting can only be caught in a bottle once.
If it wasn’t for the hasty attempt to put a nice bow on the movie and the lack of forward momentum on plotting, “Into Darkness” would be considered a superior entry in the Trek saga.
Even without all of my griping, I can’t go without saying “Star Trek Into Darkness” is the most fun I’ve had at the movies so far in 2013. While there is a lot of familiar, yet overdone aspects to it, Abrams and Company know how to put together an adventure you want to revisit.
Other thoughts and some spoilers:
- It took me until the second viewing to catch a reference to the “Mudd incident.”
- I have some friends who think there wasn’t enough weight to the movie. *spoiler* If Khan were able to successfully wake up his 72 followers, they would go on a genocidal rampage to cleanse the Earth of inferior beings….so pretty much everyone. I’d call those high stakes.
- Bruce Greenwood needs to be in more films. His scenes with Chris Pine are among the best of the rebooted series.