Star Trek Into Darkness


Theatrical release: 5/17/2013
PG-13; 2 hrs. 12 min.
Written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman & Damon Lindelof
Produced by J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Roberto Orci
Directed by J.J. Abrams

Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Zoe Saldana (Uhura), Karl Urban (McCoy), Simon Pegg (Scotty), John Cho (Sulu), Anton Yelchin (Chekov), Benedict Cumberbatch (John Harrison), Bruce Greenwood (Christopher Pike), Peter Weller (Admiral Marcus), Alice Eve (Carol Marcus)

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

July 22, 2016

Foreword: Why did this review take three years to write?

At the end of the day, from a character perspective, Star Trek Into Darkness is about relatively inexperienced people struggling to find their way in the world, and often not living up to the best versions of what they could be and, we surmise, eventually will be. They are still feeling their way through things. That's appropriate, because, for better and for worse (I come down on the mostly "better" side, on balance) the makers of this film use the characters' inexperience to turn Star Trek into the efficient, mainstream, middlebrow, visceral cinematic blockbuster experience that the Trek film franchise has been moving toward for years, if not decades.

This is a flawed film, with some significant problems. But it is a consistently entertaining and well-paced one. It works on its chosen level probably better than any Trek film since First Contact, which managed to find the sweet spot of cinematic scope along with a deep Trekkian sensibility. Into Darkness probably has the inverse ratio of Trekkian-sensibility-to-cinematic-scope when compared to First Contact. Whether you believe it's the right ratio is a legitimate point of debate, but I've long believed — since the TNG films, anyway — that the Trek film franchise has been trying to align itself along a mainstream audience more than a Trekkian one. This one just aims for what that audience happens to be today.

Meanwhile, one of the defining characteristics of the J.J. Abrams era is its steadfast tenacity in paying homage to (or ripping off, depending on your level of cynicism) the original series timeline while at the same time rewriting it. After Star Trek 2009 — in which Nero's band of vengeful Romulans traveled back in time and erased the bulk of the Trek timeline as we knew it — Abrams and his writers could've declared their mission in homage-paying complete, abandoned the entire notion, and merely pushed forward with their own self-contained stories. But instead, they've fully embraced the idea that their version of Trek actually exists in a parallel universe that still contains one character (played by Leonard Nimoy) who knows that all of this has happened before and may again ... if perhaps much differently this time.

The subtext of these movies — and perhaps this will or won't become the theme for the entire reboot film series — is that all the world is a stage in Paramount's long-running theater, and the actions the characters take now are an acknowledgement of the efforts by the former masters of the production. It's not so much a subtext as a metatext.

Of course, subtext, or metatext, or whatever, doesn't mean a damn thing if your movie doesn't work on its own terms. That's why I was glad to find that Into Darkness was involving and entertaining while remaining recognizable as Trek while doing what it must to broaden for the summer action crowd in a millennium whose moviegoers value large-scale visual spectacle above all else. Such are the terms of the reboot; this is aimed at a more popcorn-centric and less philosophically inclined audience. I knew that going into Trek 2009, and I knew it here.

I mostly don't have a problem with that. Is Into Darkness the best that Trek has to offer? Not even close, but that's because Trek serves a lot of masters, and Summer Tent Pole wasn't traditionally one of them. The true essence of Trek is best suited for the television screen, working on a smaller scale with more ambitious ideas. But Into Darkness is Trek instead doing the mainstream sci-fi adventure thing and doing it pretty well. The best aspect of this movie is its action-oriented cinematic sensibility. Its biggest problem is its failure to truly confront its central premise, which is staring right at it from its title but which the film ultimately flinches from in the most meaningful ways.

The movie's cold open is in the long tradition of narratively unrelated curtain-raising crises, as Kirk's away mission on a primitive world in an attempt to save the indigenous population from an active volcano goes horribly wrong. This results in Spock nearly getting killed inside the volcano (much to Uhura's ire) while the Enterprise, doubling as a submarine, does its best to hide from the population, lest the sight of the starship break the Prime Directive. (Of course, there's the pesky argument that defusing the volcano is itself breaking the Prime Directive — or at least putting the lives of the crew at risk — but young brash Kirk is not going to let anything like rules get in the way of doing the right thing as he sees it.)

Kirk's stunt gets him severely chewed out by Admiral Pike in a scene that is a well-acted example of a hoary old cliche. Bruce Greenwood is very good at laying down the law while playing the part of father figure to the hero. The scene is an example of how familiar tropes can still be made to work. Starfleet strips Kirk of command of the Enterprise and gives it back to Pike, which to me was the moment when I was certain Pike was not long for this world. (Ultimately, we know this movie is not about Admiral Pike in the captain's chair, although I wouldn't have minded if it were, given how good Greenwood is.)

This sequence at least deals with, indirectly, just how insane Kirk's implausibly meteoric ascension to captain in the last movie actually was. (Looking back at it, it really doesn't make any sense at all, other than that Kirk had to become captain because that's his origin story.) But what this is all really about is the still difficult and evolving relationship between Kirk and Spock, and how Kirk's need to save his friend's life while breaking the rules lies at odds with Spock's unflinching Vulcan sensibilities of logic and truth.

Around this time, a highly secured Starfleet Section 31 installation in London is suicide-bombed by one of its own operatives who made a Faustian deal with a mystery man in exchange for saving his terminally ill daughter. The bombing results in the assembly of Starfleet's senior admirals and captains at Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco. (The room, however, seems sparsely attended; just how big is Starfleet supposed to be at this point?) The investigation determines that "John Harrison," a rogue Section 31 agent, was the man who put the bombing in motion. Subsequently, Harrison launches an attack on the very room where the captains have assembled, killing Pike and many others in the ambush, before escaping to Klingon homeworld Kronos using Scotty's transwarp transporter technology (see previous film), which somehow ended up in the hands of Section 31 and Harrison.

Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) puts a thirsty-for-vengeance Kirk back in command of the now-captain-less Enterprise and gives him an arsenal of mysterious torpedoes (based on secret technology that Starfleet won't let Scotty examine, leading him to resign in protest) and a mission to fire them at Harrison's refuge in an abandoned area on Kronos. Are emotions running so high that bad decisions are in the making? Sure seems that way, and Spock among others warn Kirk to think before he shoots torpedoes at the Klingon homeworld. But Marcus has given Kirk the green light, so off we go into the darkness. Eventually Kirk comes to his senses and decides to go down to Kronos and retrieve Harrison as a prisoner.

The plot here moves at a brisk pace, which is to the screenplay's credit, even if I wonder about some of the sketchiness of the details, like the can of worms that is Scotty's transwarp transporter technology allowing someone to beam from Earth to Kronos instantaneously, not to mention how close Kronos seems to Earth in the first place — mere hours via starship based on how the movie makes it seem. But this is all typical of the reboot's take on Trek technology, which is that it's a means to a story's end, rather than something adhering to all the conventions that have been set up over the past several decades.

One of the conventions of the original series was the reliable Kirk-Spock-McCoy triad. The reboot has basically replaced that with a Kirk-Spock-Uhura triad, with Bones landing in a close number-four slot (where he utters folksy metaphors so often that Kirk finally orders him to stop). This is refreshing (and of course a reflection of the more central movie roles for women in genre films vis-a-vis a few decades ago), as it provides Uhura a much expanded role over what she had in the original series. The fact that she's in a relationship with Spock continues to be of interest here; I appreciated the way the script tied their relationship back into Spock's central dilemma of how he suppresses his emotions, something that has only become more important to him since having faced the destruction of his homeworld. (And along those lines, I also found apt the suggestion that Vulcan's destruction put the hawks in Starfleet on edge enough to accelerate their war plans, using Harrison as a tool.)

This film also gives us our first look at the reboot version of the Klingons, who come across considerably more alien and mysterious than in previous renditions. This is partly a matter of where we are in Trek history, where the Klingons are an unseen Cold War enemy (Marcus believes war with the Klingons is inevitable) that humans, even those in Starfleet, don't typically ever interact with. But another part of this can be attributed to the overall vibe of Abrams' take on Trek, which is much more in the vein of Star Wars than it ever was before. Everything has a slightly different feel, one that's a little more lived-in and less antiseptic than previous takes on Trek (which is not to say that Abrams' Trek is inherently better or worse, just different).

Once staring down the barrel of 72 torpedoes (the number is a subtle callback to "Space Seed"), Harrison surrenders and reveals himself to be the reboot edition of the genetically engineered Khan we all know and love from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Benedict Cumberbatch, in a strong performance, represents a true reimagining of the character, for better or worse. Once captured and trapped in a cell, we actually get to see the superior intellect in play that was only laughed at by Kirk in the original universe. The script here makes Khan deviously manipulative and calculating in a way that allows him to plot several moves ahead. That's definitely an improvement.

On the downside, Cumberbatch's Khan is absolutely no fun. Ricardo Montalban's version of the character was a performance brimming with playfulness and joy despite his deeply held rage and desire to kill Kirk. But here we get a cold 21st-century movie supervillain — a dour, sour, tortured and haunted soul with an unsettlingly creepy persona. He was awoken from cryosleep and exploited by Marcus to build weapons in preparation for war with the Klingons. The 72 frozen crewmates were Marcus' leverage, and when Khan thought Marcus had killed them he went on his rogue rampage. But now with Kirk putting Khan in custody instead of killing him, Khan and Marcus are now two opposing forces bent on destroying each other, and the Enterprise finds itself caught in the middle. It gets even more complicated once the crew realize they have Khan's crew stored in cryosleep within the torpedoes.

This, ultimately, uncovers the biggest problem and missed opportunity of this movie, which is that all its underlying issues about Starfleet's foray into darkness are rendered irrelevant by reducing it to the whims of, I guess, just one rogue admiral. When Peter Weller first showed up as Marcus, after seeing him play mostly villains in recent years, I initially held out hope that he might be a reluctant hero — a stern hawk, perhaps, but one representing a valid point of view. No such luck. Marcus eventually is revealed as a cartoon villain who is arguably just as evil as Khan, and he robs the movie of what could've been true substance.

Instead of being a story about how Starfleet started down a questionable dark path of military aggression — a relevant allegorical topic to be sure — we're instead left with nothing but unanswered (and unasked) questions. The suggestion is that the construction of Marcus' massive, sinister, black, unmarked Dreadnought-class battle starship (apparently named the USS Vengeance, but I don't believe this is ever actually said on-screen) was done in secret solely under Marcus' authority (how did he get the resources?) with a secret cabal of operatives. This means that once Marcus is inevitably taken down, so apparently is his agenda and all its consequences.

But what about the rest of Starfleet and the Federation? Did they have any say in this at all? What do they know and when did they know it? Wouldn't this storyline have been much more interesting if it was actually explored in political detail and was about examining the soul of Starfleet or the Federation rather than being reduced to a single madman's secret agenda? For that matter, Marcus' willingness to kill the entire crew of the Enterprise is unnecessary overreach. How does he hope to get away with it? Surely he answers to someone, and wouldn't the destruction of another Starfleet vessel raise some serious questions? When Marcus finally gives his big speech to Kirk about being the one who is doing this to protect the Federation, it's a weakly performed, hopelessly overplayed moment by Weller ("Who's gonna protect them, you?!?!") that's unfortunately a major letdown. By being so simplistically reductive, the movie abandons its most interesting issues rather than engaging them.

So, yes, there are significant problems here. They perhaps could've been fatal in a movie that overall was less assured in its action storytelling, but they manage not to derail the overall thrust of Into Darkness. It's just a shame that we couldn't have had the deeper substance that the premise suggests. Instead, we get a series of entertaining set-pieces that work on their own terms. Marcus' assault on the Enterprise is jarringly swift and brutal. Subsequently, Kirk's and Khan's space jump from the Enterprise to the Vengeance is suitably exciting. And the cat-and-mouse games where Kirk allies with Khan to take down Marcus when it's pretty clear Khan will eventually betray Kirk, manage to stay interesting.

We also have serviceable use of the supporting cast. Sulu and Chekov are sparingly used, but get their moments. McCoy continues to be amusingly cornpone. Scotty, after his early resignation in protest (which is a good scene; Simon Pegg plays Scotty sincerely when called upon, even though he usually operates as a comic persona), has a crucial role in tracking down Marcus' secret base orbiting Jupiter. Alice Eve joins the cast as Carol Marcus, daughter of the admiral, and is reasonably well used — aside from a shot in her underwear that is simultaneously so brief and so gratuitous that I'm convinced it was put in the movie only so it could be put in the trailer. And Leonard Nimoy shows up for a surprise cameo in what would be his final reprise of his most iconic character.

At the center of all this are Kirk and Spock and their relationship that observes how one is not complete without the other. After his early humbling, Kirk deals with a fair amount of self-doubt in trying to figure out how he's supposed to properly lead, and turns the ship over to Spock at a key moment. Spock tries to navigate his emotions, which are still not under adequate control. This becomes especially clear in the scene where Kirk must save the Enterprise by going into the warp core to bring it back online, subjecting himself to a fatal dose of radiation. I thought this scene worked as a mirror-image homage to Trek II (Kirk gets to sacrifice himself and die, and Zachary Quinto gets to shout "KHAAAAAAN!") while revealing something intimate about both of these rebooted characters at this point in their journeys.

Everything comes to a head in the final act of show-stopping visceral chaos, where the Enterprise is practically ripped apart as it's pulled down to Earth, while Khan decides to take his wrath out on Starfleet Headquarters by crashing the dead Vengeance into San Francisco Bay in an appallingly vicious act of destruction that, I must admit, got my blood pumping. It's typical of this movie's living in the moment that a starship plowing into a city is used mainly to drive home the point of Khan's savagery and thus Spock's need to chase him down, as if Kirk's (obviously temporary) death wasn't already enough. But the sequence is chillingly effective. Spock's pursuit and all-out fight with Khan is satisfying in its visceral energy and it turns Spock into the Awesome Kick-Ass Superhero we likely never expected him to become.

If this goes against the long-held view of Spock being fundamentally non-violent (which goes all the way back to Nimoy's original early take on the character and the reason for the invention of the Vulcan nerve pinch) — well, chalk it up to being indicative of the theme throughout these first two reboot movies, which is that Spock is still learning to tame his darker side, something which will come in time. Into Darkness takes place just before the Enterprise's five-year mission is slated to begin, so the Spock we knew from the original series wouldn't even have arrived yet. But the producers would be wise to avoid going to this well too often in the future.

Now, about the destruction in San Francisco: The story ultimately doesn't take responsibility for it, instead papering over it with a year's time jump forward and Kirk delivering a vague speech that mentions "those who lost their lives" (while carefully never mentioning a body count). Around the time Man of Steel came out (which also completely brushes off its mass destruction rather than being a bummer by acknowledging it), there was a story where someone estimated the damage done to the city of Metropolis resulted in 129,000 dead, more than 250,000 missing (probably also dead), and $2 trillion in damage. That was purely a rhetorical exercise, but it raises the valid point that the limitless scale enabled by CGI disaster far exceeds the story's limited abilities to consider it seriously. While Into Darkness' mayhem is nowhere near that level, the point still applies because the carnage is left purely in the abstract after it happens.

Really, in retrospect, Kirk's decision to bring Khan back to Earth rather than killing him looks, instead of noble, like it's the direct cause of what must be untold thousands of innocents' deaths, while Khan himself is quietly put back into the freezer rather than standing trial for such an outrage. City-leveling scenes like this one are like strange exercises in cognitive dissonance: The visual is arresting and compelling, but then when the story writes it off as ultimately inconsequential — as just another tool in the action-movie toolbox — then we are expected to as well.

(Also, I can really do without end-credit title cards referencing 9/11 at the end of movies that have nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11. Apparently, the producers felt guilty enough about ramming a starship through a bunch of city skyscrapers to acknowledge 9/11 in the credits — but not guilty enough to refrain from such a scene in the first place. Worth noting, although I'm not sure what conclusion to draw, is that these title cards were moved from the middle to the end of the credits for the Blu-ray release.)

In terms of an overall verdict, I'm going with three stars. Despite my qualms, on the whole I found it to be an effective and enjoyable piece of cinema. Although Abrams uses way too many lens flares and, yes, really needs to stop that, he knows how to pace an action/adventure and make it an involving experience. This is a Trek movie of and for its time, where the character and thematic content (and there is some, to be sure) is often eclipsed by the style.

Now that we're heading into the five-year mission with Star Trek Beyond, maybe we'll see Trek turn back toward exploration of sci-fi ideas. That would probably be a wise choice by the stewards of the franchise, such that they can take a crack at making this series their own rather than perpetually living with and in and alongside the shadows of the characters' alternate timeline, as appealing as that may be. They've got a firm grip on the characters and they've got a cast that works. If they can come up with an original storyline that's a little more Trek and a little less about satisfying the needs of a summer blockbuster, they might really have something here.

Previous: Star Trek (2009)
Next: Star Trek Beyond

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71 comments on this review

Fri, Jul 22, 2016, 9:47pm (UTC -5)
Yes, I've finally posted my review of this three-year-old movie. I took this opportunity to reset the comment thread. The nearly 900 comments that were on the non-review page have been moved here.
Fri, Jul 22, 2016, 10:31pm (UTC -5)
Congrats on getting her written and posted Jammer!

As for my opinion, I felt the call backs (way back when I saw this in the theatre, for the only time) we're ill-used and trying desperately to appease the fans without knowing what made the Wrath of Khan great. It felt super cheap to me. A shame.
Lord Garth
Fri, Jul 22, 2016, 10:32pm (UTC -5)
Off by half-a-point. I was predicting 2.5.
Fri, Jul 22, 2016, 10:46pm (UTC -5)
Congrats on finally writing the review! It's well-written as always.

I'd give the film only 2 stars, however. Too many plot holes, too much ripping off the old series, and not enough character development.

But your input is appreciated as always, Jammer.
Fri, Jul 22, 2016, 10:54pm (UTC -5)
Furthermore, I appreciated this review, simply because it managed to connect some dots in the early plotting that I hadn't thought to put together, as well as the point raised about the levels of CGI destruction within a story. It's something studios are starting to have to address now because audiences at large aren't so easily distracted by the spectactle.

And I would agree that this movie had good stuff moment to moment, but I would say it overall was not the sum of it's parts.
Daniel L.
Fri, Jul 22, 2016, 11:02pm (UTC -5)
Jammer, I was one of the movie's (seemingly few) defenders on your site, having belived and still believing that the movie works well for what it sets out to be (at the end of the day, if a person trying to evaluate a movie doesn't keep that one criterion in mind, the person given himself or herself license to change the movie-reviewing goalposts at will). Your review, which reflects how I feel about the movie, was well worth the wait. I almost fainted when I saw it on the site.
Fri, Jul 22, 2016, 11:13pm (UTC -5)
A review written soon after release might've been different. I, for one, emerged from the theater angry and insulted. Over the years, I've mellowed. Movie still sucks, but it wasn't made for me.
Fri, Jul 22, 2016, 11:42pm (UTC -5)
Hmm, I agree with your view Jammer but not your rating. I think a lot of the magic ST 2009 had in its novelty fell flat in this movie.

Like you say, so many questions go unanswered about the Klingon war and Federation security, and those might have been poignant topics for a movie made in era where national security is a daily headline. And not only was Khan bland this time around, but things like Spock yelling "KHAAAAAN" felt incredibly forced.

But on the good side, Kirk and Spock's plans to outmaneuver Khan are impressive. The missiles actually housing relative innocents was an interesting twist that highlight some of the tragic moments of war. And the Starship battles, notably the Enterprise getting shot out of warp, were spectacular.

So all in all, I'd give this a 2 - 2.5 depending on how the next movie goes with this setup.
Sat, Jul 23, 2016, 1:32am (UTC -5)
Great review, Jammer. I would say it was worth the wait, but it was a hell of a wait... :P

This movie gets a surprising amount of criticism and I think you rightly nailed down it's downsides AND it's good qualities. That said, I do find that it is more of a mixed bag than the 2009 film and I'm guessing it would fall within a 2.5 range for me.

Spock's "KHAAAANNN!!" felt very unnecessary, it's a shame they couldn't resist using the line in that moment. I remember moaning in disbelief when I first saw it. I would've preferred a sort of silent rage from Spock.

Looking forward to reading your thoughts on Beyond.
Joseph B
Sat, Jul 23, 2016, 1:39am (UTC -5)
Jammer, Thanks for the Review!!!

I was wondering --- all this time --- how this movie would be rated from a reviewer totally steeped in the Star Trek mythos.

I, myself, had given it an 8 out of 10 for the first two thirds of the movie, but thought it stumbled badly to a 2 out of 10 for the last third. Average it all together and it ekes out to two-and-a-half stars for me. I just couldn't get past the movie ripping whole scenes and dialogue from TWoK for the "clever" role reversal.

But I will say this: I have lots of friends and co-workers in their 20's --- many of which had never considered viewing Star Trek prior to 2009 --- and they were unanimous in their praise of the movie. One of them even told me he was *shocked* at my negative attitude. So, bottom line: Abrams mostly reached the audience he was going for. And you have vindicated that perspective with your insightful review.

Thanks again for following through with this. It's always a pleasure to read Star Trek reviews from a Star Trek expert!

Sat, Jul 23, 2016, 3:58am (UTC -5)
Ugh. We waited decades for a three-star review of a one-star movie? Tsk tsk, Jammer. ;)

"It's well-paced" and "it's aiming for a general audience" should only be worth two stars, max. 72 Dumb Plot Points, recycled Kirk arcs, magic blood, and the most painfully obvious villain reveal in the history of cinema dragged this movie down for me. It's just terrible writing, which only makes the fluid direction feel all the more NECESSARY.

And the 9/11 reference was more direct than you realize, Jammer. The plot point that Starfleet created their Khan problem by using him for weapons-building is, I'm pretty sure, an allegory for the belief that the U.S. created al Qaeda (and thus 9/11) through its weapons-dealing in Afghanistan. That's probably another reason why the movie turned me off - that particular piece of rhetoric has been sounded so many times by Hollywood in the last decade that another is just too much for me.

Beyond was way better.
Sat, Jul 23, 2016, 4:46am (UTC -5)
I think it's awesome and kind of hilarious that this review "became your Waterloo". I am a procrastinator too and I totally understand. You have nothing to apologize for. I just feel lucky that I happened to arrive here only hours after you posted it, given that it's probably been a month or two since I last visited.
Sat, Jul 23, 2016, 8:03am (UTC -5)
Really happy to see your review posted. If I ever doubted we'd see the day, I apologize. As always, this is really quite thoughtful and interesting (even if I disagree strongly - I'd rate STID at most 2 stars).

"Spock into the Awesome Kick-Ass Superhero"

This is actually the thing that bothered me most about the movie. I don't mind that the alternative universe version of Spock has more trouble controlling his darker side. That's an interesting premise. But all we see of this Spock is his darker side. Quinto's Spock seems to be perpetually angry. We never see him deal with the aftermath of his emotional outbursts. Watching CumberKhan get beaten up by Spock, I found myself feeling sorry for Khan and scared of Spock. I don't think that's what the writers intended. At the least, the movie should have had a scene at the end with Spock recognizing that he'd lost control, perhaps talking about it with Uhura, showing that he regretted his failure to live up to the Vulcan ideal.
Latex Zebra
Sat, Jul 23, 2016, 9:21am (UTC -5)
Yeah, it's a decent movie. Many, many cracks in it but I can stick it in the DVD and a couple of hours fly by.

I think the most important thing in this review is that Jammer does appreciate this isn't our traditional Trek. Far from it.
We have to accept that in terms of movies or we'd be getting low budget art house Star Trek.
Really looking forward to Beyond and going with the wife next week. I look forward to Jammer's review for that and look forward to what is coming up next for this site. Well until the new series comes out.
Sat, Jul 23, 2016, 9:24am (UTC -5)

I thoroughly enjoyed reading that. I am a little surprised at your seeming acceptance of the Kirk/Spock ripoff reversal and Spock's conduct chasing down and beating Khan within an inch of his life. If there is one thing I think our new trek has gotten horribly wrong, it's Spock. I thought Spock in ST2009 was acceptable, but not this. I do agree that while I didn't like the direction they took Spock, it's awesome to watch.

I agree with you that an ADM Marcus "come to Jesus" moment and possible alliance with Kirk to stop or corral Khan would have been much more effective.

My ranking on your scale would have to be 2 stars. It's sad really, because about 3/4's of this movie is epic, even with Khan.

Sat, Jul 23, 2016, 10:34am (UTC -5)
I'm with you on most of this, Jammer, right up until the end. Why? One word: stakes.

Into Darkness immediately handicapped itself before it even left the gate, when it decided to go down the path of aping The Wrath Of Khan. There's a lot of reasons that TWOK is still considered to be the best Trek movie, but chief among them is that the story has genuine stakes and genuine consequences. It took a lot of balls to kill off Spock and leave him dead when the credits rolled, but the story was so, so much better off for it. It drew on three seasons' worth of familiarity with the characters and the actors and employed it to devestating effect.

How the fuck did the writers think that they were going to get the same audience reaction with characters and actors who we've only met once before, in a story that didn't even really develop their friendship??!! The mind boggles. Then, compounding their error, they hit the infamous Reset Button and just undid it all with Magic Khan Blood.


Sure, The Search For Spock also hit a reset button of sorts. But that story, too, had genuine consequences. Kirk had to self-destruct a long military career, blow up his own ship, and lost his son just to even get a *shot* at saving Spock.

Into Darkness does have quite a few things in its favour. But to me, it's a textbook example of how a shitty ending can undermine an otherwise strong story. They could have gotten away with their riffing on TWOK if they'd done it in a way that fit with the reboot theme of just being Dumb Fun Action Movies. Instead, they wind up trying to instill it with a gravitas that it hasn't earned and tarnish the entire effort as a result.
Sat, Jul 23, 2016, 11:06am (UTC -5)
@Latex Zebra, True, this isn't "our" Trek, and I don't think older fans have exclusive "ownership" over Trek. But the real question is whether or not the films justify the decision to do a reboot. Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica was obviously not Glen Larson's, but Moore created a quality TV show that stands well on its own. The show has a clear mission and did something interesting with the property. It was a darker take on the original concept, taking the idea of the genocide of humanity seriously. The Planet of the Apes reboot is also quite distinct from the originals, and yet has a clear sense of purpose. Those films are treating the apes like real apes and exploring the extent to which human failings are limited to humanity. I know why those reboots exist and indeed a reboot was necessary for those franchises to tell the stories they wanted to tell.

With the Trek reboot? Not so much. Having seen Beyond, it seems like three films in the new Trek franchise still isn't sure what it wants to be or why it exists (beyond being a more action-driven incarnation of Trek with better effects). It seems like the films want to pay homage to the original Trek, but are also wary of being too much like Trek. Is this Trek reboot supposed to be utopian or cynical? Are Kirk, Spock, and McCoy the same characters we know from TOS, or different? It seems like the franchise is still struggling wit these questions (although Beyond was a step in the right direction). There's nothing wrong with a movie simply being an entertaining popcorn flick, but so far that's all these films represent.
Sat, Jul 23, 2016, 11:33am (UTC -5)

As we celebrate fifty years of Star Trek, CultofWhatever is looking back on each of the shows and film franchises that defined the Final Frontier.

We’ve talked about the Original Series and how, when it was great, it embraced the sixties social revolution. On the other hand, when the Original Series stumbled, it slipped into every silly cliche that doomed science-fiction from that era. The Next Generation took a little bit to find its mojo, but when it did it managed to surpass the original by expanding the franchise’s horizons. Deep Space Nine followed soon after, and though it was the red-headed step-child of the brand, it dared to be different and was rewarded with loyal fans, many of whom regard it as the best of the bunch. Meanwhile, Star Trek Voyager tried to be “more TNG” but ended up being “lesser TNG.” Finally there’s (Star Trek) Enterprise, which spent three years failing to live up to its premise (nevermind its legacy) before finally finding its footing…and immediate cancellation.

Halfway through Enterprise’s troubled run on UPN, Paramount decided to bring the crew of the Enterprise-D/E back to the big screen for a fourth feature film. The first, Generations, was a mixed bag with both critics and fans. First Contact followed two years later to mostly glowing reviews and great fan support. After that it was Patrick Stewart who suggested that the third movie should be more easy-breezy, with less pathos and more romp. Two years later, Insurrection premiered as a movie criticized by many for being a glorified two-part TNG episode (and not one of the better ones either). It seemed like a real step backward for the franchise, not only creatively but financially as well. It grossed a little over 100 million on a 50 million dollar budget. For comparison, First Contact grossed about 150 million on a 45 million dollar budget. Though TNG was the gold standard for TV Star Trek (at least among the post-TOS spinoffs), its success on the small screen had not translated to the silver screen. Paramount took four years off before trying again.

After two movies (one of which is among the film-franchise’s best) Johnathan Frakes was out of the directors chair. He took the fall for Insurrection‘s poor performance (despite Stewart’s insistence on a lighter film, and Michael Piller’s disappointing screenplay) and was replaced by Stewart Baird. Baird had previously directed such cinematic gems as US Marshals and Executive Decision. Baird was an admitted Star Trek neophyte but long-time producer Rick Berman insisted this was a value, since he could bring fresh eyes to the struggling franchise (he said this, while continuing to stifle creativity on the TV side of the franchise, but I digress). The screenplay was also taken out of the hands of Star Trek veterans (Michael Pillar, who ran the TNG writers room during its peak years, wrote Insurrection, and Ronald D. Moore & Brannon Braga, who co-wrote many classic TNG scripts, wrote Generations and First Contact): John Logan (fresh off of writing Gladiator‘s acclaimed screenplay) was brought in to pen the script. Logan was an admitted Trek fan but had never written for the franchise or even worked in the science fiction genre (he had yet to write his The Time Machine screenplay). That’s fine though, according to Rick Berman; his newness would bring fresh blah blah blah.

Really the problem was Berman. He was the only decision maker that stretched across a decade of post-Roddenberry Star Trek, with two failed TV shows and three (out of four) failed movies. After throwing Frakes under the bus and after giving Moore/Braga the boot, Berman was the only one left. And then Star Trek: Nemesis was released and it bombed. It was the worst box office performance for a Star Trek film ever. It ended up grossing less than 45 million dollars. It’s opening weekend was a paltry 18 million and that number dropped to a dismal 4 million the following weekend. After that Star Trek was effectively dead. Nemesis‘ terrible performance probably pushed Paramount toward the decision not to renew Enterprise for a fifth season and to let the franchise lie dormant for a while. And with that, the long continuity of Trek which stretched from 1987 until 2005, much of which was overseen by Rick Berman, was finally finished, not with a bang but with a whimper.


Seven years later, a whole new team was put in charge of bringing the franchise into the modern era. JJ Abrams was originally only going to produce the reboot, but he agreed to direct because he loved the screenplay so much. Though he was an admitted “Star Wars > Star Trek” guy, he has spoken of his love for the Original Series and the dynamic between Kirk and Spock that it showed (he apparently missed that the true heart of the show was the Kirk-Spock-McCoy relationship, with Kirk being guided by two very different friends, one stoic and the other emotional, but I digress).

Paramount’s goal for the new movie was to make Star Trek into a box office franchise. They wanted a series of movies that appealed to action movie fans moreso than science-fiction fans. It was assumed that the diehard Trek fans would come to see the movie regardless; it was “Joe ticketbuyer” that they needed to attract. Abrams, creator of the ABC smash-hit Alias and director of Mission:Impossible 3 was a good choice to do just that.

To say he succeeded would be an understatement. Abram’s two Star Trek films, Star Trek (2009) and Into Darkness, together grossed over 480 million dollars. Star Trek is an almost two-billion dollar film-franchise for Paramount; JJ Abrams has directed half of that. People are going to see these movies.

But at what cost?

Paramount would say everything has worked out for the best. Star Trek is popular again. It’s no longer “just for nerds” or “just for fans” or whatever else people said fifteen years ago. Although if I wanted to be testy I would say Star Trek, when done well, is not “just for” anyone; it’s great for everyone. TNG had incredible ratings, the good Star Trek movies were all big earners at the box office. Star Trek didn’t need a makeover, it just needed competence behind the scenes, some fresh creative minds working through Gene Roddenberry’s original vision, and—after going from TNG to DS9 to Voyager to Enterprise, boom-boom-boom, non-stop, with movies along the way—it needed a break. When it came back in 2009, the franchise had been given its break. All it needed was for a new team to come in an interpret Gene’s vision for a new generation.

Instead JJ and Paramount decided to water everything down. The movie was successful, but did it need to be done this way to be successful? Paramount will say yes because they have the box office receipts to back them up, but purists will maintain that the franchise just needed a break and a return to form. The debate continues as the third movie in the rebooted series is released and if there’s a fourth movie featuring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and the rest, the debate will continue to rage between new fans and old.

Personally I enjoyed the first JJ-Trek film. It was fun, much more fun than the pitiful Nemesis or the stupid Insurrection. It lacked the theatricality of First Contact, but that was entirely by design. The movie had a very specific agenda and it accomplished it very well. Was it shallow? Yes. Was it convoluted in spots? Yes. Were there moments of scientific illogic that would make anyone who gave it two seconds’ thought lose their mind (Spock sees Vulcan—which looked bigger than our moon from the earth—be destroyed…from Delta Vega!)? Yes. But JJ wasn’t into making a thinking man’s Star Trek. He was into playing Star Wars with Star Trek action figures.

It was what it was, but it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t very Star Trekey, but it wasn’t a bad movie, which is more than can be said for Star Trek: Nemesis…

…or Star Trek Into Darkness (no colon…except for the one in my gut which wanted to release itself immediately upon seeing it)…


STID, as I will henceforth condescendingly refer to it, is an insulting motion picture. There are some wonderful moments, and a few stand-out acting performances. The direction, score, costume design…so much of it is on point. Just looking at it, you’d say “this is a great Star Trek movie!” It’s modern, big-budget, and if I weren’t a fan of the franchise I might have enjoyed myself as it was edited to be a fun little adventure movie.

But I am a Star Trek fan, and as a Star Trek fan STID is the most offensive movie in the series. I know what you’re thinking: Can it actually be worse than the snoozer that was The Motion Picture? Yes it can. TMP was slow, cerebral and contemplative, but at least had a big science fiction premise. I can appreciate that. Can STID actually be worse than the laughably cheap Star Trek V: The Final Frontier? Absolutely it can. Hate on Shatner’s directing all you want, but if nothing else, that movie offered viewers the Kirk-Spock-McCoy dynamic on the big screen in a way not felt since The Original Series went off the air. It was basically a two-hour episode of TOS (season three) and that’s just fine with me (because it was a fun stupid episode, as opposed to Insurrection, which was just a boring stupid episode). What about Generations, with its convoluted plot, or Insurrection with its neutered action, or Nemsis! How can it actually be worse than Nemesis?! That movie killed The Next Generation! It forced the franchise into hybernation! It betrayed its own continuity!

Alright: We’ll call it a tie.

But in absolutely no way is STID anywhere close to being a good Star Trek film, or even a passable one. Maybe it is to you, but not to me. I have too much “cracky, purist nerd” in me. First of all, the fact that Wrath of Khan is not just the most definitive Star Trek movie, but it is also one of the best movies of 80’s means that Paramount (1) never should have tried to recreate the magic and (2) could not help itself but try to recreate the magic. I get it. It’s business. But if you’re going to make a film that is an homage to a masterpiece (which Wrath of Khan certainly is) then you had better at least have something worthwhile on your own to say, otherwise your work is just going to be criticized as derivative.

And that’s the biggest problem with STID. It’s (insultingly) derivative. It mixes things up here and there, but not in any substantial way. The whole “Cumberbatch isn’t Khan, swearsies!” from JJ Abrams, throughout the filming and pre-release promotion, was moronic. I appreciate that he wanted to surprise us, but along the way it went from a headfake to a flat-out fabrication and once the “reveal” happened in the movie, there was no shock or excitement or anything. If anything it produced a chuckle since everyone knew it going in. Using Khan wasn’t even the problem, however. It was that they used him to retell Wrath of Khan’s major moments in a less satisfying way than in the original. If I want to watch Wrath of Khan I’ll just pop in the blu-ray. I don’t need to see a subpar remake.

What’s worse was the feeling throughout the movie, as though everyone involved really felt like they had a message to tell. The scene where Kirk dies and Spock shouts “Khan!” was filmed uber-serious, but it ended up being a joke because (1) it was just a character-swapped rip off of two major moments in the original film, done better in the original film, and (2) no one took it seriously because it was much more hamfisted than in the original Wrath of Khan film.

STID may have wanted to have a message, but it had none. Wrath of Khan, on the other hand, had a message; all great sci-fi does: It uses the aliens, spaceships, laser beams and what not as window dressing to tell a story about us. Great sci-fi is about something. Wrath of Khan was about something: It explored aging, dying (and the acceptance of the two) and being forced to face up to the sins of the past (after running from them for so long). Kirk is put through the ringer in the movie: First we meet him sulking away as an admiral when he wants to be on adventures commanding a starship. He celebrates his birthday in the midst of a mid-life crisis. Then, an old nemesis of the past returns and—purely by happenstance—runs afoul of an old flame. Along the way he discovers he has a son (the ultimate “past catching up with you” moment) and then loses a best friend.

And unlike in STID, Spock stayed dead. Yes he came back a movie later, but originally there was no “movie later.” That was it. Nimoy was done and his death was to be permanent. Thankfully for us all he had too much fun and came back for more, but at least Wrath of Khan had enough respect for its story to end with one of its heroes really dead for real. Kirk “died” and was back to action in twenty minutes. It was insulting.

Most frustrating of all is the fact that STID hit many of the same story beats as Wrath of Khan but without any of the meat of the story being explored. It was hollow and pointless. It had nothing to say. Wrath of Khan earned the ending with Spock’s death because it was not only built on fifteen years of backstory but also on two hours of thought-provoking drama. STID aped it with Kirk’s death but it hadn’t earned it, not in the timeline of NuTrek and not in the two+ hour runtime that built up to it.

Watching the two back-to-back (and STID basically invites you to do that, so its not unfair to compare them) reveals just how much Wrath of Khan had to say compared to STID, despite being shorter than Abrams’ movie by ten or so minutes.

full comments here: eat-cost/
Sat, Jul 23, 2016, 1:09pm (UTC -5)
@Matthew, I agree with a lot of what you said. I think people who point to how much the JJ films make don't understand the economics of the film industry. The total film audience was much smaller during the 80s, ticket prices were cheaper, and because of inflation the value of the dollar was less. Wrath of Khan earning $100 million back then isn't the same as a movie earning $100 million today. With the rise of the international market, especially China, it's actually not all that hard for major action movies to get around $400 million. Terminator Genysis did, even though it was critically panned and widely regarded as a flop. Interstellar and Dawn of Planet of the Apes each earned close to $700 million, and those were cerebral sci-fi films. The big franchises, like Bond, Hobbit, Marvel, and Star Wars earn more than $1 billion. I'm not going to dismiss STID and 2009 Trek for getting $400 million, but it's certainly not a sign that these films are HUGE hits. They're middle-of-the-road for what a big franchise film should be getting.
Sat, Jul 23, 2016, 1:27pm (UTC -5)
Thanks for the review Jammer! I largely agree with most of what you said, but like a lot of viewers, feels a bit too derivative of what came before. I'd go 2-2.5 stars myself.
Sat, Jul 23, 2016, 1:27pm (UTC -5)
Not surprised Jammer gave it a positive review since he'd stated he bought the movie. I generally agree with his opinions ("Balance of Terror" aside), but can't here. The callbacks are lazily written and slapstick, the thematic content is thin, and the recreated death scene with the roles reversed feels completely unearned. Two stars from me as it's enjoyable at times. I'm going to see Beyond shortly and hope it's better. I think the fact that the filmmakers don't seem to be blatantly aping a classic this time around will help.
Sat, Jul 23, 2016, 3:18pm (UTC -5)

"To say he succeeded would be an understatement. Abram’s two Star Trek films, Star Trek (2009) and Into Darkness, together grossed over 480 million dollars."

That's $240 million per film, on an average budget of $170 million for a profit of $70 million.

Do you realize that many of the previous Star Trek films have done better in terms of net profits? Here is the complete rankings of the 12 films (adjusted to inflation):

The Voyage Home: $186 million (Gross $109M, Budget $22M, x2.14 for inflation)
The Wrath of Khan: $160 million (Gross $79M, Budget $11M, x2.42 for inflation)
The Motion Picture: $145 mill6ion (Gross $82M, Budget $35M, x3.08 for inflation)
The Search for Spock: $134 million (Gross $76M, Budget $16M, x2.24 for inflation)
Star Trek 2009: $122 million (Gross $258M, Budget $150M, x1.13 for inflation)
The Undiscovered Country: $80 million (Gross $74M, Budget $27M, x1.71 for
First Contact: $70 million (Gross $92M, Budget $45M, x1.49 for inflation)
Generations: $63 million (Gross $75M, Budget $35M, x1.58 for inflation)
Star Trek into Darkness: $40 million (Gross $229M, Budget $190M, x1.03 for inflation)
The Final Frontier: $35 million (Gross $52M, Budget $33M, x1.87 for inflation)
Insurrection: $17 million (Gross $70M, Budget $58M, x1.44 for inflation)
Nemesis: Net Loss

"Star Trek 2009" is 5th on the list, while "into Darkness" is 9th.

So the next time somebody tries to sell you NuTrek as "a resounding financial success", take a good look at the above figures. The guys at Paramount sold the soul of Star Trek for practically nothing.

Besides, does anybody seriously believe that a quality film in the tradition of "The Voyage Home" or "The Wrath of Khan" would have made any less money than the garbage we actually got? Just put Chris Pine, Karl Urban and Zacahry Quinto in a half-decent Trek story, and watch the money roll in.
Matthew (a different one)
Sat, Jul 23, 2016, 4:33pm (UTC -5)
I appreciate the review, but it seems to rationalize or overlook some of the film's problems by writing it off as summer blockbuster.

The magic blood, the torpedo switcheroo plot device, the fact that characters just do things because the plot needs them to (Why exactly did Kirk decide to capture Khan instead of killing him? He was all for killing him, against the wishes of his crew, until suddenly he wasn't. Why was Spock so emotionally invested in Kirk, they've done almost nothing but fight for two movies).

This kind of sloppiness is pretty common in summer blockbusters like Transformers (of which this film shares its screenwriters), but it is uncharacteristic of Star Trek.
Sat, Jul 23, 2016, 4:57pm (UTC -5)
The How It Should Have Ended short for this movie is pretty funny and makes fun of a lot of the movie's plotholes, but I think anyone can enjoy it regardless of their opinion of the movie itself:
Alex (in the UK)
Sat, Jul 23, 2016, 5:19pm (UTC -5)
I had a feeling the review might have been posted today.

Like others I can understand the mostly positive review given to this film by Jammer, but disagree with it personally. That said, a very interesting review with some points I have not seen made by anyone else. Food for thought.
Panagiotis Karatasios
Sat, Jul 23, 2016, 5:27pm (UTC -5)
With all due respect jammer if you give this movie 3 stars i doubt that will agree in much of anything.
Sat, Jul 23, 2016, 7:12pm (UTC -5)
Thanks, Jammer, for confirming my prediction that you would give this film three stars, but I have to say, this has to be the most negative three-star review I think I've ever read; it comes across more as an act of forgiveness than enthusiasm.

Still, I'm glad you finally got the thing done, and all in all, I think most of your points are well taken. If I had given myself as much time to vacillate as you did, I might very well have done the same.
Sat, Jul 23, 2016, 10:05pm (UTC -5)
Though I did enjoy Into Darkness and ST2009 I just really felt that they went way "beyond" a nice homage to Wrath of Khan and cheapened the original movie. Then Spock yells "KHAAAAANN!!" I almost laughed at this in the theater. I was almost embarrassed. That's not supposed to happen!

I'm willing to forgive the magic blood. I'm wiling to ignore how they completely changed the way 'KRONOS' is spelled. And I'll look past how transporters can now beam people halfway across the galaxy when normally they can't even get though a ship's shields at 5%...

I'm super enthusiastic about Beyond, and will be seeing it Monday. I hope we can get this puppy back on track! Or is that Trek?
Sun, Jul 24, 2016, 12:52am (UTC -5)
3 stars seems about right.

The one thing that still bothers me to this day is having the writers backpedal on Kirk's death. it's not even the matter of the magic blood as a plot device. I can buy that.

It's that they brought him back at all.

Kirk's death is a beauifully handled scene. It made a direct statement to viewers: don't expect anyone to be safe in this timeline. Kirk didn't feel he had a place in this ship or being in command. He made the choice of self-sacrifice and ended it in his terms, facing the fear of death head-on. This was Kirk at his most vulnerable. Probably the character's most naked scene since losing his son in ST3.

It also defined the Kirk/Spock relationship in a whole different light. Back in Wrath of Khan, they've had decades of fulfilling friendship and trust to fall back as they parted ways. In this film, we get to see Spock losing control of his emotions as he realizes the depth of a potential new friendship that would never ever be truly fulfilled.

Then McCoy brought him back, all in the interest of a hollywood "happy ending" and the need to maintain the franchise. Honestly, I can't even blame the writers. Hollywood executives and marketing "specialists" are to blame here. You want your franchise to remain interesting? Take risks.

My only other problem, as pointed out, is named Admiral Marcus. Like Section 31, it's too easy to put all of Starfleet's problems in a single basket. Weller managed to give us a character way less interesting than the one seen on Enterprise's fourth season. I'll take the Enterprise story arcs created by Manny Coto and Brannon Braga any day over Abrams and Orci's tentpole blockbuster sensibility. These films have their place in the franchise. And they work on a visceral level. But needless to say, I'm definitely more interested in Bryan Fuller's take on the new Star Trek: Discovery.
Paul M.
Sun, Jul 24, 2016, 5:58am (UTC -5)
Now if we can get ST:B review in a week or so... :)

I bashed ST:ID in the previous thread, so I have no intention of repeating my points again. Let me just say that I was thoroughly disappointed with this standard summer blockbuster punch-in-the-face-solves-all-your-ills fare.

I'd give it 2 stars.

(To put things in perspective, I'd rate ST 2009 2.5 stars, and ST Beyond solid 3 stars.
james alexander
Sun, Jul 24, 2016, 8:12am (UTC -5)
being a bit fussy, but is it possible for a performance to be "too strong"?

I remember seeing it and getting the impression that Benedict was completely overwhelming the rest of the cast. it isn't something that I can easily explain though.
Sun, Jul 24, 2016, 9:48am (UTC -5)
...Is this real life? Have I just read Jammer's STID review?

And he says it's good???

...There is a lot wrong with the movie, but my main gist of conversation back when was that we, as a fanbase, have learned how to pick apart a Hollywood Movie since we started watching Star Trek with our parents as children. :)

Of course we're going to notice the seams eventually.
Sun, Jul 24, 2016, 11:04am (UTC -5)
@MidshipmanNorris, you have a good point about fans sometimes being too picky. However, I think there are still movies that manage to impress. Interstellar, Mad Max, Ex Machina, Dawn of Planet of the Apes, just to mention a few in recent years that received pretty universal acclaim. Yes, it's possible that as we get older we also become pickier, but there are plenty of examples of movies out there that manage to meet our higher standards. So I don't think that's a sufficient excuse for the type of bad writing in a movie like STID.
Sun, Jul 24, 2016, 3:35pm (UTC -5)

Telling the truth, my exact words on the line "My name is Khan" were silently mouthed, so as not to disturb movie patrons who might be enjoying the film...

"Oh come on."

But it's a solid movie, I think...not the greatest there ever was, but certainly not the shit show that Star Trek V was.
Sun, Jul 24, 2016, 5:49pm (UTC -5)

Is there a link to the other thread that had everyone's reviews/discussion?

If there is, I can't see it.

Sun, Jul 24, 2016, 5:57pm (UTC -5)
Woohoo! Congrats on finally posting it, Jammer!

Even handed, balanced, nuanced, and well-written (if a bit long), sir. Thanks!
Sun, Jul 24, 2016, 6:07pm (UTC -5)
Just watched ST2009 and this back to back in preparation for Beyond tomorrow.

Even with its flaws, this is a pretty good movie IMO. It had been a while, but even the whole hands to the glass thing wasn't nearly as cheesy as I had remembered it before. I guess I was too stunned that they actually had to balls to steal this classic scene and it took a few years for me to get over it haha.
Sun, Jul 24, 2016, 6:19pm (UTC -5)
@ OmicronThetaDeltaPhi
Sat, Jul 23, 2016, 3:18pm (UTC -5)

Where are you getting your numbers? The don't match BoxOfficeMojo.

Are you forgetting all the $$$ made overseas?
Magnus Greel
Mon, Jul 25, 2016, 10:28am (UTC -5)
My biggest problem with the film is the Khan reveal when he is in the holding cell. It's delivered as this shocking revelation, and it's all fan service. To the characters in that moment, it should be met with a big shrug and a "Who cares?" response.
Keiren Simmons
Mon, Jul 25, 2016, 12:44pm (UTC -5)
I can't disagree with this review more! Jammer clearly put a lot of thought into it however.... ;-)

I got tired of reading the phrase "on its own terms" in the review. Voyager worked "on its own terms" at what It set out to be, a one hour action adventure while being entertaining. However jammer doesn't rate it highly because it doesn't live upto it's potential.

Into Darkness "works on its own terms" as a blockbuster movie while being entertaining but doesn't reach anywhere near its potential unfortunately.

I think the difference we are seeing is the review now of a casual Star Trek fan compared to one who used to be invested in the franchise.

The movie itself? Dull, uninspiring and simply disappointing in my opinion :-(
Mon, Jul 25, 2016, 12:58pm (UTC -5)
An interesting review and yet it doesn't seem to justify 3 stars ... I think the main parts of the film were Kirk, Spock, Khan and Marcus and all of them pretty much fell flat.
Kirk and Spock have flaws that don't seem to be acknowledged as flaws or things to grow from, they seem to have too little self-doubt or regret about their actions, especially the latter's rage in the climax. Kirk's trying to apprehend rather than kill Khan is indeed implied to be more of an error and Spock's "dark side" as maybe appropriate and what saved the day.
I guess the filmmakers were trying to depict Khan as calculating and manipulative but it came off a lot more as if the script was contrived and he really didn't have charisma. Marcus was indeed overplayed and underwhelming and didn't say much about the wider society or issues.
Mon, Jul 25, 2016, 10:15pm (UTC -5)
"Where are you getting your numbers? The don't match BoxOfficeMojo.

Are you forgetting all the $$$ made overseas?"

I didn't "forget" them. I've ignored them (as did Matthew, by the way) since the international market is a relatively new thing. Any attempt to compare the overseas performance of a 1980's film to a 2010's film would be meaningless (and BoxOfficeMojo doesn't give the relevant data points for the first five films anyway).
Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 8:39am (UTC -5)
Yanks, the link to the original STID comment thread is in my first comment at the top of this thread.
Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 9:50am (UTC -5)
Oh duh.... :-) Thanks Jammer.

OmicronThetaDeltaPhi, the point is that marketing now-a-days isn't just "US". You are comparing apple and oranges. Movies are opening overseas, etc.
Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 12:24pm (UTC -5)
Very happy to see Jammer review this film!

As always, he makes some good points.

(I think I much more strongly agree with Mathew, above, however.)

Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 4:21pm (UTC -5)

"OmicronThetaDeltaPhi, the point is that marketing now-a-days isn't just "US". You are comparing apple and oranges. Movies are opening overseas, etc."

Do you think the old trek films were less "international friendly"? I don't. Actually, the overseas percentage was pretty much constant (around 35%) from Star Generations to ST2009 ("Into Darkness" was a fluke at 51%, and "Beyond" looks like it will be around 35% again).

But I've just realized that there's another problem with my table: Ignoring the overseas income is skewing the data in favor of low budget films. A better comparison would be to add a fixed 35% to all the domestic incomes before "Generations".

If we do that, then the two NuTrek films indeed come on top, but not by much:

Into Darkness: $285M
Voyage Home: $268M
Star Trek 2009: $267M
The Motion Picture: $233M
Wrath of Khan: $231M
Search for Spock: $194M
Undiscovered Country: $118M (actual) / $125M (assuming 35% foreign market)
First Contact: $80M
Final Frontier: $69M
Generations: $66M
Insurrection: $60M
Nemesis: $30M

So it would be fair to say that - financially speaking - the reboot returned Trek to the glorious days of the 1980's. But Star Trek was never a huge box office success, even in those "glorious days". It was always something of a niche product. What classic "Star Trek" lacked in box office $$$, it more than made up for in character (which certainly can't be said for the modern films).

The modern films make about the same amount of money, but they lack the character. Even "Beyond", which is the trekkiest of the 3, is marred by an amount of silliness which hasn't been seen since "The Final Frontier".

And I still maintain that they could have reached the exact same $$$ bottom line without dumbing down the franchise.
Patrick D
Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 5:34pm (UTC -5)
"Now that we're heading into the five-year mission with Star Trek Beyond, maybe we'll see Trek turn back toward exploration of sci-fi ideas." -- Jammer

Uh, I hate to break it to you...well, you'll see.
Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 5:46pm (UTC -5)
"And I still maintain that they could have reached the exact same $$$ bottom line without dumbing down the franchise."

@OmicronThetaDeltaPhi, exactly what I've been saying for years. Smart sci-fi movies like Interstellar and Gravity and Dawn of Planet of the Apes made around $700 million, far more than either Trek reboot (almost as much as both combined). The Trek films seem to be competing in the Transformers market, whereas it's probably suited to go more aggressively for the Interstellar/Apes market.
Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 9:45pm (UTC -5)
I'm much more negative about Into Darkness, not only because of the less "Trekkian" story or the pointless reboot of Khan, but because of the Destruction of San Francisco bit.

It's simple enough to contrast such scale of devastation with DS9 in particular. In "The Changing Face of Evil", Starfleet HQ is attacked by the Breen. The DS9 crew views images of the aftermath in the ward room and they are appropriately upset. Note that the extent of damage to San Francisco in that episode appears to be substantially less than in Into Darkness. Later, in "What You Leave Behind", Cardassia is devastated by the Dominion, leaving cities levelled and hundreds of millions dead. We see Garak's reaction, but we also see Sisko, Admiral Ross, and Martok on the planet, surrounded by the dead.

While I had a lot of issues with Into Darkness prior to the climax, the over-the-top CGI scenes of mass destruction with no consequences were overlong and boring.
Wed, Jul 27, 2016, 10:07am (UTC -5)
Nice to see you back. :)

I liked the movie all right, but it didn't leave me with a sense of 'Wow'. I've had episodes of Battlestar Galactica (reboot), Babylon 5, and all Star Trek series leave me with a sense of 'Wow' from time to time, and I sort of expect a Star Trek movie should as well (my 'Wow' feelings can be a super story, a surprising story arc, something that makes you feel really good, etc. Your mileage may vary).

Maybe part of it is that I'm jaded: I never feel the characters are in any real peril (not even a little bit of peril). Sure, they get chased, and smacked around, perhaps even irradiated to death. But I KNOW they will always be back. Because they always have.

Still, it was kind of fun. I did enjoy it, but there is always something nagging at me, that the movie just doesn't FEEL right...

Boy, I'm almost ready to say I'd have preferred it if they did the reboot with a all new crew. The target audience of summer action/adventure folks (that had no real knowledge of Trek), would still have come, and the rest of us would have seen it just to see it. Then we wouldn't really know if a character was going to die or not (Yes, we want you to play Captain Opus of the Enterpoop, for exactly 1 and 1/2 movies or so. Your character will die in the middle of the 2nd one from extreme radiation poisoning, and your body will be shot into space. Still interested?). We could have even had cameos of a old name or two, perhaps Lieutenant Kirk from the Farragut, or a Commander Number One (never gave Majel a name in The Cage) could swoop in and out for a while (still could, actually... hmm...). Maybe bring on a Captain Kirk in the 3rd one, or 4th... Eh, thinking of an alternate universe for a movie in an alternate universe makes my head hurt.

Maybe 2 1/2 from me. Some spots were better than others, and I liked the visuals. It's just that if feels... I don't know... a bit OFF...

Regards... RT
Wed, Jul 27, 2016, 12:36pm (UTC -5)
Hard fact: Trek's characters are hopelessly canonized - nobody is ever allowed to truly die - think about it: not even Tasha Yar. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, although like any trope it can be misused - witness STID and Nemesis. It's just a limitation of the franchise, and limitations can be exploited.

So RT: Love that alternate universe stuff - keep it up. It's proper that good ideas should occasionally make the head hurt. Since Kirk and company CANNOT be killed off (and by now any attempt to do so will only be met with groans), tell us a story that teases their entrance, but then doesn't deliver until the third act, or even better, a later movie. And if the story is good, their entrance would be a secondary development to a plot that's already got us by the gonads.
Wed, Jul 27, 2016, 2:40pm (UTC -5)
It's been three years since I actually saw it, but I'd probably give it a 2.5. It wasn't horrible, but it did enough things wrong that I couldn't fully recommend it. And as for its place within Trek and Trek's place in popular culture, I'm more of the mind that unless there's something truly interesting and original to do with it, Trek should just be left alone. It's nothing to be ashamed of if, after hundreds of TV episodes and ten movies, the potential for Trek as mainstream popular entertainment is mostly used up, and it doesn't seem likely that the various novels, comics, fan productions, and other smaller-scale forms of Star Trek are going away any time soon.

The issue of Starfleet as a military organization and what sort of values it espouses and defends is a worthy one, but like Jammer I thought the movie only got halfway there. To this day I'm still not entirely sure whether Kirk originally intended to carry out the assassination and changed his mind, or if he just didn't want to tell Marcus no to his face or otherwise risk revealing what he had in mind. If it was a change of heart, I couldn't tell what prompted it - he just goes from "let's kill him" in one scene to "let's capture him alive" in another.

And I have to say that I don't like what they're doing with Spock here. Yes, he's younger and hasn't yet become the character we know from TOS, but has it ever been suggested that the kind of emotional control we expect from Vulcans remains a struggle for them by the time of early adulthood? And again, it's been a while, but is there anything at the end to suggest that he's troubled by how he lost his temper and nearly beat Khan to death? It feels like the sort of thing that started as a "wouldn't it be cool if..." but never got developed beyond that level. (In this case, "Wouldn't it be cool if *Kirk* is the one who decided to sacrifice his life, and then Spock loses it and yells "KHAAAAAAAN!" like Shatner did in the original?")
Wed, Jul 27, 2016, 2:56pm (UTC -5)
Note on the above - I'm definitely *not* suggesting that Spock's nearly beating Khan to death was "cool" or would have been perceived as such, just the yelling of "KHAAAAAN!"
Wed, Jul 27, 2016, 3:57pm (UTC -5)
3 stars - I agree. That is all.
Jack Bauer
Thu, Jul 28, 2016, 1:07pm (UTC -5)
This piece of crap was not 3-stars.
Sun, Jul 31, 2016, 12:29am (UTC -5)
I dislike this movie quite a lot, and in general I'm OK with Reboot Trek and JJ Abrams' other films.

The one minor cockle of my heart it warmed came from the mention of Section 31. DS9 is hands-down my favorite of the Trek series and I enjoy any name-checking of it that shows up in the others, even something I otherwise found quite bad.
Mon, Aug 1, 2016, 2:48pm (UTC -5)
I still think this was Deep Space Nine, Homecoming 2 parter repacked with the name Khan. Changelings with Klingon fake threat, check. Admiral going rouge, Check. Admiral having a powerful warship to take control using conspiracy, check.

and their use of Section 31, although not part of that episode was a deep space nine invention
Wed, Aug 3, 2016, 2:37pm (UTC -5)
I have to say, in finally getting to read this site's users' comments about STID, I was surprised at how one of the biggest criticisms was for the engineering role-reversal scene where Kirk dies. So many people were turned off by that scene, and yet for me it worked just fine and I didn't see the heresy that so many other Trek fans apparently saw. Really weird how that works. I had my share of issues with the film, but I still think that scene is fine.
Wed, Aug 3, 2016, 4:59pm (UTC -5)
Get ready to duck Jammer.
Wed, Aug 3, 2016, 7:28pm (UTC -5)
Lest you think I'm trolling my own comment board, I'm just saying that I must not have gotten the memo everyone else did.
Thu, Aug 4, 2016, 9:09am (UTC -5)
@Jammers - If I'm being honest I felt like they crossed the line between homage and unintentional parody. The movie was tainted for me before I watched it though. The Khan/not Khan/whitewashed Khan thing in the marketing, the fact that they tried to redo the best movie from TOS instead of forge new ground (which is what I wanted), their sexist treatment of Carol, etc. And the infamous scream. I knew all about all of that before I decided that it was going to be the first ST movie I skipped since I first saw Generations in the theater.

Was the movie better than the negative hype surrounding it? Probably. Is it still disappointing? I think so. The biggest one for me is the retread though. I liked the way they did the reboot in '09... there was something nice about a reboot that managed to stay in continuity. But by the time STID came out I wanted it to fail. I just wanted the prime universe back. JJ had already left #3 to do what he actually wanted to do and ST had become a bad blockbuster parody of itself.

Is the movie a terrible movie? Probably not. It's infinitely more disappointing than it is bad.
Thu, Aug 4, 2016, 10:02pm (UTC -5)
I had no problem with Kirk's death per se, it's just that it wound up being of no consequence whatsoever. Death is supposed to have consequence, yes? And the "science" that was supposed bring Kirk back to life was insultingly contrived.

So no, this was not a "mirror image" of TWOK. Bringing Spock back took an entire movie with a good amount of fairly nuanced and complicated sic-fi (Genesis planet, Vulcan mind-melding, not to mention a whole s***-ton of sacrifice), and even after being resurrected, Spock didn't return to his usual self until the end of Trek IV.

Sorry, Jam. I'm glad you liked STID, but even after reading your review, I still don't understand why.
Brian S
Wed, Aug 10, 2016, 10:54pm (UTC -5)
I remember a few years back when the first ST reboot film came out, I read an interview Abrams gave talking about the time travel plot line wiping clean all the past histories of the crew and the necessity for it.

He said something to the effect of, while Star Trek has a deep and rich history to draw from, sometimes the weight of that history can act like a shackle ball & chain for writers, weighing you down from telling new and interesting stories because you have to carefully fit every part of your story into all the existing pieces.

I know Jammer's made that point before. After 40+ years, 5 series, 10 feature films, nearly 1,000 hours of stories between the mediums....Star Trek did kind of burn out under it's weight. A lot of the stories had been done before. A lot of the galactic real estate has already been covered. Voyager had to go to the other end of the galaxy to find any real estate to work with. Everywhere Enterprise went, it had to be careful not to step on and break any of the countless hours of TV, movies, and expanded universe stuff to come.

As terrified as I was of a JJ Abrams-brand Star Trek reboot and what I saw in the trailers leading up to the release, when I read those remarks from him, I begrudgingly accepted them. He was right, to an extent. You can't introduce a brand new Star Trek crew for a couple movies. TOS-Kirk Trek was the best candidate for a CGI reboot, and while I believe they could've still done a new movie with Kirk & Co. within the existing universe, I could concede that it would be hard to squeeze in a new meaningful entry between 3 years of TV and 6-7 feature films, up to Kirk's death. Abrams had a point....the time travel device cleaned the slate for new fresh movie ideas to come for.

So even if I didn't like it, the first reboot did it's job adequately enough, the crew was pretty well done, and the movie wasn't as bad as I feared it could've been. Abrams did what he felt he needed to do, connected the two universes while preserving the old one, and cleared himself the space he needed to boldly go forth and tell new stories where no Trek had gone before. It at least piqued my interest.

So what did Abrams do with all his hard-fought cinematic space and freedom? Ripped off Wrath of Khan. Badly. Word for word, in some cases. Even Melania Trump thought it was too blatant (:P)

Seriously though.....WTF?!

I have a bunch of other quibbles that are mostly just your standard plot hole and scientific impossibility sci-fi gripes, which many folks have already covered.

But it pains me to no end that they went to all that trouble to wash away the old Trek universe (to the disgruntlement of many existing Trek fans) and then just went: "Okay, new story ideas now, people, new stories. We've got a new film to create, what are we going to do? Any new ideas? Anybody? Anybody at all? So, we've got nothing, huh?!" "Well, we could just do Wrath of Khan again. I hear Trek fans liked that movie" "Brilliant! Alright, lunch!"

I haven't watched any of the trailers for ST: Beyond (I refuse to on principle) but I'm going to go out on a (I think pretty sturdy) limb here and just assume that the Enterprise gets destroyed at some point in ST:B (presumably by self-destruct after the villain army tries to take it over). And I'm just calling it now, ST Reboot:4 involves time travel that takes the crew back to 20th/21st century Earth (toss-up on whether they just go present-day, 1980's flashback, or possibly full on 1960's retro).


One major plot line issue though.....I know it's a reboot, and in this new timeline everything is bigger, more militarized, darker, and everything has changed.....but Khan Noonien Singh wasn't supposed circa-21st century Steve Rogers minus the spandex and vibranium shield. Yeah, he had a genetically enhanced brilliant intellect, and he had more strength than Jose Canseco & Mark McGwire's love child.....but Khan was still ostensibly a human. Khan can't jump 30 feet straight up as if he were playing hopscotch. In the original Space Seed, Khan was an extremely strong opponent, but non-roided Kirk ultimately defeated Khan on his own in one-on-one hand-to-hand, combat thanks to a cheap lightweight 1960's PVC--errr, uhhh, I mean, a totally solid hard spaceship pipe (probably made of vibranium, or something) and cracking him in the back with it.

Seriously, go re-watch the Spock-Khan battle scene in STID (or not), and then watch the end Kirk-Khan battle scene from Space Seed on YouTube. That's the same guy Kirk fought and won against? I know we're trying to modernize some of the old special effects a bit, and yeah, those old TOS scenes could be quite cheesy at times.....but Space Seed looked much more like something based in reality.
Thu, Aug 11, 2016, 9:33am (UTC -5)
@Bryan S

Well put, sir. This is exactly what I didn't like about STID. Why reboot the franchise just bring back characters doing the exact same thing with some of the exact same lines? If "The Dark Knight" had been about Catwoman and The Peguin working in cahoots like "Batman Returns", it would've been a total flop.

At least Beyond is an original story, even if it treads on some similar episodic concepts. I would argue that some of the core series concepts like away missions and diplomatic meetings, while familiar, were so integral to the Trek experience that it's worth keeping them in.
Fri, Aug 12, 2016, 8:49pm (UTC -5)
My big issue with this film is the use of Khan. To the audience who are fans it's great to the non fan cinema audience that you say they effectively targeted it's a shrug moment, for the characters it's a shrug moment.

It fails on so many levels because of this and then to add Peter Weller's character into this just means the film is creaking under it's own weight of bad.

In my opinion this review has 3 more stars than it deserves and this comes from a fan of ST (2009) and Beyond.
Wed, Aug 24, 2016, 10:32am (UTC -5)

I didn't exactly see the engineering scene as "heresy." I just found it a little too self-conscious and not entirely justified in story or character terms. It bore the fingerprints of some writers and producers sitting around thinking, "Hey, what if *Kirk* is the one who sacrifices himself and then *Spock* is the one that yells 'KHAAAAAAAAN!' like Shatner did in the original?" Well, OK, it's an interesting idea, but there needs to be a reason for it.

Kirk sacrificing himself is fine as far as I'm concerned. Spock losing it and screaming like that? Eh, not so sure about that. We know that Vulcans do in fact have strong emotions and are simply better at controlling them and not relying on them to make decisions. Is Kirk's apparent death enough to push Spock over the edge? Maybe, but having him then start beating the crap out of Khan, possibly to the point of killing him if Uhura hadn't intervened, seemed excessive and indicative of the movie not really "getting" what Trek and its characters are supposed to be about. Maybe it could have worked if the movie had checked in on Spock later and he was disturbed by his own loss of control, but IIRC it's left entirely unaddressed after that.

Personally, these "reboot" movies have reinforced for me something along the lines of what you said during some of the weaker moments of (I think) Voyager and/or Enterprise - there's a ton of Star Trek out there and it doesn't need to keep going and going and going. If the only ideas for big-screen Trek movies (or, at least, the only ideas that the studios are willing to fund) involve turning it into a wham-whizz-bang sci-fi action franchise, then what's the point? Why not just let Star Trek rest in peace and put the money that it costs to make these movies towards the Star Wars franchise or some other new property?
Wed, Aug 24, 2016, 12:46pm (UTC -5)
Brain S.,

"So what did Abrams do with all his hard-fought cinematic space and freedom? Ripped off Wrath of Khan. Badly. Word for word, in some cases. Even Melania Trump thought it was too blatant (:P)"

The use of Khan at all wasn't needed. Harrison could have been an augment from Enterprise and told the same story.

This and not giving us an original story are what tanks STiD for me.

"Seriously, go re-watch the Spock-Khan battle scene in STID (or not), and then watch the end Kirk-Khan battle scene from Space Seed on YouTube. That's the same guy Kirk fought and won against? I know we're trying to modernize some of the old special effects a bit, and yeah, those old TOS scenes could be quite cheesy at times.....but Space Seed looked much more like something based in reality."

I call him "INCREDI=SPOCK"!!! :-) Khan and Spock were superhero like at the end of this movie. Almost laughable at times. (although, I concede, watching Spock run after Khan was pretty awesome. How many times did Uhura have to stun Khan? :-)
W Smith
Mon, Aug 29, 2016, 5:01am (UTC -5)
I guess time has been kind to STID in your eyes. STID was just awful. Yes, even worse than V and Nemesis. It's the only Trek I don't and won't own on DVD because it doesn't even feel like Trek. It's so full of plot holes and poor characterization that I don't know if I could even give it one star. I especially dislike what they've done with Spock in the Kelvin timeline turning him into an emo Spock.
Jor-El H
Fri, Sep 9, 2016, 12:10pm (UTC -5)
Jammer I'm so glad and relieved that you didn't jump onto the hate bandwagon. I think 3 stars is exactly right. It feels like many of us have come to see movies as black-and-white: either it's great or it's terrible. Any movie that has many flaws, like this one, must therefore be terrible. But OVERALL I found this to be a very enjoyable movie. After watching it I thought to myself "That was fun. There are several things that didn't make sense to me, and that whole Kirk dying for five minutes and Spock shouting 'Khan' was really,really dumb, but overall I had a great time."

I disagree about Peter Weller. I think he did a fantastic job, and that his tense confrontation with Kirk was great.

I attribute the over-homage to WOK to Abrams overcompensating for (by his own admission) not originally being a Trek fan; his insecurity leading him to try to prove his loyalty to the franchise by referencing earlier well-loved Star Trek moments. Just a theory.
David Pirtle
Mon, Sep 12, 2016, 10:23pm (UTC -5)
I don't hate this film, but I couldn't possibly give it more than two out of four stars. The acting and direction are both top notch (I apparently enjoyed Weller's performance more than you did), but this may be the worst-written Trek film of the franchise. Setting aside the atrocious forced nostalgia of Kirk's 'death' in the warp core sequence, there are so many problems with this film that, if you think about it for half a second, it fundamentally breaks the Trek universe in several ways. Fortunately for us, the filmmakers don't, so none of the earth-shattering developments that happened seem to mean anything a few years later.

And none of this even begins to address the supermassive plotholes surrounding those missiles. But that's probably for the best. I'm watching my blood pressure.
Thu, Sep 15, 2016, 2:14am (UTC -5)
Just want to say, even though I now consider this one of the worst Trek movies made, I'm glad Jammer took the time to give us his honest opinion even though he surely knew a lot of commenters here would vehemently disagree (including myself - at best it's a 2 star, if not lower in my eyes). Bravo for not taking the easy path of agreeing with the crowd for the sake of agreeing with the crowd.

I'm bound to agree with Jammer on the collateral damage; it was too skimmed over for my liking. Even Batman v Superman acknowledged the fallout from Man of Steel and Captain America Civil War's central conflict dealt with the collateral damage left over from the Avengers' battles. I'm glad there's a trend towards acknowledging the impact of huge CGI city-destroying battles.

I also wish they'd made Admiral Marcus more sympathetic instead of a straight up villain (I have a similar complaint about Director Pierce in Captain America Winter Soldier which was otherwise one of my favorite MCU movies). There was definitely room for some moral gray areas in the motives department and they blew it.

Oh, and the security guard who found Scotty on the Vengeance has to be the dumbest security guard in the history of Trek.

Here's hoping Cumberbatch does well in Doctor Strange and Sherlock series 4 so most people will forget the disservice done to his character here.

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