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Star Trek Into Darkness - In the Eyes of a Trekkie

Updated on June 4, 2013

Over the weekend, I had a chance to watch the most recent Star Trek film, Star Trek Into Darkness, and I can understand the mixed feelings some people have in regards to this movie. There are those who found the movie very fun and enjoyable, considering it as good if not better than the first one, while others, namely the more die-hard Star Trek fan base, found that the movie was a major step backwards in comparison to the prequel, and that it actually alienated that fan base in order to appeal to a broader audience.

As an ardent fan of the franchise, I'd like to give my opinion of the new movie, where I think it succeeded and fell, and whether or not I feel that it alienated me as it seemed to do so many others.

What Worked in the Film?

The Visuals - Needless to say, the visuals are absolutely amazing. There wasn't a single moment in the film that I found drab or visually unappealing, even during scenes that weren't meant to have much any action to them whatsoever.

While I couldn't pinpoint exact aspects of the design that I could see as having improved, I feel that the Enterprise design has received a bit of a face lift since the previous film. The detailing on the ship seemed to come out smoother and clearer, and everything about it felt sharper than before. It still felt like the glistening alternate universe Enterprise that we first saw warping out at the end of the first movie, but at the same time conveyed some degree of wear and tear, that it's been a ship that's seen some action since last we saw it.

In sharp contrast to this was the brand new ship, the U.S.S. Vengeance. Even before any details about it are mentioned, the design tells us one thing; it is a ship built for combat. It retains the same basic configuration as the Enterprise, with a saucer section, engineering section, and two nacelles, and a forward-mounted deflector array, but that's where the similarities end. The Vengeance is far larger than the Enterprise, and does away with the smooth, streamlined look of other ships in the fleet for a very battle-oriented, almost tank-like feel. Until the Vengeance, there's never been a Federation starship that I could consider "menacing", but the design alone solidifies that aspect.

The U.S.S. Enterprise and U.S.S. Vengeance meet in space.
The U.S.S. Enterprise and U.S.S. Vengeance meet in space.

The landscapes were also very appealing to the eyes, giving a clear indicator of the feel for each planet without any additional information being needed. The planet Nibiru at the beginning of the film is very wild and untamed, fitting with the fact that the population of the planet is extremely primitive. Likewise, our first taste of Qo'noS, the Klingon homeworld, depicts a rather ravaged and battle-scarred region of the planet, which as any Trekkie would know easily fits how one would expect Qo'noS, especially at this point in time, to be. Lastly, Earth, namely San Francisco, is just teeming with activity, with humans and aliens, and even without knowing that this is the foundation of the Federation, one can easily surmise that it is a central hub of activity.

I can easily say, at least on a visual front, this movie is easily one of the strongest films to date.

The Acting...Well...Some of it - When it comes to the acting, the performances are a bit hit and miss. Some were exceptionally good performances, while others were a bit...lacking.

Benedict Cumberbatch's approach to Khan Noonien Singh, while retaining elements of Ricardo Montalban's bravado and grandiose nature, was still a very refreshing take on the role. During the scenes where he is being held in the brig, you could easily get a sense that he, despite being imprisoned, had everything planned out and was in control of the situation. In every scene he was in, there was a sense of aloofness to his character, fitting the superhuman that he was.

Some of his deliveries were over the top, but when you compare it to some of Montalban's deliveries, especially in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan", it still ends up being a far more subtle performance, and a respectable adaptation of one of the most important villains in the Star Trek franchise.

The faces of Khan Noonien Singh
The faces of Khan Noonien Singh

I feel though that the best performance was that of Admiral Marcus, played by Peter Weller. Though at the start, he just comes off as being a stern but honest admiral of Starfleet, we soon learn that this is simply a facade, and that Marcus is far more involved with the events of the film than we were first led to believe. Marcus is an almost fanatical patriot, willing to go to whatever means necessary and step on whoever he needs to in order to defend and protect the Federation from any threats that may come this way. Awakening Khan, the building of the Vengeance, and the attempted destruction of the Enterprise, are all just samples of what he likely did in order to prepare Earth and Starfleet for an impending war with the Klingons and any unforeseen enemies that may follow.

Weller's performance was astounding. When we're first introduced to him, even with trying to hide that his motives are a bit more sinister than he's leading on, enough of this leaks out that I was quick to feel distrust in him. However, it's his later appearance on the Vengeance though is where he really shines. With the truth revealed about Khan's nature, Marcus dispenses with any degree of pleasantry and shows that he'll let no one stop him from his goals, even if it means killing Kirk and destroying the Enterprise, just to keep his involvement with Khan a secret.

When being held at phaser-point by Kirk, Marcus gives just a short speech to him regarding his motives:

"War is coming, and who's gonna lead us? You?! If I'm not in charge, our entire way of life is decimated! So, you want me off this ship? You better kill me."

The power behind the speech is undeniable, and I have a hard time picturing anyone able to deliver that line with such stern and unwavering resolve as Peter Weller.

And Now for the Khans...err..Cons

The Rest of the Performances - Although Benedict Cumberbatch and Peter Weller's performances were among the best in the film, I actually found most all the others to be very lacking in comparison to the first film. This is partially due to the focus away from the majority of the Enterprise crew outside of Kirk and Spock, but mainly because things felt a bit bland and forced.

In the first Star Trek movie, the chemistry between Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock seemed fitting. The two were at odds with each other for a good portion of the film, but they warmed up as time went on, and the chemistry between them reflected that. In here though, that chemistry seemed lost. Though there was some warmth between the two during Kirk's apparent death, things felt a good deal more forced rather than natural. The dialogue between them was so artificial, and betrayed the friendship that they claimed to have.

Even when the two weren't interacting together, their performances felt far less energetic. Perhaps it was attempting to fit into the position of captain a bit more, but Kirk seemed far more subdued than he did in the first film, with the youthful exuberance thrown aside far sooner than I think it naturally would have in that situation.

Spock shouting out Khan's name in anger.
Spock shouting out Khan's name in anger.

Spock, even for a Vulcan, felt very bland for most of the film. We see that, from the beginning of the film, he is finding himself trying to detach from his crew mates, namely Uhura, but this leaves little character left. In the first movie, we saw that he was feeling conflicted with his emotions, but, at the behest of his father, he seemed to embrace the human half of himself more, and was willing to at least open himself up to others more.

I feel though that his "display" of grief and anger over Kirk's death, and the subsequent battle with Khan, was extremely out of character, even taking into account the first movie, and the delivery of one of the lines in particular was terrible to the point that I actually groaned a bit.

As for nearly everyone else, though their actual performances weren't that bad, just given how little time they actually appeared on screen I felt most of them were forgettable. Dr. Carol Marcus, for example, seemed to be there specifically for the torpedo disarming scene, and otherwise might has well have not been there at all. I didn't find her role to be pivotal enough to add her as a character other than just fan service for multiple reasons. Likewise, Dr. McCoy, Sulu, and Chekov had so little unique impact in the film that they could have probably been filled with any random individual and still covered the required parts.

Scotty was probably one of the few members of the cast that had anything redeeming going for him, but this was hampered by the fact that he was given very little time on screen.

Fan Service (not that kind) and Homages - I'm usually a big fan of scenes being added or references being made purely for the sake of just being a bit of fan service to those who have faithfully followed the franchise up to this point. Despite it being one of the weaker entries, the brief reference made in the first movie to Star Trek: Enterprise (regarding Admiral Archer's prized beagle) I found very subtle and very clever. When done right in this situation, it really helps to connect this reboot with the primary Star Trek universe without feeling forced.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the case with Star Trek Into Darkness too much, as the fan service and homages seemed to be there more as filler rather than to make those connections.

In the first movie, the inclusion of Leonard Nimoy as the primary universe Spock, often referred to as Spock Prime, was a key element of the film's plot, and his inclusion in the film, while predominantly fan service, served to bridge the gap between this reboot and the main continuity. His appearance in this film didn't serve near the same effect. Zachary Quinto's Spock contacts him to ask if he had ever encountered Khan, and the information given back to him was both brief and unnecessary, as it just rehashed what had already been revealed in the plot so far. I enjoyed seeing Leonard Nimoy once more in the role that made him famous, but I didn't enjoy that he was in the film just to be in the film. If the scene between the two of them had been removed, nothing of value to the plot would have been lost, and though I liked the reference to both "Space Seed" and "Wrath of Khan", it doesn't change that it was an unnecessary scene.

Homages, for me, work the best when they don't follow the source material so closely that it seems to try to copy the material rather than just pay respect to it, and unfortunately, most of the homages fell into the "direct copy" situation. In particular is a number of the events towards the end of the film in relation to "Wrath of Khan".

Spock's death mirrored by Kirk's death
Spock's death mirrored by Kirk's death

Towards the end of film, the Enterprise, having been crippled by the Vengeance, begins to fall into Earth's atmosphere, and with the warp core misaligned due to the previous battle, the ship has no power to prevent the impending crash. Kirk, seeing no other way, runs to Engineering, incapacitates Scotty, and enters a highly radioactive room in order to bring the engines back online. After succeeding, he crawls to the door sealing the chamber away from the rest of the ship, where he asks if the ship is out of danger, and then relates to Spock that they are friends. They then hold their hands against the glass, with Spock holding his hand in the Vulcan Salute, before Kirk falls unconscious and dies. However, Kirk's death is brief, as he is brought back to life soon after with Khan's indirect assistance.

This scene almost duplicates the end of Star Trek II, just with Kirk being the one to sacrifice himself rather than Spock. The Enterprise facing a crisis it can't survive without the crippled warp core as a result of battling with another Federation starship, them incapacitating one of the main cast before going into the radioactive compartment, bringing the engines back online to save the ship, and so on. The dialogue between Kirk and Spock in the two situations range from being similar to almost word for word copies.

Though I found the scenes in "Into Darkness" to be well done for the most part, I just felt that it was a cheap way to try and end the film. Rather than taking time and coming up with an original approach to save the Enterprise and wrap up the story in order to force a confrontation between Spock and Khan, we have an almost completely recycled scene just to pay tribute to "Wrath of Khan".

Final Thoughts

Though I may have sounded like I was pointing out a lot of flaws, I still found the movie to be enjoyable, but I can definitely see how Trekkies might have felt a bit betrayed by it. There were a lot of recycled and rehashed ideas, but what was original was done very well. Cumberbatch's approach to Khan was refreshing, Admiral Marcus showing just how far someone will go for their goals, the amazing effects, and the story itself was, as a whole, very well done.

If the flaws had been ironed out, if the issues I had were corrected, I would dare say that this could have easily been the best Star Trek film. As it stands, it's still a very solid entry and well worth seeing, whether you're a fan of the franchise or not.

What was your take on the movie?

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    • William Avitt profile image

      William Avitt 

      4 years ago from Dayton, Ohio

      For me, this was the Superman Returns of Star Trek. It was good enough, and if all you know of Star Trek is the JJ Abrams movies, it is a great sequel to the 2009 film. However, it tries to take too much from The Wrath of Khan and either do it verbatim or put its own mark on it. I don't want to see Trek rehashed, just like I didn't want to see Superman: The Movie rehashed. Superman Returns could have been set in the Donnerverse without all the quoting and stuff and this movie could have used Khan without rehashing all the stuff they rehashed. It just really could have been better

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Im grateful for the blog article.Much thanks again. Cool. decbbeddcdkd

    • CarolynEmerick profile image

      Carolyn Emerick 

      5 years ago

      I would describe myself as a fan of Star Trek but not a die-hard Trekkie. I was raised watching TNG during it's original run, but never really got into the original series, DS9 , Voyager, or the Enterprise series until the past few years. My bf and I watched DS9 marathon style straight through a couple years ago, and have been watching the other series here and there. I've seen some but not all of the films. My boyfriend is a bigger fan than I am, and wouldn't describe himself as a Trekkie, but he might actually qualify! He explained some of the homages and things that were over my head in the film. I have to say as two moderate fans, we both LOVED it! I think die-hards of anything will always nitpick. Meh.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      5 years ago from San Diego California

      Although I love the original TV series with William Shatner, I have yet to see a Star Trek movie that completely satisfied me. The closest I came to being happy with one of the movies was "The Wrath of Khan," but even that one left me flat at the end. I can't explain it because the concept fascinates me, but the execution falls short.

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 

      5 years ago from New Jersey

      OK, we'll just have to keep our eyes open then!

    • Vlorsutes profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Ohio

      There's no indication if it's just meant to be a trilogy or not.

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 

      5 years ago from New Jersey

      Is it supposed to be a trilogy? Usually the 2nd part of a trilogy is the weakest one for some reason.

    • Vlorsutes profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Ohio

      Though I respect your opinion all the same, I disagree with your beliefs. Yes, we may be watching the older movies with a pair of nostalgia specs on, I try approaching each movie as objectively as possible. I found Pine and Quinto's Kirk and Spock (respectively) in the first movie to be extremely well done, far better than I had anticipated, and as a whole I found the first movie to be an amazing film.

      With this film though, just in comparison to the first Abrams one and not the original six, I found the majority of the acting on the part of Pine, Quinto, and the others to be lacking. Cumberbatch and Weller's performances were exemplary, and I would argue that Cumberbatch's Khan was potentially better than Montalban's in terms of his brutal and calculating performance. With Pine and Quinto especially, their performances just seemed very stale and emotionless as opposed to the first movie.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      @adecourv: i thought shatner's "khaaaaaaaan" was hilariously bad. i'm a new trekkie see... and i love the new movies but i also come to love the old ones.

      i don't understand most of your comments though. quinto's spock was bland? and what, nimoy's wasn't?

      and that goes for all your criticism of the acting. seriously, was shatner's acting any better than pine's? he gawked and made awkward looks throughout all three movies.

      it was never the acting that won everyone over back then. it was the plot. a great new sci-fi universe unleashed upon the public during a time when there was nothing like it. and now the new movies are making an awesome job at segueing into its own alternate timeline.

      the difference might be that most of you original trekkies were wide-eyed kids when you first saw the original movies, and now you're snarky, world weary adults and aren't really as receptive to new stuff anymore. you expected the new movies to recreate that same feeling you got the first time you saw trek and, surprise surprise, they didn't.

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 

      5 years ago from New Jersey

      I'm married to a Trekkie, and must say I enjoyed both of these new movies much more than I expected. I think Quinto does a great young Spock, still struggling with his emotional and rational sides, and that Pine had to settle down a little more than last time, or he would seem too reckless to already Captain a ship. I enjoy seeing how the characters interacted when young, and think this movie was supposed to show their more introspective sides. In the first movie, I almost died when Spock planted that huge kiss on Uhura! We thought Scottie was great and his character underused as well. I don't care much about the ships, I guess it's a "girl" thing. And where did the British accents come from? Maybe I left the room for a bit and missed something. Great review.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      5 years ago from Chicago Area

      Wow, that is THE most thorough and intelligent review of "Into Darkness" I've read. Well done! Summarizes many of my feelings towards it as well. Being a Trekkie myself (who just went to the Star Trek convention last weekend!), I agree that this movie is a solid entry, but is quite awkward in many respects. Chris Pine does a respectable job as Kirk, but Spock and the rest? Um, not so much, though I do like Simon Pegg in the Scotty role. The most unnerving is the McCoy character. Ugh! Trying too hard to channel DeForest Kelley. Okay, enough ranting. Great job on the hub!

    • Vlorsutes profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Ohio

      Thank you very much Steven. I appreciate that. I agree with you adecourv. There was something so groan inducing about that yell that it was embarrassing. In general, I found his performance of Spock quite good, but that yell in particular was just an unnecessary homage.

    • adecourv profile image

      Alex deCourville 

      5 years ago

      I'm not going to lie. I found Spock's "Khan" yell embarrassing. I like Zachary Quinto as Spock, but A) Shatner owns that line and B) You don't cast someone whose obvious specialty is that he can do monotone really well and expect him to deliver this visceral, guttural yell.

    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 

      5 years ago

      wow, this is probably the most thorough analysis of the film that i've read yet. great job on this hub.


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