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The Movie Scab Reviews: "Star Trek: Into Darkness."

Updated on June 8, 2014

"The scab you're picking at is called execution."

--American film producer Scott Rudin.

Monkey Boy picks the movies!
Monkey Boy picks the movies!

Star Trek: Into Darkness: Ack! Ack!

Monkey Boy gives Star Trek: Into Darkness 2 Acks! out of 5!

Full Trek disclosure: I am a Gene Rodenberry and Star Trek fan. I’m not a Trekkie. Just a fan. I don’t dress up as Captain Kirk unless it’s Halloween. (OK, OK, that’s a lie. I dress up as Captain Kirk sometimes, but only when my girlfriend dresses up as a green-skinned Orion animal woman!) I have seen all the old TV shows and all the movies, and if you get me drunk enough I can put on a bad Scottish accent and impersonate Mr. Scott after he’s chugged a bottle of real Aldebaran whiskey. In my defense, I can tell you that I hardly tolerate Star Trek: The Next Generation (waaay too PC for me), I did not follow the rest of the 1990s television spinoffs, and I hate, absolutely hate, the movie Star Trek: Generations because they killed Captain Kirk in the worst way possible, a point I will bring up again in a moment.

To discuss Into Darkness I’m going to have to reveal some plot points, the big one being Who Is The Bad Guy? (His name is “John Harrison,” but that’s not his reeeal name, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more.) If you can handle that, put your phazer on stun and read on. If not, beam yourself out of here and go cry on the hairy shoulder of your succubus M-113 mother.

First things first: Monkey Boy and I liked the Star Trek reboot directed by J.J. Abrams four years ago. We think it’s one of the best Star Trek movies ever made, falling just shy of the top spot that Wrath of Khan continues to hold. Abrams and his screenwriters were respectful to the original series, the actors channeled the Trek spirit perfectly and the movie turned out to be fun, thrilling, and one of the best reboots Monkey Boy and I have ever seen, and we don’t tend to like reboots, so that’s saying something.

Abrams also made the (very clever) decision to reboot Star Trek reality by using a black hole and time travel plot device, and that stroke of genius gave them something magical: a blank storytelling canvas. In other words, because they’d changed Trek history, none of the old stories applied anymore.

They had the freedom to boldly go where no one has gone before.

Smart move, I thought. So did Monkey Boy. That way, they wouldn’t have to remake Star Trek: the Motion Picture, The Wrath of Khan, The Search for Spock, The Voyage Home… etc. Instead, they could write about the Enterprise’s five year mission to explore strange new worlds that none of us have ever seen before.

Apparently, that was not the plan.

That’s right: the sequel to the Star Trek reboot is a remake! And not just any old remake, it's a remake of the best Star Trek movie ever made, a.k.a., Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Are you kidding me? Are you freakin' kidding me!

So this means, if you’ve seen Wrath of Khan, you’ve pretty much seen Into Darkness.

If you haven’t, here’s the plot for both movies: Khan, a genetically-altered-superhuman-Nazi, escapes from exile and plans to enact revenge on Captain Kirk (Wrath of Khan) and/or the Federation (Into Darkness), and Gilligan, the Skipper, the millionaire and his wife, the movie star, and the rest of the Enterprise crew must stop him before he kills a lot of people.

Does it work? Yes and no, no, no, dammit, no!

Monkey Boy is forcing me to tell you that, OK, OK, fine, we enjoyed some of Into Darkness. That is why Monkey Boy gave it 2 Acks! out of 5. In many ways, it's just like Iron Man 3: it ain’t perfect, but as far as popcorn munching summer entertainment goes, it is entertaining... enough.


There’s a big “but” and, boy-howdy, is it coming, so hang on.

Let’s look at what works first: the reason the movie is so much fun is because the actors channel the spirits of Kirk, Spock, Bones and all the rest so well. The best parts of the movie focus on the characters and their idiosyncrasies—it’s fun to watch them interact and deal with their space-opera lives, and Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto have really made Captain Kirk and Spock their own, and that’s no easy feat with characters such as these. It’s also clear that the screenwriters respect the source material, and thus, they supply enough collective Trek knowledge and in-jokes to make the most ardent Trekkie blow his or her Love-Tribble wad. The special effects are marvelous. The action is thrilling. And Benedict Cumberbatch, as the bad guy John Harrison, is menacing and ruthless, like an ice cold smart and scary Nazi, the best Star Trek villain in years.

If you recall, I hate—as do millions of Star Trek fans—how the movie Star Trek: Generations killed Captain Kirk, and that’s why I have to mention this great line from Into Darkness, delivered by Cumberbatch: “No ship should go down without her captain.” Back in 1994, every Trek fan knew, as every Trek fan knows today, that there is only one way Captain Kirk can die. He’s got to down with his ship. It’s a storytelling “duh!” moment the screenwriters of Generations never had because they’re freakin’ morons and one of the (many) reasons why Generations is the most hated Trek movie ever made. (And did it make any sense for Paramount to hire two screenwriters, one who'd never seen a Star Trek episode in his life and one who despised the series? Nope.) So I like to imagine that the screenwriters for Into Darkness (Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof) recognized this fact and because they respect and understand the source material, well, that’s the reason for the great line, “No ship should go down without her captain.”

So, boys! A heads up: when Kirk finally dies for good (again), he better damn well go down with his ship! Just sayin’.

All that said, here is how Into Darkness crashes big time: when bad guy John Harrison tells us his real name and it’s… wait for it… wait for it… Khan.

Cumberbatch delivers the line with as much heavy-duty British import and power as he can, God bless him. (When he said it, I couldn’t help but think of Toad in the Hole, a.k.a., Yorkshire Pudding, mashed potatoes, and bangers and instant gravy).

But once we learn the truth, that John Harrison is Khan and this is a remake of Wrath of Khan instead of an entirely new Star Trek story, everything that comes after “the big Khan reveal” feels borrowed, or maybe stolen is a better word. Monkey Boy buried his head in his bucket of popcorn, and like him, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed.

Seriously disappointed.

I felt like I was watching Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in Japanese—I knew what was coming, but it was weird because it’s in クソ Japanese! I couldn’t help but compare the new Khan to the original Kahn and, of course, the new Khan can’t compare to the old Khan because the old Khan isn’t in Japanese and it wasn’t a remake!

It’s disappointing because we’ve seen it all before and because Khan is the best bad guy in the Star Trek universe and Wrath of Khan is the best Star Trek movie ever!

And they remade it when they didn’t have to.

What a missed opportunity. They could have come up with a new story that was equal to or perhaps even better than Khan. But noooo! They took the easy way out!

And then Abrams and his very clever screenwriters get too clever for their own good. They muck around with the most sacred storyline in Trek lore, switching Kirk and Spock’s roles so that this time around in the Wrath of Khan universe Kirk makes the ultimate sacrifice and Spock watches him die.

But they didn’t stop there, oh no.

After Kirk dies, Spock cries like a little girl. (I know old Spock embraced his emotions later in his career, but by and large, Vulcan’s don’t freakin’ cry, and besides, the young Spock is far too young in his career to start embracing his emotions—just sayin’.) And then Spock screams, “Khan!” like Kirk screamed “Khan!” in the original Khan, and then we get to watch Spock kick ass like Kirk kicked ass, which doesn’t make any sense because we want to watch Kirk kick ass, not Spock who is a Vulcan that does not cry (Spock has become as sensitized and feminized as our new and weepy James Bond), and at that point I, like Monkey Boy, buried my head in my popcorn bucket.

Star Trek: Into Darkness turned into parody. Bad parody.

The “ol’ Spock/Kirk switcheroo” at the end doesn’t come close to working because it cannot compete with the original. How can it? Wrath of Khan had decades of storyline, character development and fandom behind it. Because of the altered Trek history and the fact that this is only the second movie in the new reboot, Into Darkness can’t come close to the depth of storyline, character or fandom. So the ol’ switcheroo ends up being a slick trick—and it is slick, I’ll give them that—but when you realize what’s going on, the slick trick leaves you feeling cheated.

And it’s all over once the parody rabbit is out of the crappy magic hat. After that, it’s so conspicuous that you wait to see how they’re going to mimic or alter or twist the original storyline, and when you’re doing that in a movie, well, boys and girls, it pulls you right out of the experience and any emotional power they hoped to create is killed dead.

This is why the Kirk/Spock switcheroo sacrifice is such a bigfatstupid fail. I couldn’t help but feel they were lampooning the original. I do not think that was their intention.

It doesn’t help that the sacrifice scene lacks the visual power of the original either: in Khan, we see the cost of Spock’s sacrifice as he puts his head into a blasting furnace of radiation and struggles on, and it is a powerful and heartbreaking moment. Into Darkness gives us Kirk kicking a silver metal thingy with his boot.

My rating: after you see Iron Man 3, sneak into the Star Trek: Into Darkness movie theatre. You’ll have five Tony Stark Manhattans and a handful of pharmaceuticals under your belt and that should help you get you through the Trek movie. But just in case it isn’t enough to beam you up, make sure you’ve got a bottle of single malt scotch tucked into a pocket, just like Mr. Scott. (18 year old Glenfiddich should do.) Suck that puppy back during the movie and you should eventually feel high enough to convince yourself that you’re sitting in the Captain’s Chair on the Starship Enterprise ogling hot aliens interested in interspecies sex, and at that point you’ll be exactly where you need to be to enjoy the movie.


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    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 4 years ago from New Jersey

      I'm married to a Star Trek fanatic, and feel so/so about it all, but did think the casting for the young Kirk and Spock was great. And that kiss with Spock and Uhura? Wow! I wasn't sure what to expect, and loved Wrath of Khan, so I'm sorry they borrowed it to expand on it. It seems as if nobody has any imaginative ideas anymore and everything is sequel, sequel, sequel. I think JJ Abrams is talented, but wish he left the cast of Lost in better hands. I hope he doesn't make the same mistakes here. They need to pick a course and stay with it, regardless of who on the directing and production teams quit. Of course, I want to see it!

    • BernietheMovieGuy profile image

      Bernie Ment 4 years ago from Syracuse, NY

      Well written, but I, like the above commentator, do not agree with your averall assessment. To me, I saw this more as a reboot of Space Seed with elements of STII:TWoK thrown in for deja vu effect rather than a straight remake, which is far from the case.

      Overall, I gave both Into Darkness and Iron Man III 4-1/2 star reviews because they brought these larger than life characters back down to Earth for a change. And that, to me, made for much better and more compelling stories. Thanks for the good read, though, Blue and Monkey Boy!

    • R Creighton G profile image

      Rob Creighton Garrison 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      Very nicely written. I don't agree with much of it, but good godz, what would the world be if everyone just pleased ME?


      Anyway, although it borrowed a villain from the old timeline, it still felt like a fresh story to me in it's execution. I WILL agree that Abrams, or anyone else who continues producing Trek in the new timeline, should now boldly go with new characters and stories since this new paradigm allows the freedom to do so. In the words of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, "Let's see what's out there."

      Thanks for the perspective.