Review of Star Trek Into Darkness, A J.J. Abrams Sci-Fi Feature Film Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg

GRADE: B / 50 %The poster shows a flaming starship falling towards Earth, with smoke coming out. At the middle of the poster shows the title "Star Trek Into Darkness" in dark grey letters, while the production credits and the release date being at the bottom of the poster.

Summary: Into Darkness Is Brightened Up In Impressive 3-D. But Its Plot Conventions Are Predictable, Which Weakens The Surprises and Makes The Film Ultimately A Disappointment

The problem with science fiction/superhero movies is that the moment you understand the schema of its plot, the surprises hardly matter to you. So it wasn’t hard for me to predict how the story ultimately led to the triumph of good versus evil; revealing the moment I’m referring to would be a plot spoiler but what I can say is that Into Darkness almost gets rid off one of its lead characters. I stress the word ‘almost’ here because we all know that a mainstream blockbuster film can never take a risk like this and make itself too ‘depressing’. So then comes a turning point, taken from an earlier scene that’s hardly explored during the film to come as the vital, life-saving moment. Heroes can’t die right, because if they do… they won’t be cool anymore, right?

Wrong.

I really wish films like Star Trek Into Darkness do away with trickery, a mockery of the reality of life, death and mortality. It’s like having a funeral for one’s grandmother where the funeral rites are performed only for the grandmother to jump out of coffin and scream “I was playing with ya’ll!” – what about all the tears that were shed in losing her? Into Darkness could’ve taken the chance, but it doesn’t and gets formulaic like most other superhero films. The movie begins impressively, getting straight to action with starship enterprise captain James T Kirk (Chris Pine) and Lieutenant Commander Bones (Karl Urban) escaping Planet Nibiru, a distant planet inhabited by a primitive tribe and on verge of a volcanic eruption. Kirk’s commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) risks his life to rescue them and enters the volcanic mountain, but Kirk and Bones reach the Enterprise safely before Spock can rescue them.

The volcano ruthlessly rises up and Spock finds himself trapped and the only way for Enterprise to save him is to expose the starship to the primitive tribes. Here is where, as those like me who’ve watched the exciting prequel know, attitudes clash as Spock’s stubborn insistence to obey the principle directive thereby sacrificing himself in the fire goes against Kirk’s heady impulsiveness to flout directives whenever necessary thereby to expose the starship and save Spock. We know who wins here and we also know who faces the consequences; Kirk is demoted to First Officer by Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood) after Spock, who can’t lie, notifies Enterprise’s rule-breaking much to Kirk’s dismay – he calls Spock ‘pointy’ in the scene where they’re summoned for an explanation (Spock has pointy ears).

Later we see a devastated couple whose daughter is in comatose and has little chances of survival, until Starfleet agent John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) promises the girl’s father a cure for his child. In return, however, he instructs him to blow up Section 31 installation in London, which the desperate man obliges to. After Pike gets killed in another attack, this time a direct assault on Starfleet officers, Kirk urges Fleet Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) to reappoint him as Enterprise’s Captain to find Harrison, who hides in Kronos, an enemy territory ruled by Klingons, and take him down. Admiral Marcus approves his request, and dispatches seventy-two torpedoes for this purpose. Much later do we find that Harrison isn’t exactly whom everyone expected him to be, and there’s a deeper and far sinister secret withheld by Admiral Marcus, carefully stored in the seventy-two torpedoes he supplied the Enterprise.

Chinatown, London. Benedict Cumberbatch during...

Benedict Cumberbatch plays the nemesis in Into Darkness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I saw a similarity between the themes of Into Darkness and another blockbuster, Iron Man 3. Both the films deal with danger of excess of power, Into Darkness having John Harrison and Iron Man 3 having Aldrich Killian as the super-strong nemesis. And I sensed while watching both these average films that they inherently criticized America’s (and the world’s) untrammeled technological advancements, especially those which could potentially threaten human existence. Even these observations did not make Star Trek Into Darkness a fully satisfying watch, because what I’m seeing are the usual science fiction conventions albeit presented in 3-D with highly elaborate special effects. What also put me off was that we could hardly see the action from the villain’s point of view, his plans, schemes and tactics, and only could get watch the heroes continuously defending themselves against the attacks. Remember how in the Harry Potter series we could alternatively watch the action from Harry’s and Voldemort’s sides – hardly do we get that battle here. And it doesn’t help either that Chris Pine can’t emote worth a damn during any of the intense moments in this film.

In the end, what you get is a great 3-D experience and a chance to catch Benedict Cumberbatch channeling the Evelyn Salt (from the Angelina Jolie Film ‘Salt’)  in him. What you also get to see sadly is a mediocre film that’s being unnecessarily hyped without reason.

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