Review Roundup - Into incoherence

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013)

First things first, well this is certainly a fantastic looking film. The art department has created some amazing stuff, the opening on an alien world is eye popping, the set pieces are all pretty spectacular and the general look is full of great visuals and designs. There are a number of fun, kinetic sequences. Some of the characters are well done, and the cast works well together for the most part. Unfortunately the rest of it is kind of messy, and it comes off as a "too many cooks" effort with far too many ideas thrown in and everything on screen all at once becoming bigger than just the visual effects. There is misplaced fan service, unnecessarily overblown schemes, and not enough focus on character where matters.

The underlying problem is that whoever wrote this needs to be sent to Rura Penthe, and looking at the credits it's a mix of Transformers 2 and Prometheus - not a magic combination. They had three people working on this, and maybe that's the problem. It's kind of a shame to see them waste all of the budget like this when there is clearly talent on the production. While it's not an offensive Transformers type money burning disaster (headache inducing car crash cinema in more than one way) the material here is still mostly useless with some very odd story choices that add nothing to the overall plot while revisiting arcs we've already seen in the previous movie. It's a compelling series of scenes and action beats, and it never feels boring, but rather than building up from their rebooted universe with a strong script it's like they were trying to link each set piece together retrospectively or kept adding extra moments to an earlier, less cluttered plot.



The 2009 effort wasn't exactly a great movie from a writing perspective either (it falls over itself in the third act several times) but it was at least mostly coherent; it was simpler and worked way better as a character piece even when they seem to be very overdone and almost cartoon like at times. Some of the cast are good as I have said, but others seem to fall quickly into the "give them something to do" category rather than being written with more practical roles in mind to suit their rank or position. McCoy seems to be sidelined in particular. Others are still miscast as they were the first time (Chekov, Scotty - sorry fans) but I liked the villains even when certain elements have been thrown in without any real thought to them... I won't go into spoiler material here. The trailers are pretty misleading but none of the twists are very satisfying or ultimately effective in a meaningful way. Revenge stories are far to easy and get used way too often.

In the end the exciting battles, chases and shoot outs are pointless without anything underpinning them as a framework to tell the story. A recent poll voted this worst ever Star Trek film, and while I don't agree it's not a great entry and they need to put some real effort into the next one to give it some meat, some depth and some gravity. With another commercial success on their hands, it's hard to say if that will ever happen. I was entertained, but not much else.

2/5