Following the commercial success of J.J. Abrams’ reboot of “Star Trek”, it was a certainty that he would be back to mine the franchise for more while contributing little to nothing. After the 2009 reboot ripped the characters out of the universe that Star Trek fans had come to love them in so much, “Into Darkness” takes the next logical step by shredding some of the familiar stories as well.
Starfleet is under attack both from without and within for reasons that aren’t entirely clear (unless you’ve seen “Wrath of Khan” and, in terms of narrative plot, “The Undiscovered Country”). It once again falls to Captain Kirk and his crew to play the dual role of renegade saviors and sacrificial lambs as Admiral Marcus (played perfectly by Peter Weller) hunts intergalactic fugitive John Harrison/Khan (overplayed to ridiculous lengths by Benedict Cumberbatch, whose only real success here is making Ricardo Montalban seem like a really good Sikh actor by comparison).
The plot makes little sense for those unfortunate few who try to pay attention. Leonard Nimoy continues to show contempt for the original work by cashing another paycheck here in a completely useless cameo. The payoff for the film both bastardizes “Wrath of Khan” and renders just about everything in Abrams’ universe moot.
Abrams goes to admirable lengths to cram as many lens flares and nods to the original series as he can into the movie’s 132 minute running time, making the whole thing seem like a bad sketch comedy of the original show. The one thing that becomes instantly clear is that the entire point of this film – and the reboot in general – was to take the familiarity and passion that Star Trek fans have had for 40 years and use that as a pale substitute for character development or cohesive writing. The result is two hours of explosions, badly choreographed fights and lens flares smeared across the tapestry of Gene Roddenberry’s universe, with fans of the franchise left to fill in the blanks for themselves while a new generation of moviegoers stare blankly at the pretty colors.
The film gets points for its action sequences; Abrams has clearly mastered that. If you’re looking for mindless explosions and lights dancing across the screen, he’s your guy. Why anybody felt the need to besmirch “The Wrath of Khan” to create that, however, is a question only he (or the executives at Paramount) can answer.
The mission of Starfleet was always to boldly go where no man has gone before. With “Into Darkness”, we’ve clearly ventured instead where everybody has gone before but with less integrity.