James D. McCallister

author of the Edgewater County series

UPDATED: Review (Theatrical): STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013)

After a few weeks have passed, I can tell you I like the movie even less now than I did when writing the shiv to the ribs as published below.

Now here’s a scientist’s review, and after reading this equally disdainful piece (it’s full of math you can skim if that doesn’t interest you), I have even less respect for anyone involved in this disaster of a movie.

Here’s a brief pull quote:

This isn’t science fiction, it is just a Michael Bay-level mindless action film shoehorned into an overly convoluted, senseless plot.

I agree, sir. It’s not even a good story—it’s just meant to be a money machine. Very sad.

My original review below.

In short? A Star Trek lover’s worst nightmare brought to vivid and enervating life. Hamfisted TV director JJ Abrams’ first sequel to his 2009 re-boot of the venerable Star Trek movie franchise stands as one of the more narratively muddled, soulless pieces of clockwork corporate entertainment that I may have ever seen.

Make no mistake, Star Trek Into Darkness (who needs those pesky colons!) is not merely an incoherent, forgettable, $200 million modern tentpole event filmgoing experience, but it manages to deliver none of the heart and soul of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the film that at certain points, and for no truly discernible reason within the context of its own story, this movie references in all its obvious and lunkheaded glory.

STID’s worst sin may be, however, that it fails to deliver on the fun and go get ’em spirit of its own prior movie adventure. Man, I tell ya—this picture’s a disaster.

While nonsensical plot holes, offensive and ridiculous derivations from Trek canon, and a mindlessly relentless pace designed to cover those same plot holes may all provide fodder for dissection and critique, it’s actually the movie’s insistence on perverting Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision of a future freed from warfare within the tribe of homo sapiens that rankles this reviewer the most. This future looks shiny on the outside, but inside we see only a tarnished and sooty mirror of our own crudely brutal time in history, this age of conspiracies and terrorism, warfare, guns, surveillance footage, of illness and children dying in hospitals and state-sanctioned, remote-controlled executions.

Does that sound like Star Trek?

Visually incoherent and with a pummeling wall-to-wall soundtrack of destruction and explosions and gun, er, phaser fire, once an unearned, role-reversed play on the most revered of all Trek canon moments occurs the audience is left to ponder the point of re-booting this universe if only to beg, borrow, and steal from the best movie of the old series, and in a manner that’s obvious and too clever and pleased with its self-referential self by half.

Don’t get me wrong, I know this piece of corporate product isn’t designed for someone like me, one who has a strong emotional attachment to these characters, and to the hope Roddenberry’s vision inspired in this particular starry-eyed young sci-fi fan some forty years ago—it’s a brand, a product line. I get it. Star Trek Into Darkness is designed to appeal like a theme-park ride, and in particular to non-English speaking international audiences, which by tradition the Trek movies have failed to penetrate very effectively. Now, these tentpoles are hoped and expected to hit the worldwide billion-dollar level that’s the new benchmark for success in Hollywood. I get it. I didn’t just wander in from a cotton patch in Edgewater County.

Those sniffing around for topical subtext may take mild solace that the movie offers a clear and disapproving stand regarding our government’s current notion that it’s somehow okay for drones and authority figures to go around outside our borders (for now) killing people without due process, but unfortunately this brief and bone-thrown bit of topical relevance and lefty political commentary feels as shoehorned in as the elements hijacked from ST:TWOK.

But it’s not all bad: by the time my beloved Spock is reduced to a revenge-seeking footchase and fisticuffs sequence like out of any current, generic superhero or action movie, I had developed the power of second-sight, of the ability to see into the future: I could see myself sitting here writing this withering, scathing review… in fact, I only wanted the movie to get itself over with in order for me to get to this moment. And look! Now it’s come true. In that sense, I suppose, Star Trek Into Darkness was a truly magical experience.

In short, redux: Graceless, crude, generic, and overlong by an action sequence or two, I give Star Trek Into Darkness my lowest possible recommendation.

About dmac

James D. McCallister is a South Carolina author of novels, short stories, and creative nonfiction. His latest book, a story collection called The Year They Canceled Christmas, releases in November 2017.

3 Replies

  1. But, hey, Donnie Mac — at least now he’s gone on to pollute another of our childhood fantasies, “Star Wars”. But, surely he couldn’t do a worse job than Lucas himself has already done….
    Yeahhhh, he could. 8^) (Could he, though? Either way, I’m not looking forward to whatever he does. He did a soul-less impersonation of Spielberg with “Super 8”, so maybe he’s just right for Lucas. Meh.)

    1. Yeah… I wish he’d gone straight to Star Wars and skipped ST altogether. Like you say, it was already compromised by the prequels. I hate to be mean, but JJ really is the definition to me of a hack. No personal style that isn’t cribbed wholesale from better filmmakers, and producing (as you say) soulless corporate dreck. Meh indeed.

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