Maybe we were all too hard on Bryan Singer when we complained about how much Superman Returns cribbed from the Richard Donner Superman movies. Because Abrams got away with it in spades.
J.J. Abrams returns with the second installment of the Star Trek reboot. Well, let me just say that any true Star Trek fan should not accept that this is truly Trek; being a true Trek fan, I’ll be the first to say this is not Star Trek. But I decided to go into this movie with no expectations that this was going to be the Trek that I grew up with, all I was looking for was a good sci-fi action flick. But here’s the problem…Abrams kept throwing callbacks to the original movies in my face that I couldn’t help but make the connection back to MY beloved Star Trek because he constantly cribbed from the original movies. And the result is easily one of the most disappointing films of the summer so far.
I will say this: in today’s slapdash ADHD style of summer movies, this film will do very well. For the non-Trek initiated, this film will probably do well. But I contend that our expectations have been lowered so much that things like logic, economy of story-telling, and proper characterizations don’t mean anything anymore. In the same leap of logic that transformed a real Hispanic family into a British family in the film The Impossible, so here a dynamic ethnic character from the past somehow becomes a Brit. Economy of story-telling is thrown to the wind as there are no less than three antagonists in this movie. Light spoiler: one of Star Trek’s richest densest alien cultures, the Klingons, make a debut here and anticlimactic doesn’t begin to describe their appearance (they also seem to be rather metrosexual, what with the blue contact lenses). Lack of proper characterization is on show here as well: if you go to see this, ask yourself if you would follow this iteration of Kirk to the grocery store, much less into any battle. This is a movie where Kirk is a whiny brat, Spock cries, Chekhov runs the engine room, Spock and Uhura squabble in front of their captain and the most fun character, Bones, is shunted off to the side. In short, this isn’t your father’s Star Trek, it’s the CW’s Star Trek.
Much like Iron Man 3’s Mandarin, there is a character reveal here that almost made me leave the theater. It’s one of several callbacks to iconic moments in Trek lore that are horribly replayed here. And there is one line, a line ingrained in pop culture that is screamed in this film that you have to see/hear to believe. It’s so bad.
The saving graces of this movie are Benedict Cumberbatch, who, if allowed to be a more original villain, as opposed to being reduced to yet another unbelievable callback, he could’ve been one of the best villains in Trek history. And a surprise appearance by Robocop’s Peter Weller as a Starfleet admiral was a great bit of casting. Other appearances by Alice Eve as Carol Marcus (future creator of the Genesis project) and Leonard Nimoy in a cameo as Spock, are once again, pointless callbacks to better films.
From a purely filmmaking standpoint, I had a headache when I left the movie. I felt as pummeled by the relentless action and quick cuts as I did when I saw Transformers, or even worse, Armageddon. If you’re looking for non-stop action, I’ll admit this is the movie for you.
At the conclusion of this film, we hear Pine’s Kirk intone those famous words, “Space, the final frontier.” Problem is, he’s a total liar when he utters, “to boldly go where no one has gone before.” Yes, we HAVE been here before, and it was done much better. 2/5 reels