Early on in Star Trek Into Darkness, a stressed out Jim Kirk says ‘I have no idea what I am supposed to do, I only know what I can do’. That line clearly emulates JJ Abrams’ state of mind stepping into this film, because while the 2009 movie boldly went where no man had gone before, the second one timidly goes where most sequels have gone before.
Riddled with gigantic lapses in logic, blockbuster clichés, feeble characterization and terrible 3D, Star Trek Into Darkness is a singularly inert action movie that neither depends on the first film nor makes you wait for the (inevitable) next one. It’s a standalone chunk of CGI demo that seems to have recycled ideas that were rejected back in 2009. Lack of logic is not uncommon with writer Damon Lindelof attached to a project, but this time the problems are even more jarring because of Benedict Cumberbact, who is an awesome, badass villain with a commanding presence, but one who delivers his lines with extreme, committed seriousness through all the specious tomfoolery on display. Cumberbatch’s character hurls a searing, tear filled, moving monologue, tops that by promising to walk over the heroes’ cold corpses, then proceeds to execute a grand plan that has the reasoning and threat level of a five year old folding his arms and holding his breath till he gets his candy. Abrams repeatedly tries to pad up the character’s lack of backstory and motives with action scenes and is less successful with every subsequent such attempt.
The sequel picks up an unknown amount of time post the first film, Kirk (Chris Pine, still sleeping with attractive aliens) saves Spock’s life but gets a demotion after he breaks rules by exposing an ancient civilization to superior technology. Spock (Zach Quinto) being a half Vulcan is unable to place the value of friendship over company’s orders. Soon enough, the team of Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Scotty, Bones, Sulu and Chekov is assembled to catch a mysterious man named John Harrison (Cumberbatch) who blows up buildings and attacks the Starfleet headquarters.
Once the mission kicks off, it’s familiar territory for fans of both the series and the previous film – the bickering bromance between Kirk and Spock is still fun and Abrams paces the movie with the same battering ram urgency as before. The film seems burdened with its own title and Abrams falters every single time the film chooses Darkness over the light comedic tone that we saw and loved in the original film. And despite knowing that camaraderie between the Enterprise crew was what made the original film so good, Abrams gives the others very little screen time, and instead introduces Alice Eve, a crushingly bad actress who exists in the film just to pose in lingerie. The time travel maguffin from the previous film is reused here, but in a frustratingly clumsy manner. Abrams even throws in the ridiculously clichéd plot point of the villain deliberately being captured to execute his plan. An intergalactic chase scene at Klingon was clearly added to ‘add more action’, because the journey to Klingon makes no sense. Worse, the action set piece in the grand finale is muted letdown, much less epic in scope and execution (and logic) than the ones preceding it. All this is disappointing, coming from someone who shook up the tentpole sci fi landscape and in three short years turned from cult favourite to geek god to household name.
(First published in MiD Day)