By John Millington
Explosions without any awe, fear of death without tension and the final frontier without imagination.
Star Trek: Into Darkness should rank as the year’s biggest disappointment given the gaping void between expectation and delivery.
Box office figures will no doubt show that STID to be a success.
Director JJ Abrams has in a calculated manner ticked all the boxes to ensure financial reward and showcased what he can do to reboot the Star Wars franchise.
The studio will be happy, the actors increased profile will lead to more lucrative contracts and theatre goers will have had their 15 pounds worth of high octane 3D bang bang bang to last them till the end of their extra large popcorn box.
STID like many modern big money films are calculated projects designed to deliver maximum return on investment.
In the blitz of special FX that the audience is subjected to, any notion of art or film guile is not even an after thought.
It is just not present.
Judging the film purely for what it is, a money maker profiting from the name of a franchise which at least at some point in its life still nodded towards being artistic, it has flaws.
When terrorist John Harrison (Cumberbatch) attacks Starfleet HQ and kills Kirk’s (Pine) father figure Captain Pike, who in there right mind would send Kirk into hunt down and kill the one responsible?
I mean this is supposed to be a semi military operation mirroring the violent aspects of the US and the peacekeeping nature of the UN.
As Spock (Quinto) would say, it is not logical.
We find out later that it is just so the Enterprise can be in the right place to fit the story line that sets up a final battle with the Admiral (Weller) and allows Khan to take the admiral’s ship, go to earth and fight Spock on the final showdown.
The other annoying thing about STID is the stupidity with which Abrams treats the audience.
Spock and Kirk are counter posed as logic vs heart.
Yet anyone above the age of 10 knows that people are more nuanced and not as obviously two dimensional.
In fact this was reflected in the other Star Treks where Kirk and Spock did disagree but Kirk on occasion does make logical command choices which make sense.
Nothing about what Kirk does in STID makes sense. He does not give the impression of someone who manages a shopping department store let alone an intergalactic space vessel.
He displays no gravitas and his constant objections to Spock are akin to those of a petulant child who is not allowed to do what he wants.
And taking into account his puerile and sleazy attitude toward women characters, it is a wonder he hasn’t been stripped of his command for sexual harassment.
This brings me on to the depiction of women and alien characters in the film.
The Klingons are only shown very briefly with their leader clearly fitting the stereotype of a 6’6 black man who then sets about “savagely” trying to knife the comms officer Uhura (Saldana)
In another scene where Kirk Spock and Uhura are risking death and having to pilot a space craft through some tight spots, Uhura – a supposedly professional, language expert with great poise under pressure, begins talking about the problems of her personal relationship with Spock in front of the Captain and how it is affecting her.
Really?!! Is this the time? Perhaps it is about reminding us that emotional women should not be put in front-line positions of responsibility because they just can’t hack it.
But by far the worst misogynistic offence is committed against Carol Marcus (Eve).
She is supposed to be the love interest for Kirk, a weapons specialist and again – an experienced Starfleet officer who is the daughter of the rogue admiral.
There is no sexual or emotional tension between Kirk and Marcus.
The only moment where it is attempted is in the most contrived scene I have seen where Kirk catches a glimpse of her getting undressed. Her objection is to produce a model pose as if in a photo shoot just so the camera can capture her for the tralier reel.
There is no depth to her character or hard evidence of her expertise.
A scene where she “showcases” her knowledge consists of a last minute panic where she pulls out a circuit which stops a torpedo going off.
But again this is all ok because we have ticked the box that she has a brain so now we are at liberty to showcase her real assets in underwear for the purposes of titillation.
The one saving grace is the baddie John Harrison (Cumberbatch).
He can clearly act and when he first appears, there is a sense that he presents a real and menacing threat.
However his performance is a simply his Sherlock role but on steroids.
Even with his all his power and intelligence you never get the sense he presents a real danger to the Enterprise or to Kirk.
There are plenty of other ethical dilemmas over how people treat enemies and worryingly at the end the dispatching of the bad guys in a concealed crate sent off into deep space reminds you of Guantanamo Bay.
Taking a look back at Star Trek: Wrath of Khan and the lovely dark 80’s sets and model ships with real sweat and a deep sense that space is this cold lonely place, STID is pure popcorn company for a bored 12 year old at best.
I never escaped into the world that Abrams attempted to create. Halfway through, I lost interest in what would happen to the characters.
Good sci-fi should make you contemplate the big questions of the universe, of your existence and swell your imagination.
STID gives you a headache and makes you long for an earlier more sophisticated time.
As I exited the cinema, I felt alienated and old. I felt as if I had been repeatedly beaten over the head by a mass marketing campaign masquerading as art.
Maybe I am getting older. I do long for a time when I pretended I could explore space, be brave and have unshakable morals in taking on the bad guys.
Maybe this bypassed Abrams growing up because all he has done since rebooting Star Trek is cook us a starter to tease us in his first Trek outing, produced a dreadful tasteless unmemorable main course and is just hoping we will stick around for dessert while he is busy rustling up his starter for the Star Wars crowd.
Star Trek: Into Darkness (as a film) 2 out of 5
Star Trek: Into Darkness (as a ST film) 1 out of 5