Star Trek: Into Darkness – Review


J.J. Abrams’ first Star Trek reboot was at once a prequel portraying events before the USS Enterprise’s maiden voyage and also a genuine reboot in both form and content. It was a remarkable achievement in that even as it paid homage to the original series and films in numerous ways, it was a fresh creative vision that injected a walloping dose of adrenaline to the financially flagging Star Trek franchise without sacrificing the human element or the chemistry between the characters we know and love (unlike a certain other film franchise that also has “Star” in its title).

The same elements that made Abrams’ first foray into Federation space so fresh and exciting – the kinetic energy, the sleeker production design, the awesome visuals and sound – are all present in Star Trek: Into Darkness, but Abrams and crew have upped the action factor even more to the point where it’s almost non-stop mayhem from beginning to end. Because of this, the only characters the movie has time to develop are Kirk and Spock (though given the breakneck speed at which the film moves, it’s a wonder the writers were able to work in any character development at all).

The more I reflect on the film post viewing, the more my feelings about it become mixed. On one hand, I had a blast watching it. For what Abrams is trying to accomplish, which is bring the Star Trek lexicon to both a broader and a younger audience, it is supremely successful.

On the other hand, it veers even further away from what made the original so great. The speculative science,  political commentary and philosophical conundrums that made Star Trek the last great pop cultural franchise for nerds of a more highbrow caliber are only given lip service here. There was also – for me, anyway – a deeply spiritual quality to the original series and films that Into Darkness, screaming through space at warp speed as it does, just doesn’t have time for. After all, speed, by its very nature, is anathema to spiritual contemplation.

© Paramount Pictures

One thing I can say that I am glad to see gone, however, is some of the cheesiness that marred the otherwise highly intelligent and mature writing of the original Trek. Consider, for instance, Picard and Worf singing Gilbert and Sullivan while pursuing a malfunctioning Data in Star Trek: Insurrection. There always seemed to be at least one or two such cringe-worthy moments in the original films (though not in the TV series and spinoffs) that, while intended to accentuate the lovability of these characters, just made them look kind of silly.

Loyal, diehard fans of the old Trek who didn’t appreciate the direction that the first film took will find plenty more to dislike in Stark Trek: Into Darkness. As a fan of both the original and the reboot, I do find the arguments of the reboot’s detractors valid but, in all fairness, the very reasons why they don’t like the reboots is what makes these films, for better or worse, so commercially successful. And the simple fact is that unless the Star Trek films make money, studios will cease making them entirely. Purists will pout, but I, for one, am okay with a bit of compromise if it means being able to see more of these characters whom we all love.

Make no mistake: Into Darkness isn’t quite Star Trek: The Next Generation. But it is Star Trek for a new generation.[subscribe2]

About The Pop Mythologist

The Pop Mythologist
The Pop Mythologist is the founder and editor of He has been a staff writer for the nationally distributed magazine KoreAm , the online journal of pop culture criticism Pop Matters and has written freelance for various other publications and websites.


  1. WilliamCTruesdell

    He got the beak neck speed associations right. Which means he’s onto the approach in some ways, circumstances of life sometimes disrupt our expectations of how things come to be and the event’s sequenced ‘force’ the characters into actions to get themtogether at a different timing of events then TOS allowed for. Part of the idea to force the human element into tough decision making processes that can mirror real life events. The speculative science aspect was pushed aside so far in order to get the characters into a relationship with out relying on what we knew about them in the past. A part of changes in timeline caused by events in 2009. In effort, to hit the fans pre-conceived notions of who each character was or are based on pre-conceived notions of how the ‘actors’ portrayed them in TOS, and allow more for character development in the future as observers struggle with what they knew verses what’s developing. One of the biggest challenges I’ve learned to look at is dealing with issue’s based on pre conceived notions by fans of what a character is because of their idolation of a particular actor. In order for the franchise to eventually succeed and move forward, fans notion’s that Spock must be portrayed as Nimoy portrayed him, or Kirk as Shatner portrayed him, has in film after film over decades, destroyed a films future. If a item from culture is going to survive into future generations, the general bias from fans towards different actors has to be factored in. Best way to do that is to ‘force’ the characters into situations, it’s a basic way in all good novels, literature, film. Events outside the control of the characters, in some way, force those individuals into actions.

    • Daniel Jun Kim

      WilliamCTruesdell Great points. I do think that the reboot and the actors do an excellent job, on one hand, in making the characters just recognizable enough to fans of the original actors while, on the other hand, making the character entirely their own. Zachary Quinto, with his interpretation of Spock, does a wonderful job of this, imo. Kirk, of course, is way more of a cocky badass and a player than he was in the original but I enjoy the difference and don’t find it to be a problem. I also think that John Cho, even though he doesn’t see much action in this one, does a good job of not trying to mimic George Takei and doing his own version of Sulu.

  2. WilliamCTruesdell

    There’s a lot …in some things, a lot more that goes on in film as well as written projects, it’s rare I see something that goes the distance and get’s a little deeper into the bigger picture. He seems to touch on some of the aspects, even if just barely scratching the surface, of some of the other stuff. I added some thoughts above which lie deeper below some of what he scratched at. Star Trek, like Battlestar Galactica was a great challenge to psycho analyize the situation while trying to obey the rules of entertainment and see an alternate presentation that stuck to some of the basics while allowing a rebirth.

    • Daniel Jun Kim

      WilliamCTruesdell I agree that the reimagined ‘Battlestar Galactica’ is a superior example of something that took the original, paid homage to it and gave old fans a lot to appreciate, but also was unique enough to be its own thing. It’s one of my favorite TV shows ever.

  3. WilliamCTruesdell

    Really enjoyed reading your review and as requested, copied a few of the comments from another thread here for you. Have a good day.

    • Daniel Jun Kim

      WilliamCTruesdell Thank you, I appreciate that. Thanks for visiting our site and for reading the piece and commenting on it.

  4. Daniel~I have seen three sci-fi movies in a row for the past three weeks: After Earth, Star Trek, and The Man of Steel. My person preference goes to the Star Trek which has the most interesting story among the three. Besides, the story development is the most exciting to me.

    • The Pop Mythologist

      Hi, Gloria! Yeah, ‘Star Trek’ was fun. I’m glad you enjoyed it. How was ‘After Earth’? I have not seen it yet. Wow, you’re watching a lot of sci-fi movies, kk.

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