REVIEW: STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS
Merciful Gods! No Tyler Perry. One small victory. Oh, but there is a Capybara-sized Tribble. Warning: All Spoilery Below
Movie opens with a Red Plant Planet prologue featuring bipedal humanoid natives that look like they were dipped in white flour several times and then drew lines on themselves with black marker. Spock vs. the Volcano. Yeah, they couldn't just beam the bomb into it? "Cold fusion?" Er, that involves nuclear power not anything that generates cold. The device freezes the volcano and the built-up pressure doesn't just force the whole mountain up in a shudder? The Enterprise is submerged and a giant fish swims by that looks like grainy b-roll. Egads.
Throughout the movie on the Enterprise we see glimpses of crew aliens with weird heads, colors, eyes and voices. They should've just done one group shot where they all turned to camera and went, "BLULULULULPTHTHWAAAATHULLUBULU" with their tongues and eye-rolls to get it out of the way. Really dumb, especially the guy with the tech-embed in his skull that reminded you of the dude in Empire Strikes Back.
Kirk gets demoted by Big Daddy Pike for lying on a report, and Pike is limping but not in the Beep-Beep Chair, yet. Spock gets reassigned. How will our heroes get back-together and be on the Enterprise??? Wait 5 minutes. Terror attack in New Caprica (er, future London) where an Alka-Seltzer ring blows up a top secret black ops Star Fleet base. The guy who did it (one of the few black guys in the movie) had been turned earlier by KHAAAAAAN, who donated his super blood to the guy's baby in the story's 2nd prologue.
So suddenly the Earth-present senior officers of Star Fleet must convene in an exposed tall glass office tower without military hardening. Once again most of the multitudes of seasoned officers are unavailable (didn't hear if they were still in the "Laurentian System" or not). And Robocop is the big Admiral this time around and tells antsy Kirk to speak up. Kirk tells them all, "Isn't it interesting we're all assembled in a known location high up a defenseless office building for this important strategy meeting to stop a terrorist?"
Cue ScootyPuff Jr. attack by Cumber's Batch (Khan) and it's The Godfather Part II meeting scene where lots of the bosses get shot up. Pike is toast, literally (Spock is there and does the Sudden Emergency Mind-Meld ... but actor Quinto can't seem to get the finger technique down). John McClain, er, McGuyver, I mean Kirk - Kirk, dammit - runs to the side window to get an angle on the ScootyPuff Jr. and improvises a fire-hose and Chrome Super-Soaker (er, Phaser rifle) and throws it into the warp intake/deflector dish/fan system (whatever) and disables the craft. Cumber's Batch shoots Kirk a snooty stare as his swirly-ma-gig transporter lights beam him away. Later they find a flight-data-recorder ... I mean a portable transwarp device (a 300-year-old fugitive can come by a portable version of what just invented in the last movie?).
Another meeting - this time Kirk and Robocop, in the lobby of the Brentwood Getty, (Kirk back to Captain, of the Enterprise, since terror attacks mean never having to pay recompense for lying on official reports). Somehow Robobcop knows Cumber's Batch is on the Klingon homeworld in some ruins (he'd beamed straight there) and Kirk must go do an extra-judicial drone strike with some special torpedoes authorized by an off-the-books secret Star Fleet agency called Section 31 (eye-roll). Why he needs 72 torpedoes for a quick strike is a little baffling (except to fanboys!). Since pretty blondes with perky tits can just waltz wherever they want Carol Marcus joins the shuttle headed up to the Enterprise.
Yet another undocking scene - really, we never need to see Star Fleet headquarters or the goddamn docking bay EVER again. Oh, and Scotty doesn't like the new torpedoes so he quits to go work on the subplot and takes that dumb rock-monster sikekick with him. So Chekov the teenager is asked if knows about the warp engines (I guess the number 2 guy or number 3 guy in the actual Engineering section are unavailable?) and gets Scotty's job! "Put on a red shirt," Kirk tells him and we all cross our fingers that the character will now be killed off. Spock confronts Blonde Babe (Carol Marcus) on why she's not on a crew manifest and so on as she fiddles with the not-so-secret torpedoes but screw that another distraction gimmick has been thrown in by the writers. And Enterprise is off to warp (this time it leaves blue tracer-bullet trails).
Almost immediately the Enterprise is at the Klingon homeworld - oops, the Warp Drive conks out just before they get there, so out-of-range of transporters and they'll have to take another shuttle, but a line of dialog later and we find out that Kirk has conveniently stashed an alien shuttle onboard and he, Spock and Uhura pile into it (she does speak Klingon after all, and you'll need that on a secret mission of assassination where you don't want to be seen at all). There is a painfully bad attempt at humor as Uhura and Spock have a high-school level love spat. And I forget the order here but at some point blonde babe Dr. Marcus and McCoy take yet another shuttle (time to spare on this secret mission I guess) to a nearby planetoid that has a breathable atmosphere for humans and open up one of the torpedoes and find - a human body in a cryochamber. KHHHAAAAAAAAN! Nope, not him, but confirmation for the audience that didn't know or hadn't figured it out already that the banned superhumans from Space Seed are back.
Flying through the ruins in old Detroit, er Klingtown, some small Klingon Birds-of-Prey style craft intercept Kirk, et al, in their alien shuttle and the chase is on, but cue Matrix maneuver #1 and the sideways flip takes the alien pancake shuttle through a gap (white sparks, scrape-scrape) and they're safe! Oh no, it was a trick, those crafty Klingons just went around and now, outgunned, they must try to talk their way out of it. Go to work, Uhura!
She saunters up to the Planet of the Apes gorilla from the Tim Burton version and starts ape-talk - oh wait, that's right, it's a Klingon with a sexy leather helmet and Riddick eye-shine (along with a bunch of other Klingons) and he doesn't like her accent because he picks her up and chokes her. So out barrels Kirk and Spock (and some redshirts? ... really, I don't remember) firing their bullet-like phasers (what happened to the cool beams?) when suddenly and very dramatically against a big fa-bul-ous yellow window Cumber's Batch descends on a rope and makes like Jessie Ventura from Predator and lays waste to the Klingons with his ace fighting ability and midi gun. Almost Jackie Chan-ish the way he dispatches those leather-clad brutes. Klingons gone, CB/Khan now approaches Kirk/Spock/Uhura and is gonna crush them, but he asks about the torpedoes. "Seventy-two!" comes the answer and Khan surrenders!
Back on Enterprise Kirk wants answers. Big Big Daddy Robocop lied to him because he's just shown up in so-big, so-black stealth Section 31 ship (but wait, a little earlier Subplot Scotty had received a communicator call halfway across space from Kirk while at a bar with the little Rock Monster and was given coordinates to check out and somehow wrangled a shuttle that can go from Earth to Jupiter without a flight plan or authorization in minutes and find the secret, giant docking bay for the Section 31 Super Black Stealth Ship where he parks his shuttle in plain view then jumps into a flotilla of other shuttles and - nobody saw! Then he managed to sneak aboard the thing too!)
... and Kirk and Khan and everybody's gotta die, because, damn, our Section 31 uniforms are so stylish and different - because we're black ops! Blonde Carol Marcus speaks up, "Daddy, I'm here, no kill I." Lots of firing of weapons, Enterprise gets ripped a new one yet again (with cool bodies flying into space like that episode Water of Battlestar Galactica). And she's beamed over and the super-phasers come out and are gonna blast Kirk, Khan, the Enterprise and a Pizza Parlor to oblivion. Meanwhile Dr. McCoy is shooting up a giant rectangular Tribble with Khan blood, because, hey, why not? It's not like it's foreshadowing or anything. DDDggggrrr GrRRrrr Rrrkklunk. Oops, big bad stealth ship phasers went kaput. Subplot Scotty is now Super Scotty having done a bit of sabotage.
And now Good Guy/Bad Guy buddy cop chapter: Kirk enlists Khan to go with him over to the big bad ship and take it over because Big Big Daddy Robocop has gone mad with power so, of course, take a superhuman mad with power with you to take him down! Fake drama warning, now they must eject themselves through an airlock to the other ship because of course transporters are down and for once they don't want to use a shuttle. They suit up in Daft Punk helmets and are whisked into the vacuum but must carefully dodge all kinds of space debris to get to the other ship's airlock door to which they've managed to perfectly align. If one, two or maybe three pieces of debris had been near or in the way it would have been dramatic if shot and edited properly but the Abrams Overkill Bunch put countless hundreds of bits of debris in the way and we get the 2001 graph-plot of Kirk and Khan using helmet images to avoid it with suit-thrusters or some such (nevermind the fact that the muscle-response time would be well beyond the approach time).
And over at the other airlock Subplot Scotty has tethered his arm to a convenient bar so he doesn't get spaced when he hits that button (countdown clock gimmick). He hits the button, Kirk/Khan make it in and roll and slide a lot like when that Jake kid crashed on the deck in Phantom Menace ... meanwhile the big, beefy guard hassling Scotty gets sucked out. Amazing that Scotty wasn't torn from his arm, or that his lungs didn't get sucked out and that the guard going out didn't collide with Kirk/Khan coming in ... but I quibble.
Lots of running, some fighting - boy that Khan is good. Khan, Kirk and Scotty make it to the bridge of the Stealth 31 and blam-blam-blam Khan takes out everyone but Big Big Daddy Robocop and the blonde. Remember Bladerunner where Roy (Rutger Hauer) meets Tyrell and grabs his head and crushes it (we hear a crack)? Stolen and used here. Then Khan beats up Kirk (who should have a busted spleen, 10 broken ribs, broken jaw, etc. etc. if it were at all realistic since, hey, he's being pummeled by a superhuman) ... and then in the only truly unexpected moment Khan stomps on blonde Carol Marcus and breaks her leg or something. I think Scotty was cowering. Khan beams Kirk, Scotty and Carol Marcus back to the Enterprise since they just dropped a line of dialog earlier that one man can run Stealth 31.
Scotty and Chekov (darn, he's still alive) get the Brewery/Collider working and ... Blue Tracer Bullets! The Enterprise warps away toward Earth to tell the truth about what's been going on (like they'll believe Kirk's report this time). Stealth 31 can chase and overtake in warp - coming up from behind (is this to be a rape?), and suddenly weapons fire of light-weapons back-and-forth while traveling ... several ... times ... faster ... than light. Hmmmm.
Enterprise gets knocked out of its lane and Stealth 31 approaches for the coup de grace. Deal time - borrowing liberally again from original TOS-Kirk and Wrath of Khan-Kirk there is to be some negotiatin'. Khan wants his buddies in those 72 torpedoes stuffed with cryotubes and maybe psychotic mass-murderer will let Kirk's crew live. Somehow in a matter of minutes 72 cryotubes were pulled out of 72 torpedoes and the payloads replaced with readily-available explosives by Dr. McCoy and a nurse or two. Khan beams over what he thinks are his comrades in superhumandom. KabLaAAam! Khan was tricked, "I'm laughing at the superior intelligence, Khan. You're gonna have to come down here!"
Somehow both ships are now in Earth's atmosphere and falling falling (some visual borrowing from Pitch Black and Battlestar Galactica Exodus Part II). The-Needs-of-the-Many-Kirk runs down to the warp core / Omega 13 and climbs and clambers his way inside a huge Event Horizon chamber and carefully realigns the Dilithium Crystals with his feet and ship's power is back online! This sequence has the Enterprise emerging from the clouds as it had been falling through them to music that sounded a lot like John Adams' Short Ride on a Fast Machine - which was good, because most of the music was pretty lame throughout and overbearing. Somewhere in here Spock calls Spock Prime Rib up on New Vulcan (in the Laurentian system?) for advice.
Spock rushes to the radiation door of the warp/collider/Omega thing and Kirk is collapsed there dying and the movie shamelessly replays the Spock death scene in Wrath of Khan but with characters reversed. Groan-worthy if it were not for actor Chris Pine's terrific acting. Then Spock unleashes a primal scream - and that is cringe-worthy.
And Die Star Hard Trek begins, or is it Clone Trek Wars. Cumber's Batch is kinda pissed with his 72 superhuman compatriots all blown to bits (so he thinks) and crashes the hulking remains of Stealth 31 into the Streets of San Francisco - taking out many buildings and probably thousands of people in a groan-worthy and cloying evocation of 9/11. Despite this massive destruction and carnage - on some streets traffic appears normal.
Back on Enterprise whiz-kid Chekov can beam Spock into the city and the chase is on with one pasty white guy chasing another pasty white guy - unintentional dork hits the screen when actor Quinto's Spock-bangs go bouncing about like a Beatles bowl-cut as he runs. CB/Khan clambers (got to use that word twice!) onto the top of some kind of air-car and Spock swings onto the underside in a physics-defying leap. And Die Hard's John McClain gets beat up repeatedly as they fight and fight and nearly fall off the moving air-car again and again (after 10 times there is no suspense) ... oh wait, it's Spock, that's right.
Here she comes to save the day: of all people Uhura is beamed down on top of the moving air-car (oh that's right, they jumped from one air-car to an identical one in there somewhere) and shoots a phaser (on stun, obviously) again and again and Khan is just too big a strong hunk-o-man to bring down. Then Spock goes all primal (again) and uses that flight-data-recorder from before (or some piece of metal the same shape and size) and turns out the lights of Cumber's Khan Batch.
So the Enterprise is all but destroyed, San Francisco is partially in ruins, Stealth 31 is destroyed and now an open secret playground set, Khan has been clobbered, and Kirk is dead. But wait, the Capybara Tribble stirs - it coos, its air-hoses squeezed by off-camera technicians evoke life! And a little Khan blood later and a white-suited Dr. McCoy wakes up a reborn Kirk! I guess he'll be superhuman now and not so indecisive and tentative and sulking and introspective? Cue yet another Star Fleet ceremony (only with ridiculous hats) on the steps of some bank building and Kirk gives a speech. Meanwhile Khan and all his buddies are freezecicles and locked away in Warehouse 13.
The movie closes with Kirk getting to be Captain of another new Enterprise (they just churn these out in a factory somewhere?) and talking up a five-year-mission. End titles begin with a Pine voiceover of the intro from TOS (but his cadence is a bit fast and not punctuated) "Space the final frontier ..." and then some horrid 3-D planets jump at you with each actor's name while a smarmy version of Alexander Courage's original theme plays.