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Star Trek Into Darkness – Review

“Here’s what Gene Roddenberry said in an interview just before he died in August 1991; somebody had asked him, ‘What’s going to become of Star Trek in the future?’ And he said that he hoped that some day some bright young thing would come along and do it again, bigger and better than he had ever done it. And he wished them well.”

— Richard Arnold, Roddenberry’s assistant

Star Trek Into Darkness Paul Shipper

Star Trek Into Darkness has a lot to live up to. For some fans, it needs to redeem itself from a lackluster first movie. On the flip side, other fans don’t see how this film could reach the same heights of Star Trek ’09. Into Darkness is a thrill ride from the beginning that builds on the themes and characters from ‘09 and ramps them up to new levels, giving fans and the general movie audience something worth cheering for.  Spoiler Warning.

Manning Up:

“Is there anything you would not do for your family?” – John Harrison

This movie is very much a Kirk story. In the first film, fans and general moviegoers alike scoffed at the idea that Cadet Kirk would be sitting in the captain’s chair by the end of the film. Kurtzman and Orci took that criticism and turned it into a major theme in this film. Kirk may have been given the “Big Chair” for being a wunderkind, but in this film, he earns it.

Kirk begins the movie brash as ever, buffeting the rules at his leisure. He cannot hear anyone elses advice or criticism of his decisions. Pike tells him that he is going to get everyone under his command killed because of his reckless disregard for the rules, and Starfleet actually takes the Enterprise away from Kirk.

The theme of fatherhood comes up strong in this film, just as it did in Star Trek 2009. Pike is the only father figure that Kirk has left in his life, and he is everything that Kirk needs. Pike is a disciplinarian, yet at the same time lifts Kirk up. As Kirk deals with the loss of his command, Pike says,  “I believe in you. If anyone deserves a second chance, it’s Jim Kirk.”

gallery_06Throughout the film, Kirk learns what it means to be a man and a true leader. Kirk begins listening to his superiors and subordinates, and takes what they say to heart. He changes in light of the criticism he receives while discerning the wisest course of action at the same time, even if it does mean going against orders in the end. Kirk may still break the rules when he sees that as the best option, but his path to doing so changes drastically.

Unlike Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, it is Kirk who learns firsthand what it means to give his life for the needs of the many. This reversal works perfectly for Kirk’s arc; he learns humility and fallibility the hard way, yet by the end, the change in Kirk is evident. He is not just a savant with an ego to match. He is tempered by fire and forged into the leader that Pike always knew he could be.

War on Terrible Choices:

The purpose is to experience fear. Fear in the face of certain death. To accept that fear, and maintain control of oneself and one’s crew. This is a quality expected in every Starfleet captain. – Spock  

Another major theme in the film is fear and how it drives our actions. Since the incursion of Nero in the first film, Starfleet has put itself on high alert. It even turned to Section 31, a rogue agency that acts in the interest of the Federation by protecting it at all costs. This film was dedicated to the memory of all those who gave their lives on 9/11 and in its aftermath. It is in that memory that sparks this question: How do we face fear of the unknown and respond to terror when it strikes at the heart of our cities, our countries and our very way of life?

The film helps us look at ourselves through the lens of Admiral Marcus. His goal is to protect the Federation and its way of life, but at the cost of the very things he stands for: freedom and liberty. Benjamin Franklin said it best: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Marcus’ militarization of Starfleet along with his willingness to sacrifice the values of the Federation mirrors our world, leaving us with difficult questions. The movie shows us it is always better to do what is right even when it is difficult, even if it costs us our lives, it keeps us from becoming the very thing that we are fighting against.

Family Ties:

I am a great believer in found families and I’m not a great believer in blood. – Joss Whedon

gallery_19-1This movie is very much about family and finding it, even if it has been taken away. Kirk has no father and his surrogate is killed when John Harrison attacks a high level Starfleet meeting. Spock learns what it means to be a part of a family that is dominated by humans, as well as deal with the immense pain of losing his home planet in the first film. John Harrison fights to save his family, while Carol Marcus deals with the shame that comes from having a family member betray everything she thought he stood for.

The crew of the Enterprise deals with severe growing pains in this film. One of the most interesting things is watching how each officer learns from one other, influencing and complementing each other’s skills. Trust and faith in the gifts of each member of the family clearly shines through. At center stage of this are Spock and Kirk. Each of them leans on the other’s strength, and doing so cements their friendship forever.

Spock finally comes to terms with the immensity of his feelings for the loss of Vulcan. The loss is so great that it has wounded him to the core of his being. As a result, he has drawn even further inward, causing to him to repress his typhoon-like emotions, alienating his friends and his paramour Uhura even more in the process. Spock learns the valuable lesson that withdrawing from community and cutting off emotions will not help him heal; he must grieve and process the loss, just like anyone who has experienced an important loss, and doing so is better with a support system of friends.

star-trek-into-darkness-2In our world, found families are becoming increasingly more important in place of the once-dominant nuclear family. Community is a key ingredient to the success of individuals, as the old song says, “Lean on me, when you’re not strong,” and this is a message the film speaks loudly. We need each other to remind us of who we are at our best and help us find our way back when we lose perspective. In this film, the crew of the Enterprise becomes a family that is dedicated to a mission that transcends themselves, and it is one that lies at the very heart of Star Trek: to seek out new life and new civilizations for the betterment of all of humanity while being committed to its values and morality.


“Space, the final frontier….” – Captain Kirk

This is a great brilliant Star Trek film. It lives up the ideals and themes that fans expect from Trek, while at the same time, takes the audience on a wild ride. Some fans may complain about using plot ideas from the original series, but they are used to full effect here. What results is a story that furthers the characters and challenges the viewers. Many will mistake this as a retelling, yet it is not. Kutrzman, Orci and Abrams have taken pieces from previous Trek and re-engineered them into a new tale that is both compelling and contemporary. Personally, I think that this is a better movie that the first. There is no burden of the “origin story,” allowing us to dive right into the narrative from scene one, which lends itself to much more character development in this JJ-verse. Into Darkness uses most of the characters well (Sulu may be the one with the least to do, but he does get a taste of the big chair), and gives them all shining moments, creating a sense of urgency as we eagerly anticipate the next voyage of the starship Enterprise.


Movie Poster artwork is by Paul Shipper.

18 thoughts on “Star Trek Into Darkness – Review

  1. I agree that this film is better than the first because we get to dive right into these characters who have established a new family nucleus as a crew and are closer due to their own personal losses. Kirk lost his father and now Pike. Spock lost his mother and home planet. Unlike John Harrison who reacts in fear of losing his “family,” this crew has been brought together through the acceptance of pain and love. Our bounds make us strong. Our losses can lead to stronger bounds, but Mr. Harrison’s fear leads him to loneliness.

  2. Matt, a great look at Star Trek Into Darkness. There is much to admire in the film, from the Trekkie nods (Praxis, Spock defeating “Harrison” using a wall device like “Space Seed,” Section 31, jokes about red shirts, jokes about metaphors, seatbelts on the Enterprise, etc.) to its narrative themes about how war changes a society, how family motivates people actions, and friendship. My only concern was that both Marcuses were not developed enough. However, everyone got a moment to be the hero and it was a wonderful, imaginative, surprising, fun, and witty film. It was a joy to see these characters interact again with each other.

    1. John, really an honor to have a Khan expert comment on my blog! I do agree with you, would have liked to see more Carol Marcus for sure, it would have been nice if she had Bones started a small romance. Bones was the one character I wanted to see more of. Karl Urban is so good, he deserves more of a storyline.

      It was great to see Kirk at the beginning stealing what the natives worship, a small homage to TOS where Kirk is always taking away people’s item of faith lol.

      1. Hi Matt, Maria Jose and I were chatting about how the beginning would have made a wonderful episode of a Star Trek TV show with all its imaginative fun and good moral argument. It could have been 45 minutes itself!

  3. Great review. You chose some great themes to focus on but I’d like to hear your thoughts on one more – vengeance.

  4. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a “brilliant” Star Trek film, but it is quite good and immensely enjoyable, and you have given a fine review of it here. Although I ultimately find ST09 more fun than the sequel, STID arguably has a lot more thematic meat to it, as you demonstrate here. Taken together, they’re a fine tribute to Star Trek.

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