The farther out we go, the more I find myself wondering what it is we are trying to accomplish.
This movie is godawful. But wait, let’s set the table. And, yes, this is going to be a long review and a pretty fierce one, so strap in. My previous experience with this rebooted/parallel universe Star Trek has been overwhelmingly positive. I went to a special opening night marathon of Into Darkness and saw the first Star Trek with this cast, took a twenty minute break, and saw Into Darkness. At the end of that great evening, I walked out high on life; I ended up giving both of those movies four stars, yes, even Into Darkness, which a lot of people have dissected since and found a failure. Could there be a person more primed for the third in the franchise?
Okay, first off, let’s table the way Into Darkness set up the Klingons as the perfect villains for the third one, set them up so masterfully with such a tantalizing and menacing and iconic sequence as to leave me salivating for the third movie with the Klingons as the villain. Let’s also table the way the studio told the writers on this film that they wanted something less Star Treky and thus inspired them to use villains found nowhere in the franchise, thus kicking the Klingons to the curb without so much as a regretful sigh. Let’s table those things. Because I will become furious again at just how god-blessed stupid the studio was in that decision.
So, let’s start with the positives, which will be easy because a) all the positives come in about the first twenty minutes and b) there are about two of them. No, honestly, the film has a decent start with a fine premise. I like the self-aware nature of the opening where Kirk laments that the journey has become episodic and how this new mission promises to break up the routine. Oh, wait, I forgot the actual start of the film was that whole thing with those aliens that roll around in balls. That was stupid as ****. But, anyway, the first encounter with the enemy was suitably grim and panic-ridden. The idea of starting the movie with our heroes just getting their asses handed to them was a bold decision and a great one. Everything in that fight is pretty great up until the actual crash. Seeing the Enterprise get demolished was chilling and thrilling in equal measures. The moment when the villain growls “Cut its throat” and then the disc shears away was a genuine holy **** moment for me. And then the ship crashes on the planet where not a damn thing makes sense.
I mean, where to start? Okay, Lin’s direction. I’ve enjoyed Lin’s directing before this on other films and I’m not averse to a chaotic style of action. But this isn’t chaotic; it isn’t even disorienting; it’s completely incoherent. There’s a scene where a chase scene/fight scene ends with a long, long slide down the face of the Enterprise’s disc. That’s a great idea and should have been a great sequence, but it fails completely because you can’t tell where anyone is or what they’re doing. There’s a shot in this sequence where we see two characters do a jump across a gap in the wreckage, complete with intense, blaring music. And I had no idea which two characters those were, where they were jumping from, where they were jumping to, and where they were in relation to the other characters. This whole action scene is really indicative of the action problems. It’s a bunch of people running about chasing each other through dark corridors, shooting and screaming and leaping and there’s not the slightest idea of what’s actually going on.
But that’s not all. Oh, no. You see, this movie has no idea what’s happening, not just in the action sequences, but in the plot itself. The script seems to want to explain nothing to an absurd degree. Okay, a few examples. The Macguffin (and, yes, I know a Macguffin “doesn’t matter,” but really Hollywood screenwriters have completely beaten that idea into the ground and we still need to have some idea of its function in the story) is some kind of ancient weapon. See, Bones & Spock make this interesting discovery Want to know what it does? Me too. We get the vague idea that it releases some kind of black dots (nanobots? bugs? chemical spray?) and those things kill people by eating them (?) or shrinking them (?) or possibly pulling their souls into the weapon itself (?). Late in the film, we’re alerted that if the weapon is released in Yorktown that everyone that breathes will be dead in seconds. So, it’s something you inhale? And why does it take several seconds to kill one person early in the film, but will take approximately the same amount of time to kill millions at the climax? And what is Kirk doing at the end in that whole gravity box thing? Scotty blurts out one of the most ludicrous expository monologues as Kirk prepares to do his whole hero thing that I have ever heard. There is mention of a button to be pushed, several switches to be flipped, a tube that will open, something about a ventilation system, something about being sucked into space and I don’t know what all. And I’m supposed to be able to grasp all of this in seconds so I can both understand what Kirk is doing and be engaged by it? Forget it.
And this isn’t only the weapon. It’s nearly everything in the story. It’s supposed to be a great reveal when we discover that the villain, Krall, is in fact a different character. “Oh my God, Krall is really . . . SOMEONE I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT AND DO NOT CARE ABOUT IN THE LEAST.” Jaylah has a device that is extremely important to the plot because it can create doubles. No, holograms. No, it can actually transport people. WHAT IS THE GOD-DAMNED THING? JUST WHAT IS IT? Krall horrifies Uruha by showing him what he does with his prisoners. He hangs them from the ceiling and . . . tortures them? Shocks them? Drains their life force? Uses their blood? Doesn’t matter. Happens ONCE and then never again. The film gives us an interesting limitation factor by having the crew use an old ship which they state will be difficult and then never is. The beaming technology is so old that it can only be used to beam one person at a time. Until Kirk vaguely tells Scotty to fix it and suddenly we’re up to twenty people at a time. And suddenly once we know Krall’s SHOCKING TRUE IDENTITY (*sigh*) all of a sudden he looks like the guy at the end. When did he change? How did he change? Could he just always do it? Why didn’t he do it before? Why did he change to Krall in the first place? BEATS ME! NOT A SINGLE ******* CLUE! I know the whole “oh, gee, I didn’t understand it” is a criticism trotted out by idiots who can’t be bothered to pay attention. But, look, you know me. I love movies. I pay attention. And I have never seen a movie just leap merrily over this many necessary explanations.
In fact the movie leaps willy-nilly over things like character development and plot points as well. Jaylah is a pretty flat character, so the film suddenly reveals that her father was murdered by “the one called Manas.” Okay . . . DON’T KNOW WHO THAT IS, MOVIE! Oh, wait, here he is, like ten seconds after he’s mentioned. I mean, this IS the most efficient way to develop characters: reveal the character’s internal conflict ten seconds before she resolves it. And the crew has a clever plan to rescue the prisoners from the Enterprise. They’ll create a distraction wherein Kirk drives in circles on a motorcycle while Jaylah’s device creates countless hologram doubles so that all the soldiers will be busy trying to kill Kirk and fighting the doubles. No one asks the central question which is WHY IN THE GODDAM **** IS IT SO NECESSARY THAT KRALL KILL A GUY WHO’S JUST DRIVING IN CIRCLES ON A MOTORCYCLE?! HE IS LITERALLY DOING NOTHING! N O T H I N G! BUT IT IS SO IMPORTANT THAT THEY KILL A GUY WHO IS ESSENTIALLY DOING DONUTS IN THE PARKING LOT OF KRALL’S PRISON CAMP THAT HE DECIDES TO LEAVE ALL HIS PRISONERS UNGUARDED. I MEAN ******* IGNORE HIM! IGNORE HIM! IGNORE IGNORE IGNORE Jesus this movie is as stupid as a piece of stupid, stupid ****.
I don’t know how to really communicate that I am genuinely angry at this idiotic movie. When I was writing those questions about Krall changing appearance, I literally had a flash of rage that went all through my chest. And when I was writing about the motorcycle, I wished that I had a way to be even louder than all caps because I was so furious at just how idiotic this movie assumed I would be. OH MY GOD!! I was just getting ready to wrap up and I honestly JUST REMEMBERED that I haven’t even talked about the whole VICTORY VIA BEASTIE BOYS thing at the end. OH MY ******* GODDAMNED SON OF A BITCH WAS THAT NOT THE STUPIDEST THING YOU HAVE EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER SEEN IN YOUR ENTIRE LIFE?! I mean, it was bad enough when it was just the one ship, but then suddenly the Yorktown dude is like “WE HAVE THE FREQUENCY!” and suddenly the entire goddamned universe turned into a subwoofer or something and it was just like “DID YOU KNOW THIS SONG WAS ORANGE BECAUSE ITS ORANGE ISNT THAT COOL HA HAHAHAHAHAHA WE’RE SO EDGY AND CREATIVE LOOK IT’S A CALLBACK!!!!!!!!!!!!~!!!!!!!!!!! YYYYYYYYAYAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY FOR US !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HGAR HAR HAR HAR HAR!!!!!!”
You genuinely do not know how ******* furious I am right now. This is why I was not looking forward to this review. Anyway, four stars if you want to have an aneurysm. You know, the way the writers did just before writing the script. This movie is ******* Star Trek night in the brain injury ward. This is the Star Trek themed toilet paper roll after all you can eat chili night. This is the Star Trek story told by that blonde news reporter who had that stroke on the air. But, hey, Sulu’s gay, so progressive! #thumbsup! #futureisnow! #verysamelove! #onlyinthemovieforfivesecondssoyouknowsuperbold. You know what? My initial reaction to this movie was a one star review, because, you know, there’s a few cool moments in that first bit and all the actors are trying, etc. But you know what? Don’t **** with me, movie. You don’t know who you’re playing with. Just don’t do it. So, you know what? 0 stars. 0 ******* stars. You don’t come in my house and try to **** with me. **** you. 0 stars.
tl;dr – horribly written, confusing visually and logically, almost entirely nonsensical, stupid plot hole after stupid plot hole; unbearably insulting to its audience. 0 stars.