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Capt. Sage's Review of the Film:
Star Trek: Into Darkness

The ensemble cast from the first movie (in the rebooted franchise) returned and are just as good as they were before, if not better. The villains in this movie are played very capably, although the motivations for one are not entirely clear1.

The plot makes action movie sense, and Star Trek movie sense. Although there are some difficulties in it, the movie does a good job of making clear what is going on, and usually is fairly clear about why.

Several scenes dance on the edge of a PG-13 rating, which is irritating. Although the film wants to explore the complaints about Captain Kirk's character and modus operandi, including scenes that graphically illustrated his flaws makes the film feel cheaper.

It was all the more frustrating because the film does a good job with exploring the strengths and flaws of Captain Kirk and several other characters, giving this film a more human feeling than many others.

Overall, it was an fun sequel to a fun movie.

SPOILERS

The motivations of Admiral Marcus felt murky. His warmongering justified as defense was clearly specified by the film, but felt somehow off and confusing. The acting and lines, however, did a good job of keeping his dangerous side concealed while offering only a few hints. When his role in the plot is fully revealed, he is quite capable of showing menace.

Khan's motivations were always fairly clear, and he was also a capable and frightening adversary. In addition, he can also evoke pity. On one point at least, though, his thinking seemed unclear - trying to smuggle his people out on photon torpedoes with warheads did not seem like a good plan, even if he was desperate.

UPDATE 6/1/13:

I was confused by a loose end: who sabotaged the warp core's cooling line? Khan claimed that was part of Admiral Marcus' plan to strand Kirk in enemy territory. When the Klingons killed him, all witnesses to the admiral's involvement in the mission would be gone gone. If he was correct, someone must've sabotaged the cooling line. At first I thought that Carol Marcus did this on her father's behalf, but this was never even hinted at by the movie. Kirk suspected someone had - "Something tells me it's not your fault," he told Chekhov. So who did? And why did no one seem to care about finding out who did? Perhaps a deleted scene will someday explain that. It's true, it's only a minor difficulty with the storyline compared to others, but it's one that I would've liked resolved.

Most likely, the major difficulties of the storyline came about as a result of trying to make a summer blockbuster movie into a commentary on recent events. Instead of commentary, we ended up with straw men villains who didn't make a lot of sense. I daresay that the villains were menacing despite their roles. The moviemakers were trying too hard to make both recent events and the movie fit their interpretation of recent events.

As a result, the movie ended up making its events somewhat similar to 9/11 and the ensuing conflicts - but in a way that aligns with the beliefs of conspiracy theorists instead of reality. In the real world, terrorists outside of the United States planned and committed 9/11. In the movie, it was high officials on the inside of the Federation who inadvertently caused the disasters at the beginning and end of the movie.

The difficulty of having two villains also worked against the movie. We might suppose that the moviemakers wanted to prove their independence of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" by having another villain alongside Khan. As a result, the movie awkwardly switched between Admiral Marcus and Khan as the story dictated. It made the climax of the movie harder to follow.

Under other circumstances, these would simply be unfortunate missteps by creative professionals. However, the moviemakers were almost certainly attempting to make political statements about recent real events in which thousands of people, including innocent, unarmed, unsuspecting people, died or were horribly injured. The tribute at the end of the film to our veterans felt unfortunately cheapened by the lack of care and attention to real recent events for those reasons.

After thinking about this, I changed the original closing sentence of the main portion of the review. It was: "Overall, it was an extremely good sequel to an extremely good movie." Now it is "Overall, it was an fun sequel to a fun movie." The movie's fun factor, and the thought and effort behind most of the characters, exceeds its faults.

END UPDATE