Movie Review: Star Trek: Into Darkness

Star-Trek-Into-Darkness_1440x900Kirk is in some ways, the ideal Starfleet captain. He is brave, confident, and strong. However, when he breaks the prime directive to save one of his crew, he loses not only the enterprise which he commands, but his rank as well. Outraged at the regulations in Starfleet, Kirk plans to leave the academy forever.

But before he does, a new threat rises in the city. A terrorist and former Starfleet member, John Harrison, begins savage attacks on civilians and Starfleet headquarters. Through tragic and unforeseen events, Kirk again gains command of the Enterprise. He is given one directive- eliminate John Harrison at all costs. Just one problem, Harrison is in the Klingon sector, and has not received a trial for his crimes.

Kirk is torn between morals and duty. Having virtually no experience in crimes of this scale, he doesn’t know who to trust, what is right, or how to command. He doesn’t know what he is supposed to do, only what he can do. Can he lead the Enterprise and do what is right? Or will he learn the hard way, leading a military vessel can come at an immense cost?

Things I liked

While “Into Darkness” revolves around many characters, the main character of focus is James T. Kirk. Jim has a lot of strengths, but a lot of issues. He is confident, but ignores rules. He cares for his crew, but is arrogant. He is brave, but often takes unnecessary risks. Early in the film he boasts to a higher officer who is reprimanding him- “I haven’t lost one crew member. Not one.” To which the officer replies:

“Do you know what a pain you are? You think the rules don’t apply to you. There’s greatness in you, but there’s not an ounce of humility. You think that you can’t make mistakes, but there’s going to come a moment when you realize you’re wrong about that, and you’re going to get yourself and everyone under your command killed.”

This is the place from which Jim starts. A young arrogant buck who thinks he has it all figured out. Through the movie we see that arrogance replaced with an understanding of humility. Unlike the recent movie I watched, Ironman 3, Kirk learns that rules exist for a reason, and that arrogance does bring a very hard fall.

Christopher Pike fills the father figure role in Kirk’s life. When no one else believes in him after he is stripped of his command, Pike comes and encourages and mentors him. He gives Kirk a second chance, which Jim does not deserve in the least. Grace is a powerful teaching tool, and Pike uses it to equip Jim for future success.

The supporting cast of the Enterprise is a great one to watch. Spock is loyal to the core in regulations, and reminds Kirk of moral implications of acting against those rules. Scotty forgives Jim many a time with no hard feelings, an excellent reminder not to hold grudges. Uhura in one place, shows the value of communication over violence. And Dr. McCoy shows mercy and care to the enemies of Starfleet. All the characters learn from each other in their strengths, and remind each other of their weaknesses. The teamwork shown in the Enterprise is great fun to watch.

John Harrison is a man consumed by hatred, grief, and revenge. He strives to avenge earth of the crimes committed against his family, and that means destroying all of earth. Through the movie he manipulates others to get what he wants, but in the end is destroyed by his passionate lust for vengeance. It is good to be reminded we should not hold in our hearts bitterness and anger for those who have sinned against us.

Similarly, there is a member of Starfleet driven by fear and desire of power. He is destroyed as well. Every-time a character who breaks regulations or acts selfishly, that person ultimately comes to a terrible end or suffers severe consequences.

Finally, I loved seeing the enterprise, the crew, and space created in such a way which completely redefined how we view Star Trek movies, but tipped the hat many times over towards the Original Series. The characters replicate perfectly the personas of the originals. The dialogue is witty at times, and deep in others. It is a very well made movie from a cinematography and script writing perspective.

Things I Didn’t Like

Into darkness brings a level of violence never seen before in the Star Trek world. John Harrison is ruthless in his killings. We see him gun down a room of people from a ship, take out an entire legion of Klingons, crush a man’s head with his bare hands, breaks a girl’s leg, and generally pummel anyone who opposes him. Spock has his share of physical altercations as well. Twisting arms and using the Vulcan neck pinch.

Aside from Harrison’s deeds. People are blasted with phasers, we see multiple crew members get sucked into the vacuum of space when the hulls of ships are blown open. A man dies from radiation overexposure. Many people are shown bloody and beaten up. When a ship falls into earth’s orbit, it takes out dozens of buildings. Presumably with people in them.

Kirk is shown in bed with two female looking aliens wearing lingerie. Carol Marcus tells Kirk to turn around as she needed to change clothes. Kirk, of course, looks, and so does the camera. there is a few second shot of her in nothing but a bikini style of dress. Spock and Uhura kiss a few times. And McCoy dips into his well known use of profanity and suggestive comments. Many different crude words are used, many times.

God’s name is taken in vain about six times.

Closing Thoughts

The core of “Star Trek: Into Darkness” lies not a terrorist manhunt, a rouge Starfleet officer, or a memorable cast of shipmates. This movie, ultimately, is about leadership. Kirk is a powerful leader, and he knows that. What he doesn’t realize, before learning through some difficult lessons, what leadership is. He learns leadership isn’t having the title of captain, or having a big ship, but rather it is service. In a climatic moment Kirk makes a choice where he offers himself for the crew of the ship. It is at that point we realize Kirk isn’t the arrogant young kid anymore… We watch him change into a captain worthy of commanding the Enterprise. Kirk learns from his mistakes, and becomes a servant to his crew. That is the most powerful message in this film.

There are many other great things shown. The crew of the enterprise embody sacrifice and courage. John Harrison and other people who act selfishly are destroyed by their own flaws. Much wisdom is shown through Spock’s advice- that sometimes you must disobey authority to do what is morally and biblically right.

The movie also has its downsides. The sometimes savage violence makes one flinch at times. The brief undress shown of Carol Marcus is enough to make anyone with a sound mind to turn his/her head. And even though it is “the military” the expletives are frustrating and unpleasant.

Even with these inexcusable flaws, I found this film to be a great teacher of not only how to lead, but also the importance of making a moral choice, not blindly following the commanded one. Into Darkness makes it clear the right or moral choice is sometimes hard to find. When the right choice is found though, there is then the difficulty of deciding to act upon it. Kirk always does. No, he doesn’t follow regulations perfectly. But he always puts what he feels is right and moral above anything else. While the lack of God is prevalent in Kirk’s choices, we can clearly apply this mindset and many principles shown in this flick to our Christian walk.

That’s why I’ve decided while this movie may indeed dip into darkness, the overacting themes of  learning humility, leadership, and acting upon conscience are incredibly commendable. A light is shone on what a true leader is, and the suffering selfishness brings. It leads with an imperfect message, like all films, but this is one from which I’d say we all can learn and benefit.

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3 thoughts on “Movie Review: Star Trek: Into Darkness

  1. Nice review Austin. I haven’t seen all the original Star Trek films, so there were a few references I picked up on, but there were parts where judging by the reaction of the audience, some other reference was made that will please Trekkies, even if I missed it. Overall, the fans will be pleased.

    • Thanks for the comment Dan, there are many references, and being a self confessed Trekkie… picked up on many of them. If you watch “Wrath of Khan” and the episode named “Space Seed”, that’s where the majority of them come from. It was great to see so many tips of the hat to what made Star Trek great. :)

      There was also a subtle reference to the “Mudd Incident”. :)

  2. This film was absolutely brilliant and your review did an excellent job summing it up. Very well done. 

    I would disagree somewhat, (on a rather petty and trivial point) though, that the film focuses primarily on Kirk. It was my personal impression that Spock grew just as much as Kirk did throughout the movie, albiet in much more subtle ways. I appreciated getting to watch both characters change and grow together in the process.

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading your take on the film. Thanks for sharing!

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