The 5 (million) dumbest things about Star Trek Into Darkness


24th May 2013

When Matt reviewed Star Trek Into Darkness he echoed what many others have said: lots of fun but bobbins plot and too much reliance on nostalgia. So with my expectations suitably lowered I embarked upon a little trek of my own to the cinema, and - unfortunately - it turned out to be much more of a Slow Slog Into Dumbness than I had feared. Here's my best attempt at explaining why. (Mahoosive spoilers and frothy entitlism ahead - you have been warned!)

In the interests of fairness, there is a lot to love about Star Trek Into Darkness. The cast is great, the effects are phenomenal, the 3D works well and tribbles! Sickbay tribble for ship pet in Star Trek 3, please. The futuristic cities are also amazingly realised and The Enterprise is beautiful - arguably the real star of the movie. Oh, and the Klingon ships (Birds of Prey?) were totally badass. Totally.

But Star Trek Into Darkness is essentially broken. So many plot points fizzle into nothing when you stop to think about them for more than a few seconds, it's hard to believe live human beings with functioning brains wrote this film. You already know about the tribble, this is the last chance to avoid spoilers. Sure? Ok, I hope you like question marks...
John Harrison's nonsensical plan

Near the start of the film we see a suicide bomber blow up a secret Federation installation after some persuasion from one John Harrison. This is revealed to be a ploy so he can later ambush an emergency gathering of senior Starfleet personnel in a top floor conference room with nice large windows and no defences whatsoever. The questions begin when Harrison turns up in a little attack ship to personally blast holes in chairs, tables, walls and Captain Pike.

Harrison is presented as some sort of master manipulator... so why is he risking his own hide when he could presumably get someone else to do the shooting? Or better yet, get some other mug to smuggle in another bomb. Wouldn't a huge bomb blast have been much more effective than taking random shots anyway? After all the first one decimated an entire building. Why not do both to be sure? How did he know that the guy from Doctor Who wouldn't have cured his daughter and then gone straight to the police?

Perhaps the most perplexing issue is why Harrison (later revealed to be biologically-engineered superhuman Khan) was trying to kill the one person who could get him his frozen crew back? Despite Harrison's demands to be reunited with his "family" becoming a major plot point later on, his first port of call is to fire willy-nilly into a room containing Admiral Marcus - the only other person in the world who seems to know anything about Khan's sleepy pals.
Admiral Marcus' nonsensical plan

Can anyone explain why Admiral Marcus wanted to destroy the experiment Starfleet had gone to the trouble of keeping secret for 300 years? I mean, he revived Khan and Khan designed a pretty decent ship in the form of the USS Vengeance, so you'd think he'd be happy. Revive someone else, they might make good ships as well. Or invent a new hamburger, or a cocktail. I digress. Marcus' whole deal is that he really wants to start a war with the Klingons, but it's never explained what Marcus stands to gain from endangering the entire planet - he just wants his war. He probably hates looking at their heads.

Obviously being in charge of Starfleet means that nobody questions Marcus' orders when he alone authorises Kirk to take The Enterprise and 72 (wink, wink) special torpedoes into Klingon space for the express purpose of blowing up Khan, who has - for whatever convenient reason - tucked himself away on the Klingon home planet, Kronos. Unbeknownst to Kirk, Marcus plans to destroy The Enterprise by personally flying the USS Vengeance into Klingon territory, and making it look like the Klingons did it.

But wait. If Marcus was so hellbent on provoking a war with the Klingons, he could have just blasted The Enterprise in Klingon space regardless of the whole '72 missiles' thing. Wouldn't it be easier to tamper with the navigation, or fake a distress signal, or arrange anything else far more simple than sabotaging the warp core of a starship? Why would firing the torpedoes at Kronos be an option in the first place? I know there's meant to be some sort of Bin Laden/Pakistan subtext here, but Jesus Christ it would give the Klingons every justification to attack Earth whilst being in the right... although they'd probably have been more bemused as to why Earthlings flew all the way across the galaxy just to bomb some uninhabitable wasteland, and why there are 73 dead humans down there too.

By the way, what happened to the panel of important Starfleet people from the first film? They seemed like they might have an opinion on a captain recently disciplined for breaking the Prime Directive taking the flagship of their fleet into enemy territory and firing on their home world. Fuck sake.
That whole super-soldier blood thing

Kirk dies in this film. Well, for a bit. Fortunately for Kirk it turns out Khan's super-engineered blood seemingly cures the body of, well, everything. Kirk's luck doubles when Bones accidentally discovers the potential power of Khan's blood after injecting it into a dead tribble and... wait, why is Bones injecting blood into dead things? Anyway, long story short: Khan has magic blood and they use it to revive Kirk after a very convenient series of last-second events.

The problem with this isn't the fact that they've now effectively cured death for every living thing with veins, but how this development was tied into the plot. By this point in the film we know that The Enterprise is carrying a payload of 72 missiles containing Khan's super friends. Bones could have used blood from any of these, but instead we're treated to a foot chase across future LA. It's only when we realise that Bones would actually have had to remove one of the frozen soldiers to freeze Kirk's body that the whole injecting-blood-into-dead-things makes sense (I don't think he's too bright).

And whilst we're on the point, the foot chase itself is just an excuse to get Uhura and Spock together so they can realise they love each other by beating on a man who only wanted to get some revenge on the people who betrayed him. They do this by beaming Uhura - the ship translator - down into the melee, rather than five security officers. But if they can do that, surely there's no reason why they couldn't beam Khan straight into the brig? In fact Khan does precisely this not long before. But then I guess we'd never have got to see Spock do a Hulk-out, and punching things is so cool.
Oh yeah, the Klingons

So Kirk disobeys his orders to fire the 72 missiles at Kronos, instead choosing to go down to the surface to arrest Khan so he can stand trial for his crimes. Fair enough. Except they get captured by a Klingon patrol, prompting Khan to step in and murder every living thing with a head like an industrial accident at Aardman Productions. Then Khan surrenders to Kirk because earlier on he's told there are 72 torpedoes aimed at him, and there were 72 other superhumans, so obviously the superhumans are... in the missiles...? And he can probably manipulate people from the brig... and argh.

But now we have a much worse situation than bombing some wasteland and a destroyed ship... Kirk has just technically invaded Kronos, leaving a trail of dead Klingons. That'll piss them off and Marcus will get that war he so craves, right? Um, well actually no. After the dust has settled from the climactic Enterprise vs Vengeance battle, and with Kirk brought back to life - one year on, to be precise - there is no mention of the Klingons. They're simply dropped faster than Alice Eve's tunic.

This is probably the worst offence in the entire film. Now Star Trek 3 is backed into a corner where they have to pick up this plot, otherwise it'll be apparent that Star Trek Into Darkness was a poorly-planned mess with plot strands that were forced together for no reason by excessive amounts of convenience all along. At least put a post-credits shot of Kronos on the DVD. For me? Bah.
Everythings are stupid

This film is designed for nitpicking:

  • Admiral Marcus' daughter, Carol, tricks her way onto The Enterprise by changing her surname.

  • Kirk and Spock happily discuss top secret mission details out loud in public.

  • Two Federation starships have a massive space battle 237,000 km from Earth that goes undetected. The Moon is further away.

  • Technically the Vengeance crashing into San Francisco and taking out those skyscrapers is Spock's fault. Does he feel guilty?

  • Scotty flies a shuttle through the front door of a top secret Federation shipyard completely unquestioned.

  • A shipyard that is only on the other side of Jupiter - don't they have amateur astronomers in the future?

I could go on but I think my brain is leaking out of my ears. You get the idea though: Star Trek Into Darkness has some issues.

All of my problems with Star Trek Into Darkness boil down to one thing: the plot. Is it too much to suggest a film that came in at $190 million should have had an airtight plot with no loose ends? At almost every turn you can question the events, or point out fallacies that break it completely. And if an idiot like me can spot issues instantly as they occur between handfuls of Revels, how did they get in there in the first place?

I know sometimes we're a sarcy bunch of twats, but taking a step back from photoshopping poop stains onto Bella's shorts for a moment; there isn't a single person here who doesn't want the best for you and the thing you like. If you liked Star Trek Into Darkness, then good for you, you're entitled to that opinion and you weren't alone. It's good to remember that a movie is just a distraction from other things in life sometimes - it's not oxygen.

But on the other hand this is Star Trek we're talking about; a wobbly TV show that became a nearly 50-year-old movement with the ability to connect across age, race, gender and creed. It's not a glorified toy commercial, or something for Daniel Craig to do between Bonds. Star Trek Into Darkness should have been handled with at least a bit of reverence, but instead we got a sloppy and expensive missed opportunity to carry the torch. And it bothers me that it'll happen again unless we demand better. But like I say, it's not oxygen. It's just a shame, that's all. A big bang reduced to a great big cosmic shrug.

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