If you've read my review of the first film, which can be found here, you'll know that I was surprised at my enjoyment of it. I've never been a big Star Trek fan, never seen the original series, and pretty much, aside from the first film and Wikipedia, only had an idea of the Klingons, Spock and a few names of planets and things.
I should point out that there will be SPOILERS in this review, but they won't start yet.
Star Trek Into Darkness was considered by the two mates I went with to be a lot better than the first. I mean it's probably a while since they saw the first. In fact, my friend Rebecca is going to see it a third time on Thursday, and when she went with me it was the second. So that proved to me it must be pretty epic. And indeed - it was epic. I'm just not sure epic worked.
I was going to review this last night, but my head's in a bit of a jumble over it. I did enjoy it, don't get me wrong, and I did thing it was epic. The explosions and battles were thrilling, the direction was amazing once again (bar a couple of close ups which seemed a little too close) and the acting was superb. I liked Kirk a lot more this time, and found myself liking Spock less, as he was getting a little tiresome by the end. But Spock's still my favourite, so. Benedict Cumberbatch gave an outstanding performance as John Harrison, and his character was completely believable. I half expected to watch an evil Sherlock, but it didn't happen, Cumberbatch's Harrison was completely believable and horrible. I truly, truly hated the character by the time it had finished, and yet in little moments throughout he was likeable. It was strange - which was possibly part of my problem.
Because the film was good - but that's it. It was spectacular in the sense it was a spectacle, and it did look incredible, the CGI was incredibly realistic. But it didn't have much of a plot, or much of a structure. Rather than pace out a good story to build up the characters, the choice was made to dump the plot in ten minutes, which was spoken so quickly I personally found it quite hard to keep up with, and spend the rest of the time with fight scenes and explosions. Which would have been great, except they went on for so long I found myself forgetting what the purpose of the explosions and fight scenes was.
When the film begins, it's great. The opening "mid-adventure" trick is used and that's always a good thing, and it worked well, with good Enterprise and Volcano and Red Tree Planet scenes and lots of running and so on. That was exciting. Then, Spock's life is saved by Kirk, and it later transpires Spock filed a report saying this and Kirk's ship is getting taken off of him. This is where the problems start for me. Films always use the "let's split up the team" trick and the "make it look like the hero won't have a ship" trick until something happens to make him get it back as quickly as he lost it. This film used the cliche, and although it didn't dwell on it for too long - it was too busy dwelling on other things.
Kirk saving Spock's life is THE plot. That is it. All the stuff with John Harrison is there just to constantly test the Kirk/Spock relationship - which would be great except they make it so obvious. The film is too obviously about the friendship, at the expense of any real plot. When there could be time speaking about John Harrison or the cryo-tubes or something, they talk about Kirk saving Spock's life, again and again and again. The incident is repeated far too much, and it makes the main theme of the film far too obvious. They don't stop talking about Kirk saving Spock's life - it is too much. I got bored of them having the same argument about it.
So what about the excuse for the explosions and violent fight scenes (again that's another point, in places the film felt too fanboy-ish, with lots of fight scenes and big villains, whereas the first one I could like more because it was more accepting to nu-Trekkies like myself). The excuse was John Harrison. As I said, he was played brilliantly, I can't fault Cumberbatch's performance. And the revelation as Harrison as Kahn (said there were spoilers) no doubt made lots of Trekkies scream in delight. My friend Jake certainly did. To "remake" The Wrath of Kahn, which I'll be watching soon, is an interesting choice, and handled surprisingly well by those who publicised it. If you're a long Star Trek fan no doubt the revelation was thrilling, but the plot was just a little too fast and dropped in for people like me, who didn't have a clue. But that's more a personal issue with it.
It's still hard to pinpoint my feelings. I know I preferred the first film, just because it had plot threaded throughout the action sequences. The action sequences did feel too long and dropped in here, and I found myself breaking away from the action. There was too much of a contrast as well. A hugely long fight or explosion scene would lead into a long talky scene. The meeting scene was very good - but the long conversation with the Admiral where Kirk tries to get permission, or the tortuously dull conversation with Pike that Kirk has near the beginning contrasted too much. As did the "info-dump" scene with Cumberbatch in the cell. They all felt too long and too political. When they were on screen I wanted action. When the action arrived it lasted for too long and made me want talking that wasn't quite so dull. So it seemed like an odd mix of a film, which is where my comment about strange pacing comes from.
I will probably remember more points about this - but that pretty much sums up my feelings. It was good, and it probably needs a rewatch, but it was a little bit too all over the place. The pacing of the scenes seemed mixed up and out of place sometimes, and there was occasionally too much violence or action. I felt a bit alienated (pardon the pun) by the use of Kahn as well, and strangely even lost track or which team he was actually on. He was the bad guy, I think, but a bad guy with good intentions... And then the Admiral was the same... But they didn't like each other.... I just felt it was a bit everywhere. For me, Star Trek doesn't seem about the action, it should be about the exploring and the action that comes out of this. This tried too hard to be Star Trek The Action Movie, and as a non-dedicated fan and 'casual' viewer, that didn't feel right.