Time’s really flown by, because Star Trek: Into Darkness is now a full decade old. It was the first Trek movie I have any memory of coming out, so it being exactly 10 years old is a little daunting. However, Into Darkness is near (or even at) the bottom of just about every Trek film ranking out there. Fans widely criticized the film for director JJ Abrams’ “mystery box” approach to the story. It was also seen that the homages to Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan were unearned.
However, Star Trek: Into Darkness enjoyed a slightly more favorable mainstream critical reception. So, a decade after release, with so much Star Trek content having come out since, how does this film hold up? In 2023 is it even worth revisiting? Has the film found a sense of redemption in the years since? Let’s see what Into Darkness has to offer 10 years on.
My Name Is Khan
Despite Abrams’ attempt to conceal it when marketing the movie, many fans theorized that John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) was Khan. This speculation was proven correct about halfway through the movie. Still, to this day, it’s irritating. It’s a reveal that comes out of nowhere, completely derailing the movie. It feels like it’s just rehashing an iconic movie, one near the top of most rankings. Most irritatingly for me, it doesn’t have a setup like “Space Seed” that the original movie did.
Cumberbatch playing Khan and revealing it the way he did doesn’t mean anything to the characters in that room. It feels like it’s speaking solely to the audience, and this is an audience who largely didn’t want a re-do of The Wrath of Khan. The opening scenes of the movie, with Cumberbatch going from explosive set piece to explosive set piece felt exciting. This makes the twist all the more disappointing. The back half of this movie is so contrived and is most of the reason for the movie’s reception. It hasn’t aged well at all.
It’s a fine action movie, but it’s far overshadowed by the movie it pays homage to. From Carol Marcus’ presence to the older Spock (Leonard Nimoy‘s final appearance as the character), it tries to imitate The Wrath of Khan. The climax of the film also kills Kirk (Chris Pine) instead of Spock (Zachary Quinto), another reflection of Wrath of Khan. It feels offensive, made even worse by how it’s undone. With magic blood of all things. Resorting to tricks like that just feels lazy, which is the biggest problem with the “original” elements of the movie.
I don’t think saying theatrically released movies are more accessible to audiences than TV shows are, controversial. For general audiences, this is their impression of Section 31. Thankfully, for fans they mostly improved in earlier seasons of Star Trek: Discovery and most recently Star Trek: Picard. However, if this is your impression of Section 31, it’s probably not a very good one. I’m not the biggest fan of the organization, but at least their portrayal as more morally ambiguous came across better.
Here, they’re more evil, acting against Starfleet. They’re more like a generic evil organization. This is evident from the plan to destroy the USS Enterprise, to create a justification for their warship, the USS Vengeance, to attack Qo’noS. While Section 31 has been shown to be more than this on TV, I’m not surprised about a lack of hype for the new movie outside of fan circles. Even with the presence of Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh, I think the “damage” to the Section 31 name has already been done on the big screen.
While little is known about the project, I don’t think there’s a big public appetite for an evil Starfleet movie that’s all doom and gloom. We’ve copped enough of that, and for the most part, Star Trek: Into Darkness is an example of when it’s at its worst. Thankfully, recent Trek projects have been far more hopeful, shaking off the negative aura of even early Discovery. I’m excited to see Michelle Yeoh come back as Georgiou. However, my excitement is really dependent on what the movie’s about and when it’s set.
The Final Verdict
While Star Trek: Beyond offered a much better adventure, I don’t know how relevant the Kelvin Timeline movies are nowadays. Star Trek 4 has been in development hell for years and is no closer to actually being in production. We’re in a golden age of Star Trek content, with so many shows and even new movies coming out. The Kelvin Timeline movies unfortunately don’t tie in to any of it. The promise of a five-year mission at the end of this movie is something we’re increasingly unlikely to see.
Ten years on, Star Trek: Into Darkness is still the worst part of an oddity in the Trek universe. While the movie opens up promisingly, there’s no way around the rehashes and the lazy climax. Worth watching to say you’ve seen them all. However, it’s not one I enjoyed rewatching today, and I’m not in a hurry to see it again any time soon.
You can find both Into Darkness and The Wrath of Khan streaming on Paramount+. For news, features, retrospectives, and reviews of all things Star Trek, be sure to follow Trek Central!
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