Movies

Peter Suderman Reviews Star Trek Into Darkness

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Paramount Pictures

Reason Senior Editor Peter Suderman reviews director J.J. Abrams' latest outing with the gang of the Starship Enterprise, Star Trek Into Darkness, in today's Washington Times

"Star Trek Into Darkness" is an apt title for a movie as empty as the vastness of space. The movie moves as if through a vacuum — fast and frictionless, from one scene to another, with a lot of nothing along the way. The warp-speed pacing only barely hides the fact that it never really goes anywhere at all, and doesn't aim to either. The final frontier? Forget it. This soulless sequel to a reboot is only too happy to go where every generic sci-fi blockbuster has gone before, and not so boldly either.

The fill-in-the-blanks plot — which hits every beat in Hollywood's current favorite screenplay formula — is little more than a collection of starship-sized distractions. (If I see another movie in which the villain's clever plan is to surrender to the hero, I too will be ready to give up, but only as part of a secret plan to destroy the formula itself.) The action sequences are predictably unpredictable, the sort of spectacles I forgot before they were over. The dialogue consists entirely of quippy expository details and trailer-ready ultimatums — none of which make sense.

Not that dialogue is the focus here. No one ever conducts a conversation, or has a thought, without something interrupting: an explosion, a crash, a shoot-out or some other meaningless reveal. This is a movie that lives in terror of boredom, and projects a deep-rooted anxiety about its own ability to hold an audience's attention. Watching it is like talking to a salesman who stops every 40 seconds to ask if you're still with him, and then slaps you in the face just to make sure.

For that, you can thank director J.J. Abrams and his frequent collaborators, screenwriters Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof, all veterans of the similarly vacuous TV show "Lost." For several years now, the quartet have been waging an increasingly aggressive war on narrative coherence, favoring speed and shock over sense, or even suspense. "Star Trek Into Darkness" is breathless and every once in a while even breathtaking, but it lacks any self-control. It speeds along at such a rapid, punchy clip that nothing much registers at all. It is a movie that is so insistently exciting that it eventually becomes boring.

Read the whole review

Suderman reviewed the first Abrams Trek for Reason back in 2009

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  1. I’m shocked to hear that a sequel to a dumb movie is dumb.

    1. Trek works better as a series.

      1. I agree, though there’s no reason it couldn’t function in film.

        1. Perhaps an extra long story arc, like LOTR?

          1. Just so long as it doesn’t involved fucking time travel. The bane of Star Trek. It worked in TOS but mostly sucked ever since.

            1. Holodeck episodes were worse, but not by much.

              1. Yes, no holodecks, no time travel, and, really, no Borg or Klingons, either.

                1. The Borg were good, conceptually. I agree with the rest.

                2. Damn, my idea involved time traveling Klingons who are actually just a holodeck simulation (this is revealed at the end as final plot twist).

                3. I liked Klingons in the original series – baddies the Kirk would throw down with.

                  No friendly Klingons.

                  1. I actually like the Klingons and the Borg. They just need a rest for a while.

                    Time travel could go away altogether, along with the lethal holodeck.

              2. What, you don’t enjoy Barclay’s pathetic fantasies that go wrong, or Dixon Hill episodes?

                (barf)

                1. The holodeck could’ve been done well, but having crisis after crisis after crisis because of some malfunction? Look, if an aircraft carrier today had a film projector that regularly endangered the entire ship and crew, they’d fucking ditch the thing right away.

                  1. If an aircraft carrier had a holodeck, there would be a month-long wait to get time in it. Every Sailor and Marine on-board would be getting laid in there.

                    Unless a computer bimbo became self-aware and tried to escape, the thing could never endanger the ship.

                2. Welcome to my house, here is my TV set. At least once a month the TV malfunctions and almost kills me, but do I stop using it? No. Wanna watch some TV?

                  1. It doesn’t even rise to the level of implausible. In fact, it’s a jarring reminder that the shit is just made up.

                    They didn’t have the budget constraints of the old show, which, of course, had to set things in the Old West, Rome, Nazi Germany, etc., because they couldn’t afford to do anything else.

                  2. I don’t think you’re calculating this correctly. Sure it may try to kill you once a month, but the rest of the time you get to have sex with anyone you want. Also, possibly some other fantasy that people may have that doesn’t involve sex. I don’t know. Totally worth it.

                    1. Don’t you think the computer would grow to resent being raped by everybody on the ship?

                    2. Now there’s a great idea. They could do holodeck episodes with no threat to life for a while, diving into the sexual uses of the system on occasion. Then the computer gets pissed off at getting led on and used like a rag.

                    3. Why would the computer have emotions?

                      Do you think they had a rag and spray bottle next to the door with a sign that saying something about cleaning up after yourself or did they just beam that stuff into space?

                    4. Well, the computers of the era certainly approach AI, so some sort of spontaneous disorder is possible, And the part of the computer fucking the crew has to simulate emotion, so maybe that’s the angle.

                    5. 100 PRINT “OH BABY OH BABY!”
                      110 GOTO 100

              3. The Holmes and Moriarty holodeck episodes were okay.

                1. Can we make sg walk the plank and jettison him into space?

                2. The Holmes and Moriarty holodeck episodes were okay.

                  Get. Out.

                  “The holodeck Moriarty becomes self aware and takes control of the ship from the holodeck.”

                  Yeah great idea, it’s like they’re saying that the SW Engineers of the future would be so stupid as to not isolate the holodeck functions from the rest of the ship’s functions, or have any safegaurds whatsoever to prevent unauthorized access. Even as a kid who hadn’t had any programming classes and barely knew anything about how computers worked, I turned that episode off midway through because I couldn’t take any more bullshit.

                  1. It’s the worse concept ever. And what makes it the height of stupid was repeating it.

                    1. And yet people keep buying the latest Dan Brown novel.

                3. That’s weird, something must be wrong with the server. Can someone fix this comment? I think it got mangled.

  2. Looks like we are continuing the tradition where every other ST movie is shitty. Can’t wait for the good sequal that always follows the shitty one!

    1. I thought the even numbered movies were supposed to be the good ones.

      1. This is an alternative timeline Trek, so no, it has to be the odd-numbered ones being good.

        1. Make it the Mirror universe, I say.

    2. So New Star Trek 3 is going to be awesome?

  3. Here’s the money quote from the review: “For several years now, the quartet have been waging an increasingly aggressive war on narrative coherence, favoring speed and shock over sense, or even suspense.”

    Episiarch, at least you’ll have Alice Eve to console you through the suckitude. And Benedict Cumberbatch can’t suck. Unless he and Watson actually are gay. I don’t think they are. But they could be.

    1. Dude, if you think I expected anything from Abrams other than what Suderman described, you need to stop hitting yourself in the head with a hammer every morning. It’s not like I haven’t seen Lost.

      I’m going to go see it with a flask of rum and a buzz on. I expect very little, and will be fine with that.

      1. I suggest lowering your expectations. However, I endorse the rum–it should help. And don’t forget Alice Eve.

        1. Meh, Zoe Saldana is better.

          1. Well, you get both, then.

            1. I suppose I do. See, all the more reason to enjoy myself.

              1. Yes, but remember what happened to Paul Rubens and Fred Willard.

                1. +1 furtive…uhhh, motion?

      2. I like the idea of seeing it with alcohol; I think I’ll try that. The movies stopped being amazing an age ago, but they are always worth seeing just to make the subsequent arguments more legendary.

        1. The alcohol really makes it more fun, because you don’t give a shit. I actually had fun watching Prometheus; it was when I was walking out and sobering up that I started going “WHAT?!?”

          1. Eh, I liked Prometheus. Not so much as a movie but as background/filler for the earlier movies.

          2. Alcohol made Pearl Harbor bearable. Of course, that’s probably because I passed out and slept through most of it.

            1. I just remembered I once sat through a double-feature of The River Wild and Junior. Sober.

              1. Ouch. I guess I should have included a trigger warning in my comment.

  4. I wan’t going to see it anyway but this is Suderman’s best review yet.

  5. I am not reading this because I assume it contains spoilers. That is all.

    1. Don’t tell me about the spoiled milk, because I want to drink it and find out myself.

    2. again, this is why I think we need an officially designated thread to contain bitching about this movie. Some topics require sequestration into a separate zone so that the poo being flung does not spatter onto the innocent.

      E.g.: if Uno’s came out with a new deep dish format, or if there was an Occupy Your Foreskin protest. Same thing.

      1. What the hell is Uno’s?

        1. Shitty “Chicago style” pizza chain*. Think Old Chicago, but with a much shittier beer selection and crappy pizza.

          *At least the one I ate at here in Denver was pretty shitty.

          1. *crappier pizza

          2. Shitty “Chicago style” pizza chain*. Think Old Chicago, but with a much shittier beer selection and crappy pizza.

            Not so fast my friend!

            Of the three brewpubs in the area, the one affixed to the crappy chain pizza joint has the best beer. It’s a shame they lack variety, but they’re good at what they do.

    3. The spoilers are vague, in that you’re fine as long as you’ve never heard of this whole Star Track thing in the first place.

    4. James T. Kirk was really a Canadian.

      1. That’s a damned lie.

      2. And a Jew.

        1. The show totally avoided religion, so I suppose Kirk could’ve been Jewish, though his background indicates otherwise.

          Of course, Shatner and Nimoy are both Jewish, but that’s a different matter.

          1. Right, and Shatner is a Canadian Jew so I was just running with Paul’s joke.

            1. No, no, I got that, I was just speculating. I figure Kirk was raised as a Sikh.

              1. Kirk was raised Roddenberrologist.

                1. That’s possible. Or maybe Elvisism.

          2. isn’t Kirk from Iowa?

            1. Iowaism? I’m not familiar with that religion.

              1. It involves much corn, casseroles (“hot dish”) and vaguely incorporates parts of United Methodism.

            2. We are all, in one way or another, from Iowa.

              1. You are getting dangerously close to inciting a duel, sir.

  6. Huh, too bad. I thoroughly enjoyed the first Star Trek reboot as a completely entertaining and fun movie. I’m not a Trekkie, so I didn’t carry the baggage, so maybe that made it easy for me to enjoy.

    I thought the dialog was punchy, the characters appropriately funny and perfectly unserious and the action tight.

    I guess I’ll check this one out anyway.

    1. You should go with Episiarch–I hear he’s serving drinks.

      1. I don’t serve drinks, biotch, I get served drinks.

        1. If you wanted ice, you should have asked for ice!

        2. Very well. Simply take the rum from him, then.

  7. AT least JJ is moving on to move Star Wars into Darkness.

    1. Super Baby Genius Star Trek Wars!

    2. Fuck it, let’s just fanwank some scenario that merges the Star Wars and Star Trek galaxies so Abrams can ruin both.

      We’ll see Data and Yoda engage in a break dancing battle, Worf and Chewie arm wrestle, and Kirk and Han Solo engage in a hilarious battle for Leia’s heart while Leia herself bonds with Counselor Troi.

      1. My God. I know what’s coming. The Star Trek Christmas Special.

        1. This week, on a very special Star Trek, Kirk, Canadian Captain of the Starship Enterprise, learns the true meaning of giving…

            1. You’re thinking of ALIEN.

          1. No, wait, I have it. Khan as the Grinch. It is he who learns the special meaning of Christmas. Or maybe he’s Scrooge. Or both the Grinch and Scrooge.

      2. Search for the Patton Oswalt rant from his Parks and Recreation appearance. He ties all of the film franchises together.

    3. Look out! they’ve built a third Deathstar, and this time they painted it black!

      1. That seems pretty smart. Isn’t black like space camouflage? Maybe throw in a few white specks.

  8. I’m having trouble understanding at the end of the review how it managed two out of four stars.

    1. Two stars is given for sitting through the whole movie. One star is given when you stand up and walk out and ask for your money back. Zero is when you leave the theater so angry at the director you forget to ask for your money back.

      For example, if there was an Episode II or III made by George Lucas, they would have earned zero stars.

      1. So Unbreakable would be zero stars?

        1. whaaaa? You didn’t like Unbreakable?

  9. JJ Abrams really is the next George Lucas.

    1. I wish I was the next George Lucas. I would love to be a rich asshole.

      1. Yes, just to be clear, if I ever create some massive mythology that makes billions, the temptation to fuck over the fans for fun would be a great one.

        I think that’s what keeps Martin going. What beloved character can I kill in a horrific way next?

        1. Episiarch. Oh wait, beloved… I’ll get back to you.

          1. I meant in A Song of Fire and Ice, but your ideas intrigue me.

            1. Don’t put evil notions in his head.

          2. Did you just call me Littlefinger?!?

            1. Admit it you would burn the place down just so you could be Lord of the Ashes.

              1. What do you think I’m trying to do to H&R?

        2. GRR Martin Trek:

          Instead of mind melding with Spock, the Horta burns him to ash.

          The Gamesters of Triskelion don’t honor their deal with Kirk, they have him disemboweled.

          Nomad gets to Earth and kills everybody.

          1. I dunno, maybe in his children’s books. Kind of tepid for Martin. I mean, characters are still alive and stuff.

          2. House Kirk: Sigil, the Starfleet symbol and a naked Orion slave girl

            Words: I Don’t Believe in the No Win Scenario

        3. I think that’s what keeps Martin going. What beloved character can I kill in a horrific way next?

          What beloved character is dead?

    2. A man in a slow, downward spiral of cinematic intervention where in the end, he totally gets his way?

  10. I think this movie is going to be great because it reminds me a bit of the best Star Trek series, Star Trek Voyager.

    Nothing with JJ Abrams’ name attached has ever been bad (especially when you consider just how wonderful both Cloverfield and the final season of Lost were) and I think we can all agree that his last go at Star Trek created the best movie in the franchise. It was certainly better than that shitty Wrath of Khan LOL.

    The only thing that could possibly suck is the fact that they got that loser Benedict Cumberbatch to play the primary villain. That guy can’t act.

    Whatever. So long as it has the proper feminist message, it should prove to be a good start to a fun night.

      1. Damn. I was hoping to write the perfect anti-Epi post, and I left out deep dish pizza.

        1. Just ask the staff to edit your comment. They all hate Episiarch, anyway, so I’m sure they’ll do it.

          1. Hey, Reason staff. Will you add something about deep dish pizza and/or my belief in Tulpa’s intellectual prowess to that post above?

            I hear you hate Epi, so you might as well.

            1. Not yet, but let’s give them some time. I doubt they read every thread, so mention it elsewhere.

        2. Well, you did just call it pizza so, better late than never.

        3. Your failure is complete. You have learned ProL’s lessons well, grasshopper.

          1. I say we sit here and wait and see if Hit & Run edits the comment and adds the pizza. If they do, they hate you. If they do nothing, they hate you.

      2. Rookie mistake. That’s like leaving artisinal mayonnaise out when trying to troll sloop.

    1. So long as it has the proper feminist message

      Female crew uniform = short skirts?

      1. Kirk gets to bang multiracial girls.

        1. Interspecial, you mean.

            1. At the same time?

  11. What is the most libertarian episode. I suggest its “the Omega Glory” where Kirk recites the US Constitution in pig latin. Although, you probably could argue any of them.

    1. A Private Little War had a strong non-interventionist message.

    2. There aren’t any.

      The civilians in ST are either collateral damage or doing bad stuff. All good appears to emanate from the extremely paternalistic government.

      1. Yep… FEDeration? Get it?

        1. I suppose, but the Way to Eden was about libertarians. That should count for something.

  12. Watching it is like talking to a salesman who stops every 40 seconds to ask if you’re still with him, and then slaps you in the face just to make sure.

    So i take it I’ll have a barely controllable urge to punch the screen ~40 seconds into it.

  13. Querry: How much marijuana will I need to consume to make this movie good?

    1. Just eat a bunch of mushrooms and see how it goes.

      1. Well, you can be a hippy and eat stuff that comes from nature. I, as a civilized man, choose man made chemicals for my hallucinogenic experiences. That’s why I choose LSD?!

      2. Sure, spend half the time purging your guts out in the stall, and being half paralyzed when doing so, so when the glory hole wanderer pokes you in the neck and ear with his dick, you wont even be able to shrug it off. Hey, on second thought, that would probably make the movie more enjoyable.

    2. I’m going to guess the same amount that makes most of the series good.

    3. I’d just go with the pot and forget the movie entirely.

  14. Note the complete absence of posts by women in this thread…

    1. I dunno, I wouldn’t be offending Nikki with comments like that. Bad idea to piss off a woman.

      1. Ooops, sorry Nikki. 🙂

    2. THIS IS WHY THERE ARE NO LIBERTARIAN WOMEN.

  15. So in other words everything that made Star Trek a great series has been removed from this movie. Sigh.

    1. Consistent with the last film.

  16. Great review, Pete. No doubt I’ll enjoy it much more than this turdstain excuse for a movie.

  17. Co-worker referred to it as (and this is possibly the geekiest sentence ever) “A Star Trek expansion pack for the old Star Wars card game. The weird 90s version”

  18. I’m glad I don’t bother with reviews like this before I go see a movie.

    I just returned from seeing it for the first time and thought it was wonderful.

    As someone who’s had issues with Orci and Kurtzman for well over a decade now, it pains me to give them any praise, but they deserve it here.

    It was a wonderful combination of 2 classic Trek storylines with some nice twists thrown in.

    Was it perfect? No, I have yet to see anything that is. However, there were wonderfully emotional scenes and some damn funny bits of dialogue which helped to prevent it from going too far into melodrama (one of the major flaws with some of the earlier Trek outings).

    I laughed. I came as close to crying as I ever allow myself in public. I was thoroughly entertained – everything I go to the movies for.

    1. Have you ever considered that you have no taste?

      1. I’ve never seen this handle before. It is not even unlikely that a Hollywood PR outfit would counter negative reviews with fake ones inserted into the accompanying blogs for damage control purposes given Suderman could cost them up to a few thousand butts in the seat.

        1. You’ve never seen this handle before, because there was no other way to reply to this review than to create one.

          Some of us are simply able to make up our own mind without requiring someone else to do it for us.

          I wish enjoying a movie automatically meant receiving a paycheck. I’d sign up for that in an instant.

          1. I make up my mind about the important things. Things worthy of my time. Pete is a smart lad, and on something as trivial as Hollywood retreading 1950’s science fiction plots for the thousandth time, I’m sure he wont lead me stray on whether or not it deserves notice.

      2. Have you ever considered the same?

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