I think I have used this term here before – a meringue movie; meaning a movie that is pretty to look at, but which has no substance. This seemed to me to be such a movie, and I am frustrated and disappointed by that.
This movie really did look good, and on a surface read it could be thought of as serviceable in terms of stringing some nice action sequences together, but if you want a story you might be left a little starved. Sure, there is one, but it is a little thin. The cast is good, great in fact, but the film seems to waste a lot of time. It seems like the film is almost uncomfortable with the fact that it doesn’t have the original Trek crew and spends a stupid amount of time given that the first film was supposed to do this, yet again making a case for Kirk et al’s right to be crewing the ship. Good – I got it, they are the crew of the Enterprise, they are rebels that do not play by the rules, and no shit, one of them is a Vulcan … alright, already, now please just tell us a story.
Benedict Cumberbatch and the big reveal of who he really is? What does that name mean if just taken in the context of this movie? Nothing – it relies heavily on the knowledge of his previous significance in other films, and how useful is that? To me as someone who has watched all the Trek movies? Not useful, because what they do with that information and how it is deployed, makes it something of a damp squib. For anyone coming to this movie fairly virgin, not knowing Trek lore (yes, these people exist) it had to have been a kind of “OH, and?” kind of reveal. So, he’s smarter than the rest of Starfleet, smarter than everyone in fact, and stronger, and how do we gauge this? He outsmarts people by blowing them up, and beats up some throwaway Klingons, and wrests control of a vessel from a slightly unstable Starfleet Admiral? It doesn’t seem that smart. And Kirk doesn’t seem that smart – he wins every situation by not doing what Starfleet would do. New Spock quotes old Spock, plays at being Spock in Spock drag; and adds something new to the mix by kissing really different feisty sexy Uhura.
Character development shackled to some narrative development divorced from referential reverential stodginess is much needed, and I hope movie three achieves escape velocity away from the gravity of the franchise that spawned it. It could be exciting, but damn, it really needs to be its own thing, and start really filling the boots instead of playing dress-up.