Movies: Star Trek Into Darkness

…written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof; directed by J.J .Abrams; starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, and Benedict Cumberbatch.

How to take beloved pop-culture and sci-fi phenomenon from cold storage to the spotlight, by J.J. Abrams.  With so many reboots, reloads, relaunches, it’s easy to get cynical about these kinds of movies.  Just like it would be fairly easy to mash something up and deliver a financial success to the studio.  Fortunately for Trekkers and cineplex-goers, Abrams and company have continued along the brighter path with Star Trek Into Darkness.

 

Starting with a prologue that could have been a classic episode scenario, STID quickly re-acquaints us with the crew of the Enterprise.  Once again, we marvel at the effective casting.  Chris Pine’s Kirk and Zachary Quinto’s Spock continue their yin-and-yang dueling over the Prime Directive and the overall mission of Starfleet. The burgeoning not-quite-friendship of the two leads juxtaposed over a cliff-hanger action sequence with some excellent humor for good measure…  This is what STID thrives on, what makes the movie so much fun.

Kirk has yet to learn that his actions have repercussions, that his ‘the rules don’t apply to me’ mentality can jeopardize his career.  Especially with a First Officer who cannot help but file wholly accurate and truthful reports.  And so the Enterprise is in flux, when the villain strikes.  A surprise attack in the heart of Future London, a loyal Starfleet Officer compromised by the promise of a cure for his terminally ill daughter.  But why, who, how?

SPOILERS  SPOILERS  SPOILERS (as if everyone hasn’t already figured this out)

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It’s Khan, of course.  No, we don’t get confirmation until well into the second act; instead he’s portrayed as a mysterious renegade officer, John Harrison.  Khan/Harrison manages to attack Starfleet’s Council of Captains soon after his initial London assault, killing Kirk’s mentor in the process.  But using the ill-conceived long-range transport technology introduced in the last movie, Khan escapes across the Neutral Zone to the Klingon homeworld of Qonos.

Now Kirk has a vendetta and the Enterprise has a mission.  And here’s where the ‘Into Darkness’ moniker comes in:  Admiral Marcus (none other than Peter Weller) wants Kirk to navigate to the edge of the Neutral Zone, deliver an ultimatum to Khan, and then launch a battery of super-secret new photon torpedoes.  Clearly an aggressive move with the Federation on the cusp of war with the Klingons.  Clearly something is afoot.

The plot develops, interspersed with impressive chases and action set-pieces, as we learn more about Khan and his stake in all this.  A special tip of the hat to the writers, who not only mine the Khan storyline from both the original series and the legendary Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan, they pack in some cool Easter eggs and asides to the savvy Trekker, which only adds to the overall enjoyment.  The writing also provides more than a share of clever Trek humor, with Karl Urban’s Bones and Simon Pegg’s Scotty chomping up the scenery.

Cumberbatch is a formidable and sinister Khan, even if he doesn’t quite hit that high note of crazy we all recall from Ricardo Montalban’s portrayal of the character later in the chronology.  The sub-plot involving the Khan-Kirk duel of manipulation and subversion is particularly tasty.  If we had one complaint, it’s that the theme of the evil military once again finds it way into the root of the story.  It’s almost like a cliche with these big budget actioners – the Marvel Mythos movies, Batman, and no doubt this summer’s new Superman…  Can we give it a rest?

Nevertheless, we thoroughly enjoyed STID and remain hopeful for additional Trek movies involving this cast and creative team.  Sadly, the next one probably won’t include Abrams as the director.  J.J. has begun the even tougher task of resurrecting the Star Wars franchise.  Still these two Trek movies give us hope, for as long as he and his team work from the genuine affection and reverence for the source material, they clearly have the savvy to tell an excellent cinematic story.

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2 thoughts on “Movies: Star Trek Into Darkness

  1. I LOVED the homages to TOS. They did such a good job. Their easter eggs were stellar. I will say, I didn’t get the evil military impression so much as I got a warmonger vs. actual federation overtone, and I liked that. Like cops vs. rogue cops. I don’t know. The good guys and the bad guys were in the same camp, but it turns out not everyone under the federation banner is awesome. I appreciated that. But then… I guess Scotty does down on the military a bit… Ok. Maybe the evil military…

  2. I am a fan of the original Star Trek series… I do hope there will be more movies… some feel they ended the movie in a manner that leads to a tv series instead of a movie… any thoughts?

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