Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) has saved his first officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) from the heart of an active volcano on the planet Nibiru. Doing so has exposed the indigenous population to the sight of the massive starship Enterprise rising from the depths of the ocean, violating the United Federation of Planets’ Prime Directive to not interfere with in the development of primitive alien societies. This breach of the rules gets Kirk demoted to first officer with command of the Enterprise returned to Admiral Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) and Spock transferred to another starship. Meanwhile, a shadowy figure named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) approaches a young Starfleet officer promising to cure his sick daughter in exchange for a favor. That favor is blowing up a building in London housing a secret Starfleet weapons development facility. Harrison is a Starfleet officer attached to the shadowy Federation intelligence division known as Section 31. An emergency meeting of Starfleet command officers in London to discuss the bombing is itself attacked by Harrison in a small gunship. Several of the officers in the meeting are killed including Pike. Kirk is able to stop the attack but watches Harrison transport out of his ship before it crashes. A device found in the wreckage shows Harrison has beamed himself to the Klingon home world of Kronos. Kirk, put back in charge of the Enterprise, is tasked by Admiral Alexander Marcus (Peter Weller) with going to Kronos and firing newly designed photon torpedoes at the region of the planet where Harrison is hiding. This is an act of war against the Klingons and, if caught, Kirk and his crew will be left to fend for themselves as Marcus and Starfleet will claim no knowledge of his actions. Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg) objects to not being told everything about the torpedoes being loaded onto the ship and resigns in protest due to his fear the torpedoes might cause a warp core breach. Ensign Pavel Chekhov (Anton Yelchin) is promoted to engineer in his place. Nearly at the torpedo launch coordinates, the Enterprise suffers a failure of their warp drive, stranding them in the Neutral Zone between Klingon and Federation space. After urging from Spock, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) and communications officer Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Kirk decides to change the plan from blowing up Harrison to capturing him and bringing him to Earth to stand trial for his crimes.
This review of “Star Trek Into Darkness” is going to expose my Trekker geekiness. I have been a fan of the franchise all the way back to the original series when it aired on NBC in the mid 1960’s. As a child, the adventures of the crew of the Enterprise fascinated me and made me long for the future when greed, war, hunger and poverty were things of the past and humanity worked together for the common good. As this movie shows, not all of mankind’s weaknesses can be eradicated with technology, peace and plentiful food. “Star Trek Into Darkness,” the 12th film in the franchise and the second film of the J.J. Abrams rebooted universe plays up many of the best aspects of the series and films; namely the personal interactions between the primary characters and the grandeur of space flight in the 23rd century on the big screen.
Without giving away too much of the plot and annoying everyone who hasn’t seen the film with spoilers, I enjoyed the story very much. It has a combination of mystery, suspense and humor. Some of that humor comes from knowing what some of the references mean in relation to either the series or the movies; however, most of the humor is accessible to anyone who watches this film. The relationships between Kirk and Spock, Kirk and McCoy and Spock and Uhura are the source of many of the film’s lighter moments. McCoy’s ever present pessimism is front and center in Karl Urban’s performance as the ship’s doctor. An interspecies lover’s quarrel between Spock and Uhura also provides some levity in a scene that could have been either overwrought or just dull. And when the two big dogs, Kirk and Spock, have trouble with each other, it creates both tension and laughs as the emotionless Vulcan and the emotional human clash over following the rules. This may be one of the most character-driven entries in the Trek franchise.
While I enjoyed his performance as John Harrison, I’m not sure Benedict Cumberbatch was the best choice for this film’s villain. Cumberbatch can certainly play the steely, focused and dedicated terrorist role to perfection; but there were other aspects of his role, which I shan’t mention to avoid spoilers, that seemed lacking or missing entirely. Harrison’s quiet menace didn’t seem to fit with what the character was supposed to represent. Perhaps I’m bringing too much baggage to the role that isn’t fair to the actor; but I still think someone like the originally considered Benicio del Toro might have been a better fit.
Other issues I have with the film are related to my aforementioned Trekker geek quotient. The timeline of Star Trek, which has been out of whack due to events in the first film, was really fubared in this movie. Events that shouldn’t have happened yet are talked about and are major points in the plot. While I have fewer problems than most about what J.J. Abrams has done with Trek canon, some of the things done in this film will stick out for a fan. Also, the Enterprise cannot travel through the atmosphere. Its design isn’t aerodynamic in the slightest. The warp nacelles would be ripped off by wind resistance and the deflector dish would probably be the first place the heat of reentry would melt through the hull. Since it cannot fly through the atmosphere, it cannot hide under water. Also, as I mentioned in my review of the first reboot film, the engineering section of the Enterprise looks like a water treatment plant. It should look like nothing I’ve ever seen before as warp technology is as yet non-existent. Instead, the engine room looks like a place where the stuff you flush down the toilet goes.
“Star Trek Into Darkness” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence. There are numerous fist fights with a little bit of blood. We see the after effects of a high-energy weapon on a body it cuts in half. There’s no gore other than what your mind imagines would be present. Several people are shown being shot and dying in the Starfleet meeting. Foul language is scattered and mild.
I could go on all day about how J.J. Abrams and his team have made changes to the Trek universe that I’m not particularly happy with. What I am happy about is having Trek in some fashion on the big screen. While I was a big fan of having the continuity be largely consistent across the all five series and all the movies, I’d rather start over with new canon than have no new Trek at all. If he must monkey with the history of the future, then at least Abrams gets points for doing it in an exciting and entertaining fashion.
“Star Trek Into Darkness” gets five guitars.
More new films come to the multiplex in your neighborhood this week, including two sequels of popular series. Vote for the next movie I see and review.
Epic—When a teen age girl finds herself magically transported into a secret universe in the forest, she must band together with a rag-tag team of fun and whimsical characters in order to save their world…and ours.
Fast & Furious 6—Fast cars and violent men come together once again as Dom, Brian and the rest of the crew are reunited by Agent Hobbs to battle a gang of ruthless mercenaries in exchange for full pardons for all of them.
The Hangover Part III—The Wolfpack returns to the scene of their first adventure, Las Vegas, to find Mr. Chow and recover $21-million for a new and much more dangerous criminal.
Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film of his choice currently in theatres.
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