Swift shot: The next chapter of the J.J. Abrams helmed Star Trek franchise doesn’t fail to deliver on the action, sexiness, or gut-wrenching drama you have come to expect from this incredible director. All of your favorite characters are back to boldly go where no man has gone before. (Screw you, PC police . . . it was meant to be man, and ‘man’ it will stay in my review!) Some things should remain intact, even in an alternate reality.
Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) are an odd couple in this universe, with both more or less tolerating one another yet grudgingly admitting they are a fantastic team. And from the moment the action starts, we are given a glimpse of how each views their duties. Spock is always logical and by the book, even at great personal risk, while Kirk is always a seat-of-your-pants type leader. This film changes those roles to a certain degree, as Kirk is betrayed by Spock and loses his command of the Enterprise. Now, if you thought that was a spoiler – DO NOT go beyond my Red Alert line below, because there are so many things in this film that are just far too easy to spoil.
After some major convincing, Kirk is allowed back on the Enterprise under Admiral Pike, but his tenure is short-lived as a nefarious terrorist, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) has destroyed the Starfleet Archives in London. No doubt a subtle tip of the bowler to Cumberbatch’s roots. Harrison is a formidable opponent of Starfleet.
Kirk is put in charge of a top-secret mission to bring the Enterprise to the edge of Klingon space (where Harrison is believed to be in hiding) and fire a set of experimental long-range stealth torpedoes at Harrison and then go home and drink some scotch. That’s the plan, but this is Abrams folks – you don’t really think it’s going to be that simple do you? Kirk, Spock, Uhura and some defrocked “red shirts” manage to capture Harrison at great personal cost. Also, they kinda blow the whole “top-secret” aspect of the mission . . . and disobey their original orders. Kirk disobeys a lot of orders, it’s kind of his thing, in ANY universe!
Admiral Marcus, the mission’s architect is none to pleased and decides to rendezvous with Kirk to voice his displeasure, but turns out the Enterprise has a stowaway on board, Marcus’ daughter, Carol, again, not a major spoiler! Marcus is played by RoboCop himself, Peter Weller, and his blonde daughter by Alice Eve. You may recognize Alice from her other Sci-Fi role as the young Agent O in Men in Black III. Her character plays a crucial role in Kirk’s destiny, but not how you might be thinking.
Things rapidly go from black and white to gray as words like morality and honor take on a double-meaning. As the Federation stands on the precipice of a great war with the Klingon Empire, there are those vying for a glory-bound campaign and others determined to avoid war at all costs. There are arguably some stabs at previous administrations in the film, but I didn’t find them overly annoying. Suffice it to say that if you want to find politics in this film, you won’t have to look hard. But, there are so many great things and greater characters, with Chekov, Bones and of course Scotty and his weird . . . “companion.” All the one-liners you are hoping for are again thrown into the mix as the tension is built up to a 10 on the butt-pucker factor! Or, a 10 on my patent pending Thrillometer!
Again, ILM (if I have to tell you who that is, it doesn’t mean anything to you anyway) lend their talents to this Star Trek film, and the attention to detail is again breathtaking and spectacular. Back when those words actually meant something, ILM was shattering their definitions! With Star Trek Into Darkness, they really outdid themselves. I got to screen it in 3D which was a bit of aaaallllllll riiiiight!
There are some crucial things that happen in Star Trek Into Darkness that “flip the switch” on the past franchise, but to get into that, you need to delve into the Red Alert section below – because there will be major spoilers ahead! If you don’t want to be deprived the joy of experiencing everything as it unfolds, and/or you are Dr. Sheldon Cooper, this ends your read. For many reasons that you have to see to appreciate, Star Trek Into Darkness is a must watch film! And, as it is a major popcorn flick, you need to see it in theaters . . . there is no excuse not to!
***RED ALERT*** – Spoilers below
Ok, you have been advised, you proceed now at your own risk . . .
This film takes a literal exploration of its sister sequel, The Wrath of Khan. In fact, Khan is the primary villain, as he manipulates just about everyone into reckless danger. Where The Wrath of Khan is known for many famous, often quoted, lines – Into Darkness delivers the same lines with not-so-subtle changes. Perhaps a character you were expecting to say a famous line is uttered by another, equally important, character. But, even my spoiler section isn’t going to divulge that. Just know that the entire film is a dedicated parallel to The Wrath of Khan. And just like when Ricardo (Fantasy Island) Montalban played him, Cumberbatch is vicious and unrelenting in his desire for revenge. Perhaps his vengeance is a bit weak though, as Abrams only dabbles in the back-story of why he is so determined to see Marcus die.
Maybe letting us actually see Marcus’ betrayal would have made Khan a more sympathetic creature. Perhaps his vengeance would have been justified? Also, Abrams attempted to make the argument that vengeance doesn’t solve anything. Ok, but ending the film like he did, a year after the attack where they go off on a five year mission might have made sense in our known Star Trek universe, but in this new reality . . . not so much. As the film ends, Kirk [The Federation in other words] has led an incursion into Klingon space and killed a patrol there. Vulcan is gone, and the enemies are very much at the gates. So to go on a noble five year fact-finding mission makes little, if any, sense. Maybe it is the warrior in me, but the ending was weak, and Kirk’s final moment at the podium about not seeking adventure and vengeance are all well and good until you hear these words . . . “Klingon bird of prey ahead, Captain!” Now what?