5/23/2013 - Get more Kirk, more Spock and just enough Benedict Cumberbatch in Star Trek Into Darkness, a mostly fantastic second entry in J.J. Abrams’ rebooted Star Trek franchise.
Captain James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine) of the starship Enterprise breaks all the rules, takes dangerous risks with his ship and beds not one but two lady-aliens who have long, monkey-like tails. He is, in short, Kirk-ing it up. Spock (Zachary Quinto) meanwhile is cool and logical, even when it comes to his own life or death — a fact that annoys his girlfriend, Uhura (Zoe Saldana). Spock gets on the bad side of Kirk as well when he (Spock) files a report that leads to Kirk’s losing his position as captain. Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood) is going to take over, Kirk will be his first mate and Spock will be reassigned. Of course, quicker than you can shout “spoiler alerrrrrrrrrrrrrrt!” at the heavens, events overtake these plans. A man named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch — and, yes, I just wanted to write his full name again for the musicality of it) commits two acts of, oh, let’s just call it terrorism, and Kirk and the Starship are tasked with putting an end to him, drone assassination-style. See, Harrison is hiding on Kronos, home world to the Klingons, who are thisclose to war with the Federation. If the ship goes to the edge of the neutral zone and sends a few predator drones — I’m sorry, “photon torpedoes” — to Harrison’s location, maybe they can take him out without provoking a war.
But dammit, Jim, that’s not how Federation due process works. So once again Kirk disobeys orders — which might not be as reliable as they first appear — and heads to Kronos to capture Harrison and bring him back to Earth for trial.
Yes, this is probably more War on Terror discussion than you were expecting in your sci-fi action extravaganza, but for the most part Into Darkness pulls it off. It maybe gives the movie a little heft without getting in the way of the big action set-pieces that Abrams knows he needs to deliver. And if the intrusion of modern politics and some of the “but why would they bother to do X”-type plot holes it creates is at times something you will fast forward through when you watch this movie on DVD, it’s still OK. I can forgive this movie for a few frayed edges. I could forgive this movie a lot — there is a glee to these proceedings and a lot of nods to Trek-lore (“Damn it, man” and Tribbles and “the needs of the many”) that come together to make the movie loveable even when it drags. And then come the movie’s final 30 or so minutes that are so perfect they improve, in retrospect, the roughly hour and a half that came before. I won’t go into detail, I will only say that fists were pumped, “yipees” were squealed.
I do not think you have to be a serious Trekkie to enjoy the movie (I am only a part-time Trekkie, as evidenced by the use of the word “Trekkie”). The Spock/Kirk bromance is well-constructed and the two actors have a kind of chemistry that makes their deep friendship believable. In fact, Quinto’s Spock has excellent chemistry all the way around — with Pine’s Kirk, with Saldana’s Uhura and even with Cumberbatch’s villain.
The rest of the original crew is nicely drawn as well: Sulu (John Cho) has never seemed so badass and Scotty (Simon Pegg) gets one of the more fun scenes. Maybe it’s how Pegg approaches the role or maybe it’s on purpose, but his Scotty is almost an audience Mary Sue. Only Bones (Karl Urban) and Checkov (Anton Yelchin) are left without a lot to do but they still help to round out our familiar gang.
Star Trek Into Darkness does the update of well-loved characters right, paying appropriate respect to the universe people know while still finding plenty of ways to be innovative and unexpected. Perhaps there’s hope for those new Star Wars movies yet. B+
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science fiction action and violence. Directed by J.J. Abrams and written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman & Damon Lindelof, Star Trek Into Darkness is two hours and 12 minutes long and distributed by Paramount Pictures.