Saturday, May 18, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)


I am not a Star Trek purist so I will provide limited commentary on the merits of the series reboot and the mighty convenient back-in-time plot device that allows for an entire new future for all of the same and familiar characters.  For those who think the idea sacrilege, at least you get a new Star Trek story to kick around and more ammunition to use in your debates about new vs. old.  Oh, there is a lot of old.

The omnipresent debate and battle of wills between Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) is the dominant theme woven throughout the action-heavy Star Trek Into Darkness.  Kirk leads by the seat of his pants and acts according to his gut, which is the most illogical leadership method Spock can think of.  Settled in earlier films, the punch line is that the two Star Fleet officers complement each other and combined make the perfect Captain for The Enterprise.  Into Darkness just provides a few more scenarios for this obvious fact to sink in.

After a splashy Raiders of the Lost Ark beginning with angry natives chasing Kirk, he deliberately chooses to break the Prime Directive.  Has any Star Fleet Captain ever followed that pesky rule to the letter?  He would have gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for that goody-two-shoes Spock – the man whose life he saved.  This cues up about two hours worth of morality and ethics-driven philosophy discussion; they even have time to argue about it during volcano explosions and one-on-one hand combat with bad guys.

At least the personality differences between our two leads has more screen time than an awkward sub-plot involving relationship difficulties between Spock and Uhuhra (Zoe Saldana).  To its discredit, Into Darkness mostly ignores The Enterprise’s key supporting crewmates including Sulu (John Cho), Chekov (Anton Yelchin), and Uhura, but Scotty (Simon Pegg) gets some time in the limelight.  Bones (Karl Urban) is unfortunately becoming more of a caricature of DeForest Kelly than an actual character as his cast mates are achieving.  This is not his fault as an actor, screenwriters Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof are choosing to write him this way.  Quinto is especially good as the new Spock and John Cho surprises with just a glimpse of what Sulu is capable of before the movie goes back to ignoring him.

Even Zachary Quinto is outshined by the best actor out of them all though, Benedict Cumberbatch.  Known almost exclusively as Britain’s new Sherlock Holmes, Cumberbatch finally gets his chance to play Moriarty for once.  As the film’s main villain, Cumberbatch is ice cold, brilliant, baritone-voiced, and steals every single scene he is in.  I would have liked a bit more brains than brawn in this area, excluding a tense ship-to-ship human luge while dodging space debris.  Solving problems and certain death again and again using fists instead the mind is more in the Jason Bourne arena than Star Trek.            

Cumberbatch and Quinto are really the only reasons I give a positive review to the film.  The score is atrociously melodramatic and over-the-top to the point of distraction and the production design, specifically The Enterprise’s bridge, is ridiculous.  The bridge would be too neon for the Vegas strip.  However, seeing what London and San Francisco look like in the year 2259 is well done.  Star Trek is all about looking up and out into the unknown; however, these brief glimpses of two major future cities are more than intriguing. 

The script latches onto a reliable and effective villain, cheats on character development except for Kirk and Spock, and contains multiple references to contemporary issues.  The most blatant of these is the ongoing debate concerning drone strikes.  As expected, Kirk is all for launching justice-serving revenge attacks from afar while Spock advocates for arrest and trial.  I suppose they’ll have to compromise and meet in the middle once again – just like they always do.

Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Written by: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Benedict Cumberbatch, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Peter Weller, Alice Eve

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