Monday, May 20, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

J.J. Abrams and a highly talented cast of actors increasingly comfortable in their roles bring wit and humor to "Star Trek Into Darkness" and this new generation of "Trek" that elevates it well above the level of Shatner and Nimoy. The writing is so sharp here (credit Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof and Roberto Orci) that Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, et al. can generate laughs as big from the exchange of glances as of dialogue, raised eyebrows as raised voices.

The plot of "Into Darkness" isn't especially compelling or memorable, but it gains significantly from the addition of Benedict Cumberbatch (the breakout star of the BBC's "Sherlock") as villainous rogue Starfleet officer John Harrison. Still, it runs twenty or thirty minutes too long, producing occasional moments of boredom and devolving into the outright silliness of an extended fistfight in midair. The rest of the material is too strong for the fate of the Enterprise to come down to hand-to-hand combat.

But even when the story sags, there's always a hilarious bit of interplay between Kirk and Spock, or a little look from Zoe Saldana as Uhura, or an exasperated cry from Simon Pegg as Scotty, or a grumble of self-pity from Karl Urban as Bones. Abrams and company have brought life to a movie franchise that, while ahead of its time, had been thought of as past its prime. We were wrong; it's just now getting there.


  1. I also liked it very much. As a dyed in the wool Trekkie, who spent some of his earliest memories watching the original series with his father and who watched every animated episode more than once when they were first run on TV, the Abrams films are hard to watch. After the first film I spent literally months rolling through my mind the idea that Vulcan had been blown to pieces. It has been a wonderful opportunity for Abrams to explore an alternative timeline from the inside making the audience truly feel the pain of watching a Universe not unfold as it should. There is something uncomfortable about seeing Kirk experiencing the death and resurrection that had encompassed all of Star Trek's II and III, but it is also uplifting knowing that the central beliefs and feelings of these characters work to bring the timeline back to its true course after its unnatural upheaval. It was also interesting seeing Peter Weller brought from "Enterprise" playing a character similar in vein to the story line that never got properly played out as that series was prematurely cancelled. In many ways Lindeloff and Orci took bits and pieces of Trek canon and threw them into a blender to arrive at a point that the characters should have ended up in anyway, though with minor changes, for instance Carol Marcus written in to replace Christine Chapel. As much as the first film was a bit of kiss off to Trek loyalists, this was in many ways more of a love letter, taking many of the best scenes and moments of these characters lives and reminding us of why the crew of Star Trek were good people. Not perfect people, but good people, which is such a central part of Gene Roddenberry's character creations on "Star Trek" and "Have Gun Will Travel". He believed that good people faced hard choices and did the right thing whether it meant they would be caused pain or not and that the outcome may not always be desirable. The best thing that Star Trek can do is return to that sense of character. One of my favorite scenes was an old trope from Star Trek, the ship models on the desk. The first model being the V2 that Werner von Braun first sent into space (with all of the contradictions the image of a V2 engenders), then the Gemini modules, the NX-01 up to the NCC 1701. The funniest part ... watching Zachary Quinto chase Benedict Cummerbatch. Man can those hipsters run.