Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
8/10 Executive Decisions
Boldly going where we’ve already been before. But not really. But kinda. You know what, who cares? It’s awesome.
Star Trek Into Darkness picks up with Captain James T. Kirk being stripped of his command after endangering his crew on what was supposed to be a routine mission. Adding insult to injury, a former member of Starfleet-turned-space terrorist has gone and leveled the Starfleet archives building in future London. Things just get worse from there, so worse in fact that they reinstate Kirk’s post on the Enterprise and give him 72 space nukes to overkill this traitorous bastard on the far edge of the galaxy. But as Kirk and Co. home in, they soon find that all is not as it seems on the final frontier.
I’ve never had anything against it, but Star Trek was a show that never really grabbed my interest growing up. Never knew a Trekkie who tried to show me the light, and at the end of the day, there just weren’t enough lightsabers for little Aiden’s liking. It just sort of existed for a long time in my life, that is until the summer of ’09.
Going in, I didn’t know what to expect from that Star Trek reboot, the most I was hoping for was a fun time courtesy of the guy behind Lost. By the time it was over, I was high-fiving strangers with a mile-wide grin and throwing up the Vulcan salute on my walk home through Harlem. Four years later, it remains one of the most (if not the most) entertaining time I’ve ever had in a movie theater, the movie by which I’ve measured every summer blockbuster since.
Star Trek of all things. Couldn’t freakin’ believe it.
So yeah, Abrams had his work cut out for him with this one. And though I still haven’t done my homework by giving the show a fair shake, you can bet your ass I read the Cliff’s Notes this time.
That’s right, boys and girls, for the first time in my life, I finally sat down and watched The Wrath of Khan last week. Not only was it as good (and surprisingly moving) as everyone always said it was, but given all that it has in common with Into Darkness, it was awfully nice to have the base of comparison. The only catch to the situation is how I go about comparing the two without giving things away in turn.
For the sake of avoiding spoilers, let’s just say that there’s no shortage of fan service in Star Trek Into Darkness. I can appreciate the appeal of throwing tribbles into the mix, but the more the story progresses, the more these nods to the source material start taking on a life of their own. For a majority of the movie, I was under the impression that it was more a reimagining than anything else. Just as he did with the whole Kobayashi Maru thing in Star Trek, it’s awesome to see Abrams create something that’s both recognizable yet new. The arguable downside to the situation is that it eventually starts to feel like a full-blown remake.
Not that it isn’t handled well enough, it’s just an easy road to take.
But all that aside, the fact remains that this was over before I knew it. The pacing here does not slow down and I couldn’t believe how the writers managed to keep raising the stakes to the heights that they did. Every other plot point is one of imminent life or death, each one carries an impossible solution, and before long, the flop sweats in my theater were well under way. It’s a freakin’ rush, man, and even though the wildest scene of the movie is oh so suspiciously similar to the wildest scene from Star Trek, there’s no use complaining about it. Familiar fun is fun all the same. Don’t quote me on that.
So yeah, the adrenaline rush most definitely comes standard and the good news doesn’t stop there. The other big perk of watching Khan was that I had a better understanding of the rapport between Kirk and Spock. Throughout all the space battles and plot twists, the friendship between these two makes for the emotional cornerstone to this story. I still think this new Spock is laying it on too heavy with the logic, even by Spock standards, but it’s nice to see them both get an equal an equal amount of time in the spotlight. After all, it’s that very friendship that ultimately made Khan so special.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about John Harrison, one of the best movie villains I’ve encountered in a while. Now, I appreciate Khan from Khan as much as the next nerd and there’s good reason why he’s widely considered the Enterprise’s greatest foe. But for all the terror he caused with his glorious pecs of steel, he was strangely flawed by his thirst for revenge given his superhuman intellect that he just had to remind everyone about. Dare I say he was one-dimensional, a quality that’s non-existent in John Harrison.
Since we’re already kind of but not really on the subject of Lost, Harrison reminds me a lot of Ben Linus, the best damn character to come out of that damn island. He’s the silver-tongued devil who’s playing all the angles before anyone else realizes there are angles to be played, and it’s a thing of beauty to watch him work his magic. He’s easily the most intriguing character of the bunch, and since that clearly wasn’t enough of an edge, the writers decided to give him superhuman strength to boot.
Did I forget to mention how fantastic Benedict Cumberbatch is? Lord almighty, does Cumberbatch destroy. Go watch Sherlock, you’ll get what I mean.
Although as caught up in him as we get and for all that he keeps us guessing ’til the end, the end felt a wee bit anticlimactic for such a daunting individual as this. Maybe it’s just me being the bloodthirsty bastard that I am, but it seems like Abrams decided that 10 was good enough just as he was about to turn things up to 11. Not sure what that was about.
Then again, bless his little heart for giving Peter Weller some much-needed work. The world is seriously lacking in the Peter Weller department.
Keep in mind, this is all coming from a relative ignoramus when it comes to all things Star Trek. At the risk of incurring the wrath of fanboys near and far, the general consensus on the last movie was that it resonated just as well with fans and outsiders alike. From what I’m hearing about this one, the reaction hasn’t been so universally groovy. Apparently some folks are miffed that Abrams has strayed too far from the roots of the franchise and turned it into something that would make Gene Roddenberry turn over in his space capsule. And while there’s only so much that I can attest to this claim, I know enough to dig where they’re coming from.
That underwear scene with Alice Eve? You trippin’, Damon Lindelof.
But as someone whose fondest memory of Star Trek was a reboot from a guy who’s now responsible for Star Wars, I had myself a damn good time. It’s not going to stick with me like the last one did, but that was to be expected. Experiences like that don’t come around too often. Still, as over-complicated as it gets, I like that I enjoyed this entry for a lot of the same reasons as the last one. And as far as memorable villains go, talk about a quantum leap from the likes of that jerk Nero.