Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
★★★ / ★★★★

In order to save the destruction of a planet with primitive inhabitants, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew must render a volcano inert prior to eruption via cold fusion. But the success of the mission hinges on the denizens of Nibiru not seeing anything that will irrevocably change their beliefs and way of life. As usual, Kirk is unable to abide by Starfleet’s directives completely, this time for moral reasons, and so he is demoted to First Commander. But not for long. A man named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) executes an act of terror in London.

Colorful, thrilling, with surges of humor when least expected, it is difficult to deny that “Star Trek Into Darkness,” directed by J.J. Abrams, has a very high entertainment value. I was regaled by it mostly because something is often galloping across the screen. It is strongest, however, when the action takes a backseat and the screenplay allows the characters to catch up to one another–and we to the plot while being reminded of the actors’ chemistry–through conversations. The kinetic action pieces are impressive but only a few are indisputably memorable. Such an imbalance is not present in its predecessor.

I relished the interesting villain. Harrison is wonderfully played by Cumberbatch, exuding the right amount of intrigue and menace often simultaneously. I appreciated that Cumberbatch is willing to make his character look ugly by scrunching up his face, for instance, in the attempt to express a small percentage of rage that his character compartmentalizes. There is great drama whenever Kirk and Harrison duel with words and mind games, the former always finding himself trying to catch up to an opponent who is consistently ten steps ahead. We know that Kirk’s usual tactics–being brash and relying on luck–will be ineffective against this mysterious enemy.

When Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) fight, it is refreshing and funny; when they are affectionate, one is likely to wish to get out of the room. I craved a more meaningful exploration of their relationship. With Spock, half-Vulcan and half-human, always being so logical and not attuned with his emotions, surely Uhura is more frustrated than what she is shown to be. Instead, at times she comes across moody rather than someone who is genuinely concerned about the relationship she values.

One of my favorite scenes in the previous film involves Kirk and crew diving through the atmosphere and onto a drill’s platform that is only about twelve to fifteen feet in diameter. Here, it offers something similar–and more daring–as Kirk and another character are ejected from the U.S.S. Enterprise to a neighboring ship. To enter the latter, they must fit through a hole that is barely six feet in diameter. Before getting to the entrance, though, they must make their way through debris while traveling at high speeds. I shifted in my seat out of worry, dread, and excitement. I imagined Spock’s voice declaring the possibility of failure each time something goes terribly wrong.

“Star Trek Into Darkness” reaches some emotional high notes. Most interesting is the father-son relationship between Kirk and Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood). When the camera is up close on the actors’ faces during their characters’ quieter moments, such as the scene that takes place in a bar, one can get a glimpse of a universal relationship. This one just so happens to take place in a future full of sensational space adventures.

Many of us have at least one person in our lives who believes unconditionally in our ability to break the barriers and make a difference. But, since they are often there to act as a safety net when we fall, there comes a point when we end up taking that person for granted. I think that is key in Kirk’s evolution. Since he is still learning, surely there are more adventures to be found just beyond the next horizon.

4 replies »

  1. I like both entries of the new Star Trek but I actually enjoyed this even more. I liked Benedict Cumberbatch. He didn’t play it over the top and flamboyant but he was threatening. I’ll admit some of the relationship squabbles between Spock and Uhuru were a little soap opera but in a film this exciting, I’ll forgive the flaws. Great review!

    P.S. I might be mistaken but I don’t think the purpose of their mission in the prologue was to stop the volcano. That was Spock acting on his own. It was a last minute decision. Kirk was upset he did that. They were there merely to study the culture.

    • I share your sentiment toward Cumberbatch. Due to the likelihood that there will be a third film, I wouldn’t mind if he’s is in it, with a small or big role. I enjoyed the way he played his character–with seething anger but able to keep his cool–so I think he’s a great fit to the franchise.

      Ah! You might be right. I’ll reserve changing what I had written after I watch the movie again on DVD. This time with subtitles. (I rarely go–and prefer not to go–without.)

  2. This movie is at the top of my “biggest disappointments” list for 2013. As you acknowledge there’s a lot of good stuff going on in this movie, but it never came together for me, largely because of the action scenes. They felt extraneous and devoid of any real jeopardy or tension. And that stupid fist fight between Khan and Spock almost had me yelling at the screen. I want to see Spock outsmart the villain. I don’t need to see him punch the villain in the nose. Totally lame. The first movie got the balance of action movie tropes and sci-fi movie tropes right. This one failed. That said, I liked the story and character elements enough to score it 3 out of 5.

    • I rolled my eyes at the hand-to-hand combat, too. It feels lazy, resulting to an action scene like that. The whole last 15 minutes rubbed me the wrong way, actually.

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