Star Trek Into Darkness

What It Is

Star Trek Into Darkness begins with a proverbial bang: Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is on the run from a group of bipeds, chalky-faced and primitively dressed, while Spock (Zachary Quinto) is lowered into a volcano. Each faces his crisis as he is wont: Kirk dashes and leaps and barks orders into his communicator, Spock sets up the super-high-tech contraption with which he means to stop the volcano before it destroys the very population who is now chasing after Kirk. The Prime Directive is at stake.

To save his friend, Kirk violates the Prime Directive, which, by the way, is already in the process of being violated by Spock’s intervention in the volcanic eruption. Stripped of his command of the Enterprise, Kirk now wrestles with a vexing question: when must rules be followed and when does morality trump following the rules? The rest of this second installment in J.J. AbramsStar Trek reboot pursues variations on this question as Kirk and Spock face a new enemy, a former Star Fleet officer turned apparent terrorist, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), who attacks Federation facilities and then hightails it to Kronos, the oh-so-odious Klingons’ planet, where he waits to be found by Star Fleet.

Of course Kirk is the one sent out on this mission, his command reinstated by Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller), who arms the ship with a collection of 72 photon torpedoes he instructs Kirk to shoot at the “unpopulated area” where Harrison is not exactly hiding. The plot’s allusions to the hunt for Osama bin Laden expand when Kirk, egged on by Spock’s rational argument as well as moral arguments made by Bones (Karl Urban) and Scotty (Simon Pegg), decides not to decimate the area but instead to embark on his own Seal Team Six-style mission, attempting to capture Harrison and bring him “home” to face legal justice.

This effort leads to several confrontations, including a few between Kirk and Harrison, who soon reveals himself to be not a human former officer at all but a villain well known to fans of previous incarnations of Star Trek, both the TV series and the first round of movies. Because Star Fleet has for so long described its mission as exploratory and not imperial or martial (thus the Prime Directive), it’s bad news when Harrison’s disclosure underlines its increasing militarism, a militarism articulated by Marcus and opposed by Kirk’s mentor, Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood). Now Kirk and Spock need to sort how whether to follow bad orders or resist. You can guess which option they pursue, each for his own reasons.

Why It’s Fun

The film is full of great visual compositions, not necessarily enhanced by the 3D, but not reduced by it either. The CGI images of the ships in space are top notch, nicely framed and colored, crisp and convincing.

If the story becomes convoluted and the action noisy, the film remains mostly focused on the characters and questions that shaped Gene Roddenberry’s series way back in 1964, when it took up political issues — racism, nuclear weapons, class differences, democracy, militarism — in entertaining forms.

Who’s Going To Love It

Fans of the first Abrams Star Trek movie may be pleased or annoyed that this one is a lot like that one. It features the same character configurations: Spock and his girlfriend Uhura (Zoe Saldana) engage in the same debate they did before, namely, that she (being the communications officer) wants more communication, and he, being a stoic Vulcan, chooses to contain emotion and also expression of emotion. Bones asserts his opinion using colorful metaphors, Sulu (John Cho) is precise, and Scotty — along with his temporary replacement in engineering, Chekov (Anton Yelchin) — worries that he won’t be able to muster the power he needs from a ship under fire, and then does it anyway, at the last minute, of course.

While it’s heartening to see that a new woman character has been introduced, the weapons expert Carol Marcus (Alice Eve), we might all look forward to a day when the very diverse crew of the Enterprise opens up to allow women to do more than look very nice.

What To Be Aware Of

Early in the film, Captain Pike dies, more or less in Spock’s arms, at which point Spock melds minds with him, and sees how frightened and angry the noble man feels at the moment of his death. the scene includes tears and also Kirk’s rather too dramatic wailing. It is sad, though.

The film is chucky full of apparent terrorist attacks and loud battle scenes, as the franchise embraces the usual summer blockbuster format, a series of explosions, chase scenes, and even a big one-on-one fistfight at the end, set atop a flying metal platform so that viewers might wonder whether someone will fall off. These action scenes include human bodies slamming into walls or crashing through glass, burning in fires or suffering injuries.

When Scotty (temporarily) quits the Enterprise, he drowns his sorrows in a bar, where he drinks and laments with his little buddy Keenser (Deep Roy).

Language includes a couple of “damns” (courtesy of Bones: “Damn it, Jim, I’m a doctor not a torpedoes engineer!”) and also sh- words, one cleverly cut off by the swish of an Enterprise door, and at least one heard full on.

See-It-Again Points

6 out of 10

Film Information

Star Trek Into Darkness
Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Benedict Cumberbatch, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Peter Weller, Alice Eve, Leonard Nimoy
Studio: Paramount
Year: 2013
Rated: PG-13
US General Release: May 17, 2013
UK General Release: May 9, 2013
Official Website
Official Trailer
Movie Pictures


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