Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness Movie Review

Back in 2009, J. J. Abrams took on the tricky task of not only appeasing a notoriously judgmental fan base but of winning over a new generation of movie goers with a relaunch of the 1960's cult classic TV series, Star Trek. Four years later we get a much anticipated sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), and it's quite a ride!
The USS Enterprise and her crew have been sent to a distant planet to observe a primitive civilization. Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) violates the Prime Directive when the life of First Officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) is jeopardized, exposing the Enterprise to the planet's civilization during the rescue. Called back to Earth, Kirk is demoted to First Officer of the Enterprise with his mentor Admiral Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) resuming command. The two attend an emergency meeting at Starfeet Command to discuss the bombing of the secret Section 31 installation in London, perpetrated by former Starfleet agent John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). The meeting is attacked by Harrison who flees to the Klingon home world, Kronos, leaving Pike dead. Kirk is reinstated as the Enterprise Captain, and is given special permission from Admiral Alexander Marcus (Peter Weller) to hunt down and kill Harrison with 72 long-range prototype photon torpedoes. This violates several of Starfleet's usual codes of ethics. With some trepidation, Spock, Uhura (Zoe Saldana), "Bones" (Karl Urban), "Scotty" (Simon Pegg), Sulu (John Cho), and Checkov (Anton Yelchin) follow Kirk as he leads the way to seek out Harrison, the one-man-weapon-of-mass-destruction.
Into Darkness picks up where Star Trek left off. In the previous film, the character driven plot revolves around Kirk and Spock being at odds with one another. Now the two have found a means of working together. They still have polar opposite personalities, but now they have an understanding that Kirk is the captain and Spock is the first officer and should have Kirk's back at all times. Spock does have Kirk's back but "Vulcans don't lie" and sometimes when Kirk breaks the rules, Spock is obligated to address that. It's a logical progression of the two characters' development and we get to see how this interesting dynamic brings the two of them closer together as friends. This relationship is the heart and soul of Star Trek; the ambiguous compound of rivalry, warmth, and interspecies misunderstanding. There are plenty of other characters who are well developed and make significant contributions to the story; it doesn't exclusively revolve around Kirk and Spock. The whole Enterprise crew gets multiple moments to shine.
The visual effects are brilliant. There are massive explosions, outstanding chases, beautiful scenery created through CGI, and the sets for the interior of the Enterprise look amazing. I loved seeing the Enterprise go into warp, buildings collapse, and space ships crash. Everything was shown in glorious detail. There were no shaky cameras to obscure details, and we got plenty of wide shots to show the magnitude of the damage. Into Darkness spares no expense on its stunning visuals nor it's riveting action.
There's an interesting theme that lends itself to a cautionary tale of real world politics. Yes, Harrison is a great villain, but I think the real "enemy" is the prospect of war, or rather how to best handle the onset of war. Kirk and Spock represent the two arguments about war; what is expedient and what is right. They have specific orders that are not in harmony with Starfleet's values, and would probably start a war with the fearsome Klingons. Spock readily puts forth the counter-argument to the crew's mission to destroy the fugitive Harrison; aren't they morally obligated to capture the suspect and bring him to trial instead? Our heroes are often set upon by the dilemma of choosing between moral ideals and making hasty retaliations. We aren't necessarily given a specific answer to the question, but it should make the viewer think about their country's stance in the face of contemporary international conflicts.
I think Into Darkness has a few more Star Trek references from the old TV show and movies than the first movie did. If you're a hardcore Trekkie, you'll notice lots throwback references throughout the movie. There's even some classic Star Trek lines delivered in new and unexpected ways, which was a very creative implementation. But even if you lived under a rock and never watched Star Trek before, you won't become lost watching Into Darkness. I watched Into Darkness with a couple of non-Trekkie friends and the only thing they were confused about is what a tribble was, and that is at best a detail of miniscule importance.
Star Trek Into Darkness was incredibly fun. I didn't think it was quite as good as its predecessor, but it was a good solid movie. J. J. Abrams knows how to construct a good blockbuster with a perfect blend of incredible action and meaningful characters. We are shown an excellent script which brought us some good dialogue. The visual effects are gorgeous and detailed, the action is exciting and well presented, and the classic Star Trek references are delightful. This will keep old school Trekkies and noobz captivated and enthralled.  Star Trek Into Darkness is worth catching on the big screen, and is worthy of a blu-ray purchase once it becomes available.

There are plenty of Star Trek movies out. Star Trek Into Darkness is the 12th. Do you have a favorite? Comment below and let me know!

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