Epic. Engaging. Familiar characters and masterful acting. “Star Trek: Into Darkness” has something for everyone.
Even if you’re not a “Star Trek” fan and even if (ahem, what is wrong with you?) you’re not entirely clear who Gene Roddenberry is or why Capt. Kirk looks so much younger in this movie than pop culture implies, you’ll appreciate this sci fi thriller.
I toured the blogosphere this weekend and found a number of reviewers decades younger than me — many of whom admitted never seeing a television episode of the iconic ’60 series — who enjoyed “Star Trek: Into Darkness” very much, so I feel confident saying director J.J. Abrams did a good job luring a new audience to the “Star Trek” franchise.
And as an ardent fan of “Star Trek” (aka “Trekker” not to be confused with “Trekkie”) who even dressed as a Klingon once, I loved the latest cinematic outing. I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me. Not kidding.
This is as much a review of “Star Trek: Into Darkness” as it is an analysis. DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER if you haven’t seen the movie and you want to experience it in all its glory. Find another reviewer who piques your interest without giving away plot points. This one is for insiders only.
I saw the movie in 3D on an IMAX screen, and I was enthralled. It was worth the extra admission. There is so much action, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. Amazingly, most of the action is not gratuitous but actually important to the story. I loved the scenes as the Enterprise is plunging into Earth’s atmosphere and wreaking havoc on the gravitational systems. That’s how it is on spaceships — sometimes the ceiling is the floor. You never would have seen that in 1967.
Portraying one of the greatest “Star Trek” villains ever couldn’t have been easy, but Benedict Cumberbatch pulls off Khan Noonien Singh for a new generation. Between his portrayal and the writing which shows Khan to be multi-dimensional — Kirk pressing him into duty as the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” was brilliant — I appreciated his nuanced and diabolical performance.
I was a little irked, however, that the real bad guy turned out to be the Adm. Marcus, but maybe I’m mad because it’s a little like finding out Obama’s IRS is harassing the Tea Party — that’s such a Nixon move. Do all our leaders have to sink to underhanded shenanigans and reveal their human frailty? Is this what is meant by “Into Darkness”? We have seen the enemy, and it is us? It reminded me of the first “Mission: Impossible” movie when trusted Jim betrays Ethan. Such a predictable plot twist. Ugh.
Still, no one will remember who plays the admiral. Everyone is talking about the new Khan. But more than Cumberbatch’s performance, I admired Zachary Quinto’s Spock. Sometimes, I could hear Leonard Nimoy’s voice as he spoke, but he wasn’t just copying someone else’s performance. He made Spock his own, even more than he did in the 2009 “Star Trek” movie that introduced all the young versions of our favorite characters.
And the scene with Spock watching Kirk die after he saved the ship — a tribute to the same pivotal scene in “Star Trek: Wrath of Khan”? Masterful. The old dialogue, flipped on its head, then updated as Spock helplessly watches Kirk die instead of the other way around.
Some die-hards hold up 1982’s “Wrath of Khan” as a better movie, and I agree. Here’s why. Spock died. There wasn’t a happy ending. It was like life. Life doesn’t always tell neat stories. The way “Into Darkness” brings Kirk back from the dead — “super blood”? really?! — was dumb. Abrams had to do that so audiences wouldn’t exit the theater on a sad note, but, I’m sorry, it wasn’t as theatrical as having to spend all of “The Search for Spock” returning his katra to his reanimated body. But I guess that’s how we are nowadays (oy, there’s that phrase). Back in my day, we didn’t have stem cells. We had to do things the old-fashioned way. We had to bring people back from the dead with dangerous and mystical Vulcan ceremonies with strange names like fal tor pan.
Anyway, back to “Into Darkness.” Besides the sometimes outrageous turns requiring us to suspend judgment (come on, if you can buy “warp drive,” you can buy “super blood”), I thought the movie pulls the audience through some amazing emotional territory — humor included, we even had Klingons! — and I enjoyed it. Because of the respect for what’s gone before, I’ll look forward to whatever bold things Abrams & Co. does with this “Star Trek” reboot.