Star Trek Into Darkness

 Star Trek Into Darkness was directed by J.J. Abrams who not only already has, but will continue to attract deep pocket producers and studios for big budget film projects. By 2016, Abrams will have helmed 3 Star Trek movies, one Mission Impossible film, and the next Star Wars: Episode VII. So we can say his name and game are working.

Star Trek Into Darkness opened Wednesday night, and I caught the Thursday morning show here in Sarasota. I saw the 2D version rather than the more costly 3D IMAX Experience – but strictly speaking, that was more of a function of timing than expenses. I must tell you that the last Star Trek film I actually went to was Star Trek: The Voyage Home, released in 1986 – and that event happened because of a chance encounter with actress Catherine Hicks.

So let’s get it out there up front. I’m not a devotee of the original TV series or the Star Trek films. However I will admit to spending more time watching Deep Space Nine as well as Babylon 5 than I did Star Trek. But back to Into Darkness.

As the film opens – I was immediately thrown off by a chase which seemed to be lifted straight out of the original Indiana Jones – you know when Indy is racing through the jungle pursued by the locals wielding spears and blow-guns with poisoned darts. Only we weren’t on Earth, and the indigenous people chasing them looked like the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, only with charcoal ash colored skin. While Captain Kirk and his crewman raced for their lives – Spock had some things to do inside an active volcano.

Yes – inside a working volcano. Hot, hot, hot it was, but Spock didn’t even get damp. Not to spoil anything, but this is just the first 10 minutes of the film so it all works out and that’s your opening which also included the USS Enterprise submerged on the bottom of the ocean like any atomic powered submarine.

I thought the Enterprise was a space ship – but hey, what do I know? From there we have no place else to go but up, both literally and figuratively.


And despite that somewhat less than awesome opening set piece, the film does markedly improve. The USS Enterprise hardware is great looking as are the CGI manifestations of London and San Francisco. The main players: Chris Pine as Kirk,

Zachary Quinto as Spock,


and Karl Urban as Bones looked and sounded very much like the originals. That means I give kudos for the writing and the casting, as well as the acting. Keep in mind that the looks are very much more suggestive than exact – but still; it is amazing when you see them in motion rather than just photo stills. Chekhov, Sulu, Uhura, and Scotty didn’t fare quite as well as the others.

Bruce Greenwood as Pike, and Peter Weller as Marcus played their roles well as written but the parts weren’t particularly well written in my opinion.

Which brings us to the villain of the film – sorry – it wasn’t the Klingons. They had a walk-on action scene and then we didn’t see them again. Benedict Cumberbatch (TV’s Sherlock) was excellent as the rogue Star Fleet officer John Harrison/Khan – who has been called indestructible and a one man weapon of mass destruction. Here he walked and talked and looked like a human, and took punches better than any punching bag known or yet to be devised.

In short, he was nearly invulnerable. It was more interest conceptually than it was visually. But I think they stretched the boundaries of credibility way too far with both Harrison/Khan as well the dramatics between Spock and Kirk.

At times I was put off by Spock’s rote recitals of rules and logic. While Spock did bore me , I thought they did a worthwhile job of exploring the depths of the friendship between Kirk and Spock.

Then there was Alice Eve as Carol Marcus. Quite an eyeful to say the least. And to be absolutely sure that we noticed – there was a brief scene of Carol changing into a Star Fleet uniform. She asks Kirk to turn around – but he was so intent on making his conversational point, that he could not stay facing the other way. When he turns – there she is in just a bra and panties.

I’m not objecting per se – but it didn’t seem very Star Trek-ish, and was such a brief moment that basically it wasn’t needed. And all along I kept saying – who is this woman and where have I seen this actress before? Well as I was leaving the theater it came to me – she played Sophia who married Vinnie Chase at the end of the Entourage series.

There are a lot of things I coud bring up which would probably fall under the heading of nitpicking, and/or I just didn’t understand the significance, like that fur-ball critter, and that probably stems from not being much of a Star Trekker. I do admit to being amazed by how well Pike, Quinto, and Urban resembled their original counterparts – yet at the same time I felt that this was somewhat distracting on my overall enjoyment of the film. Meaning I kept thinking of the old originals rather than focusing strictly on what was before me.

I think that for those of you who have been a follower and fellow traveler of Star Trek in all of its film versions, and series spin-offs, you’re in for a good time. However the film does not deliver the same excellent thematic punch for those less well-traveled in the Star Trek world. This is not the same as saying that the film is lacking in either style or substance, or action and thrills, or even seriously good acting – because it does have all of the above.

If Captain James Kirk can say those unforgettable words (once again) – Space: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the star ship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before – I can only add – if you know these words by heart – then for sure, get yourself to your local movie house, and sign on for the next voyage. Four point zero.

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