Friday, May 24, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

Rating: 4.5 Shurikens

Star Trek Into Darkness is the sequel to the first Star Trek movie based on the original Star Trek television series. It was directed by J.J. Abrams, whose previous work includes Super 8, Cloverfield, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and of course the aforementioned Star Trek.

Chris Pine is Captain James T. Kirk, Spock is played by Zachary Quinto, and McCoy is played by Karl Urban, who played Black Hat in the movie Priest, and also Dredd in the 2011 version of Judge Dredd. The entire crew from the first movie in what promises to be a series of several returns to its places on the Enterprise. Simon Pegg, of Shaun of the Dead fame plays Scotty, Zoe Saldana is the beautiful Uhura, John Cho plays Sulu and Chekov is played by Anton Yelchin, who played a major role in Terminator Salvation. John Cho played in several Harold and Kumar movies, prior to becoming Sulu on Star Trek, most of which were pretty stupid, although quite popular.

The movie begins with Kirk and McCoy running from the inhabitants of a planet which they are trying to save from volcanic destruction. In violation of the Prime Directive, they risk making themselves known to the natives. Spock is actually in a volcano, with a device that will freeze it and save the planet. In spite of some difficulties, they manage to save the planet, but the natives see the Enterprise, which means that the Prime Directive actually is violated.

When they get back to Star Fleet Headquarters in San Francisco, Earth, Kirk is debriefing with Admiral Pike, played by Bruce Greenwood, a veteran actor with many credits. Greenwood's resume includes parts in Super 8, I, Robot, and National Treasure: Book of Secrets. Kirk glosses over the earlier events, but finds out that Spock has followed the rules and reported completely and honestly. Kirk ends up relieved of his command, and Spock is reassigned to another ship.

The scene shifts to a different Star Fleet Location, the Archives, in London, Earth. There, a Star Fleet officer, Thomas Harewood, played by Noel Clarke, is visiting a very sick child in the hospital with his wife. Clarke was on the Doctor Who series from 2005, for some fifteen episodes, as Mickey Smith, one of The Doctor's traveling companions. Anyway, the child has a debilitating illness, and is in a persistent coma. The officer and his wife are sad about their poor child, and a strange man offers them a cure in exchange for some action on the part of the officer. The strange man is a rogue Star Fleet officer named John Harrison, and is played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch plays the Necromancer in The Hobbit trilogy.

What Harewood does is carry an explosive into the archives, and then sets it off, causing a high crisis in Star Fleet. An emergency meeting of Star Fleet Command is ordered, and so Admiral Pike, who has assumed command of the Enterprise, and Kirk, now his First Officer are present. The meeting is proceeding with the highest ranking officer, Admiral Marcus, revealing some details about the man who caused the explosion in the first place. The meeting is interrupted by an attack on the meeting place, which is in a high floor of a skyscraper. The attacker flies a helicopter-like vehicle, and shoots up the place, killing several people. Needless to say, Kirk plays an important role in stopping the attack.

Admiral Marcus is played by Peter Weller, who was lead in Robocop and Robocop 2. Weller also played in the Star Trek: Enterprise television series. He survives the attack, and restores Kirk and Spock to the command of the Enterprise. Then he sends them on a secret mission to Chronos, the Klingon homeworld, to catch Harrison. The rest of the movie does depend a lot on what happens on the Klingon planet, so I can't really say any more after this point. You have to see it yourself.

Someone commented somewhere that this movie is limited in plot, seeming like just a series of events leading to the end. I think whoever said that was not a real Trekkie. The story is a retelling of at least one original episode of the TV series, with elements of at least one of the first Star Trek the Motion Picture sequels. I don't even want to name the antagonist, who by this time everybody knows. There is also a reference to someone with the middle name of Noonian which I think reaches into Next Generation territory. There are lots of references to Star Trek lore, although some are not exactly as seen originally.

Star Trek Into Darkness is a fun, action-filled and thrilling movie. It has a lot of good acting, and as I said, a lot of Star Trek history wrapped up in it. It is good and long, as I like movies to be. To me, Quinto does a really good Spock, although I wish he had more bass in his voice. Pine is adequate as Kirk, nowhere near as entertaining as William Shatner. It is tough to follow Shatner in the role of Kirk. My favorite is Urban, who really does an amazing Dr. McCoy. He nails it.

As far as the villain, I am underwhelmed by the acting of Benedict Cumberbatch. He does too much enunciating and his mouth movements seem strange as a result. Also, the Russian accent of Anton Yelchin is contrived, at best, and sometimes sounds like he is doing a French accent. I cringed a couple of times when he was speaking.

Another negative, in my opinion, was the part where Kirk was flying through the debris field in his spacesuit. It was exciting, but the amount of debris present at that location in space was not explained by events leading up to them arriving there. The Enterprise had sustained substantial damage, but there was way more stuff floating around than could have been part of the Enterprise, or of the ship it was in battle with at the time.

So, three little flaws. But overall, the movie was a good investment in terms of a ticket and the time in the theater, and the popcorn and drink. I enjoyed it, and would definitely recommend seeing it to anyone with an interest in sci fi in general, and Star Trek in particular. J.J. Abrams is a talent to be admired, and rarely fails. He is so good, that he is slated to work on the Star Wars third trilogy.

I give Star Trek Into Darkness 4.5 Shurikens for a great story, really good effects, and weaving the lore of the Star Trek into a complete experience. The few flaws are the only things to keep it from being a full 5 Shurikens. I  am looking forward to future episodes in this continuity.

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