STAR TREK – Into Darkness
BEWARE OF SPOILERS! I never reviewed J.J. Abrams first Star Trek (2009) film but I’ll just say that I thought he and the new cast did a fantastic job bringing the iconic pop culture sci-fi series into the 21st century. Amazingly they were able to keep the classic feel but also give it a modern twist that felt organic and was very entertaining. So what if J.J. loves those crazy lens flares? It didn’t take away anything from the film for me.
In the sequel, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise are up to their old tricks. Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) has led an expedition to a far off planet called Nibiru. There he and the crew are simply to observe the primitive inhabitants. Of course he pulls a Rambo and it becomes a full on rescue mission when a volcano is set to erupt and destroy the population. To stop it, the pointy eared, charismatic Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto) plans to sacrifice himself and set off a special charge that will freeze the lava and save the day. This opening sequence is thrilling and visually stunning as Kirk and Bones (Karl Urban) are chased by the Nibiru through large red alien trees. It completely reminded me of the tribe chasing Indiana Jones through the jungle in Raiders of The Lost Ark (very nice). Following their return to Starfleet HQ on Earth, Spock delivers his report detailing what occurred which only gets Kirk in big tribble with Admiral Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) who angrily demotes him and splits up the crew. Spock obviously doesn’t know the meaning of the word “secret” and it takes this error on his part to learn another lesson in being human vs. Vulcan.
When Starfleet gets word that a terrorist style bombing of an archive in London is carried out by a former Starfleet officer named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) an emergency meeting is held at Starfleet Command. Soon after it is attacked by a gunship manned by Harrison and Pike is killed in the chaos. Kirk is able to shoot down the craft but Harrison dissapears and is later located hiding out on the Klingon’s home planet of Kronos. Kirk is swiftly reinstated as Captain and given orders by Admiral Alexander Marcus (Peter Weller) to capture Harrison. This is where we are introduced to a new face, Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) who goes incognito on the Enterprise under another name. She is the daughter of Admiral Marcus and her reasons for boarding the ship are unclear…at first. Upon arriving near Kronos, Kirk, Spock and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) take a shuttle to the planet in hopes of bringing Harrison back without any real trouble. Meanwhile Sulu (John Cho) takes Kirk’s place on the Enterprise bridge, ordering Harrison to surrender or he will unleash 72 Photon torpedoes on him. Since Uhura knows the Klingon language she attempts to meet with the Klingons and explain why they are there. She is attacked for her trouble but suddenly Harrison appears and helps Kirk, Spock and Uhura escape the brutes. It’s apparent he has some kind of special power and can withstand harsh beatings amongst other things. He finally gives himself up and is taken back to the Enterprise. After inspecting the torpedoes, Bones and Carol discover that they are actually pods containing humans in a frozen state.
Harrison soon reveals himself to really be none other than Khan Noonien Singh, an advanced superhuman from Earth who was placed in suspended animation 300 years earlier along with others of his kind. After being found and re-animated by Admiral Marcus, he was secretly employed to help build weaponry including the imposing spaceship U.S.S. Vengeance to fight the Klingons who have been a constant threat to Starfleet and Earth. Khan was later betrayed by Marcus and this was his reason for his attacks. When Marcus discovers Khan has told Kirk about what’s really going on, he attacks the Enterprise and causes massive hull damage. Kirk is given an ultimatum: Take Khan to Marcus or have his ship be destroyed. Kirk’s plan is to use Khan to subdue Marcus and take control of the ship then return him to Earth to stand trial. This is where we get something really remarkable in Star Trek history: Kirk and Khan sort of teaming up on a little mission. Of course that coolness of the legendary foes working together doesn’t last long and things go really sour when after crushing Marcus’ head in Roy Batty fashion Khan turns his mad as hell wrath upon Kirk and his crew once again.
This installment in the series is really about false identity. All the new main characters (Harrison, Carol Marcus and her father) put on fronts which they use to carry out whatever plans they have. It’s almost an espionage movie in that sense which I think is super cool. When it comes to this franchise what is most important is the repoire between the cast members. You can throw all the SFX in you want but at the end of the day, the people are what create the real excitement and emotion. J.J. Abrams knows how to stay on that level and as a movie fan I appreciate that he keeps it his main focus instead of just overloading the stories with CGI. For me, the Star Trek cast are at their best when they’re delivering those comedic quips at each other. That was always a huge part of what made us love the Shatner era films so much. You get those catastrophic set pieces but also those highly emotional human moments that really pull your heart strings. Chris Pine is an excellent modern Jim Kirk and the supporting cast like Karl Urban, Simon Pegg and Zachary Quinto have some very funny scenes and dialogue that just makes you smile and laugh throughout the movie. It was a treat seeing Peter Weller back on the big screen. It seems like forever since he played one of my favorite sci fi heroes, Robocop. In that he was a kind hearted person, but with his depiction of the deranged renegade Admiral Marcus he really does a 180 and delivers a furious hateful performance and it was a lot of fun to watch.
This film was my introduction to actor Benedict Cumberbatch and I became an instant fan of him. I was really excited to find out Khan was in fact the main villain in this movie and his portrayal is superb and chilling. Cumberbatch does bring his own unique style to the legendary villain that I was highly impressed with. I really hope to see him in more movies after this.
The Wrath of Khan: If you’re a Trekkie, you most likely consider Khan to be one of, if not the best things to ever come out of the series. I’m a huge fan of both the Space Seed TV episode and the 1982 film starring Ricardo Montalban. For me, the original will always be the best version. Still, enough time has passed where I was open to seeing another take on that story. I loved how they flipped the script and gave nods to the older film/TV series but kept it different enough not to be a total carbon copy.
So take another journey into space with the gang of the Enterprise, you’ll have a blast!