‘I’ ON CULTURE
The new Star Trek: Into Darkness is a great fun ride of a movie. The action starts early; it opens with Kirk (Chris Pine) and Bones (Karl Urban) running through a wilderness chased by a primitive tribe, while Spock (Zachary Quinto) is dropped into an active volcano with a device to save the planet. The last of the action scenes ends about two minutes before the end. There is no time to stop and really think about holes in the plot, while the subtle salutes to previous Star Trek movies will make it a treat for old-time Trekkers (not Trekkies, please!).
A character using the name James Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) begins the action through a couple of acts of terror and flees to an uninhabited part of Kronos, the home planet of the Klingons. The Enterprise is sent to kill him using new long-range photon torpedoes. Spock and several others object to not using a system of justice, but Fleet Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) is clear in his intent. Kirk decides to capture Harrison, which leads to a lot of action, not to mention high-level betrayal. Some of us, of course, will decide that there is no way a government would actually take secret actions that would harm others and find it a flaw. As always, however, Kirk is a moral man who makes his own (often slightly flawed but correct in the long run) decisions.
There are, as mentioned earlier, great action scenes, including a close-in action against the Klingons, some brilliantly executed battle scenes as the Enterprise faces its doom, and twists and turns throughout. Harrison is not who he seems; as a matter of fact, he turns out to be someone that all Star Trek fans know well.
There are many of these past salutes to the great Star Trek past: Dr. Carol Marcus (a very beautiful Alice Eve) shows up in a pivotal role, and Leonard Nimoy as “old Spock” (you have to have seen the first of the new Star Trek reboots to understand that one) makes a brief appearance. There is also a lovely “mirror image” salute, a scene that does a switch on one of the most iconic of the great moments in Star Trek history, which moves us even as we recall its previous use.
The cast is excellent. Chris Pine makes a feisty Kirk; in this movie he faces up to moral problems, dealing with many moral and political issues. Quinto is again really good as Spock; his confession of why he “chooses not to feel” is worthy of Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the series. Zoe Saldana makes a fun Uhura. She is tough, funny and more vulnerable than is usually shown by the character. Simon Pegg is great fun as Scotty. Although he disappears for most of the central part of the film, he becomes pivotal at the end. John Cho as Sulu is appropriately solemn. Anton Yelchin as Chekhov provides an expert comic touch as he is assigned to replace Scotty.
Cumberbatch and Weller, however, really steal the film. Playing the two sides of the battle, both absolutely ruthless, they are a counterpoint of different views of terrorism. Neither man is exactly what he first seems. The script writers, doing an excellent job, provide a counterpoint. Marcus has secretly used all Starfleet resources to arm for a major war against the Klingons, and Harrison has his own agenda. Marcus, at first seems the kindly, although firmly moral, head of Starfleet. Harrison is something else again. But the two actors are both so strong as performers that they seem to take over the screen whenever they appear. And it works well within the script.
I admit to being a longtime fan of the series. I loved it back in the 1960s; it was one of the first series I went out of my way to never miss. It was a very different type of show than the movies we now see. The visual effects were cheesy and there was seldom much action, but I, like many others, liked the philosophical insights. In the movies, most of the discussions have been cut short since we already know what motivates the Enterprise officers. But the quickie discussions, mixed in between great battle scenes ranging from ship battles to a wonderful fight between Spock and Harrison in San Francisco, add immeasurably to our pleasure.
This is great summer blockbuster. If you like Star Trek, you’ll have a great time. And if you’re not that big a fan, it’s still a lot of fun.