Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

two and a half

Sorry for ruining the plot line for movie review rookies and trekkies alike, but Benedict Cumberbatch plays an absolutely fantastic Khan. He is a scene-stealer, in the most basic definition of the term. Every scene that Khan (or John Harrison) has been written into is an audience pleaser. In fact, I would have much prefered director J.J. Abrams to have re-written the entirety of “Star Trek Into Darkness” into a strange universe where all characters dress and speak as Cumberbatch would; in this case, I would simply request that all characters are actually played by Cumberbatch. Imagine hundreds of little Cumberbatches, marching around, spouting off superior wisdom and intellect, and making everyone else on-screen–who are also Cumberbatches–feel stupid and inferior. If only Abrams was able to recognize this idea as a money maker before he went ahead with this sequel. As much as I hate to solidify actors in my mind as only one specific or familiar character–in this case, Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes from the stunning, and critically acclaimed BBC series “Sherlock”–I honestly couldn’t help but do so. That’s my Cumberbatch fanboy rave, and it’s finished; I promise you.

Moving on, “Star Trek Into Darkness” picks up in medias res as the admired, and beloved bag of tools, Chris Pine’s interpretation of Captain Kirk, runs for his life, while being chased by the natives of some odd, and overtly color-corrected to be blood red, planet. Imagine Harrison Ford running from the native cannibals at the beginning of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and you are closely envisioning the same concept. Within the next fifteen minutes or so, Spock (Zachary Quinto) detonates some liquid nitrogen bomb (except it’s not; it has a much fancier name, because this is Star Trek) and saves the entire planet from destruction, due to a volcanic eruption of apparently planet-ending proportions. Of course, it’s not that simple, because plots need complexity. In fact, Spock nearly sacrifices himself to save the strange pale, humanoid, cannibal aliens. Kirk dives deep into the ocean and uses turbo flippers to jetpack to the USS Enterprise. It’s a convenient device; I couldn’t help but think of “Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace” during it (rest in peace Jar Jar).

So this all happens, and to make a long story short, Kirk breaks some Federation rules about aliens not being able to see spaceships (go figure), and Spock has to report them, so once more, the two of them are at odds, and before you know it, Kirk loses his ship, and Spock gets reassigned, but don’t worry, because it all gets fixed and screwed up again within twenty minutes.

I hate to reduce hours and hours of screenwriting to a puny paragraph that barely scratches the surface of what the writing team tried to do here, but to be blunt, “Star Trek Into Darkness” is what it is: a summer action blockbuster. However, take it with a grain of salt, because I do believe there is some heart to this blockbuster. This isn’t another “Transformers,” ladies and gentlemen (although this film is very pretty to look at). Something that a lot of these summer explosion films seem to lack is character development. Now, this obviously isn’t “Reservoir Dogs,” or “The Godfather,” but by golly, I will argue with anyone that “Star Trek Into Darkness” is completely reliant on our allies on-screen, making it highly character-driven.

I enjoy our time with Kirk, even though he’s a womanizing, irrational little twerp. He has a few dazzling moments, but he seems to shine during his conversations with Khan. Perhaps it’s not so much Pine here, but instead the light reflecting off of Cumberbatch and falling onto Pine. In all seriousness though, there is some wonderful dialogue between the two of them.

I should also mention that Quinto does indeed continue to play a fascinating version of Spock. No one on earth is Leonard Nimoy, but if I had to pick someone to dopplegang him, Quinto would make the top of the list. Sure we understand that Spock is a Vulcan and he can’t truly feel emotion. Most of his couple’s banter with Uhura (Zoe Saldana) is quite entertaining, despite a seemingly forced moment earlier on. Audiences should feel a deeper connection to Spock this trip around. There is one moment in particular towards the end of the film where Spock stares deep into Kirk’s soul and eyes. They are separated by a glass barrier, and it is here that the two of them share an emotional instant. Spock looks onward towards Kirk, and it is indeed this scene that sums up the total of Spock’s ability to feel. Throughout his life–outside of the destruction of his planet–Spock has always seen human emotion as if he was a visitor in a zoo; able to be an onlooker and voyeur, but never actually able to participate. An advantage and a disability, I’m sure. This moment in the film is captured beautifully in my opinion, and truly stands out as a powerful message about the expression of emotion.

"Live long and prosper."

“Live long and prosper.”

The remainder of characters in the film are noteworthy, but not worth writing about for the purposes of this review. I will mention Simon Pegg as Scotty, simply because I adore his humor, and I think he is a marvelous comedian. Also Peter Weller, who you may know as Stan Liddy from “Dexter,” plays Admiral Marcus (we always knew you were a slimy one, Pete.)

So my final impressions of “Star Trek Into Darkness” were favorable. I truly enjoyed it. It’s unfortunately not at all lens flare impaired. Actually, despite the amazing technology, if the USS Enterprise was physically created, I would refuse to board out of fear of losing sight in both my eyes as a result of the real-life lens flare. Furthermore, the script suffers from plot holes that are literally fixable using a warp hole. For example: our heroes are in a tight spot, just use warp speed. Problem solved. In other examples, it seems all too convenient to allow a character to die, only to have them rejuvenated by the blood of Khan himself. This feels lazy to me, and we get into a whole metaphorical argument about how the enemy was actually the key to victory the whole time, and he didn’t even know it, but I digress.

“Star Trek Into Darkness” is fun. It’s summer. What else are you doing? Go catch it before it’s gone.

Oh, and Alice Eve plays an absolutely pointless role with a lingerie scene. Might be one of the most useless eye-candy characters written into a story I’ve seen since any “Transformer” movie. She serves no purpose. As soon as the writers trick you into thinking she might prove to be of value, she gets teleported somewhere else, and continues to show us just how incompetent she is. They always say “break a leg,” and Sherlock breaks hers, so good riddance.

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