Captain’s Chair, Captain’s Scars: Star Trek Into Darkness

Copyright © 2013 by Paramount Pictures.
Copyright © 2013 by Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions.

J.J. Abrams–who revitalized the Star Trek franchise and is expected to do the same with Star Wars in a few years–has come back with a sequel for the new voyages of the Starship Enterprise.  A tale of terror, broken faith, and desperate courage called Star Trek Into Darkness.

After a violation of the Prime Directive, James T. Kirk (played by Chris Pine) temporarily loses command of the Enterprise.  However, the emergence of a rogue agent named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) spreads chaos through Starfleet as he attempts to take revenge for a betrayal committed against him and his crew.  With allies like Spock (Zachary Quinto), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), and the alluring Dr. Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) at his side, Kirk will go from one end of the galaxy to the other to pursue Harrison and bring him to justice.  Yet this road leads to a tangled web of intrigue at the heart of the Federation, forcing Kirk to choose between his loyalty to Starfleet and his loyalty to the people under his command.

At the heart of this film is Kirk’s relationship with Spock, both on a personal and allegorical level.  Kirk is constantly getting into trouble for attempting to rescue his friends from danger and abandon Starfleet regulations in the name of doing what’s right; Spock would rather follow the rules and keep his cool than put others in jeopardy.  However, it’s deeper than that.  This film essentially is about desperation and putting your faith in your ideals and in your crew to the test.

Copyright © 2013 by Paramount Pictures.
Copyright © 2013 by Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions.

But to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t watching this film for Kirk and Spock, though their story arc was well-written and nicely acted out.  For me, the absolute highlight is Benedict Cumberbatch’s character, whose true identity may surprise you (if you wish to avoid spoilers, do not click on the link).  He is an interesting blend of superhuman feats and cold intelligence that masks a deep-rooted savagery.  Even though he’s supposed to be the main villain, there’s something fascinating about watching Harrison in fights.  He’s arrogant because of his augmented genetics and yet loyal to his crew.  He has Kirk’s passion, Spock’s intellect, and absolutely no conscience.

Unlike the first Abrams-directed Star Trek film, Into Darkness has a lot more action, about half of which works nicely in 3-D.  In fact, the quiet and dramatic moments are surprisingly rare, and even then, they don’t always feature dialogue.  But the action is the raison d’être for this movie.  The best parts include the firefight on Kronos, the battle with the USS Vengeance, and the epic brawl near the end in San Francisco.  The stakes are higher than they were in the first film, but it’s not a bad form of sequel escalation.

It’s hard for me to say if I like this film as much as the first film of the Star Trek reboot series.  It’s like the producers were just remaking Wrath of Khan with less talking and more space battles.  It’s typical high-action melodrama, but it’s still fun high-action melodrama.

Star Trek Into Darkness is currently in theaters, and available through Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions.

Bibliography: Star Trek Into Darkness.  Directed by J.J. Abrams.  Produced by J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Damon Lindelof, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci.  Written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof.  Perf. Chris Pine, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zachary Quinto, John Cho, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Alice Eve, Bruce Greenwood, Peter Weller, and Anton Yelchin.  Bad Robot Productions, K/O Paper Products, Skydance Productions.  Paramount Pictures.  US release date: May 16, 2013.

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