“Star Trek” is one of those properties with such a rabid fan base that every new movie/show/book feels like it’s predestined to fail. To the uninitiated, Trekkies seem like a group that can never be satisfied regardless of what’s done to please them. Some find such devotion intimidating and instead of joining the party, choose to avoid anything “Trek” related, altogether. The truth is, people are passionate about “Star Trek” and don’t want to see it treated carelessly. So it was somewhat surprising that when director J.J. Abrams rebooted the franchise in 2009, he was not only able to satiate the old fans’ hunger for a new film, but also attract people who’ve never heard of a “Tribble”. Now, four years later, the sequel “Star Trek: Into Darkness” flies into theaters. Can Abrams again appeal to both sides of the lunchroom or will fans be divided by his treatment of the beloved sci-fi series?
The film rejoins the crew of the Enterprise on a mission to the planet Nibiru. As Spock (Zachary Quinto) extinguishes a giant volcano that will surely wipe out all life on the planet, he finds himself facing certain death. Not willing to let his friend die, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) violates the Prime Directive and flies the Enterprise into full view in order to beam him to safety. Naturally, this gets Kirk into a bit of trouble with Starfleet and Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood) takes back the Enterprise. Of course, Pike still fights to keep Kirk aboard as his first officer because in these new “Star Trek” films, he must continuously earn back his Captain status. Shortly after, a secret Starfleet intelligence building in London is blown up by rogue agent John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). As an emergency tribune is held to discuss the manhunt for the suspect, Harrison ambushes the meeting, severely crippling the Starfleet chain of command and flees to the Klingon planet Kronos. With Pike unable to effectively lead the Enterprise, Kirk is reinstated and sent on an “off the books” mission to secretly enter Kronos and apprehend the fugitive without ever alerting the hostile natives to their presence. Easier said than done.
The script, written by Damon Lindelof, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman challenges friendships, destroys starships, has twists, turns, double crosses and death. There again are nods to the original series (both TV and film) using the alternate universe plot device from “Trek” ’09 and even a cameo by Jean Luc Picard. Just kidding (Sorry, Mr. Stewart.) Some may want to argue (imagine that) this is more of the same, but with the exception of Kirk’s demotion, it’s really just consistent with the reboot. Sure Pine’s Captain Kirk is a little rougher around the edges than Shatner’s original portrayal – their timelines were altered! New Kirk grew up as a delinquent without a father, whereas Kirk 1.0 was likely disciplined as a child.
The same goes for the plotlines of Star Trek 2 and Star Trek: Into Darkness. Again, a split plane of existence – a story that would’ve happened in the scheme of things, yet completely unpredictable because of the events at the start of the series’ relaunch. No, you couldn’t ask for a smarter loophole to dodge the ire of Trekkies everywhere. Yes, they’re still going to hate. Anything from casting choices to story details (including the decision to go with this particular antagonist) will be unfairly and unrelentingly picked apart, because at the end of the day it comes down to selfishness. Fans don’t want to share. Either you join the club or you don’t, but there’s no reason the secret society should open its doors to all.
At the end of the day, however, it’s hard to argue that the movie isn’t entertaining – especially in an IMAX 3D presentation. Eye popping visual effects, a glorious soundtrack by Michael Giacchino and a sound mix that is so far, the closest thing to sounding like a summer event movie that I’ve heard yet this season, make “Star Trek: Into Darkness” a must see. I still believe the Enterprise crew is impeccably cast, perhaps the best casting of a reboot ever and Benedict Cumberbatch as Harrison is outstanding addition to the lineup. The guy is always questionable – what are his motives? Who’s side is he on? He’s cool, calculating and cold… almost to the point of non-human. A terrific actor playing a terrific character and completely owning the role. Another fine add is the gorgeous Alice Eve as Carol Marcus, who on another plane of existence went on to birth Kirk’s only son. If I were Kirk, I’d take advantage of the alternate timeline to make as many babies with her as possible.
“Star Trek: Into Darkness” earns 3.5 of 4 angels. I had a hell of a good time with this film and as they say in the hip-hop community, “Haters gonna hate.” But so far it’s the finest movie of the Summer. It’s this simple: If you liked the first one, you’re going to like this one. If you weren’t keen on “Trek” ’09, then you’ll likely feel the same here. Love it or hate it, you’ve got to hand it to J.J. Abrams and company for taking on this intergalactic uphill battle… and living to tell the tale.