Rollicking Star Trek Into Darkness hits as much as it misses
Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Benedict Cumberbach. Rated PG.
In fiction, or so I have heard, there are only seven basic plots.
In the self-contained genre that is Star Trek, there are even fewer. Counting Star Trek Into Darkness, the series has reworked at least three variations of its masterpiece, 1982's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, in which Kirk and the intrepid crew of the USS Enterprise must go to the edge of death—or beyond—to subdue a powerful, vengeance-crazed foe.
In this case, the foe is John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbach, attractively bulked up from his signature role as the best of the current Sherlock Holmeses), a renegade Starfleet officer who has committed an act of terrorism in London that results in a summary death order being issued by the senior Admiral.
Having lost friends in the attack, Kirk (Chris Pine) follows Harrison deep into Klingon territory. Spock (Zachary Quinto) reminds Kirk that execution without trial is murder; Scotty (Simon Pegg) asks when the Starfleet ditched scientific exploration in favour of military agendas.
Will Kirk carry out his orders as a dutiful member of the service? Or will he rebel, dig out the truth, and get it done his own way, because he's Kirk?
I'm not bothered that STID traffics in formula; Gene Roddenberry consciously patterned his opus after contemporary Old West series. However, for those of us who have basically memorized the Trek movies to date, the numerous callbacks and references tend to make the universe seem oddly familiar and narrow. It may be a case where the filmmakers, contrary to the online rantings of the Trekaliban, are actually a little too respectful of the Original Series canon.
The insider baseball stuff aside, the movie is a rollicking action event. It is vividly shot and graced with strong performances from a deep cast (Zoe Saldana might be the biggest star in the bunch, playing Uhura as clingy girlfriend; the Bechdel test is not passed). A well-made, somewhat serious-minded adventure flick is a rare thing, even one that does not seem quite as deliciously new as J.J. Abrams's 2009 reinvention—which is merely to say that it is not my new favourite popcorn flick of all time.