Another overblown blockbuster from the J.J. Abrams factory. Star Trek Into Darkness features many cliffhangers, explosions, phasers, photon torpedoes and other Trekkie lore – and it also assimilates incidents that echo 9/11 into the plotting. This is to make it relevant to today’s earthly times, one supposes. Well, I for one want to swallow back my own puke. That Abrams doesn’t do anything wise with the War on Terror topicality is what makes me ill. It’s just cannon fodder for Abrams to fuel his action “ideas.”
The Gene Roddenberry characters have such a legacy that it’s hard not be at least a little charmed by the camaraderie, especially between Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine, with a sly horndog wink) and Mr. Spock (Zachary Pinto, peerlessly pokerfaced). When Kirk saves Mr. Spock, it’s a call for some serious hair-pulling (or ear-yanking), when Spock gets Kirk into trouble subsequently for breaking regulation on a hot-red volcano-active planet (the movie’s best sequence). Something more surprising, if grievous: Communications Officer Uhura (Zoe Saldana) seems to have a deeper liking for Mr. Spock than I ever noticed before.
The central villain this time is John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch, British baritone), the more-than-man who devises a fatal bombing at an archives gallery that cost civilian lives followed by a helicopter attack at fleet HQ’s. Note: A civilian man whose daughter’s life is saved in exchange for assisting in the bombing – the surviving wife and daughter’s story is abruptly dropped. John Harrison (such a bland name, I’m happy to report he is revealed another name in a plot twist), has an agenda. There are seventy men or so like Harrison hidden in capsules, whom he would like to unleash. Kirk’s predicament is to whether to negotiate or not with this criminal. The action moves across galaxies, or vectors (whatever you want to call it), to the planet Kronos. This is Klingon territory, where the movie screen often shakes and rattles.
With the teen-spirit and aliens fantasy “Super 8” it appeared as if Abrams was trying to ape Steven Spielberg. But now I think he’s trying to echo another idol. With the gravity-defying “Mission: Impossible III,” “Star Trek” reboots and upcoming duty with “Star Wars” sequels, it’s more evident Abrams wants to ape and out-geek George Lucas, a.k.a. super-geek. Like Lucas, Abrams pummels us with backstory, references, episode lore, nonsense excuses like “the shield is down” anytime he needs to milk phony suspense. The rest of the bobbling images and digitized clutter is Abrams own trademark. There is also a near death by radiation which is eradicated by geek science, i.e., theoretical science that wouldn’t work in any reality now or possible future.
The worst offense is a climax which has the U.S.S. Enterprise, and another ship which I’ll leave nameless, crash-heading back to Earth in what is a too eerie, and totally gratuitous allusion to the 9/11 planes hitting the Twin Towers. I like my Mindless Fun, like most Americans, but when Abrams interpolates loaded imagery with shallow symbolism of this nature, I’m not smiling. “Plan 9 from Outer Space” (1959)… now that makes me smile simply because it has in retrospect a morality to it, albeit a polar opposite to “Star Trek.”
With Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy, Simon Pegg as Scotty, John Cho as Sulu, Anton Yelchin as Chekhov, Bruce Greenwood as Captain Pike, as well as the under-used Peter Weller as Starfleet Admiral Marcus and Alice Eve as Science Officer Carol Wallace.
123 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
ACTION & ADVENTURE / SCI-FI MYTHOLOGY / FRIDAY NIGHT BLOCKBUSTER
Film Cousins: “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (1982); “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” (1984); “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (1986); “Star Trek” (2009).