Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013) – J.J. Abrams

This is a summer blockbuster first and foremost.

Since Trek made the leap to the bug screen, they’ve had to eschew some of the material that inherently made Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek what is was when it was a weekly television show. After The Motion Picture, which I still love, the series began to shift to more adventure and action oriented films, leaving a lot of the social commentary that the series had done behind.

I’m not saying it was gone completely, but it was taken down considerably.

Which from a business angle, makes sense. Movies screening in a theater are about bums in seats, and you have to make the film appealing on the broadest levels. Consequently, there is a loss of some of the higher concepts to push more of an adventure story. Yes, we had Trek IV which was about our treatment of fellow species, V dealt ever so peripherally with the concepts of god and religion, VI dealt with the collapse of the Russian state and the end of the Cold War, but more often than not they were supposed to be an entertaining ride.

kirk_large_verge_medium_landscapeThat’s the tradition Abrams continues in the new series. With a script by Robert Orci (who is serving as exec producer on the IDW comic series, which for now are being treated as canon), Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof, Abrams sends our crew racing headlong into danger; there are hints of bigger ideas, but most of them take a sidecar next to the hurtling trajectory of the adventure.

I do hope that Trek finds its way back to the small screen for adventures, social issues and science again, but for now, I was happy to see the Enterprise on the big screen again.

But, it’s still not the high-minded ideals and concepts of Star Trek. It’s a ride. And a fun one.

There are nods to all manner of things, the continued use of the TMP uniforms for the admiralty, you can see models of Zefram Cochrane’s warp ship, and Archer’s NX-01 Enterprise on Admiral Marcus’ (Peter Weller) desk. There’s a brief reference to Harry Mudd, tribbles, Gorns, and of course Kirk’s (Chris Pine) legendary way with the ladies.

star-trek-into-darkness-chris-pine-bruce-greenwood-1After a fumbled, but successful mission that opens the film, resulting in Kirk violating countless Federation laws, particularly the Prime Directive, the Enterprise returns to Earth where Jim is raked over the coals by Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood).

At the same time, in London, Mickey The Idiot (Doctor Who ref) actually, Thomas Harewood (Noel Clarke) is presented with the opportunity to return his daughter to complete health, instead of the vegetative state she currently exists in, by the villain of the piece John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch).

After two devastating attacks, Kirk is given permission to hunt Harrison down… But is he just a pawn being used to further a darker agenda?

Karl Urban Leonard McCoy Star Trek Into DarknessThe film is fun, loud, tries to give moments to all of its characters, who have some wonderful interplay.

Karl Urban’s McCoy is still dead-on and he remains my favorite character in this new version of events.

Abrams makes good use of the 3D, especially when the Enterprise is being attacked by the Vengeance, and there is debris floating everywhere, there’s a really excellent use of depth of field.

The pacing is good, the script, as mentioned, is more interested in given a big space action film than commenting on anything, so knowing that going in may save some people grief…

I had fun with it, am looking forward to adding it to my collection when it comes out on blu-ray, but of course, we can’t really talk about the film without mentioning the entire second half…






Oh and I loved the score, I’ve been whistling Michael Giacchino’s themes for weeks, it’s amazing how quickly this one has fallen into my go-to tunes.

I love the fact that not only is Kirk raked over the coals, he’s demoted and loses the Enterprise,

star-trek-into-darkness-villain-benedict-cumberbatch-433x330The rumors had been spreading for a while about who Cumberbatch was playing, if you’ve heard them you know what I mean.

So when it was first mentioned that he seemed to be superhuman, and was working for the nefarious Section 31 (which first reared its head in Deep Space Nine). It kind of seemed obvious who he was, especially after he starts telling the tale of his crewmates in hibernation and how Admiral Marcus found him.

Everything begins to feel a little similar as we race towards the climax of the film, as familiar scenes, dialogue and moments begin to play out but in a completely new way. So for Trek fans they’ll get all the nods and variations (and some people won’t like it, and others will embrace it), where as there will be others who are coming into the theater for the first time, and seeing that these characters are willing to sacrifice themselves for one another, particularly Kirk and Spock (Zachary Quinto).

The film is chockfull of dialogue recognizable to fans, which some would say are ripped off, but I like to think of it as more of a mirror effect, there are things that will still have to be constant between the universes, incidents, character reactions, mentalities. So of course sometimes they say the same things, or variations there of.

Star-Trek-Into-Darkness-Carol-MarcusKirk’s sacrifice, after being finally made to realize how overconfident and arrogant he can be actually means something, nor is it lessened by the film’s resolution, as the seed is planted for it fairly early own, and of course Kirk doesn’t have the benefit of being able to transfer his katra.

I was a little angered by Pike’s death, though it does galvanize Kirk, I kept thinking about the Talosians and Vina. Which then led me to thinking about the imminent conflict that warhawk Marcus says is coming with the Klingons, apparently we this universe hasn’t come across the Organians.

The introduction of Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) as the new science officer, which rather bothers Spock is a nice touch, and it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out , especially as we know what happened between Carol and Kirk in the Prime Universe.

Section 31’s development of the massive Vengeance makes sense in the realm that this Trek universe exists in, they’ve been pushed into interstellar conflict by the arrival of Nero, so of course they’re going to be developing ways to safeguard the Federation. It’s not a happy thought, but it is also a valid point.

scottyScotty (Simon Pegg) gets some wonderful moments and I love that he brings up that they are supposed to be a ship of exploration, not war. Sulu (John Cho) gets a shot at the big chair, Chekov (Anton Yelchin) makes the perfect face when asked to put on a red shirt and go to engineering, and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) gets to kick some ass!

The themes running through all of the film is the concept of family, Pike and Kirk, Harrison and his crew, Kirk and Spock, Kirk and his crew. It’s watching what these people would be willing to do for those they love, for their family. Which is nice, but in the end, this still isn’t the Trek of any of the television series, but it very much is kindred to the theatrical films before it. It is a huge popcorn-filled romp of a film that will hopefully bring more fans to the series, who will then continue to explore the strange new worlds that the Enterprise sought out by going back and seeing how all of this began.

I’m even going back to see it again tonight in IMAX 3D!

The second viewing I enjoyed a little more, as I wasn’t going in with expectations this time, and some nice use is made of the IMAX format.


Have you seen it? What are your thoughts? Is this and the 2009 Trek your first introduction to the universe, if so, have you gone back and watched any of the classic shows?


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