When J.J. Abrams rebooted the Star Trek franchise with 2009’s Star Trek, he gave the series a “do over.” Everything that Trekkies remembered from the original series had the potential of showing up in the new movies, but in a different way. That rewrite continues with Star Trek Into Darkness
The film opens with Kirk (Chris Pine) running from indigenous humanoids on a planet with red grass and white trees. He’s taken a scroll from their temple, and the inhabitants are not happy about it. Meanwhile Spock (Zachary Quinto) descends into an erupting volcano to set off a device that will derail the eruption and save the planet’s inhabitants. All the while the Enterprise has boldly gone where it’s never gone before in the series. Spock gets caught in the volcano where he’ll either be toasted by the magma or fused with the rock by the device. To save him, Kirk plays fast and loose with the Prime Directive, and creates a new god for the people of the planet.
Back on Earth, a Star Fleet officer (Noel Clarke) and his wife visit their sick child. Even with the advances in modern medical science, the doctors can do nothing for the girl. Then a mysterious Star Fleet operative named John Hammond (Benedict Cumberbatch) approaches the man with an offer to save his daughter. Hammond provides a transfusion that brings the girl back to health, but the price tag for this act of mercy is a stunning act of terrorism.
Kirk is busted from Captain for violating the Prime Directive, and it’s only through the actions of Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) that he remains on the Enterprise as first officer, with Pike back in the Captain’s seat. When news of what happened in London reaches Star Fleet headquarters in San Francisco, the commander of Star Fleet, Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller), follows set protocol and summons the senior officers to a meeting. Kirk realizes they’ve been drawn into a trap just moments before Hammond appears in a compact attack craft and begins strafing the room. Kirk manages to disable Hammond’s craft, but the terrorist transports before it crashes.
Marcus puts Kirk back in charge of the Enterprise and gives him the assignment to get Hammond, who has been traced to a planet in the Klingon system. Kirk is to go to the edge of the Neutral Zone and launch a massive attack of special long-range photon torpedoes to assassinate Hammond.
Much of the original series staying power was because it tackled contemporary issues from the perspective of the future. There was “The Devil In The Dark” where they find that a supposedly unthinking being that’s been killing miners on a planet is actually a mother defending its children whom the miners have thoughtlessly killed. “Bread and Circuses” had a parallel world where Rome never fell and was an interesting dialogue on belief and honor. One of the most powerful was “Let This Be Your Last Battlefield” with Frank Gorshin and Lou Antonio as half-black/half-white humanoids who let their prejudices rule them.Star Trek Into Darkness returns to the distant mirror philosophy of the original, with issues in the story that match news broadcasts today.
Abrams does keep the action racing along, and several sequences are beautifully choreographed to wring the most tension out of them. The movie does run a bit long, and there’s one twist that you see coming from a light year away. Overall though, it’s a worthy successor to the 2009 movie.
The returning cast is pitch perfect again in their iconic roles, though purists may be a bit taken aback by the openness of Spock’s relationship with Uhura (Zoe Saldana). There is a brief cameo by Leonard Nimoy when Spock seeks counsel from his older self. (If you haven’t seen the Audi commercial featuring both actors, it’s worth a viewing on YouTube.)
The new cast members meld in beautifully. Cumberbatch is excellent as Harrison (in case you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t say any more about the character) and it’s a blast to see Peter Weller, an actor who could read the phone book and give you the creeps, as Admiral Marcus. In a nod to the previous movies, Carol Marcus (played by Alice Eve) shows up as a weapons specialist, rather than the scientist in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. One crossover note: Noel Clarke played Mickey on “Doctor Who” for several seasons.
Trekkies should be rightly concerned now that Abrams had gone over to the Dark Side, agreeing to do the next Star Wars series for Disney. Here’s hoping that the series producers will find someone who can build on the new start Abrams gave this series and keep us trekking across the universe for many years to come.