By KIRBY MCCORD
When the late Gene Roddenberry envisioned the television series “Star Trek” in 1966, technological and financial restraints kept action and special effects to a minimum, so he focused on the relationship between the three principal characters, and an idealistic view of the utopian evolution of human society. That formula stood the test of time achieving success in several incarnations, both on the big screen and on TV. When J.J. Abrams (“Super 8”) reimagined Star Trek in 2009, budget constraints were removed and splashy, exciting specialeffects filled the screen. While he maintained Roddenberry’s emphasis on the interaction between the characters, Abrams cleverly established an alternate timeline so he could develop them differently than the TV show; his vision of the future still paid homage to Roddenberry’s creation but in a slightly darker, scarier world. His second venture in the series, “StarTrek: Into the Darkness” continues down that path.
A terrorist attack has shocked, humiliated and enraged Star Fleet. Captain Jim Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterpriseare ordered to pursue and kill the perpetrator, who is hiding on a deserted planet in the warlike Klingon Empire. Risking war with the Klingons and discipline from his superior officers, Kirk captures the fugitive with the intent of bringing him to trial for his crimes, and at that time, Kirk learns that while the enemy is certainly a violent adversary with an agenda of his own, Kirk’s superiors have not revealed to him the nature of the criminal nor the causes of his jihad.
In the tradition of the original “Star Trek,” Abram’sversion wrestles with contemporary moral issues. Kirk must grapple with dealing honorably and morally with a dishonorable and immoral foe, much the same way the current world must deal with terrorism. Administrative obstructionism also rears its ugly head and the Enterprise crew find themselves questioning to whom they owe their duty: to Star Fleet Command or to a higher morality.
Other issues involve coming to grips with death; the duty owed to friends, family, and crewmembers; and the maturity necessary for leadership. But these serious moral issues are all cloaked in an exciting adventure overflowing with awesome special effects, an excellent soundtrack, and terrific acting. The film never appears preachy.
The cast reprise their roles from the 2009 movie, and the relationships between them are fascinating. Chris Pine (“Unstoppable”) plays the passionate Kirk; Zachary Quinto (TV’s “Heroes”) is the outwardly stoic but still fervent Spock; Zoe Saldana (“Avatar”) portrays the exotic Uhura; Karl Urban’s (“Red”) role as Bones is more minor than I’d have liked; John Cho (“Total Recall”) is the inscrutable Sulu; Anton Yelchin (“Fright Night”) portrays the excitable Chekhov; and Simon Pegg (“Shaun of the Dead”) plays the snappish Scotty. Non-crew members include Bruce Greenwood (“Flight”) as the fatherly Pike; Peter Weller (“Dragon Eyes”) as the vengeful Marcus; and Alice Eve (“Men in Black 3”) as his daughter sexy Carol Marcus. Benedict Cumberbatch (TV’s “Sherlock”) is a mesmerizing villain as the terrorist.
You can quibble about a number of issues in “Star Trek: Into the Darkness.” For instance, security is too easily breached on every Star Fleet ship and is nonexistent on its other facilities. And a couple of corny throw away lines, tying this version to previous “Star Trek” episodes, completely rob some very gripping scenes of their dramatic impact. But still this is an exciting, intellectually stimulating, and emotionally charged movie well worth the price of a ticket.
1 star = avoid this boring mess of a movie at all costs. Reading the dictionary is more entertaining.
2 stars = if you're in the right mood or if the subject matter appeals to you, you may like this film; or it is uneven, at times entertaining and believable and at other times sophomoric. If you've got nothing else to do, it may be worth the price of admission (at least a matinee).
3 stars = this is a generally good movie that most people will enjoy. If you're looking for an entertaining couple of hours, spend it here and you won't be disappointed.
4 stars = don't miss this film! I don't care if you have time or not, make the time, because this movie is terrific.