Last summer, I came to the realization that while I loved 2009s Star Trek, the ongoing Star Trek comic book title from IDW was becoming a bit of chore to read. I had come to accept the new Kirk and Spock as alternate universe versions of the characters I grew up with. However, I had grown tired of the writers simply rehashing old storylines. An occasional trip into alternate realities can be fun but I really wanted some creativity, new characters and new situations. That brings us to the 12th theatrical entry in this beloved franchise, Star Trek: Into Darkness.
There won’t be spoilers here. In fact, I’m not going to go into too much detail of what the movie is about. It does deal with a terrorist-like attack on a secret Section 31 installation. Section 31 was a very interesting concept introduced in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; a covert group within Starfleet that operates behind the scenes. I loved the fact they brought this into a theatrical movie. We soon discover that our main antagonist is a mysterious individual known as John Harrison. Benedict Cumberbatch is amazing in this role and joins the ranks of all-time classic Trek villains. A battle of wits ensues between Captain Kirk and Harrison resulting in some epic space battles between the USS Enterprise and a mammoth Dreadnought-class USS Vengeance. There are a few twists along the way that tie in with characters and events we’ve seen before. For the most part, these events generally play out differently enough that I thoroughly enjoyed the story. I also liked how old characters were revisioned (Alice Eve playing a younger and sexier Dr. Carol Marcus), which is something the comic book has tried but not been entirely successful at.
Okay, here are a couple of spoilers. We do get Leonard Nimoy back in a cameo as Spock Prime, reminding us that this is the Star Trek universe, just seen through different eyes. I loved the trip to the Klingon home world, setting up a plot for a very likely third movie. However, one scene towards the end of the movie really bothered me. It’s almost a word-for-word rehash of an iconic scene that ultimately comes off as cheesy and lazy. That aside, the ending ends up being a different twist and does work. If we could just eliminate that one scene. It wasn’t a jump-the-shark moment for me but it will be for some long-time Trekkies. It just made me groan as the whole scene seemed forced.
I enjoy Chris Pine and what he brings to the cinematic table. His version of Captain James T. Kirk, while different than William Shatner’s, still works for me. I’m still not convinced that Karl Urban and DeForest Kelley aren’t related somehow as he really is Dr. McCoy, with a slight edge. John Cho and Anton Yelchin are back as Sulu and Chekov, getting more to do than George Takei and Walter Koenig usually got back in the day. I’ve also accepted that Zoe Saldana is bringing Uhura to the forefront in ways Nichelle Nichols only dreamed of. I’m glad to see her move beyond the “Hailing frequencies open Captain” script redundancies. However, Simon Pegg isn’t quite right as Scotty. The comedic lines are sometimes over the top. He’s funny and the original Scotty was too but it needs to be toned down a notch. It’s just a little off and leaves me missing the late James Doohan. And then we have Zachary Quinto. Visually and vocally, he is Spock and he really can channel Leonard Nimoy. Spock has always battled internally between his emotional human side and his logical Vulcan side. Due to the death of his mother and the destruction of his home planet, those struggles are playing out a little differently in this new universe. I’ve even accepted the Uhura relationship. I just sincerely hope that in the inevitable third movie, the writers tune Hollywood out and realize you can’t take away Spock’s ears and logical nature. It’s not who Spock is and doing so treads dangerously close into turning this new version of Star Trek into something I’m not entirely comfortable with. Alienate your audience and you’ll send the franchise back into cryogenic deep freeze.
Visually, the movie is stunning. I’ve accepted the lense flares and the brighter bridge as they do look great on the big screen, even if they aren’t quite as comforting as the old series. The engine room…not so much. Michael Giachinno gives us another amazing score, which really is an integral part of a good Star Trek movie. The musical tie-ins with the last movie are comforting. He succeeded in 2009 and hits it out of the park again here. Really, the only stumbling blocks are a script that tends to veer off-course a time or two.
That said, I really did enjoy Star Trek: Into Darkness and I’ll be seeing it a second time with my 81-year old father. I grew up watching Star Trek with him. We’ve seen the first six movies together and four years ago saw the 2009 movie, which he really enjoyed. I’m very curious to see how my dad reacts. There is the hope that the five-year mission the Enterprise crew has finally embarked on brings strange new worlds. But there’s also a little fear that we’ll be visiting too familiar planets and altered versions of classic villains. I hope we move towards something new. Meanwhile, I know that if things get bumpy, I can find comfort with my old friends, the Shatner and Nimoy versions of Kirk and Spock, as they are always just a DVD away.