Sunday, May 19

Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

Directed by J. J. Abrams

Abrams' reimagining of the Star Trek franchise continues into its second movie and again successfully balances the needs of the many (fans of the original series) against the needs of the … well, not few, nigh on fifty years on from its first appearance, but rather the other many (non-fans of the original series, whether because they are too young to remember it and are familiar only with its several successor series and films, or – and yes, these do exist – because they just flat-out didn't care for the original series or its several successor series and films). Which is to say he makes a film that both fulfills the requirements of a 21st-century summer blockbuster and deals with deeper issues of duty and morality along the way as did many or most of the episodes of the original series. Moreover, characters and events well known to those of us familiar with the original canon continue to appear and play themselves out in new and unexpected ways, both in the antagonist ultimately turning out to be “the most dangerous opponent [the original crew] ever faced” and the requisite cameo by “Old Spock” dancing around his own resolve not to give “Young Spock” information about his (the latter's) own future. Finally, there was the haunting twist on perhaps the most traumatic (in the lives of the characters) events of the original stories. All in all it was a thoroughly entertaining couple of hours that left me pleased and with something akin to a feeling of revisiting old friends that I have known all my life..

Not that it was perfect, of course. Both in the areas of story and execution I thought there were immediately apparent shortcomings. (I'll doubtless realize more as time passes.) I could nitpick all day, were I so inclined. Of course, there was nothing so ridiculous as “Red Matter” from the first film, although the idea of a “Cold Fusion Bomb” as a remedy for an erupting supervolcano coming in quick succession with the U[nited] S[pace] S[ubmarine] Enterprise came close, in my opinion – the latter, in causing me to mutter “Oh, come on!” so quickly within the first few minutes of the movie, had me worried for a bit what I might be in for. And for all the spectacular visual effects throughout, the generally wonderful and believable set design (although where exactly, these days, do you draw the line between visual effects and set design?) failed for me once again when it came to the interior of the Enterprise. It still looked more like the inside of chemical plant than that of a 23rd-century starship based on technology and physics we can barely even imagine, with no real sense of how it all fit together. This was reflected in some of the throwaway techno-jargon dialogue referring to same which also had me going, “Wha – ?,” e.g., “the aft nacelle.” The two big warp nacelles are port and starboard.  (Hey, I was an engineer before I was an historian; these things matter to me.)

Finally, for all the story-telling desirability of not having “Old Spock” around to constantly tell “Young Spock” and his comrades how to get out of their current predicament – and yet, he sorta does! – the idea that “Old Spock” wouldn't tell “his young self” about his own future is logically irrelevant. Because “Young Spock” is not “Old Spock's” own younger self! – This is an alternate time-line, and events will continue to diverge further and further from the point of departure, which is now some thirty years in the past when Nero, the Romulans, and “Old Spock” first appeared in the past and changed that past, most notably by bringing about the premature death of Kirk's father at the very beginning of the first movie and later effecting the destruction of Vulcan. The two Spocks are truly two different characters.  And in that respect I can kind of empathise with what must be "Old Spock"'s bittersweet knowledge that these are more fun-house mirrored reflections of his friends and comrades than those with whom he shared a lifetime's adventures.

With all that having been said, I still enjoyed this movie immensely. All parties – especially Benedict Cumberbatchthrew their all into a worthy addition to the now five decades' old Star Trek multiverse of tales, with a frank promise by the end of more to come – including a clear possibility of Cumberbatch's return to the part he plays here so well, with an intensified desire to “stab at” Kirk ( – or Spock?) “from Hell's heart”!

Cheers! – and Thanks for reading!
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EDIT:  The morning after I saw Star Trek:  Into Darkness and posted the above, Julian Darius of Sequart posted this utterly devastating commentary that is well worth reading.  Be warned:  Unlike my own review, it is filled to the gills with spoilers!  Darius expresses a lot of niggling issues that had occurred to me, and many that hadn't.  Again, although I enjoyed this movie on its own terms, in the end, as I said above, these are not really the characters I grew up with, nor is this really the Star Trek I grew up with.  It is very much a modern summer blockbuster movie, with all the insubstantial flash that those typically embody.  (If that seems to contradict what I said just above, bear in mind that I didn't consider the latest Star Trek TV series, Enterprise, to be really the Star Trek I grew up with.)

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