Mark Metcalf

“Star Trek Into Darkness” a satisfying action-adventure

While Mark's never been a Trekkie, this installment of the rebooted franchise leaves him looking forward to more.

By - May 17th, 2013 04:00 am

Star Trek Into Darkness: The sequel to the 2009 film Star Trek, both produced by J. J. Abrams, is out in theaters now. Photos courtesy Bad Robot Productions

No colon, no comma, no dash. Just Star Trek Into Darkness, using “trek” as the verb.

Trek: 1) to travel by ox wagon; 2) to make one’s way arduously; journey.

The Enterprise is no “ox wagon” (unless you compare it to the other ship that shows up half way through the film), but the journey of the crew and its captain is – as it only could be in a big budget science fiction adventure – “arduous.”

I was never a fan of the Star Trek television series, any of them, and certainly not of the movies that bore that name and lived off of that world. But the first ten or so minutes of this new movie made me long for the original nonetheless. The film opens, as all  action/adventure films must since the James Bond series pioneered the modern form of the narrative, with a high speed, dangerous chase and a huge action sequence. Only instead of saving the entire universe from ultimate destruction at the hands of a master villain, the crew is trying to escape from a world untouched by modern man while still saving it from a natural disaster, a volcano.  StarTrek2

The sequence is beautifully shot, the primitive world that they are trying to save exquisitely visualized, the 3D had me dodging arrows and spears, and the colors are light as I’ve never seen it before on film. But the best thing about the sequence, the part that made me remember the original series, is that at this moment they are all adventurers, not yet heroes. They are fulfilling the dream of the Captain’s Log, “to go where no man has gone before,” to observe and report. They are innocent.

But not for long. As the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 made all of us a bit cynical, certainly more cautious, and in many ways much more aggressive and fearful, so too Kirk, Spock, Sulu, Bones, Uhura, and Scotty quickly learn how unsafe their own world can be and how easily and randomly personal tragedy and loss can consume your life. Once they have felt that loss and turned away from childhood adventure, it merely remains to identify the villain and find him.

People will say that there is nothing new in this episode in the Star Trek saga. They are correct in that the story is familiar, but the richness of character and the depth of the relationships raise it to a new level.  One of the richest performances is that of Benedict Cumberbatch as the film’s villain: the infamous Khan. He has no army, no henchmen, so super weapon, just his own genetically modified vastly superior self. Cumberbatch – a name which is even more fun to say aloud than it is to write – has a deliriously deep voice, a tall, almost slight figure, and something between boyish mischievousness and vastly superior intelligence and arrogance in his face that makes his Khan as deceptive and as lethal as a dagger in the eye.

Zachary Quinto is almost his match as Spock. The developing romance between he and Zoe Saldana as Uhuru is worthy of one of your better romantic comedies, especially when you add third wheel Captain Kirk, in the person of the stone-headed, perpetually earnest Chris Pine.

Altogether, a very fun ride and a grand spectacle. I look forward to the next trek.

Star Trek Into Darkness is playing in 2D, 3D and IMAX somewhere near all of us – hopefully for a long time.

Categories: Movies

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