[There are more than a few *Spoilers* in here, so beware of both the following text, as well as the comment section if you are concerned about such things]
I have been falling off the summer movie blockbuster for some years now, there are fewer reviews of such in these pages, and the discussion revolves more around the box office and cultural acceptance of these things than the films. Prometheus excepted. So this is not a review as such of Star Trek: Into Darkness, but rather what the Rebooted Trek universe, hereafter, NuTrek, is about. The writers and creative team wrote themselves out of a continuity corner with the first entry by using (creatively) the old time-travel saw to offer themselves a tangent universe. Now all of a sudden, there is a bright open canvas to paint new Star Trek movies, with a different tone and different versions of the lead characters. So why come back and play shadow puppets with Star Trek II? The line of prequel, sequel, sidequel, reboot has never been more blurry than it is here.
I certainly had my nits to pick with a planetary organization such as Star Fleet show-building an aggressive preemptive strike military branch without any seeming public debate, but that is the state of the nation with NuTrek. Things just happen, and they happen very quickly. As best as I can determine the bulk of the films plot happens here within a 48-72 hour span. That’s two ships heading out to the neutral zone, a significant portion of the Starfleet brass executed, and a goodly portion of San Francisco destroyed. This is not to mention the understanding of arming and timing a host of bleeding edge experimental proton torpedoes and figuring out a curious side effect of a blood sample. Don’t get me wrong, Karl Urban’s portrayal of Dr. ‘Bones’ McCoy is once again a high-light of the film, he sells his throw-back lines with gusto, and offers an avenue towards the film suspending disbelief on the actions of the executive officers on the Enterprise, and somehow goes a long way to shielding his own tough-ideas-to-swallow. Bravo. But really, everything was said in the 2009 version of Star Trek about J.J. Abram’s ability to keep the plot moving so fast that it doesn’t allow the audience to over think what is actually happening. It’s not so much the ‘not opening the Mystery Box,’ but rather juggling five different boxes and asking you to guess which one to not open. Part of me is saddened that NuTrek is not about an optimistic future and a co-operative human spirit, but rather a bit of a short-con game in one-upping the movie-plot surprises – to seek out new gasps and new sleight of hand and to boldly re-create funhouse-mirror-images of things seen before. The audience seems quite satisfied with the slick reboot and high-budget gloss. This is the greatest trick the director ever pulled.
In spite of all of the running around and explosions, the actors continue to do the lions-share towards making NuTrek better than their woeful screenplays. Embodying the much prettier, leaner, aspects of the original cast’s bodies and personalities, they are, at this point on the verge of actually making the beloved (and familiar) characters their own. Bruce Greenwood once again brings a real touch of class to the proceedings as Kirk’s mentor and father figure. John Cho, Simon Pegg and Anton Yelchin all get their moment or two to contribute, but function here in a more reduced capacity from the previous film. This makes way for the addition of Alice Eve as wild-card science officer Dr. Carol Marcus, exist as a cipher and more than a bit fan-service (the character was mom to Kirk’s kid) more than as an actual realized character. Much like blonde Marcus and her connection to doing much of anything (in a previous life, she was chief scientist behind the Genesis project, also delivered by experimental proton torpedo, beyond being just Kirk’s main squeeze) here she takes off her close to show us she shops at La Senza. Hers is not the only short shrift. So too does the entire Klingon race just kind of sit there because the plot requires it. The NuCrew personality and character development are actually quite stagnant in terms of character arc – James T. is back in the bar drinking and flirting when the fall out from his rule-breaking prime directive stint stings his career – with the exception of Zoe Saldana and Zachary Quinto who get enough screen time together to build on their chemistry from first film. Spock and Uhura’s romantic squabbles are certainly a new addition to the character dynamics of this crew, and it certainly works onscreen, but it further underscores that these films are no longer science fiction films, but are now fully Space Operas in the Star Wars tradition. Han and Leia have been down this road before.
So, this brings us to the elephant in the room: Benedict Cumberbatch.
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