“Star Trek Into Darkness,” the second in director J.J. Abrams’ rebooting of the popular TV/movie series, features Jim and Bones being chased by fierce natives of an alien world, jumping off a cliff into the sea, and finding refuge in the submerged Starship Enterprise. Meanwhile, Spock is trapped in the bottom of a volcano about to explode, avoiding death only by the skin of his Vulcan teeth.
Then the opening credits roll.
In other words, this number is long on the usual high action quotient, perhaps a bit too much so. I found more engaging the relationships between and among the crew, whom we see as their younger selves, as we had in Abrams’ 2009 prequel. In particular, the bromance between the logical, all-but-emotionless Spock, again played thoughtfully by Zachary Quinto, and Chris Pine’s volatile, reckless Kirk sparkles with wit yet goes somewhat deeper into the meaning and complexity of friendship.
Abrams and three credited screenwriters also explore matters more intriguing than the run-of-the-mill action flick. For instance, the question of the Enterprise’s mission — “to boldly go, etc.” — comes to the fore when a warmongering admiral (Peter Weller) commands Kirk to fire some nuclear torpedos at a Klingon planet, thus precipitating a battle to save civilization as we know it. The target is a rogue starship officer, one John Harrison (played with contained fury by British actor Benedict Cumberbatch), who is, let’s say, more than he seems. (You might want to check out “Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan.’)
Without spoiling too much of the plot, suffice it to say that Kirk, Harrison, Spock and others engage in some mano a mano which, though done artfully enough, feels pretty rote for the genre and unnecessarily stretches the movie out beyond two hours. I’d much rather have seen more of the budding romance between Spock and Uhara (Zoe Soldana) or the choleric fuming of Scotty, whose portrayal Simon Pegg turns into a gem of comic relief.
The movie has plenty to recommend it visually, especially Scott Chambliss’ meticulous and various production design. I could have done with a little less bombast in Michael Giacchino’s original music, but that’s come to be my standard complaint about all of these Big Movies, along with my constant plea for fewer and shorter fight and chase scenes. Less can, in fact, often be more. Once again, I eschewed the 3-D version, which has been both praised and panned by critics. My aging eyes always vote a resounding “No!” as does my wallet. Proceed at your own risk.
“Star Trek Into Darkness” is appropriately rated “PG-13” for a (comic) glimpse of interspecies sex, some intermittent mild profanity, and the usual sci-fi violence. Without much background to say so, I’m guessing that it’s less provocative than your basic video game. And some of the themes of loyalty, friendship, and integrity should be pondered by teens as well adults.
Fans of the original TV series and its offspring on the smaller and larger screens will have some nostalgic fun in this latest iteration, but it’s aimed at a much broader (and younger?) audience. It hits its target.