Star Trek: Into Darkness

  • Title:  Star Trek:  Into Darkness
  • Director:  JJ Abrams
  • Date:  2013
  • Studio:  Paramount
  • Genre:  SF, Action
  • Cast:  John Cho, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoë Saldana, Karl Urban, Peter Weller, Anton Yelchin
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“…You misunderstand, it is true I choose not to feel anything as my own life was ending.  As Admiral Pike was dying I joined with his consciousness and experienced what he felt at the moment of his passing:  anger, confusion, loneliness, fear – I had experienced those feelings before, multiplied exponentially on the day my planet was destroyed.  Such a feeling is something I choose never to experience again.” — Spock

“Don’t agree with me Spock, it makes me very uncomfortable.”  — McCoy

The opening vignette of Star Trek Into Darkness has Kirk and McCoy disguised on a red Class M planet.  Kirk holds a scroll and is running away.  The Natives follow, throw spears at him and at McCoy, as well. However, Kirk’s actions had been a distraction, so the Enterprise‘s shuttle can drop Spock, in a fire suit  to drop a cold fusion device into the active and ready to erupt volcano to prevent the eruption and save the indigenous life on the planet.  Kirk and McCoy dive into the water to escape the natives, and board the Enterprise.  However, Spock is in trouble and could be killed.  Kirk and the Enterprise save Spock, but incur Star Fleet’s wrath at the flagrant disregard for the Prime Directive.

A mysterious man (Benedict Cumberbatch) offers to cure the ill daughter of a Star Fleet officer.  The officer soon discovers the price as he has to blow-up a Star Fleet Archive building.

Pike finds Kirk in a bar, and brings him back to Starfleet.  He asks Kirk to be his first officer, Kirk accepts, and Pike takes him to a gathering of all Starfleet’s captains and first officers to discuss the destruction of the Archive and Starfleet’s response to the terror attack.  Kirk, wonders, however, why anyone would destroy an archive, especially when the information held there is public record.  Just as Admiral Marcus, Pike, and Kirk are realising that protocol for an attack calls for just this occurrance – all the captains and first officers in one room, the room is attacked by a helicopter-like gunship.  (Because apparently Starfleet never heard the old adage about not putting all your eggs in one basket.)  Pike’s killed.

Admiral Marcus calls Kirk and Spock into his office, he offers Kirk the Enterprise again, and Kirk asks for, and is granted, Spock as his first officer.  But Marcus’s plan is chilling – not only does he want Kirk to track down “John Harrison” the ex-Starfleet officer responsible for the attack – he wants Kirk to kill him. Specifically, even though Harrison is hiding on the Klingon home world and an attack on the home world would lead to all-out war, he wants Kirk to hide in the Neutral Zone and fire a new long-range photon torpedo at the uninhabited province where Harrison is hiding and obliterate him.

Scotty quits when the torpedoes are loaded on the Enterprise, and the security detail with them refuses to tell him what the payload is.  Scotty fears an interaction with the warp core. Kirk accepts Scotty’s resignation.

During the trip to the Neutral Zone, however, Kirk has second thoughts (helped by his conversation with Scotty, and additional conversations with McCoy and Spock) about blindly following the orders of Admiral Marcus to kill Harrison rather than capture him.

Kirk decides rather than killing Harrison outright, Kirk decides to capture Harrison.  He will take a landing party, and using the transport vessel from “the Mudd incident” will land on the Klingon home world, capture Harrison, and return him to Earth.  Kirk, Spock, Uhura and a guard take the shuttle down.  Uhura attempts to reach an agreement with the Klingons who attack their ship and force it down.  She’s doing OK, when they are attacked.  The fire fight is chaotic, but a mysterious man rescues them.

Kirk brings this man, Harrison, to the Enterprise and locks him in the brig.  However, he soon learns from the man, that, as Admiral Marcus had pointed out, the Archive that was destroyed wasn’t an archive or library – it was Section 31 HQ, home to Starfleet’s secret military and spy organization.  Moreover, Harrison wasn’t simply an agent there as Marcus said.  Harrison is Khan, a genetically engineered superhuman, who, with 72 other similar super humans was sent from Earth many years ago.  Marcus found his ship, kept the crew in cryo-suspension, but revived Khan.  Seeing Khan as the brilliant warrior he needed, he gave him a new identity (John Harrison) and set him to work developing weapons for Starfleet.  Khan tells Kirk, he had no choice, Marcus held his crew hostage.  However, he rebelled against being forced to make weapons and to create a “militarized Starfleet” – which was Marcus’s dream.

Kirk isn’t sure how much of this he buys, but he’s keeping an open mind, deciding to bring Harrison/Khan to Earth to tell his tale.

It’s easier said than done, when two problems occur:  first, the Enterprise Engine Core leak, that had stranded the ship short of it’s warp point goal, is getting much worse, threatening the entire ship.  And second, Admiral Marcus has arrived and is he pissed off that Kirk hasn’t killed Harrison/Khan, talked to Khan, and might believe Khan.

From what Marcus says, it’s clear that at least some of what Khan has said is true.

However, Marcus beams his daughter Carol from the Enterprise to his own dreadnought-class ship  then attacks the Enterprise.  Kirk, who’s also heard from Scotty, who checked on some co-ordinates Khan gave him.  Khan convinces Kirk the only way to defeat the dreadnought is from within.  Scotty has hidden aboard the ship.  Kirk and Khan space jump to the other ship, using jets to maneuver.  During the jump, Khan saves Kirk’s life.  Scotty lets them in.

But on the bridge, Khan shows his true colors.  He wants revenge on Marcus.  Kirk tries to arrest Marcus. Khan kills him.  Kirk, Carol, and Scotty are transported to the Enterprise brig.  Spock had transported the torpedoes to the dreadnought.  However, the torpedoes were primed and blow the ship.  Khan escapes. Khan’s crew, the 72 cryo tubes are in sickbay on the Enterprise.

However, the Enterprise is in trouble – the damage to the warp core is so bad the ship is dying and about to crash into Earth.  Kirk and Scotty try to fix the ship, but the engine core is mis-aligned, and can’t be fixed because of the radiation in the compartment.  Kirk goes into the compartment to fix it.  He succeeds and saves the ship but is dying from radiation poisoning.  Spock pulls the ship out of it’s dive.  Scotty calls him and asks him to come down. He goes, and in a reverse of Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan, it’s Kirk who dies and Spock who must watch. Their fingers even touch on the glass separating them.  Spock screams, “Khan!”.

Khan, meanwhile tries to crash his ship into Starfleet HQ and misses (He does destroy the Great Fire Memorial in San Francisco though.)  Spock chases down Khan, ready to kill him for killing Kirk.  Uhura stops him – McCoy’s realised that Khan’s blood can save Kirk, because of it’s regenerative abilities.

This works, and Kirk Lives.  One year later, Kirk re-dedicates the new Enterprise, reciting “the Captain’s Oath”, which we know as the opening to classic Star Trek.

JJ Abrams directs Star Trek:  Into Darkness at a breakneck speed.  The film moves, extremely fast – so fast, it’s hard to keep up with it at times.  However, the film also has it’s moments.  Harrison, as played brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch, is brilliant, from lone terrorist, to scientist who’s work is poached for weapons, to revenge-seeking madman, each of Khan’s roles is well played.  I avoided all spoilers when this movie came out last year, even the name of Cumberbatch’s character – so I was surprised to find out that “Harrison” was Khan. I enjoyed the film in the theater and enjoyed watching it again yesterday.  The film is fun, and the cast is excellent.  I really do like Pine, Quinto, and Urban.  And Cumberbatch played a multi-faceted villain with relish and even, at times, compassion.  Peter Weller was scary-good as the villainous Admiral Marcus.

Though not too much – because even if Marcus had cold-bloodily killed Khan’s crew, Khan’s attacks would have been over-kill.  The film, like the best Star Trek episodes and films raises questions. Questions about the power of the military, questions about the ability for news events to be shaped, and public opinion to be manipulated.  And it’s Kirk’s noted ability to stand against the rules and go with his gut that save him and his crew.  Kirk is willing to follow rules and regulations as needed, but he won’t stand by and watch a planet die because of them – nor will he kill a criminal who should rather be put on trial.  It’s a enjoyable rollar-coaster of a film, with a bit more to it, and I liked it.

Recommendation:  See It!
Rating:  4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country

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Star Trek (2009)

  • Title:  Star Trek (2009)
  • Director:  J.J. Abrams
  • Date:  2009
  • Studio:  Paramount Pictures
  • Genre:  SF, Action
  • Cast:  John Cho, Bruce Greenwood, Ben Cross, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Winona Ryder, Zoë Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Eric Bana, Leonard Nimoy, Chris Hemsworth, Jennifer Morrison
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Emotions run deep within our race – in many ways more deeply than in humans.  Logic offers a serenity humans seldom experience, the control of feelings, so that they do not control you.”  — Sarek

“Your aptitude tests are off the charts so what is it?  You like being the only genius-level repeat offender in the Midwest?  ….  But you feel like you were meant for something better.  Something special.  Enlist in Star Fleet.”  — Christopher Pike

“Damn it, man, I’m a doctor, not a physicist.  Are you actually suggesting they’re from the future?”  — McCoy
“If  you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” — Spock, quoting Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Abrams’ re-boot of  the Star Trek franchise re-casts everyone with a very, very young command crew. However, this crew, barely graduated from Star Fleet Academy, earns their stripes in the midst of disaster and war, so one can forgive how young and inexperienced they really are.  Moreover, the film emphasizes the immediate connection between Kirk and McCoy and the somewhat more difficult road to friendship between Kirk and Spock.

The film opens with a bang, when George Kirk’s ship is attacked by the Romulan, Nero.  George manages to evacuate the ship and protect the unarmed and unshielded shuttles by fending off Nero’s attack, but he loses his life in the process.  However, his wife survives the attack and James Kirk is born. Yet, we don’t see Kirk’s mother again.  A few years later, young James Kirk is a hellion – borrowing a car before he can really drive, driving fast and hard, and then destroying the car and nearly himself. Meanwhile, Spock undergoes typical Vulcan training – a enriched media multi-tasking experience where students are tested in individual pods.  However, he is also taunted by his school mates.

We next meet Kirk as a young 20-something (probably between the ages of 18 and 24), a townie who goes to a bar near Star Fleet’s recruitment center to pick up women.  This doesn’t go well when a couple of bruisers from security beat him to a pulp.  But he does meet Christopher Pike who gives him a different view of his father’s death.  Kirk decides to join Star Fleet.

Spock also, is at a turning point.  He’s accepted into the Vulcan Science Academy, but when the acceptance committee remarks that it’s “amazing” how well he’s done despite his “handicap” of being half-human, Spock turns down the position and instead joins Star Fleet.

Back at the academy, Kirk is preparing to take the Kobayashi Maru test for the third time.  The “no-win scenario” test is built as a test of character.  Kirk manages to win by changing the parameters of  the test.  He’s brought up on charges of cheating.  But before anyone can do anything, an emergency distress call is received from Vulcan.  All cadets are sent out on ships to assist.  Kirk, McCoy, Uhura, Spock, Chekov, and Sulu all end-up on the newly-built Enterprise, under Capt. Pike.

Arriving near Vulcan, the Enterprise encounters Nero.  As before with the USS Kelvin, Nero attacks, then invites the Captain onto his ship.  Pike, who did his dissertation on the loss of  the Kelvin, knows he’s walking into a trap, but also knows there’s nothing else to do.  But he has Kirk, Sulu, and an Australian space jump to a drilling platform the Romulans have placed on Vulcan that is also blocking transporters and communications.  The Australian dies, but Kirk and Sulu manage to shut off the transporter / communications blocking and stop the drill itself.  They are rescued, but it’s too late for Vulcan – the Romulans have injected Red Matter which will turn the planet into a Black Hole.

When Spock realizes this he beams down to Vulcan to rescue the Elders of his planet, including his parents. He rescues Sarek and a hand full of others, but Amanda is killed.

After this tragedy, Spock is understandably a little off-balance, and he falls back on calm logic — ordering that the Enterprise rendezvous with the rest of the fleet in order to plot their next move.  Kirk argues vehemently that they must do something to stop Nero, that they have no time to return to the fleet per standing orders.  Spock over-rules him, and then kicks him off  the ship via a life-pod.

Kirk lands on a frozen planet and encounters an unconvincing CGI monster (the only sequence in the entire film I didn’t like) then takes shelter in a cave. There he meets Spock Prime and learns the plot. Far in the future, Spock had been tasked with using Red Matter to turn a Supernova into a Black Hole and thus saving the planet Romulus.  But, he was too late and Romulus was destroyed.  Nero saw the destruction, went berserk and decided to make Spock suffer by destroying Vulcan.  He time-traveled back to the past, destroyed the USS Kelvin, and twenty-five years later Spock arrived, having followed him through the Black hole.

But what shocks Spock more than anything else is that Kirk can’t stand Spock’s younger self and that Spock can’t stand Kirk.  Spock gives a hint of  what their friendship means through his mind-meld with Kirk (while also explaining what’s going on).  They leave the cave and hike through the snow to a Star Fleet outpost and encounter Scotty.  Spock gives Montgomery Scott the equation for Transwarp Beaming, which Scott discovered, thus creating a non-invention paradox.  (EG — If  Scott discovered it but hasn’t yet, and Spock gave him the info to discover, which he then discovered – then where did the equation come from?)

Kirk and Scott beam onto the Enterprise, and Kirk provokes Spock into an emotional reaction to take him out of command.  He then orders a direct warp to Earth.  At Earth, Nero is using the drill to attack near San Francisco (home of Star Fleet) and destroy Earth with Red Matter.  Kirk and crew stop him and rescue an injured Pike.

Upon returning to the Academy, Kirk is given command of the Enterprise, and Pike retires.  Kirk’s crew will include Spock as first officer who is convinced to do so by Spock Prime and Scotty.

I loved this film when I first saw it, and I still love it now.  Karl Urban is a wonderful, angsty Bones McCoy, still smarting from his divorce, though they changed the origin of Kirk’s nick-name for him.  Chris Pine mimics Shatner’s body language, but gives us an edgier Kirk, still smarting from the loss of his father. Quinto’s Spock is much more emotional, especially after the loss of his mother, a parent he was quite close to.  It’s interesting that in Abrams’ re-imagining of  Star Trek – both the principles have lost a parent. When I saw this film in 2009 I wanted a sequel, and it looks like one might be coming in 2013, we’ll see.

This film also has some wonderful special effects sequences in space – the space dock, the launch of  the Enterprise and other ships, even the destruction of Vulcan are all realized well.  And I liked all the classic characters:  Sulu and Chekov are both great, the classic trio of McCoy, Kirk, and Spock, though young and new at their jobs, are already showing the hints of great friendship, and Scotty is amusing and promising.  Uhura has been updated to be confident, bright, and an expert in xeno-linguistics.  She’s also having an affair with Spock, but you can’t have everything.

Recommendation:  See it!  Highly Recommended.
Rating:  Five out of  Five Stars
Next Film:  Star Trek II The Wrath of  Khan