Star Trek Into Darkness is misleading for all its onscreen lens glare and the U.S.S. Enterprise’s bright bridge deck. One would think outer space is infused with visible sunlight. For the most part, it’s a fun ride, sweetly comical, heartfelt, visually spectacular, action-packed, and delivered with bullet speed. Even with the introduction of the villain Khan, one is not sure whether to dislike him or not.
Director J.J. Abrams’ sequel to 2009’s reboot, the origins of Star Trek, satisfies in a colossal way. Fans of the original Gene Roddenberry television series may notice references to episodes: Captain Kirk’s affinity for women of all species, the appearance of a tribble, and the fist fights. Refreshing in this sequel is the enormity of the visual cinematography, the introduction of universe-size ships, and the Klingons who’ve never been presented so primal and destructive. Central to the picture, however, is the emotional byplay between the stars that keep the film from becoming a simple sci-fi romp.
Chris Pine heads the cast as the gorgeous and manly Captain Kirk, Zachary Quinto returns as the conflicted Spock, Zoe Saldana as the doting Uhuru, Simon Pegg as the overly concerned Scotty, Karl Urban as the dislocated Bones, Anton Yelchin as the understudy Chekov, and John Cho as the competent Sulu. The crew’s camaraderie is evident, even when Alice Eve as Carol, the Admiral’s daughter, joins the team under dubious circumstances. Peter Weller plays the formidable Admiral Marcus, eerily similar to the Emperor of Star Wars. (Is Abrams practicing for Star Wars Episode VII?)
Khan, originally Khan Noonien Singh in the past episode, is known as John Harrison in this film, a rogue Starfleet space agent on a mission to save the rest of his super species comrades. A chillingly powerful presence, Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s Sherlock Holmes and The Hobbit series) plays a Neo-like (Matrix) super being incapable of being injured (at least from punches a la Kirk) and can create cures. It’s hard to hate Cumberbatch as a villain dressed all in black when his voice resonates with sexiness. He is unlike the 1982 blonde Khan played by Ricardo Montalban (or Ricardo Montalban’s chest).
The most surprising of all in Star Trek Into Darkness is Spock. When darkness befalls his bromance with the Captain he breaks out of his usual logically unemotional shell. His inner badass gets him into a one-on-one battle with Khan. The ensuing action sequence is h-o-t. Never mess with a half-Vulcan when it comes to his friends.
The only thing a bit disappointing with the whole Star Trek reboot is that it is not a new boot. “To boldly go where no one has gone before” is the tagline. How about writing new original stories for the new cast, new era, and actually exploring new worlds? Khan was a great story among all the episodes from the 1966-1969 television series. If you’ve seen all of them, each new Star Trek film made creates an expectation of more to come. Yes, more is better.