The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

One of the most popular franchises in pop culture history, Star Trek has been on the public mind since it debuted on TV in the 1960s. It has spawned spinoffs, films, countless iconic characters and pop culture moments. In 2009, it got a franchise reboot of sorts with the highly successful and very entertaining feature film, Star Trek. It took a couple years, but the sequel hit theaters this past spring/summer and was just as good and just as entertaining. Warp speed to 2013's Star Trek Into Darkness.

It's the year 2259 and Captain James Kirk (Chris Pine) remains the commander of the U.S.S. Enterprise, one of Starfleet's most important ships. Following a mission on a primitive planet that forces Kirk to disobey orders and put the crew and ship at risk, Kirk has the Enterprise taken away from him and much of his crew reassigned to other ships. The reassignment is put on hold though when a former Starfleet officer, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), leads a brutal attack on a Starfleet officer with horrific casualties inflicted. Harrison escapes Earth into deep space, but Kirk isn't far behind. He's been placed back in command of the Enterprise and must pursue Harrison. His orders seem suspicious though, and as Kirk, Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the crew of the Enterprise draw closer to their destination, they all begin to suspect what they've been sent to do.

Before seeing the 2009 franchise reboot, I had no experience with the Star Trek world(s) other than the most prominent cast members and a pop culture reference here and there. It's everywhere. You've got to pick up some stuff almost incidentally, right? I headed into both these movies with no real expectations. I wanted to be entertained. So what have I taken away from both these science fiction flicks? One word, and that's F-U-N. These are good, old-fashioned science fiction films with tons of action, very cool characters, and the necessary imagination to explore all sorts of far-off worlds with the energy of a little kid. I liked this sequel as much if not more than the original, 133 minutes of pure fun. It's a little long but the movie itself is never slow. If you're a fan of the franchise, series or just the original, you'll definitely like this one.

Whatever director-writer-producer extraordinaire J.J. Abrams seems to touch, he does so with a golden touch. I think his genuine love of what he's doing translates to his stuff, TV shows like Lost, the Star Trek movies, his Mission: Impossible entry. He's like a kid at heart. Above all else, Abrams' goal seems to be to entertain. With a science-fiction story like this, there's a natural dependence on CGI, but 'Darkness' never overdoes it. Sure, it's obvious we're watching CGI, but it blends in seamlessly with the action. We've got cool, roguish heroes like Pine's Kirk, a great villain in Cumberbatch's Harrison, a very solid supporting cast and action around every corner with all sorts of very visual, very colorful planets and aliens to explore and meet. Also worth mentioning is composer Michael Giacchino's score (Giacchino, a frequent Abrams collaborator), helping pump the action and story along. 

Playing the iconic Captain James Kirk (still no William Shatner cameo), Pine again brings a great energy to the lead role. He's funny, cocky, a very capable officer, always looking for a new adventure, and always, ALWAYS looking out for his ship, his cast and his friends. The dynamic between Pine and Quinto's Mr. Spock is pretty perfect, two polar opposites managing to make their friendship/relationship work so well together. Kirk is all about impulse and in the moment, not always thinking about the long-term consequences. Spock, a Vulcan (look for the pointy ears), is all about logic, what should be done, and the percentages of getting the job done. They play off each other effortlessly, Kirk trying to humanize Spock, Spock trying to bring Kirk back down to some sort of Earthly norm. Also look for Leonard Nimoy in a quick appearance.

The rest of the ensemble cast fills in the parts nicely around the leads. Returning from the original as the crew of the Enterprise are Karl Urban as Bones, the medical officer, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, the communications officer, Simon Pegg as Scotty, the ship's fiery Scottish engineer, John Cho as Sulu, the helmsman, and Anton Yelchin as Chekov, the ship's navigator. New to the crew is Alice Eve as Carol, a weapons specialist who knows more than she's letting on. Also returning is Bruce Greenwood as Starfleet officer and mentor to Kirk, Admiral Pike. Peter Weller plays Fleet Admiral Marcus, one of the highest ranking Starfleet officers around. In the villain department, Cumberbatch is perfect as Harrison (but that ain't his name....wink, wink), a more than worthy foe to Kirk and the gang, a villain potentially for many movies to come.

For the diehard Trekkies, there's also some cool nods to the franchise. Most importantly though, it knows where the franchise, series and characters have come from, but it creates its own legacy. These movies were meant to be fun and eaten with a big tub of popcorn, basically the definition of a summer blockbuster. It made almost $500 million worldwide so audiences are clearly eating it up. From the opening chase on a primitive red-planet to the non-stop chase through the second half of the movie, it's one fun scene after another. It's not a great movie, but it's not supposed to be. Popcorn, summer blockbuster = epically fun.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013): ***/****

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