Saturday, May 18, 2013

These Are the Voyages of the J.J. Abrams Enterprise: Star Trek Into Darkness

The first J.J. Abrams “reimagining” of the Star Trek (2009) world involves time travel that changes history so that means his Star Trek takes place in an alternate universe and Abrams can mess around with sacrosanct Trek tropes a little – or a lot. That makes many Original Series veteran Trekkers (don’t call ‘em Trekkies), like my wife and her brother, very angry, but even though I watched the Original episodes when they first came out on TV when I was in high school – geez, that’s old! – I’m not a Trekker. So I didn’t mind this “reimagining” that makes free with an Original episode. We get a flip-flopped ending; a familiar villain, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, makes his appearance; and Spock sheds a tear! Well, he is half human!

Admittedly, Star Trek Into Darkness plays freely with the canon, but there’s no denying that there’s never a dull moment in this new movie. A volcano erupts. Galactic terrorism strikes San Francisco in the beginning, and a massive starship smashes into the city at the end. We get photon torpedoes, phasers on stun, lots of beaming hither and yon, and even aggressive Klingons.

Abrams also plays freely with the science side of the genre. McCoy (Karl Urban) and Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) land on a barren planetoid, but they don’t need oxygen tanks? The water just off an island is deep enough to conceal the Enterprise? As for the fictional science of the Star Trek world, Abrams makes it up as he goes along. Can’t beam him up because he’s too close to something here – yeah, now we can beam her up even though she’s on the crowded bridge of the Enterprise. The science of beaming has never been an exact science.

But if you like Abrams’s characterization of James T. Kirk, or if you have a thing for Chris Pine, you’ll love this movie because it’s all about Jim Kirk, shooting, punching, jumping, flying. No kissing!? Well, he wakes up in bed with a couple of cute cat-tailed Na’vi. Yep, Jim’s a real hot dog. Love how he ogles the co-ed honeys at Starfleet Academy.

Yes, there’s never a dull moment, but perhaps that’s one of the film’s problems. Trekkers love character development, but even I could have used some quiet moments for the Holy Trinity of the 23rd century to sit down and schmooze. Nevertheless, the film moves along expeditiously, I enjoy Zachary Quinto as Spock, Simon Pegg as Scotty is wonderful, and there’s an intense airlock-to-airlock mid-space transfer. Starships didn’t have airlocks until this movie, but what the hell!

Although Star Trek Into Darkness is not everything one could wish for in a summer movie, along with Iron Man 3, it delivers the noise and action Hollywood thinks viewers expect from a summer movie. I guess that’s what many viewers DO expect from a summer movie, and they’re satisfied, but remembering summers that offered films like Minority Report and The Village, here’s one viewer who always wishes for just a little bit more.

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