When J.J. Abrams took control of the Starship Enterprise in 2009, I was elated. He admitted to not being a Trekkie, but he was someone who seemed to “get” science fiction and the many wormholes in which films of the genre can so easily get lost. As someone whom the only “Star” that mattered ended with “Wars,” this was perhaps my chance to hop aboard and see what all the fuss was about. While it may not have been the savior for life-long die-hards, it was enough to make me fire up the Netflix queue and revisit what I had missed.
This marks the 12th film of the long-running franchise, and it serves as a perfect argument in favor of remakes, or the popular bromide reboot. If you go back to any of the original films (the television series notwithstanding), it's evident early on that they have aged about as well as a reality show housewife. Sure, they are still mobile and somewhat agile, but time has been unkind to them, and they are captives of their age, held together mainly by nostalgia.
I may be committing “Star Trek” heresy by stating that “The Wrath of Khan,” the second original film (which is considered by many as the pinnacle of the series), stands the test of time more for the over-the-top performance of one Ricardo Montalban as the iconic Khan, but suffers from many stylistic choices of its era. Sure, it raises questions of morality and such, but nothing that hadn’t been dealt with before (and much better) in episodes of the many "Star Trek" series.
This is not to say that the latest versions represent the peak of the franchise history, but they do continue to put the jumper cable to a series that was draining its last bit of juice.
"Into Darkness" pays homage to/rips off one of Abrams’ heroes, Steven Spielberg, with an intro lifted right from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Right out of the (star)gate, Captain James T. Kirk (played by Chris Pine) is faced with a tough decision of violating a Prime Directive of Starfleet, or letting his buddy Spock (played by Zachary Quinto) roast in the belly of a volcano.
The result strips Kirk of the Enterprise command and reassigns Spock, but little of that makes a difference, as they are re-teamed to battle a rogue officer who is apparently bombing Starfleet facilities. It appears to be officer John Harrison (played by Benedict Cumberbatch), who may have even more than bombing on his agenda. This causes the team to reunite, including Bones (played by Karl Urban), Scotty (played by Simon Pegg) and Lt. Uhura (played by Zoe Saldana). The Abrams-inspired love connection between the latter character and Spock is still playing out its course, and the other characters get their brief moments to shine (mainly to shout out crowd-pleasing platitudes).
The film overall does not hold up to intense scrutiny or overanalysis (the submerged Enterprise, the saving of Spock and the death of a key character seem particularly head-scratching), but with all that said, it moves forward with an energy that has been absent within the “Star Trek” name for so long. And, more importantly, Abrams and his writers feel as though they are building toward something more grand. “Into Darkness” is to “Star Trek” what “Quantum of Solace” was to the James Bond franchise: it serves as a bridge picture, but a damn entertaining one at that.
We can only hope that the next installment will fulfill those wishes as satisfyingly as “Skyfall” did this past year.