"So I responded in kind."
The Enterprise's crew is on a recently discovered planet. Its inhabitants are simple and impressionable. While Spock leaps into a volcano to stablize it*, the enormous starship zooms overhead, the people instantly proclaiming it to be their god. This is not the only reference of a higher power in the film. J.J. Abrams has been given the keys to the universe. A few in fact. One wonders if being the brains behind not only the reboot of STAR TREK, but future versions of Star Wars as well has given him the appropriate complex.
*I'm curious as to where these training exercises happen, and how one is able to prep for "immediate alien volcano shutdown procedure." Is this a class in Starfleet 101? Perhaps an AP credit.
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS faithfully touches on the creative arcs from its past television and film brethren, but the decisions made by director J.J. Abrams and his team fall lightyears short of their expectant mark. One of which is John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a human terrorist who has a hand in the heinous bombing of 2259 London. Harrison later attacks a convening of Starfleet brass, prompting an enraged Kirk to use his starship as a means to an end, her photon torpedoes a measure of shock and awe. Where once this universe felt brazen, it's relegated to bouts of militaristic action and revenge.
Cumberbatch is a lot of fun to watch onscreen, and his voice is especially terrific. His character's backstory will be familiar to loyal Trekkies, but it's the decision to go down this specific of routes that remains baffling. A voyage to uncharted territory would have better suited for such an intriguing presence. Instead, Cumberbatch is handcuffed to an existing ideal that in this revamped model, seems silly and completely nonsensical.
A highlight is the continued chemistry with all of the ship's company. There's a tangible connectivity between them all. They've gone through the fire together and come out stronger for it. Chris Pine has stamped his mark on Kirk. He was wise to stray away from the mannerisms of William Shatner and made the role is own, without losing what made the character engaging in the first place. Pine and Zachary Quinto's (Spock) rapport is a welcome sight. The Enterprise herself is pretty and shiny; visually, STID doesn't disappoint. As usual, Abrams's panache for large set pieces serve him well when we are amongst the stars and slipstreams. A sizable chunk of STID's running time is spent on solid ground, however, which stunts the excitment a great deal.
One aspect the crew has mastered is the ability to make people laugh. STID makes it painstakingly clear that in the future we are all comedians, with everyone from Kirk to Sulu to Harrison to Bones to that android ensign steering the ship dropping quirky one-liners. It's open mic night on the Enterprise. The writing overall seems confused with what direction to take its iconic personalities. It's disappointing to reveal that they as a whole have almost zero character development until perhaps the last waning minutes. Spock remains the automatonic, clueless, selfless hero who forgoes anything but logic; Kirk is still a hothead who beds countless alien women and deplores authority. Starfleet in turn treats Kirk with astonishing adolescence**, seeing as this man can be thanked for the very survival of the planet. One would think the savior of the world would be given a little latitude.
**That being said, it's perhaps even more shocking to watch the sheer amount of insubordination that emanates from seemingly every officer in the film. Scotty talks back to Kirk who talks back to a higher ranked Admiral. At times it feels like people are running a treehouse, rather than a galactic commonwealth.
I understand this type of film; this is science-fiction, short and simple, and we're expected to believe in certain aspects of such. Things like warp drives, teleportation, and sentient extraterrestrial species help to build the universe. These are established products and they make it enjoyable, aiding in the product becoming something living and breathing. I'm bothered by the incidentals. The insertion of "super blood" with near instantaneous healing properties for one. There's a death in the film, and it's significant. Within minutes, the emotion that was built up is immediately flushed away, removing anything substantial that may have existed. STID also falls into the pitfall of relying too much on miracles. Kirk and Scotty hanging perilously over a ledge? We can count on Chekov popping into the frame at the last moment to snag them. Spock survives the aforementioned volcano by the skin of his Vulcan teeth; later he endures another near-death encounter when his girlfriend beams down in the nick of time. The future is laden with extraordinary innovations, none of which justify the steady necessity of last second saves.
It used to be about space being the final frontier. Where the voyages of the starship, Enterprise was on its five-year mission to explore strange new worlds; to seek out life and new civilizations. There's nothing bold about where man is going right now. STID never looks at the big picture, instead focusing its attention for long stretches on whether Spock and Uhura's relationship will be able to last, and for our resident Vulcan to share his feelings with anyone who cares to listen. In space, no one can hear you scream, but they sure can watch you mope.