You don’t have to be a fan to follow it, but a little Trek 101 sure helps
Star Trek Into Darkness
Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto & Benedict Cumberbatch
Directed by J.J. Abrams
PG-13, 132 min.
Released May 16, 2013
It’s been four movie years since the last voyage of the U.S.S. Enterprise, but chronology is a pretty wonky concept in the space-hopping, time-warping world of “Star Trek.”
Director J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot of the venerable sci-fi franchise rewound the story to its roots, setting up younger versions of characters who’d eventually head into the stars on a mission to “boldly go where no man has gone before.”
Now Abrams’ second movie takes place in 2259, following the events of his previous film but still ahead of the future in the original 1960 TV series, and well before everything in the later movies or TV spinoffs.
Got it? Well, just go with it, because otherwise you could drive yourself batty trying to move all the pop-cultural pieces into the right sequential order.
Here, the cast of the 2009 movie returns with Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine), First Officer Spock (Zachary Quinto), cool-headed helmsman Sulu (John Chu), testy Medical Officer Bones (Karl Urban), high-strung Chief Engineer Scotty (Simon Pegg), and brainy, beautiful Communications Officer Uhura (Zoe Saldana).
The plot involves the resurfacing of rouge Starship Command officer John Harrison from three centuries ago (there’s that wonky time thing again), his mission of cataclysmic revenge, and Capt. Kirk’s assignment to hunt him down without starting an interplanetary war. There’s also a “whoa” moment that will cause the “Star Trek” faithful—at least the ones who consider everything in the franchise to be sacred text—to slightly realign their planets.
You don’t have to be totally immersed in Trekkie lore to follow “Into Darkness,” but a bit of basic Trek 101 would at least shed a little guiding light.
Someone who’s never seen the TV show, for instance, might not grasp the significance of the brief cameo by Leonard Nimoy, the original TV Spock, or catch his passing reference to another movie in the “Star Trek” lineage with the critical bit of knowledge he imparts about this movie’s villain, played with scene-stealing theatrical pizzazz by British actor Benedict Cumberbatch.
A viewer with a limited “Star Trek” background might also miss the reward of hearing a flustered “Bones” McCoy deliver the line that long ago became his character’s trademark, “Dammit, man, I’m a doctor!”
And newcomers to the party would certainly not remember, when Spock and Uhuru share a kiss, just what a big deal it was in 1968 when Capt. Kirk (William Shatner) locked lips with his own black Communications Officer (Nichelle Nichols) for one of the first scripted interracial smooches on American television.
“Into Darkness” shows off its $185 million budget with some spectacular scenes: the Enterprise under attack; Spock fighting the treacherous Harrison on top of a levitating, barge-like transport; the demolition of a major chunk of San Francisco with a kamikaze crash of a monstrously large Starfleet ship; Kirk and Harrison zipping like a little silver bullets through a treacherous, debris-strewn expanse of space protected only by their spacesuits and helmets.
There’s a lot of crashing, crunching action, but it’s balanced by a storyline that focuses on the bond of friendship between Kirk and Spock, and with a seasoning of character-based humor that keeps things fun and peppy.
And at the end of the movie, Kirk and the Enterprise have finally caught up to where the TV show began; they’re ready to begin their five-year mission to “explore strange new worlds” and “seek out new life” that defined the original series.
“Where should we go?” Kirk asks his crew. For the answer, we’ll all just have to wait for the next mission—and movie. But I’ll bet the time will just fly by.
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