Movies: "Star Trek Into Darkness" | Arts & Culture

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Movies: "Star Trek Into Darkness"
Movies: "Star Trek Into Darkness"

The new “Star Trek” reunites the young crew that producer/director J.J. Abrams put together for his 2009 sequel to the long-running TV and movie series, and he’s thrown in some heavyweight supporting actors and a ton of special effects as well.

The only thing he left out was the moral questioning of the original series, its real heart and soul.


Impulsive Captain James Kirk (Chris Pine) is back in the chair of the Enterprise, assisted by his half-human, half-Vulcan sidekick Spock (Zachary Quinto), Spock’s testy love interest Uhura (Zoe Saldana), the eternally pessimistic ship’s doctor Bones (Karl Urban), engineering wizard Scotty (the always delightful Simon Pegg), Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and Lt. Sulu (John Cho).


But after a James Bondish opening chase, Kirk finds himself under the command of two Star Fleet honchos, his old Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) and the grim Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller, the original Robocop).  After a mysterious terrorist named John Harrison (brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch) attacks several Star Fleet command centers, the Admiral orders Kirk to track down the villain and blow him up with some newfangled photon torpedoes.


This warlike assignment raises some doubts among the Enterprise crew.  Wasn’t their original mission purely exploratory?  And adding to the mystery is the appearance of a comely new science officer (Alice Eve) on board, who seems to know a lot about those new torpedoes.


Needless to say, things start going wrong for the Enterprise as soon as they come out of warp drive.  Before it’s all over, we get to hear Bones say, “Dammit, I’m a doctor, not a torpedo technician.”  My favorite line in the movie.  


Abrams gathered up his production crew from the last “Star Trek” for this one, including cinematographer Daniel Mindel (who also shot “Mission Impossible III”), composer Michael Giacchino (who also scored “The Incredibles,” “Up” and “Ratatouille” for Pixar) and production designer Scott Chamblin, also of “MI III.”  They all delivered the biggest “Star Trek” yet, with lots of action, cities devastated by explosions and crashing starships, etc., etc.


But here’s the problem.  The much-loved “Star Trek” TV series was small, even cheesy, but thanks to creator Gene Rodenberry it offered viewers a lot to think about.  The earlier movie versions did much the same.  There’s not much to ponder in “Into Darkness,” what with all those explosions.   Instead, we focus on the interactions of the crew (why are Spock and Uhura arguing all the time?), and on the strengths of the supporting characters.  


I’ll single out three.  As Scotty, Simon Pegg steals the supporting crew member role.  As the jingoistic Admiral, Peter Weller makes a perfect foil.  But towering above everyone here is Benedict Cumberbatch (perhaps best known as Sherlock Holmes in the PBS series).  This young Brit just gets better and better with each role he plays and he totally dominates this movie.  He is surely destined to be one of the great actors of his generation.


“Star Trek Into Darkness” is rated PG-13 for some salty language and lots of space carnage.  I give it a B and wonder what J.J. Abrams might do to the "Star Wars" franchise he's just inherited.