Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)


Chris Pine as Kirk
Zachary Quinto as Spock
Zoe Saldana as Uhura
Karl Urban as Bones
Simon Pegg as Scotty
John Cho as Sulu
Benedict Cumberbatch as John Harrison / Khan
Anton Yelchin as Chekov
Bruce Greenwood as Admiral Christopher Pike
Peter Weller as Admiral Marcus
Alice Eve as Carol Marcus

Directed by
J.J. Abrams

Running Time:
132 min

Review and Summary

Earlier today I had the pleasure to see Star Trek Into Darkness. I premedicated myself with some Valium and regular Coke and was ready to the onslaught of J.J. Abram’s continuing vision of Star Trek reimagined. Over the last 6 months there have been bo coup postings, tweets, and all other kind of internet mania going on about it. And with all that going on, I can honestly say I was not deterred nor disappointed by any of it.

However, I will say a common theme seemed to come to me as the movie progressed. In a instant moment of clarity, I can best describe it as this. In one of the worst Star Trek movies, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, came one of the best lines ever spoken by Shatner as Capt. Kirk, and that was “What does God need with a starship?” Bear with me and I will explain at the end.

The movie starts off with a grey gowned figure running out of a red temple of some kind into a red forest of some kind. We soon find out this is Kirk, who is joined by McCoy for an “Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark” run from the native’s sort of scene. While this could be misconstrued it works out well. Meanwhile with the native’s being kept busy, Uhura, Sulu, and Spock are taking a shuttlecraft into a ash spewing and erupting volcano off in the distance from the nearby temple.
Seems that the team are on the planet Nibiru, and are working to stop this volcano from erupting. Long story short, it’s a setup for Kirk to rescue a doomed Spock in the face of defying the Prime Directive. However the lesson is lost on Spock as it is more of a learning experience. More on that later. To rescue Spock the Enterprise must expose itself to the native’s. And how and why would it do that. Well it seems that for whatever reason they decided to bring the ship into the planet’s atmosphere and hide it offshore under the water. Don’t ask, because I didn’t, I just enjoyed the different perspective. Regardless to say, they rescue Spock, save the natives, and go back to Earth.

If this reboot of Kirk and crew has given us anything, its built upon the legend of Kirk in the bedroom. No matter, he untangles himself from 2 young ladies, feline-like with tails even, to answer his beeping communicator as he is in anticipation of getting the prime 5 year exploration assignment at any time. Twins Katie and Kellie Cockrell play the young ladies and do so well.

Kirk joins up with Spock at Starfleet headquarters, anticipating that they are to receive the assignment. Unfortunately, it is receiving something, just not that. Turns out a mix up in reporting between Kirk and Spock have come to the attention of Admiral Pike. Spock, true to form, reports the entire Nibiru incident from top to bottom. Unfortunately that includes the impingement on the Prime Directive from the natives seeing the Enterprise and the cold fusion bomb used to stop the volcano. As a result Kirk loses his command and is reassigned to a desk. Bruce Greenwood reprises his role as Christopher Pike and he doesn't disappoint. He makes Pike his role and carries it through out.

As Kirk goes off to ponder this, we are switched to London and a hospital there. Thomas Harewood (played by Noel Clarke, who also played 9th and 10th Doctor Who Companion Mickey Smith) and his wife Rima are at the bedside of their dying daughter. As Thomas is outside contemplating the imminent loss of his daughter, he is approached by a tall stranger who tells him, he can save his daughter. Shortly after this, Thomas receives a metal container with a tube of blood like solution, and a ring in it. Using a infusion device, he gives his daughter the blood and she shortly after she turns around and is cured.
However, the recovery comes at a cost. Thomas is a Starfleet officer. Short and to the point he enters a Starfleet facility that is deep underground, sends a message off, and then drops the ring into a glass of water. It fizzes and then explodes taking out the entire facility and a city block around it.

While this is going on, Kirk is tracked down by Admiral Pike at local bar. Pike explains to Kirk that his penchant for “bowling” thru life basically roughshod and using blind luck as the basis of his success is not what the center chair is all about. He tells Kirk that he believes in him and knows that he has what it takes to be a great commander. Unfortunately he is going to have to learn more. To do that Pike has convinced Starfleet Command that in return for putting Pike in command of the Enterprise, he wants Kirk there as his first officer. At this point, they are both summoned to Starfleet Command for the London bombing.

It seems that Starfleet regulations deem it necessary to have all local ship commanders and their first officers to report to HQ for a briefing and to participate in actions going forward.

Spock, who has been reassigned to the USS Bradbury as first officer, is also there. He and Kirk get a short time to discuss the impacts of the report on Nibiru and what cards have been dealt. You can clearly see that Kirk expects Spock to be more human and understand what and why things happened. But Spock is just not there yet. This is really kind of contradictory as he is still involved with Uhura, and you would expect that he would start to gleam a bit of these human emotions and all by now.

Admiral Marcus (played by veteran actor Peter Weller) convenes the meeting. In a short overview, he explains that the man who has declared war on Starfleet is John Harrison. We don’t get a whole lot more on this, other than the target that was hit was a Starfleet archive or library. Kirk begins to piece this together. We also get a good look as what appears to be CSI style information and video. In a moment of clarity, Kirk speaks up, to Pikes chagrin, and states the obvious. Based on regulations this would be the perfect place to strike again. And on queue Harrison attacks from an aerial vehicle outside the conference room. Just imagine mass chaos and all going on, as they are on something like the 100th floor and the wind is helping to whip up just as much damage and craziness as the nut in the ship firing into the room. Kirk goes on the offensive and is able to ruin the attack while Harrison gets away. Unfortunately, Pike is mortally wounded. Spock pulls him to safety, but can do nothing. In a moment of uncharacteristic action, he mind melds with the dying Admiral. Now I thought maybe this would add to Spock and Kirks relationship. In the next scene Kirk comes rushing back in only to find the Admiral, his pseudo father figure, dead. Instead of doing the macho thing however, Kirk lets us know it’s killing him and grieves. All we get from Spock is this reserved standoffishness.

Kirk, Spock, and Scotty dive in head first to try to figure out where Harrison went. The clue comes from a device that is found in the ship Harrison was using. Also you will note that Harrison had it in the pictures that Kirk was looking at before the attack. It turns out it’s a mobile Transwarp Transporter and the coordinates turn out to be an uninhabited region of Q’onos, the Klingon Home World. Please note, this is one of those “What does God need with a starship?” moments…

Taking this information with them, Kirk and Spock go to Admiral Marcus, and ask to take the fight to Harrison. At first Marcus is not having any of it. In a moment of character development, we get more of an insight into Christopher Pike. He was another Jim Kirk, and in his case his mentor was Marcus who talked him into joining up. Marcus tells Kirk, he can’t have his death on him as well. Weller’s acting at this is very well done, and you actually start to care about him and want to see him be part of the new universe. He finally relents and spells out what he will accept. Since they know that the region on Q’onos is uninhabited, they will go about this by doing a standoff assault using some of the newest Photon Torpedoes that have been developed. Marcus breaks down and tells Kirk and Spock that Harrison was actually working for Starfleet and the facility in London was actually a top secret department called Section 31. Section 31 in Star Trek lore was a division of Starfleet akin to the CIA. In J.J’s universe it is the same, plus it is also tasked with developing weapons, tactics, and intelligence on what is perceived to be the coming Klingon enemy. This is why it is absolutely imperative that the Enterprise not be detected delivering its stealth attack. Otherwise it would mean war.

Armed with this knowledge, Kirk and crew proceed to get loaded up for the mission. Only we have a couple of snags. The Admiral is good on his word, and he delivers 72 of the advanced torpedoes to the Enterprise. However, Scotty will not sign off on taking them because he cannot verify their contents (fuel, explosive, etc..) and confirm that they aren’t potentially going to interfere with the Enterprise herself. In a moment of confrontation with Kirk, Scotty resigns and pleads with Kirk to not use those torpedoes. He also questions what their real purpose in Starfleet is, as the increase in militarization only seems to put in question their roles as explorers.

In one of the more ironic moments of the movie, Ensign Pavel Chekov is made acting chief engineer. It’s not ironic for that, but for Kirk telling Chekov to go put on a red shirt and get to engineering. The look that Chekov gives him is worth it.

One other twist, is that the Enterprise gets an additional science officer with a specialty in weapons, Carol (played by Alice Eve). For some reason this additional science officer tweaks Spock. Not to mention that Spock is somewhat amiss with their stealth mission to execute Harrison without a proper trial. Gotta agree with him, only 30mins before this, just showing the Enterprise to a bunch of natives was a major faux pas, but now assassination by drone is acceptable. I think that this is a really well done layering in of current affairs into the movie, and trying to show the various points of view associated with it.

With everything settled, off they head for Q’onos. Kirk’s blind vengeance for Pikes loss appears to have worn some as he contemplates and then makes a decision on the course of the mission. As he addresses the crew he informs them that their objective is to capture and bring Harrison back to Earth for trial. Unfortunately, the Enterprise suffers a major malfunction that takes the warp drive offline, leaving them hanging just in reach of their target. However, Kirk and group are going to continue on with the mission. I personally loved Karl Urban’s performance as McCoy. I think that DeForest Kelley would have as well. Of all the cast, Urban has totally and completely channeled McCoy and it is a sheer joy watching him do so.

So the new plan is that Kirk, Spock, Uhura, and several red shirts, although they get changed, will use a small transport to go to Q’onos, meanwhile, Sulu as acting captain will provide a diversion by contacting Harrison and telling him that he will surrender to the landing party or face annihilation. John Cho gets his moment to shine as acting Captain, and he does it well. Between him and Anton Yelchin, it’s a shame that they didn’t get more of a chance to do so.

Anyway, with the Enterprise’s torpedoes bays loaded up with the advanced torpedoes, the landing party takes off in a transport for the planet. By the way you must listen closely as they talk while the ship leaves the Enterprise. Kirk’s comment is that the ship was confiscated awhile ago during the Mudd incident. This is a tie in to Harcourt Fenton Mudd, played by Roger C. Carmel, in Star Trek (The Original Series)in which the character appeared in “Mudd’s Women” and “I, Mudd”.

Sulu sends his message to Harrison, which I really found to be good for the most part but honestly overall, would you tell a maniac like this the intimate details of the attack. Not to mention over an open frequency?? Anyway, as Kirk and crew head to the surface, they are attacked by Klingon patrols. Add to it an unnecessary relationship conversation between Uhura and Spock with Kirk, and it’s a bit overdone. Forced to land, they depend on Uhura to talk sense to the Klingons, who have gone thru a few changes appearance wise, but are overall the same. The Klingons decide that talk is overrated and are about to kill Uhura, when Kirk and crew go on the attack. Unfortunately, they are outnumbered and losing. Until Harrison turns up and starts blowing away the Klingons.

With the Klingons gone, and the landing party at Harrison’s mercy, he only asks them one question. Based on Sulu’s message, exactly how many of the torpedoes does the Enterprise have. For whatever reason they tell him seventy-two, and he then surrenders. All this is a bit strange would you not think. Even at the superficial layer, here you have a guy who can turn any dire situation around to his advantage. So you’re going to accept his surrender and not think twice? Kirk takes the opportunity to open up a can of whoop on him, but only succeeds in exhausting himself.

With Harrison in cuffs and surrounded by security, he is taken back to the Enterprise and put in the brig. Kirk and Harrison talk and Harrison knows a lot more than he should. As he lays it out to Kirk, they are but pawns in Admiral Marcus’ plans for instigate a war with the Klingons. Harrison reveals his real name to be Khan. (Dun dun dah!!)

So the long and the short of it is that Khan and his people had been in suspended animation for over 300 years. When Marcus woke him up, and realized the potential for Khan to help him prepare for the coming conflict, he made a deal for the safety of his people in exchange for helping to create the new weapons that would be needed for the coming war. However, he knew that Marcus could not be trusted so he placed his people, all 72 of them into the new torpedoes for safety. Kirk takes this under consideration. He also contacts Scotty back on Earth and gives him the coordinates that Khan gave him to go and investigate. Here is another of those “What does God need with a starship?” moments. Between the Transwarp Transporter and the Warp Travel that only takes a few minutes, and now the personal communicator capable of reaching across light years of space, I think they are stretching it a bit.

At this point Spock divulges who Carol is, she is really the daughter of Admiral Marcus. Yes that’s correct, she is Carol Marcus. When confronted, she confirms that Scotty’s concerns were valid, and that they need to find out what is in the torpedoes. Long and short of it, Carol and McCoy take one of the torpedoes to a nearby planetoid to dissect it. And gives them an excuse for a uniform change scene for Alice Eve. What they find inside it is a cryogenic suspension tube with a man in it proving what Khan said.

So basically Kirk is between a rock and a hard space. He has the Admiral whom he is serving, the mad man in his brig who has killed his friend, and now all the evidence that makes it all seem a lie. Since capturing Khan and alerting Starfleet, the Enterprise has been incommunicado. That is until an unknown starship shows up and parks off their bow. The USS Vengeance is easily 3 times the size of the Enterprise, and is a Starfleet vessel, but something isn’t right overall.

Turns out that Admiral Marcus himself is in command of the Vengeance and is there to clean up his mess. In a short exchange it is quite clear that he isn’t leaving until Harrison is dead, the Enterprise destroyed, and a war with the Klingons in progress. Making a quick decision, Kirk and crew make a run for Earth. Unfortunately this new super ship easily catches up and puts a hurt on the Enterprise.

All seems to be at an end, when the Vengeance is bearing down on them. Even with the revelation of Carol Marcus being aboard isn’t going to save them, as the Admiral snatches her away by transporter. However, suddenly a miracle worker comes through. Scotty was able to sneak on board the Vengeance before it left those secret coordinates. He short circuits the ship to give them time to improvise. Can you say Star Trek 3 and Excelsior once again?

Kirk engages Khan to have him help them beat Marcus with a full on assault, promising Khan the safety of his people in return. While I applaud the effort, it’s probably one of the more questionable physical breaking of laws of physics that they go against. Once aboard the Vengeance, Kirk, Khan and Scotty set off to take the Vengeance. Now at this point it is quite obvious that no one seems to have considered that the most dangerous place to put Khan would be onboard such a powerful ship.

Meanwhile on the Enterprise, Spock calls in a life line and makes a call to Spock v1 on New Vulcan. Suffice it to say he gets the true low down on Khan. With this in hand he orders all hands that are available to assist in removing the supermen from the torpedoes while leaving them in their cryogenic tubes. Good call Spock.

Back on the Vengeance, Kirk, Scotty and Khan make it to the bridge and take it successfully. Unfortunately, the stunning of Khan doesn’t work so well, and he easily overpowers Kirk and Scotty to take control. Suffice it to say, he then takes his revenge on Admiral Marcus, in what I can only describe as a senseless and short sighted scene from the mind of J.J. and his writers. Seriously, this is what you have the villain do in a Star Trek movie?? Have you no idea or sense of how to do this better???

In a verbal exchange with Spock, and thru the use of the transporters, Khan retrieves the Torpedoes from the Enterprise, and deposits Kirk, Scotty, and Carol Marcus on the Enterprise. As he says, “No ship should go down without her captain”. However, that doesn’t last long as the torpedoes detonate on the Vengeance and rip her up badly enough to save the Enterprise for now. Now I applaud this whole piece as it harks back to the credit of Starfleet’s core beliefs and our hero’s saving the day and doing the right thing. But then again why didn’t they do that with Marcus and Khan.

Now this is where we could have saved some time and maybe cleaned this up somewhat easier. However, they don’t do this. Somehow once again J.J. and writers know much better than all the science advisors, and suddenly the Enterprise is hurtling towards Earth and is doomed to be destroyed. How the hell they do this now when it’s been sitting in this position and state while fighting the Vengeance is beyond me.

Kirk and Scotty rush to engineering to get the power back online, sound familiar? In the meantime we get a lot of great visual effects as the Enterprise tumbles towards Earth, and everyone inside it gets tossed around like a gerbil in a Run About Gerbil Ball. But I was starting to think I was watching a remake of “Galaxy Quest” there for a while. They make it to Engineering in time only to find out that the “Mains are offline” and they can’t bring them back online safely, SOUND FAMILIAR??

I can only describe the following as an egregious act of disrespect for one of the most famous and successful Star Trek films, The Wrath of Khan. Clearly J.J. and crew have forgotten their previous statements and the whole reason they played the Reboot Card, as with what they do next they totally rip off the greatest scenes of TWOK.

In short order, Kirk knocks out Scotty, climbs into the warp core, fixes its alignment by kicking the hell out of it (I still can’t stomach this one), brings it back online, and saves the ship.

Oh but it gets better…. Scotty calls to Spock on the bridge, and tells him he needs to get down there…

Rather than even trying to pull it out of the nosedive that they have put this into, J.J. proceeds to bury it face first into the ground. In The Wrath of Khan, Spock’s death scene was probably one of the most moving, and best known in history. Rather than trying to give Kirk/Chris Pine a chance to own this and make it his own, they go about and literally pretty much repeat the originals lines, line by line. SERIOUSLY?!?!?! At the end of it, I find it hard for anyone at all to have any kind of feelings for what has happened what so ever. Not to mention Quinto’s attempt at doing the Shatner “Khan” scream. Absolutely ridiculous!

The film goes down from there even worse. With Khan missing his chance to destroy the Enterprise and thinking his people are all gone, he uses the Vengeance as a runaway train and targets it for Starfleet HQ. I give them credit for an amazing use of visual effects overall, but that doesn’t really excuse or get away from this taking the form of a Die Hard or any other action movie where the villain is working to essentially “from Hell's heart, I stab at thee! For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee!” but at least they didn’t have Khan saying this as Spock chases him down.

The movie ends with Spock capturing Khan with Uhura’s help. Bones saves Kirk using a serum he distills from Khan’s self-regenerating blood, and we get a speech at the end prior to them taking off for their 5 year mission that they are all bitching and moaning about except for Kirk and Spock.

So what’s good??
  Special Effects are wonderfully done.
  Karl Urban, Simon Peg, and John Cho all give some really great performances. Urban alone is the epitome of McCoy.
  Benedict Cumberbatch is marvelous as usual.
  Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto have a great chemistry and have maintained it.

Whats bad??
  The Script! Overall J.J. and crew have missed out on a major opportunity to make this their own. Their incessant use of the tried and successful ST 2: TWOK was weak to begin with, but to plagiarize the script, dialog, and acts like they did is criminal.
  Technology faux pas' out the wazoo. First we have the Transwarp Transporter, so why do they even need starships? Second, they are all the way at Q'onos, yet Kirk can carry on a conversation over a communicator to Scotty in a public place on Earth. Not to mention it is a claudestine mission and should be top secret. Warp drive seems to be a joke, they are only in warp for a short period of time and are easily at their location in seconds. What happened to having some time to build up the story and develop it via travel time.
  You don’t have a personal relationship conversation in the middle of being attacked while trying to carry out a mission.
  Peter Weller was a tremendous actor to add into this, however, they just waste him using him to prop up the proverbial good guy gone bad officer template.
  Benedict Cumberbatch is awesome, however, they literally have him channel Khan as a version of an Evil Sherlock, very sad as he could have really made this more.
  The Klingons are trivial in this, sad waste of potential.
  Also watch for who they have called Science Officer 0718. Seems to be somewhere between Lando Calrissian’s aide on Cloud City and Data. They never even delve into him or use him to really add to the palate of the movie.

Bottom Line:
Overall it’s about 110mins of really good movie, but they really sour the milk of the movie with trying to redo the Kirk-Spock-Death Scene. The new take on Khan and bringing in of current world affairs is good. Sadly though they bring a lot to the table but they sorely miss the target in creating something unique and making this their own.
In the final accounting, I think that the poor box office will be the final word on this film. As of this writing, its estimated take is far below what was anticipated. In Hollywood, money speaks louder than the fans critique.

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