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Star Trek meets Sherlock. At least that’s what it’s seeming like on all the fannish boards along the Interwebs. With Benedict Cumberbatch’s character shrouded in mystery — a mystery revealed for all who check this movie’s updated IMDb page — fans of the actor have been going crazy waiting to see him, and Trekkers (or Trekkies, as you prefer) have been going crazy trying to outguess director J.J. Abrams. And while Star Trek Into Darkness is definitely a Trek-nucopia of canon fodder, what it isn’t is particularly welcoming to those folks who wouldn’t know a Vulcan Salute from a peace sign. Still, Star Trek Into Darkness delivers the Id, Ego and Superego comedic clashes, the Kobayashi Maru-like impossible challenges, and the same good-vs-evil that we’ve come to know and love from this long lived franchise. Abrams, along with fellow Lost alum Damon Lindelof, crafted a Trek universe that is familiar but slightly tilted. It’s great to see how the young characters slowly grow into their original series counterparts…and if you’re not really in the know? Go see it with your friends who are, and get caught up in the fun.
Captain James T. Kirk has just been taken to task for his last hair-brained seat-of-his-pants mission; he’s been stripped of his command and his First Officer Spock has been reassigned to another ship. But meanwhile at what looks alot like the medical wing of Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, a stranger named Harrison has plans that will shake Starfleet to it’s core, bringing the Federation into uncharted waters and bloodshed. It’s up to Kirk to get his commanding officers to believe in him again, and for him to understand exactly what it takes to sit in The Chair.
Lindelof (along with fellow writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman) take Gene Roddenberry’s mythology and gleefully play with it. Yes, there’s still the Spock, Kirk, Bones triumvirate of competing personalities, but instead of a sly nod to the audience there’s often outright tongue-in-cheek chatter. There’s also a lot of deja-vu dialogue, with characters uttering phrases that are now famous in Star Trek fandom. There are also moments when you can see these characters slowly becoming their older, more experienced personas. But it’s not all copy & paste from the TV series; Lieutenant Nyota Uhura — yes, I still love that I know her first name — and Spock are lovebirds, but there looks like trouble on the horizon. And is that Chekov down with the warp drive?
The production design, sets, makeup and props department went into hyperdrive on Star Trek Into Darkness. The universe is a beautiful place here, and even year 2259 London and San Francisco have familiar yet futuristic looks to them. Viewers can see bits of the cities we recognize, and the art department layers possible updates and expansions on top. This makes for a believable futuristic look. But my favorite things from all the work they put into bringing the future to life are:
* They’ve got better ice cubes. Way better.
* The artfully draped look is nailed down perfectly.
* The cool kids still listen to R&B and the Beastie Boys.
Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin and John Cho are still able to pull off their characters so completely it’s almost hard to remember the original actors. Almost; Leonard Nimoy makes a much lauded return as Spock Prime. Though his time on screen is brief, it’s glorious to see Nimoy and Quinto react to each other. As the film’s Big Bad, Benedict Cumberbatch plays a rather robotic…bad guy. (What? The producers have taken great pains in avoiding spoilers, so I’m not about to start dropping ‘em now.) Robotic is good for his strange loner in Sherlock, but this particular character should be a bit more emotional. But Cumberbatch does the role proud, even if it’s not the type of performance I’d expected.
Star Trek Into Darkness takes our intrepid crew and definitely puts them out where no Federation Officer has gone before. However, even with the fun of seeing younger versions of our crew learn the ropes amid glorious scenery, it smacks of stuff we’ve all seen before. But have no fear; like the Enterprise at her most battle-scarred, this film doesn’t fire on all cylinders, but it’s pretty damn glorious nonetheless.