Four stars. Rating: PG-13, for intense sci-fi action and violence
By Derrick Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 5.17.13
Director J.J. Abrams’ audacious 2009 re-boot of Star Trek was clever and wildly entertaining, a delight for both hard-core fans and newcomers. (Do the latter actually exist?)
This follow-up is just as successful ... and perhaps even more fun. While also being deadly serious.
Which is an impressive balancing act.
Considerable credit goes to returning scripters Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman, this time joined by Damon Lindelof, who understand that it’s all right to mess with Gene Roddenberry’s original template — here and there — if such adjustments are made respectfully. And if they make sense, both dramatically and in the greater context of established Trek lore.
Thus, Spock’s home planet Vulcan was destroyed in the 2009 film, signaling that the future of these fresh-faced “Young Trek” characters wouldn’t necessarily unfold according to the Holy Writ as laid down by Roddenberry and the various show-runners who augmented the mythos during the subsequent TV shows and films.
On the other hand, blue-eyed Chris Pine’s James T. Kirk remains an unapologetic babe-hound. Sound things can't change.
Star Trek Into Darkness opens on the run — literally — as Kirk and Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban) flee from the enraged inhabitants of Nibiru, a Class M planet (i.e. one that’s Earth-like). Kirk has “liberated” a sacred object as a diversion, while Spock (Zachary Quinto), Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Sulu (John Cho) take a shuttle into a massive volcano, hoping to prevent a cataclysmic eruption that could wipe out the entire civilization.
Despite their efforts to accomplish this clandestinely, Kirk and his crew clearly are violating Starfleet’s sacred Prime Directive, which prohibits any “interference” with a developing culture. (Needless to say, William Shatner’s Kirk violated that directive almost every week, back in the day.)
Regardless of this mission’s outcome — and things definitely don’t go quite as Kirk planned — the brash young Enterprise captain gets a serious dressing-down from mentor Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), once back at Starfleet Command’s San Francisco headquarters. The unhappy result: a demotion and loss of his ship, with Spock assigned elsewhere and the rest of the Enterprise crew left to wonder who they’ll salute next.