Saturday, May 18, 2013

Mark at the Movies - Star Trek 2: Into Darkness

Plot: A little girl is ill. A self-sacrificing act of sabotage is the price demanded for saving her and that kicks off what turns out to be a one-man war on Starfleet that leads the Enterprise and her crew into peril and a possible intergalactic war with the Klingons. But the film's main perpetrator will allow no obstacle to stand in his way of revenge, and Starfleet High Command is ready to welcome a war and between those two, Captain James Tiberius Kirk and the other characters we have come to know and love so well find themselves caught in the middle. The question comes down to "how do you protect Starfleet - even from itself?" The answer eventually becomes clear, but the body count is high and we are taken on an emotional roller coaster through the whole journey.

Players: All of the cast from the first film returns. Chris Pine is the young Jim Kirk, Zachary Quinto seems even more comfortable in the role of Spock, Karl Urban continues to chew up every scene he's in as the irascible Leonard McCoy, Simon Pegg is the ebullient Scotty, Zoe Saldana is Uhura, and both helmsmen: John Cho as Sulu and Anton Yelchin as Chekov are given more to do this film. Bruce Greenwood returns as Christopher Pike, and along for the ride on this trip are the much-discussed Benedict Cumberbatch - playing John Harrison, the villain of the piece - as well as Peter Weller in an important role, and Alice Eve, who provides insights at critical moments and takes on the job of being the film's "eye candy" for a few frames. There is a cameo from a special guest star, as well, but I won't give away that identity so as not to spoil your fun.

Performance: As I mentioned, it's an emotional roller coaster. The canon of the Star Trek universe is so familiar to so many that no time need be spent on each character's back story for us to understand the unique interplay of give and take, joke and jest, and point/counterpoint they immediately dive into with each other. It *is* an alternate timeline, so characters are allowed to deviate from the Star Trek norm. I was particularly impressed with the range Quinto explored within the narrow confines of Spock's Vulcan cold logic. Weller is comfortable in the role of a man wielding power and used to getting his own way. Urban is a delight to watch. Somewhere DeForest Kelley (the original McCoy) is smiling. Simon Pegg can no longer claim to play the only comedic relief in the cast, but his work as Scotty continues to be enjoyable, as well. And what can I say about Benedict Cumberbatch without giving away too much? He is not who he seems to be, and he effectively works both sides of the good and evil equation. He manages to walk that most delicate line of acting roles: he makes you feel for him while he's committing atrocities. While Chris Pine gets most of the screen time as Kirk, and his performance is spot-on and commendable, at the end of the film it was these other actors who stood out in my mind.

Point: What do you do to save your friends? What decisions do those in power have to make in order to propel a civilization forward? When do you ignore the rules to save those you care about? In the end, Star Trek Into Darkness reminds us of some important truths: do what's right, no matter what. Be loyal to those you love to the point of death and beyond. And even if you mess with the timeline, you'll eventually end up in the same place.

Particulars: Parents should be warned there is liberal use of the word that colloquially describes fecal matter. Scotty gets drunk (but really, don't we expect that of Scotty?). A human head is crushed off screen. Humanoids with entirely black eyes and painted faces are seen, which may prove to be a frightening image to small children.

Raymond's Rating: I am a self-professed "Trekkie," so take that into account when I say this was a fantastic film. My only quibble is with one scene involving a Tribble that ultimately telegraphs a key plot point later, and winds up taking much of the suspense of one of the film's most critical scenes away. It was the only unnecessary scene (as that plot point was set up in the very beginning of the film). Aside from that minor defect, I give this movie a full four stars. In the end, it's a brilliant retelling of a familiar story and well worth plunking down your dollars to see.


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