Review: Star Trek Into Darkness – Is it Exciting? Very.

J.J. Abrams has put his stamp on the Starship Enterprise, and though his perspective is a refreshing look when compared to dreary TV spin-offs like Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Quantum Leap’s Scott Bakula in Enterprise (unbelievably 98 episodes you’ve probably never seen from 2001-2005), Abrams still borders on director Timothy Burton blasphemy, but not enough to call him out on it.

There is a lot of footage on YouTube for fans to piece together imagery and ideas from this sequel to the prequel, yet this “reboot” is actually a re-imagining of the original Gene Rodenberry concept – the fatal flaw in the Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise TV series attempts.

It works well enough and with the splashy, dazzling effects, amazing zips through space in the Warp drive (like, doesn’t anyone ever hit an unsuspecting planet with this mode of transportation), even if a cellphone on or near Kronos, home planet of Kirk mortal enemies the Klingons, gets to call home to Scotty. Technology!

The mood music is excellent, the sets are superb, and 32 year old Chris Pine (soon to be Jack Ryan in THAT reboot) is an excellent Captain Kirk. He, Karl Urban (Dr. McCoy), John Cho (Sulu) and Anton Yelchin (Chekov) get the nods as the best casting of the early days of Kirk and the boys. As much as I want to like the new Uhura – Zoe Saldana (of Avatar) and early Mr. Spock Zachary Quinto (excellent in the Wall Street film Margin Call), they are forcing their lines. Being force fed too many classic Star Trek lines brings the cringe factor in. Sure, the audience howls with delight, but it is too much for we purists who were there with the original show when it first launched.

Kudos also to Bruce Greenwood whose credible Dr. Christopher Pike (how close is that name – spelling wise – to actor Chris Pine?) is a nice tip of the hat to the late Jeffrey Hunter who was solid in possibly the best Star Trek ever, the original pilot “The Cage”), and so much better than having James Cromwell obliterate the memory of the original Zefram Cochran, Glenn Corbett (who died in 1993, 3 years before the release of First Contact; he had replaced George Maharis in Route 66 in the early to mid ‘60s).

Into Darkness is the ultimate mash-up with the TV Sherlock Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch, looking like a young-ish Pierce Brosnan as all-out terrorist Khan.

Since director Abrams destroyed Vulcan in the first film means that all bets are off in this timeline. They just make it up as they go along. Vulvan was a key planet in the Star Trek original series, and since this stuff is allegedly happening BEFORE that series, it is illogical for Trek fans to be blindsided with this revisionist history. The revisions continue in the new film, and despite the myriad complaints about the history itself, the film works by using the huge Star Trek mythology (and fan base) as a jumping off point for what amounts to a one hundred ninety million or so dollar glitzy retooling.

Is it exciting? Very. Though one can sit there and see Kirk and McCoy running through Avatar land (with the Enterprise underwater on the young planet), and Spock inside that volcano a la Hayden Christensen turning into Darth Vader in Revenge of the Sith (Star Wars Episode III which is actually #6 pawned off on us as III), and Cumberbatch and Quinto atop a vehicle battling like Morpheus and Agent Smith in one of the three Matrix movies (Reloaded or Revolutions). There is so much quoting of old Star Trek and re-making notable moments in sci-fi that one wonders the result had Abrams shown a bit more restraint.

Most of the participants use Patrick Stewart (Captain Jean Luc Picard) histrionics loudly reacting to the mayhem and it takes away from the otherwise tight script, gorgeous sets and gripping action. Watch this clip to see what I mean.

Star Trek Into Darkness Movie Clip – Volcano (2013) HD

So the judgment is that we are better with this new, beautifully filmed Star Trek than without, and there’s no doubt it will be huge box office, the buzz on the street as well as the enthusiasm at the 9 PM showing in Revere, Mass. on May 15 all good indicators. The series will live long and prosper, but like Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell preached “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing.” Hopefully when the third go-round hits the actors won’t be screaming their lines.

Cringe factors are the overly sexualized young Jim Kirk, it’s as much a parody as Spock and Uhura’s love affair. Much too stiff and contrived. Star Trek may have had some corny moments, but it always worked best as a serious study – the aforementioned “The Cage” as well as the Hugo-winning “City on the Edge of Forever.” Either would be great for a serious re-telling with the new technology we have for filmmaking today. Let those who have ears hear.