Star Trek: Into Darkness

startrek2posterThere is an unspoken rule among movie critics that you do not spoil a movie’s ending. This speaks to the respect that grows between an audience and a trusted reviewer who realizes that when a person invests hard-earned cash in an evening of entertainment, they deserve the right to approach the film with a child’s innocence and sense of wonder. Of course, that rule only applies to critics who are actually paid. The rest of us are just hacks working out of our basements so we can say anything we damn well please. And frankly, if you spend any time on the internet at all, there is no way you have made it this far without knowing about this ending.

But just in case you are one of those darling naive movie patrons, let me switch to all caps and declare a SPOILER ALERT. This review is so spoiled that if you drank it out of a carton in front of an unplugged refrigerator, it would cause you to puke up every taco you have eaten in the past twenty-four hours (just keeping with the theme of the site!).

Thus alerted, let us move on to Star Trek: Into Darkness. I first discovered the Enterprise and her crew during the 70s when the original series was in afternoon reruns. I am somewhat chagrined to admit that a crush on Walter Koenig as the young ensign Chekov was my original motivation for never missing an episode, although my appreciation for the series continued after that had waned. I faithfully followed the crew through all the subsequent movies and series, with a special fondness for 1982’s The Wrath of Khan. Khan was a nice surprise because the first movie – Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) – was a truly dreadful film. I vaguely remember something about a mysterious robotic probe called “V’ger” that turned out to be leftovers from a Voyager space probe – a plot device that the audience actually booed in the theatre when I saw it. Khan was the first really entertaining Star Trek movie and it paved the way for the rest of the films.

Star Trek: Into Darkness is the twelfth movie in this franchise, and the second one made by J.J. Abrams after the very successful 2009 reboot. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are back on the bridge as Kirk and Spock, and they are as delightful the second time around as they were in the first. The film opens with a fabulous sequence where the crew violates the prime directive before the credits even appear, rescuing Spock from a fiery certain death as the Enterprise roars out from its hiding place under the sea right in front of a group of astonished natives. The shot of the starship shooting out of the ocean is chill-inducing; it reminded me of the first time the Millennium Falcon slid into view in Star Wars. Then an act of domestic terrorism threatens to destroy Star Fleet as an insider sets off a chain of explosions. Kirk, having been demoted after the incident with the natives, is once more made captain and sent off on a manhunt to capture the mastermind of the plot, who just happens to be . . . (LOOK AWAY! LOOK AWAY! BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!)

KHAN! There had been rumors floating around for weeks that Benedict Cumberbatch was playing the villain and that it was probably going to be Khan, somehow brought back to life in this slightly alternate universe that is the rebooted Star Trek. That really wasn’t much of a surprise and knowing only heightened my enthusiasm for the picture. Although his lily-white complexion looked nothing like the rich, Corinthian leather that was Ricardo Montalban’s skin, Cummberbatch had an icy, menacing quality that was great.

That part I was not expecting (LAST CHANCE!) was the role reversal that happens toward the end of the film. In the original, Spock goes into the radioactive chamber and saves the ship and crew, only to die of radiation poisoning in a tearjerking scene that causes Kirk to scream KHAN! in anguish as he watches his friend die. In the new bizarro version, Kirk is in the chamber dying and Spock is the one who screams the name as Kirk slumps to the ground. I was practically screaming myself as this unfolded, so completely caught off guard was I by the reworking of this classic scene. This twist made me absolutely love this movie, and although the end was wrapped up a little too quickly, this is clearly one of the best movies of the whole franchise.

I do wonder about the contemporary audience that is seeing this film – are they all die hard Trekkies who have watched the DVDs of all the prior films, or is this lovely little twist going unknown to the next generation of fans who are only familiar with the new franchise? If you are one of those young’uns, do yourself a favor and go back and watch the original. Kirstie Alley is a thin Vulcan in it – you’ll never recognize her!

There are a some vertigo-inducing scenes of crewman getting sucked out of the ship, but the problems are mostly just the usual burning eyeballs that accompany a typical 3D film. It doesn’t help that the movies that employ this technique keep getting longer, thus guaranteeing a headache by the time you remove the glasses. Does this effect not bother anyone in Hollywood? Am I the only one who prepares to see one of these films with a bottle of Visine in my purse?

Perhaps the moguls would listen to me if I hadn’t just revealed the ending of their film.

Barf Bag Rating: ZERO BAGS
Jalapeño Rating: THREE PEPPERS

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