Star Trek Into Darkness Continues J.J. Abrams’ Vision

trek 12 posterA valid criticism about the last Star Trek film was that it was too much like Star Wars with its emphasis on flashy special effects and high-octane action. This same critique is applicable to Star Trek Into Darkness, the latest entry in the long-running film series. But at least more of an attempt is made to make this film seem more like Star Trek.

How so? Concern is brought up on more than one occasion that Starfleet is becoming too militarized and that they should be explorers. By the end of the film, the main characters wholeheartedly embrace that concept based on their experiences throughout the film. In some ways, Star Trek Into Darkness is a battle for the soul of Star Trek and to try to go back to its roots. The film doesn’t always succeed in getting that point across, since it wants to revel in the big-action scenes that define the J.J. Abrams era of Star Trek. In fact, it’s best to think of this film as Abrams’ audition tape for directing the next Star Wars film.

spock kirk

Star Trek Into Darkness opens on an alien planet where angry, primitive natives are chasing Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) after Kirk insulted them.

As the two men flee to their hidden starship, the Enterprise, the ship’s Vulcan first officer, Spock (Zachary Quinto) is trapped in an active volcano. He was trying to keep it from erupting using a cold fusion process. Once Kirk and McCoy make it back to their ship, Kirk orders a rescue of Spock. The ship is able to rescue the Vulcan but violates the Prime Directive when the natives see the advanced starship rise out of its hiding spot in the ocean.

kirk pike

When the Enterprise crew returns to Earth, Kirk is called to Starfleet’s headquarters by Admiral Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood). Expecting a lucrative assignment, instead, Kirk is berated for being too reckless and thinking rules don’t apply to him. Kirk is stunned to find out that his command is taken away for violating the Prime Directive and for not being ready to be a starship captain. This was based on Spock’s accurate report about the incident on the planet.

Kirk is justifiably incensed at his friend and starts berating Spock later before they attend a high-level meeting with Starfleet brass. This meeting is to discuss a recent terrorist bombing in London by a Starfleet operative named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), who has gone rogue.

The meeting is interrupted when Harrison shows up outside the building where the meeting is held in a fighter craft and fires weapons at the attendees. Kirk is able to stop the attack but Harrison beams away and one of the casualties is Pike. Investigations reveals Harrison’s current location: Kronos, the Klingon homeworld.

An enraged Kirk asks Admiral Alexander Marcus (Peter Weller) to be reinstated as captain of the Enterprise so he can pursue the terrorist. Marcus agrees and tells Kirk to go to the border of Klingon space and launch several long-range, prototype photon torpedoes at Harrison’s location to kill him.

photon torpedo

Later, the Enterprise has to drop out of warp space near their destination due to a malfunction. Kirk then takes a shuttle to Kronos with Spock and other crewmembers and are saved from Klingons by Harrison himself, who quickly surrenders to him.

Now a prisoner onboard the Enterprise, Harrison reveals to Kirk that his name is really Khan and that he is a genetic superman who was in cryo sleep for three hundred years in kahnsleeper ship along with 72 other superhumans. Starfleet discovered their sleeper ship and only Khan was revived. Marcus, anticipating an all-out war with the Klingons, wanted to utilize Khan’s superior intellect to develop advanced weapons and is holding hostage the other superhumans as leverage. Furthermore, Marcus wants to use the Enterprise and Harrison to instigate a war with the Klingons.

Kirk’s suspicions about Marcus are soon confirmed when a massive starship arrives armed to the teeth. It’s commanded by Marcus, who demands that Khan be turned over to him.

Star Trek Into Darkness is one of the most exciting films in the series thanks to J.J. Abrams’ directing. Like its main character, the film is brash, bold and in your face with wild and intense action scenes. Highlights include a thrilling chase of Khan in San Francisco by Spock that culminates in a heart-pounding fight, where Spock nearly loses his control. Another is when a crippled Enterprise falls towards Earth, the special effects of those scenes are just brilliant and dazzling. Expect an Oscar nomination for special effects.

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Star Trek Movie Retrospective–Star Trek

“Punch it”

Captain Christopher Pike’s order to take the Enterprise into warp space

posterDon’t worry readers, the review for the new Star Trek Into Darkness is coming right up. But first, let’s look at its predecessor, the eleventh Star Trek film. After Star Trek: Nemesis became a box office failure in 2002 and the series Star Trek: Enterprise was canceled in 2005, the franchise seemed to have died. Paramount Studios realized they ran Star Trek into the ground and so it went on hiatus. The fortieth anniversary of the original TV show came and went without any fanfare and implied that no one cared about Star Trek anymore.

However, J.J. Abrams, the man behind the classic TV show Lost, was brought in to rejuvenate the franchise. It was decided to bring Star Trek back as a film series rather than a TV show and so Abrams and his team rebooted the franchise, resulting in the 2009 feature film Star Trek that went back to the beginning. The film was a rousing success but sparked controversy among stalwart fans.

Star Trek begins with a dizzying, close up shot of the starship Kelvin gliding past the camera as it investigates a lightning storm in space. This storm turns into a black hole and from it emerges a gigantic spaceship shaped somewhat like a squid with sharp mechanical kelvin2tendrils. This ship immediately opens fire on the Kelvin with advanced weaponry. The Kelvin isn’t a match but puts up a gallant fight. The attackers demand that the Kelvin’s captain, Robau (Farin Tahir), go to their ship to discuss a surrender. Right away these scenes signaled that Star Trek was reinvigorated with wild, kinetic battle scenes.

Robau leaves First Officer George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth) in command and is killed in the enemy ship by its crew, a group of bald, tattooed Romulans. Kirk orders a shipwide evacuation and covers it by setting the Kelvin on a collision course with the attacking ship. One of the evacuees is his pregnant wife Winona (Jennifer Morrison), who goes into labor in an escaping shuttlecraft. Kirk is unable to join her because he has to manually fly the Kelvin into the enemy ship. He is able, however, to hear the first cries of his newborn son James Tiberius Kirk moments before the Kelvin smashes into the Romulan ship.

George Kirk’s sacrifice wasn’t in vain, the enemy ship is crippled, giving several shuttlecraft an opportunity to escape…

shipyard

Years later, Kirk’s son grows up to be a rebellious, angry young man (Chris Pine) without any direction in life and living in Iowa by a shipyard that is constructing the Enterprise. After a bar fight, he meets Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), who sees some potential in James Kirk. Pike is able to convince the young man to join Starfleet.

During his training Kirk meets many people who will become important parts of his life, notably Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) and Spock (Zachary Quinto). Ironically, Kirk and Spock do not get along at first. Spock is a by-the-book officer who cannot abide Kirk’s brash and reckless demeanor. Things come to a head after Kirk takes the Kobayashi Maru simulator test, which Spock developed to train cadets, and is caught cheating.

crew

Kirk is under inquiry for his actions when fate intervenes. Starfleet receives an emergency distress call from the planet Vulcan and all available ships on Earth are dispatched. Among them is the new U.S.S. Enterprise commanded by Pike with Spock as its first officer.

With McCoy’s help, Kirk is able to get onboard the Enterprise as it joins the armada. The ship is unable to jump into warp space with the other ships thanks to an error made by the helmsman Hikaru Sulu (John Cho ). It turns out that this delay and Kirk learning of a lightning storm reported by Vulcan helps saves the ship. Kirk guesses that the Enterprise will be facing the same fate as the Kelvin and tells Pike. When the time the Enterprise drops out of warp space near Vulcan,  the crew finds a floating junkyard of destroyed ship parts.

shipwrecksThe other Starfleet ships were easily destroyed by the same Romulan ship that destroyed the Kelvin. The ship had launched a long, tethered drilling platform to Vulcan’s surface. When the Enterprise is discovered, the Romulan ship’s commander, Nero (Eric Bana), orders an attack on the Starfleet vessel but stops when he realizes it’s the Enterprise. The Romulan demands that Pike go to his ship just as was done with Robau. Pike agrees, but before leaving, he promotes Kirk to first officer and leaves command of the Enterprise to Spock. He has Kirk, Sulu and a redshirt accompany him in Pike’s shuttlecraft. Before Pike turns himself in, the trio are clandestinely launched via parachutes to the drilling platform to disable it. After fighting off  Romulans on the platform, Kirk and Sulu are able to disable it. But they’re too late, the drill already reached the planet’s core. The Romulans release a substance called red matter that creates a black hole in Vulcan’s core, dooming the world.

kirk sulu

In a desperate move, Spock beams down to Vulcan just in time to save his father Sarek (Ben Cross) and a few others but not his mother (Winona Ryder). Shortly after, he and the handful of survivors are beamed back to the Enterprise as Vulcan is destroyed from within.

Spock struggles not displaying emotions over the death of his mother and world and Pike’s capture. He decides to regroup with the fleet but Kirk tries to convince him otherwise. The Romulans are heading to Earth and Kirk demands that they try to stop them. After they argue for several minutes, Spock has Kirk removed from the bridge and ejected from an escape capsule to a nearby planet, Delta Vega, and orders the Enterprise to resume its course to rendezvous with the fleet.

old spockAfter the capsule lands,  Kirk breaks out and finds himself in a frozen world filled with predatory animals out to snack on him. He is saved from one huge animal by a mysterious Vulcan who turns out to be a very old Spock (Leonard Nimoy). This Spock mind melds with Kirk and he learns that Spock is from the future as are the bald Romulans. In the late 24th century, the Romulans’ homeworld was destroyed by a supernova that threatened other worlds. From his own ship, Spock launched a sample of the red matter to destroy the supernova by creating a black hole. As he tried to escape the black hole, he encountered Nero and his ship. The Romulan was enraged at Spock because the Vulcan promised the Romulans he would save their world, now his wife and family are dead. Before anything could happen, Nero and Spock’s ships fell into the black hole, which was a doorway to the past. Nero had Spock abandoned on Delta Vega so that he could witness the destruction of Vulcan and experience the pain that Nero felt in the future.

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