Star Trek Into Darkness
Nearly all of the films I have viewed and reviewed thus far this year were films I saw at home. To be sure I have a better film setup than most–HD projector and a 95″ screen and surround sound–but there are still some films which benefit from a truly large screen. Star Trek Into Darkness is one that benefitted from not only a large screen, but a huge 4-story tall screen and 3D projection.
As I reflect on Into Darkness, I imagined Gene Roddenberry’s reaction. “It’s terrible. They’ve ruined Star Trek. It’s just bad. J.J. Abrahms has taken science fiction and turned it into adolescent space opera.” Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, would, of course, be right. This new iteration of Star Trek is loud, garish, is more fantasy than hard science fiction, and not a film which will stand up to too much close analysis of its plot.
But if we approach Into Darkness on its own merit… as the film director J.J. Abrams has given us, it’s a fun film. This film was meant to be a visceral experience one which overwhelms your senses. The action is sprawling and often so rapid fire that the specifics of who is doing what to whom is briefly lost. But no matter the momentum of the film is such that you are carried along with such rapidity that like a car speeding down a highway you float over the potholes in the plot. Moments when you’ll ask, “Why did they get ejected from the trash system when they could have just used a shuttle?” will pass because the visual and aural experience of seeing James Kirk, played by Chris Pine, and villain John Harrison, played by the outstanding Benedict Cumberbach, space dive pushes those thoughts away.
Yet Into Darkness continues the theme of a parallel timeline established in Star Trek (2009). A famous scene from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) is here presented in almost a mirror image, a reflection. There are some predictable plot twists, but I found them enjoyably so. They were not ploddingly predictable. Instead they were like the twists and turns of a favorite road where you know every twist and turn and can push your car to its limits. What’s in the torpedoes? Who is John Harrison really? And what is Bones doing with a tribble? We know the answers to these questions long before the characters do, but we don’t care. We smile with glee when our guesses pay off.
Into Darkness could have been a meditation on terrorism, vengeance, complacency, eugenics and genetic engineering, and sacrifice. Gene Roddenberry could have mined multiple films from those themes, but J.J. Abrams is not especially interested in exploring themes. This is not meant to be a deep thinking film, but an action-heavy thrill ride. It delivers in heaps.