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I’ve never been much interested in pervasive internet phenomena of Fan Fiction.  Taking established characters from books, film and other media to create unauthorised storylines, or in many cases, unforeseen romantic pairings.  However, after watching the high-powered and emotional Star Trek: Into Darkness, I have since reconsidered and indeed may even join the ranks of the “ficcers” and “shippers” on behalf of my new OTP, or One True Pairing; Captain James Tiberius Kirk and Mister Spock, who have my vote for love couple of the year.

Stealth is not the strong point of the crew of the USS Enterprise.  A secret mission to prevent a volcanic disruption that will destroy an entire planet finds Captain Kirk and ship’s doctor, Bones McCoy dodging spears hurled by the primitive world’s indigenous people.  While they run for their lives, the Enterprise’s second-in-command, Mister Spock, prepares to undertake a deadly gambit by entering the volcano to set a charge that will stifle it.  When all goes wrong, Kirk (Beamed away from the angry tribe) makes a call which will compromise the imperative covertness of the operation, but might retrieve Spock before he becomes Vulcan bacon.  They succeed and all is well until Spock’s all-too-honest recount of the mission for Starfleet Command gets them both thrown off the Enterprise.  The pair is once again at odds because of the disconnect between Spock’s human side, which should have taken into account the reason Kirk saved him and then warned his friend about the report, and his emotion-free Vulcan side which plays strictly by the book.  While the two men ponder life either on a new ship - or in Kirk’s case, without a ship at all – in London, an explosion has captured the attention of the Command.  Spock and Kirk’s are present at a government meeting to counteract the apparent sabotage.  They are also some of the few remaining witnesses after the assembly is deluged by a hail of bullets from a helicopter piloted by a mysterious figure.  The assassin is revealed to be one of their own.  Michael Harrison, a highly placed operative has decided to bring Starfleet closer to war by luring them into Klingon territory to achieve his capture; testing the waters of the shaky detente with the savage Empire.  Loaded for bear and operating outside the normal channels of government, the Enterprise is stocked with its old crew and a cargo of new missiles for use against the Klingons.  They’re encouraged to shoot first to put an end to the traitor and not ask any questions at all.  It’s the actions and persuasive words of the supposed turncoat that slows the impulsive Kirk down long enough to realise that all he is being told by Starfleet may not be as it seems.

I unabashedly raved about director J.J. Abrams’ first Star Trek reboot chapter.  I thought the 2009 movie captured all the fun and action of a truly great adventure film while showing all the love and reverence for its fanatically-adored 1960s sci-fi television source.  I gushed over the perfect casting of Karl Urban as McCoy, Zachary Quinto as Spock, Anton Yelchin as Chekov, and felt that while perfectly adequate, Chris Pine stood every chance to grow into Kirk’s yellow shirt.  Far more comfortable in the role this time around; Pine is closer to really owning the rakish Kirk and is less drowned out by the excellent performances on all sides, abetted by a script gives him more emotional heft than in the first film.  In fact, there’s a lot of emotion running through Star Trek: Into Darkness.  It touches on the different themes of patriotism, betrayal on many fronts, loyalty between lovers (Spock and Uhura bicker furiously … Well, Uhura does, anyway.), and the meaning and boundaries of friendship.  We discover our purported bad guy is just someone like Kirk, who would do anything to save his people and the analogy is not lost on the brash captain.  We also witness the forces of paranoia that are only too happy to beat the battle drums and push the seemingly inevitable war with the Klingons that much closer.

In terms of the action, Star Trek: Into Darkness hits on all cylinders, with more epic battles, rampant destruction and risk to the Enterprise crew.  The pursuit of the crippled Enterprise by a huge, fully-armoured battleship is edge-of-your-seat exciting.  It doesn’t matter what colour shirt you’re wearing, all bets are off and fatalities are high.  Referring to the classic Star Trek legacy, the looming prospect of the Enterprise’s first face-to-face with the series’ biggest foes, the Klingons, is pretty thrilling and the upgrade to their lumpy visages is mighty cool.  We find out what Kirk had to do with Christine Chapel’s decision to go into nursing, and an appearance by one of my favorite Star Trek creatures had me squealing like a fool.  SPOILER ALERT: Thar be Tribbles!  There is a moment of blatant fanservice that quite affects the outcome of the film and makes it a bit of a cheat, but I can’t bring myself to quibble about the cameo considering who it was.  We are peppered with quotes well known to even the casual Star Trek fan, and a fantastic, excellently rendered plot twist that will have every Trekkie whooping for joy.  Karl Urban is still spot-on perfect as McCoy, though seen much less in this chapter.  John Cho as Sulu is an unexpectedly stone-cold, steely threat in his quick minute of occupancy of the captain’s chair.  A disappointment in the first movie was Simon Pegg’s overly goofy, dissonant portrayal of Mister Scott, the ship’s engineer.  Scotty is still played for laughs, but this time he serves as the one word of caution in the rush to war; an act that sees him leaving the ship with Chekov taking over all beaming-up duties.  Zachary Quinto once again nails the half-breed Vulcan (Insultingly referred to by Kirk as “Pointy” in a moment of ire) and his struggle to balance the warring characteristics of his two races, his friendship with Kirk versus his duty as a Starfleet officer, as well as his fraught romance with the frustrated Uhura.  The biggest revelation of Star Trek: Into Darkness comes with the advent of Benedict Cumberbatch as the mystery man the Enterprise are sent to execute.  The urbane British actor is best known for playing rather twitchy, very English characters, who’d strain lifting anything heavier than a teacup, or in Cumberbatch’s case, a magnifying glass as his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes has given him a huge fan following on both shores.  Here, looking Snape-tastically gothy with dyed black long fringe à la Blur’s Alex James highlighting his pale skin and stunning blue eyes; the long lanky actor is all lean, agile muscle as the perfect killing machine.  Firing two Gatling-sized guns in each hand, leaping tall building in a single bound and far stronger, faster and smarter than your average Joe, Harrison, like the entire mission, isn’t quite what he appears to be.  Cumberbatch is absolutely splendid in the role and as one who’s admired him for many years in all his BBC productions and British period pieces, it’s bittersweet to acknowledge that this film will definitely transform him into a coveted Hollywood property.

If there’s a flaw in Star Trek: Into Darkness, it may be that it tries too hard to tug at the heartstrings too often and does so by using tropes and odd parallels.  There’s an awkward subplot involving Alice Eve (In a Starter for 10 reunion with Cumberbatch) as a stowaway scientist trying to break through to Peter Weller as her Dick Cheney in Space, war-happy, genocidal dad.  Kirk has to constantly pay penance for being the sharpest knife in the drawer by losing people he cares for, or risking his own life.  The Spock-Uhura spats get old and unseemly quick as the translator bursts out with grievances in the middle of a highly dangerous mission.  There are many teary-eyed expositions and lengthy apologies that drag the momentum slightly, but not enough to slow it down.  Then again, all these lovers’ quarrels and emotional feelings all over the place simply give strength to my Kirk/Spock OTP argument.

Flaws aside, Star Trek: Into Darkness is great fun and a more than worthy successor to the excellent first film.  It’s also one of the few recent releases that really works well in IMAX 3D, particularly for thrilling scenes like Kirk and Harrison’s daring free flight through space into a hole in another ship no bigger than a womp rat (Oops, wrong series.).  Star Trek: Into Darkness’ storyline is a marvelous set up for the franchise to continue on in the way most fans would have hoped; building on the classic themes and characters of the past, while bringing in all the excitement, novelty and total entertainment of 21st century filmmaking.


~ The Lady Miz Diva

May 17th, 2013


Click here for our review of 2009's Star Trek



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