Friday, May 17, 2013

Trek 2 Review: The Wrath Of "John"

After the successfully concocted reboot in 2009--expectations were high that director J.J. Abrams and his team would deliver a great follow up...After years of being cloaked in secrecy and a top notch marketing campaign "Star Trek Into Darkness" is finally here...

The crew of the USS Enterprise is sent to observe planet Nibiru--once there they discover that a volcano is about ready to erupt--thus wiping out its primitive inhabitants. While attempting to halt the eruption, first officer Spock's (Zachary Quinto) life is in danger forcing Kirk (Chris Pine) to break Starfleet's order number One better known as the "Prime Directive", revealing the Enterprise to the planet's civilization during Spock's rescue. A number of indigenous residents begin to worship the starship as it leaves.

Called back to Earth, Kirk is demoted to First Officer and Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood) re-assumes command of the Enterprise. Shortly afterward, Starfleet agent John Harrison (Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch) bombs a secret "Section 31" installation in London. Pike and Kirk attend an emergency meeting of high ranking officers at Starfleet headquarters. The meeting is attacked by a gunship piloted by Harrison. There are many casualties--Kirk takes the gunship down, but Harrison escapes.

Fleet Admiral Marcus ("Robocop" star Peter Weller) authorizes Kirk to hunt down Harrison, who has used transwarp beaming and fled to the Klingon home world of Kronos. Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban) tries  to talk his friend out of going to no avail. Since Kronos lies deep within the Klingon Empire and The Federation is on the brink of war with the Klingons, the Enterprise is supplied with 72 long-range prototype photon torpedoes, and is ordered to fire them all at Harrison's location once he is found. Believing the torpedoes could be dangerous to the ship, "Scotty" (Simon Pegg) refuses to take them aboard and tenders his resignation. Chekov (Anton Yelchin) takes over Engineering. At same time that Admiral Marcus' daughter, scientist Carol Marcus (Alice Eve), joins the crew under a false name.

Arriving at the Klingon home world, the Enterprise's warp core malfunctions, stranding the ship. With repairs underway, Kirk, Spock and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) use a previously commandeered trader ship to reach Kronos. However, they are detected by Klingon patrol ships and are forced to land. Despite Uhura's attempts to negotiate, the Klingons prepare to kill the trio....

Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof wrote the script for director Abrams--and literally hit the ground running. And with that the sequel barely slows down to catch it's breath. There are plenty of nods to Trek lore to keep disciples giddy, while at the same time making things easy for those non-Trekkers in the audience to understand the plot. The twists and misdirects work for the most part. I really liked how the team used Section 31--which was created for the spin off series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Given that the film has so much going on during its just over 2 hour running time--That is no easy feat. Still I should add that "Into Darkness" could ultimately be the most debated and controversial film for the fans in the entire series.

As for the performances--they are  top notch all the way around--Pine continues to infuse his Kirk with equal parts William Shatnerisms while at the same time making the role his own. Like Bond in Skyfall--Kirk is put through the wringer in "Darkness" Pine is up to the challenge.

Quinto's Spock begins the film right where we left him last time out. By the end he evolves further than anyone else and wears it quite well indeed. Once again the dynamic of Kirk and Spock is at the fore here.

Each of Trek's supporting characters are given moments to shine--I just wish John Cho's Hikaru Sulu had a bit more screen time.

Cumberbatch's "John Harrison" brings his "A" game. His cold stare deep voice and cunning make for quite the big bad. It's safe to say that I was dubious that he would be able to pull it off. I stand corrected happily The scenes in the brig---wow! And when his true identity is revealed--thanks to his delivery and overall performance makes it work.

Eve as Carol is under served here but there is little doubt that there are plenty of sparks between her and Pine to justify further exploration of their relationship going forward. Weller as her Admiral father is quite the tough guy---It's always good to see him in the genre that made him a star.

The film boasts some spectacular sequences but my absolute favorite was the spacesuit flight that Kirk and Harrison take in the second half of the film.

I do have a few quibbles. As much screen time as there is exploring Kirk/Spock--I kinda wish the film had some of the Kirk/Spock/McCoy triad--a hallmark of the franchise--As a consequence it's absence means less screen time for Urban which is a shame. Spock has a call back to an earlier film that is cringe worthy....Think Vader screaming "Noooooooo!" at the end of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. As much as I enjoyed composer Michael Giacchino's improved work over the last pic--He could have used the famous theme from The Original Series by the late great Alexander Courage peppered throughout--more than he did.

STID is a fun ride that both fans and non fans should find entertaining. I was skeptical and quite hard on Abrams in the lead up to the release--Some of it was deserved--but he and his team managed to win me over....Bring on Star Trek 3

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