I never really connected with Star Trek as a kid. I grew up with a Luke Skywalker action figure firmly gripped in one chubby hand and Darth Vader hectoring him from the other. The schism between the two sci-fi camps, Wars vs Trek, has been joked about forever. For me, the dashing heroism, the witty (to an eight-year-old) banter and sense of adventure in the Star Wars films made the stilted pseudo-science committee-meeting blather of Trek seem like a roomful of nerds being nerdy just waiting for their next wedgie. I didn't want to grow up to be Kirk.
JJ Abrams somehow found a way to make a Star Wars movie using Star Trek parts. He took the rare human-like thing about the Original series, the tension-filled bromance between Spock and Kirk, and put it on the dashboard of the careening Summer blockbuster sportscar he'll be driving all the way to the bank this year. Then he took every good thing you can do with CGI, 3D and IMAX and did it over and over again til the credits rolled.
Star Trek: Into Darkness is visually gorgeous. It's fast, loud and satisfying to your popcorn butter core. Benedict Cumberbatch, as terrorist John Harrison, has a voice and steely gaze befitting an old Hollywood space opera serial villain. Every time he delivers a line it's kinda shocking. That basso vocal eruption reminds me of getting scolded as a kid. I went home and did my chores after the movie.
The plot isn't necessarily inventive (though there are reveals that made me giddy for friends of mine that love Star Trek) and the dialogue is filled with nods to the sixties series and the Nimoy/Shatner movies (when Kirk was fat and had an afro). The action set pieces and choreography of that action are sublimely impressive. There's some stuff for a die-hard fan to latch on to and plenty for a non-fan to stare slack-jawed at. The final explosion (there's no secret here, there's ALWAYS a final explosion in these movies) tips it's hat to the first Death Star. The perfect use of 3D technology makes you feel like the glowing sparks are bouncing off your cheeks.
My ultimate takeaway from the film is that, surprise, it's a big budget action film that is perfectly capable making you forget about the bills, your boy/girlfriend, work, etc., but fails in that it makes you also forget about Star Trek. I may not have loved it as a kid but I do think there was something unique that old-timey fans are going to miss. Whether it's the foam rocks bouncing off redshirts from the Shatner era or the excruciating sincerity of the 90's series (backed by pretty interesting real science) it's just way too cool for school.
This movie made me really excited to see JJ Abrams' new Star Wars film in 2015. Star Trek Into Darkness was its trailer.
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