Cocktails and Movies Review: “Star Trek Into Darkness” – A Welcome Course Correction For All

Cocktails and Movies embarks on Star Trek‘s continuing mission: to explore strange new plots. To seek out new events and new characterizations. To boldly go where Star Trek has decided to go…

Star Trek, at its best, shines a light on our biggest fears and concerns in the arenas of cocktails and movies star-trek-into-darknessdiplomatic relations and the ethics of warfare. At its worst, it takes high concept science fiction, and hampers it with ineffectively cliched trappings that make for a painfully bad time. With a new series, and a new timeline to be followed, J.J. Abrams redefined the Star Trek universe to meld a high concept Trek film with an action/adventure-fueled Trek romp. In Star Trek Into Darkness, Abrams manages to further redefine the universe of Star Trek, while at the same time effectively melding together political intrigue and high concept science fiction. What results is a film that is probably one of the most effective examinations of not only the subject of terrorism; but also the themes of duty, honor, and compliance. In essence, J.J. Abrams makes a film that not only satisfies Trekkies of all stripes, but also manages to entertain general audiences that are looking for a thrilling summer flick.

Star Trek Into Darkness picks up where Star Trek ’09 left off. Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew are still relatively green out of the academy, and his leadership skills are questioned. Like the Kirk we’re accustomed to, he has a chip on his shoulder and believes there’s always a solution to having your cake and eating it too. He flouts regulations, sleeps around, and loves the music of the Beastie Boys. He lives as if he’ll never die, always returning from danger’s grip unscathed, and only needing be concerned with who’s buying when they get back to base. This is both the perfect time and the worst time for John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) to rear his head, unleashing a campaign of terror against Starfleet that has never been seen before, not even in Darkness the original timeline. His identity unknown, his purpose unspecified, his methods untraceable, he will bring the Federation to its knees. As per usual, it’ll be up to the crew of the Enterprise to bring justice and peace to the galaxy once more. Unbeknownst to them, things are going to get a lot more complicated than a simple “wanted dead or alive” manhunt.

Brilliant Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness is probably the most effective meditation on 9/11 that we’ve seen in fictional storytelling, doubly so when it comes to sci-fi parables. Like the old school Trek films, this one reflects on the effects of terrorism and how it can inspire, and in equal turns, also manipulate. It’s also (to my knowledge) the only fictional film to have acts of terror inspired by 9/11 depicted, and then remembers to thank the first responders for their hard work and sacrifice during the event itself. Star Trek ’09 banked its story on the shiny “wow factor” of an origin story, with an ultimately light tone overall. Into Darkness is its darker, more grounded sibling that manages to entertain without sacrificing the plot or stooping to cheap gags that draw from the severity of the tone. The humor in this installment is more organic, less showy than the previous film; which makes more sense than some of the jokes from the first. (Those of you that groaned at Scotty’s trip through the pipes in Trek ’09, won’t have much time to groan in this one.) A third of the battle is already won at this point; because If you nail the humor in a Trek film, all you need to focus on after that is the action and the drama.

Thankfully, the action in Into Darkness is top notch, with set pieces as good as the actors giving them life. A particularly excellent foot chase, shown in the trailers, turns out to be even more thrilling than the commercials portray. Of course, these action beats would be nothing if they didn’t have the dramatic core to back them up, and once again J.J. Abrams and company deliver. Special marks go towards Chris Pine, whose Captain Kirk evolves from cocky, rule breaking know-it-all into a more shrewd team player who’ll do anything for his crew. Pine was one of the more questioned bits of casting when Trek ’09 got off the ground, but now he’s proven why they chose him for the job. Finally, and this isn’t to short change any other member of the stellar cast, but Benedict Cumberbatch was a great addition as John Harrison himself. His menace is something that gives the film drive and purpose, and he doesn’t slouch against all of his competition.

The Enterprise Needs A Slight Tune Up

While the film was an excellent addition to the Trek canon, it did come off a little light. The ultimate endgame is pretty evident early on, and once it gets to the point where things begin to kick off, it feels a little underwhelming. Maybe it’s the fact that the first film, again, used that “wow factor” to its advantage, but the second film could have stood to be a little more threatening. Also, this is the first Trek film that officially uses the Klingons, and yet their presence is as fleeting as it is sudden. Even John Harrison, the Machiavellian terrorist we’ve been marketed to fear, does pretty much what The Joker, Silva, and other recent villains have done before him in other films. These criticisms don’t rob the film of its charm, but if we’re going to embark on a five year mission with this franchise, the deflector dish is going to need some recalibration. (Sorry…Trek humor. Bottom line is there’s still some lessons to be learned.)

Rating: 4/5 casks of Romulan Ale, despite being regulated as Federation Contraband. (You can find the DIY recipe to make your own here, thanks to Geek in the CIty.)

– Mike Reyes (@MrControversy83)