I did a quick spoiler-free post here. This will have “spoilers!” (yes, you heard River Song correctly my Whovian friends.)
Kirk (Chris Pine) has a thing or two to learn about being a Captain of a Starfleet ship. There is protocol, one. Another: honesty and transparency in filed reports. We’ll be unamused by the irony of this one later. His risks involve rule-breaking and we can hardly fault him choosing love/friendship over an impersonal order. Kirk not only represents a human element in character and station, he fights for it. He often comes across as so given over to human emotion/desires that we are to be pleasantly surprised that he is quite calculating/intelligent. He is a great character.
Of course, one of his greatest traits is also one of his worst flaws. He can run with the emotional in less healthy ways, like vengeance. Arrogance is a bit of a problem as well. Kirk is uncomfortably volatile at times. We like that he can be hard to anticipate, it produces the right sort of tension—for the audience, not his superiors. He weighs risks with his gut rather than his mind; and we have to trust his gut. [aside: tests have shown that people who trust their gut suffer less from buyer’s remorse. it is a fallacy to think that the gut is anything less than a refined-since-birth-decision-making part of your brain.] As Pike (Bruce Greenwood) worries, perhaps Kirk’s ‘gut’ is too young, and he’s been placed into his position too soon.
I’m still warming to Chris Pine, but it was a great moment for him when sitting at the bar receiving grace. The character shouldn’t wear humility well, but for those necessary glimpses, Pine was convincing. Our theater audience was completely still. The film moves to humor and we can breathe. Then we are launched into dread and the spectacle of a firefight. –was it just mean or did anyone else notice that extraordinary delay in responders?–
The villain, we believe, is one of Starfleet’s own, an agent gone rogue. And we aren’t wrong in the sense that this mystery man is employed by the powers-that-be. Our particular anxiety is that he represents only his own interests; and what we know of them makes us uncomfortable with how they do not align with our own. Of greater threat: he is physically and intellectually superior; he observes fewer boundaries; and seems unstoppable. Furthermore, he is in some ways a victim of the same terrible power that has targeted the USS Enterprise. The dilemma is hardly an either/or. And each character (good and bad) removes themselves to answer for their own beliefs, rather than uphold or defend a national rhetoric.
The villains are those gone rogue, acting in their own interests, but then the heroes are portrayed in pursuit of their own conscience as well. And this isn’t to say that any of the aforementioned interests do not consider those for whom they feel responsible (nation, brethren, crew). In the end, it is whomever has the greater moral solution, that gets the gold star, and neither militarization nor vengeance gets that star. Primarily because certain sacrifices are unwarranted, no place is made for their consequence: loss of lives (often collateral) being a big one; betrayal is another. It is telling who elicits feelings of betrayal and why. Some such conflicts can be resolved given time and communication: Uhura/Spock; Kirk/Pike; Kirk/Spock; Kirk/Scotty… Others cannot be resolved because self-sacrifice is out of the heroes’ hands. They are not going to die for a worthy cause, but for the egotism of a tyrant (read Marcus).
Kirk shares sympathies with varying perspectives throughout the film and he is able to institute whatever stop-gap is deemed necessary from crossing those lines that the film’s villains have. The crew helps. They come with their own experience and sense of reason. They, too, calculate the cost and when it comes down to risking another’s life instead of their own, that seems to be the line to withdraw into any other solution. The relationships become strained in the shifts of power/authority, but they bear up and it all balances out—after all, they are their own. Kirk isn’t the only [action] hero with a skill-set all his own.
Uhura (Zoe Saldana) is pretty badass and more than a device to elicit sexual tension and/or a power struggle between alpha males. They’ve cast another intelligent, decisive young woman to model underwear with a raised brow and little more. Uhura and Spock’s relationship continue to be a fascination; as is the bromance between Spock and Kirk, sigh. The relationships between the crew members gives not only the film an endless supply of humor, but a lot of heart as well.
I continue to be impressed with how well this new cast have come to inhabit characters created long past and yet still allow themselves to be known. The sets and costumes undergo a similar presence. Old jokes and references to Star Trek past are nice smiles and anxious moments in the present—and they are actually more than a quaint nod to Trekkies. For instance, the “red shirt” was employed in a way that increased a sense of Chekov’s (Anton Yelchin) peril.
Star Trek: Into Darkness was/is an exhilarating ride. Its humor and action sequences replete with suitable quantities of chase, fights, crashes, and explosions entertain. The drama of maturing the captain and his crew as individuals and in relationship foster an even greater affection for the franchise. Action films, at their crux, need only artfully timed effects and quips to satisfy the viewer. It needs nothing else to recommend what our heroes and villains look like. It is a nicety when they work a bit harder. It is a sweet strangeness when an action film, a genre characterized by violent conflict, to use its own terms as a conflict. –what is the purpose of the USS Enterprise? –on what terms (policy) do we interact with foreign entities? –what kind of vicious cycles have we found ourselves in and seem to perpetuate upon increasingly shaky justifications? We harbor both villains and heroes and this is an excellent source of conflict for an action film already rife with internal conflicts to confront.
Our villains may rise up from among us, but they are made (engineered) into their presented state by those who are given over to fear and anger, as well as a hunger for prestige that can only seem to be articulated in terms of war. “Power corrupts and Absolute Power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton). And when this happens, the film reminds us of an equally time-worn truth: that we have moral compasses within ourselves and amongst our community of persons [who are also not sheep]. It is evidenced in the powerful legacy of those heroes who are created by the people from among the people—spoken of in terms of service and rescue and self-sacrifice. It is no coincidence that the dedication at the end of the film is made to post-9/11 veterans.
—————–Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)——————
Directed by J. J. Abrams; written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci & Damon Lindelof, based on “Star Trek” by Gene Roddenberry; music by Michael Giacchino; director of photography, Dan Mindel; edited by Maryann Brandon & Mary Jo Markey; produced by Abrams, Kurtzman, Orci, Lindelof & Bryan Burk; Paramount Pictures. Starring: John Cho (Sulu), Benedict Cumberbatch (John Harrison), Alice Eve (Carol), Bruce Greenwood (Captain Pike), Simon Pegg (Scott), Chris Pine (Captain Kirk), Zoe Saldana (Uhura), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Karl Urban (Dr. McCoy), Peter Weller (Starfleet Admiral Marcus), Anton Yelchin (Chekov).
PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence. running time: 132 minutes.