It was my freshman year in college when I first developed my appreciation for all-things-Abrams. Here was a visionary who truly understood the realm of sci-fi. Through works like Lost, Cloverfield, and Super 8, director J.J. Abrams has demonstrated how a skilled filmmaker can pay tribute to the “rules” of the genre, while simultaneously re-write them. We see this idea at work once again in Abrams’ latest film Star Trek Into Darkness.
I never classified myself as a Star Trek fan, and certainly not a Trekkie. However, I’ve always been aware of its importance and had a basic understand of its mythology. I enjoyed Abram’s 2009’s Star Trek reboot, but I wouldn’t say I loved it (the side plot with new Spock and Spock Prime was needlessly confusing and not worth the price of Nemoy-nostalgia). Despite these small issues, I was still interested in seeing Into Darkness. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in looking at the movie like as a test-run for the future Star Wars films.
Overall, I was very pleased with Star Trek Into Darkness. The movie definitely succeeds in building upon the ideas established in the first film. Kirk and Spock’s relationship is put to the test and the crew encounters interesting ethical question that seem very relevant to our post-9/11 world. At what lengths should you go to eliminate a terrorist? When is it justifiable to bend the rules?
I enjoyed this movie so much that I actually went back and watched 1982’s Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. It was fascinating to see how that film inspired Abrams’ interpretation. But it’s even more interesting to see how Abrams takes those original scenes and makes them his own. Despite how different the special effects are, the two movies still share the same powerful themes regarding friendship and self-sacrifice.
Abram’s shows his brilliance once again with the casting choice of Benedict Cumberbatch. Like most of the world, I was first introduced to the British actor in BBC’s Sherlock. (If you haven’t seen Sherlock yet, I highly recommend you check it out on Netflix.) Cumberbatch has developed a reputation for playing his roles with a passionate intensity and quick-wit style. In this movie, Cumberbatch plays the film’s villain with an icy calm that commands your attention. Zachary Quinto also gives a noteworthy performance and continues to make Spock his own character. As far as paying tribute to the original cast, I’d vote for Karl Urban as most convincing. Urban perfectly captures the grit of Dr. McCoy.
Unlike Star Wars, Gene Roddenberry’s universe deals less with “light vs. dark,” and more so with what it means to be human. This idea is usually played out in the philosophical struggles between Kirk and Spock–one representing emotion, the other logic. Star Trek approaches each problem through two sets of eyes. The first asks, “What is the logical thing to do?” and the second asks, “What is the right thing to do?” We learn that the answer is usually somewhere in between.