Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

I'm not sure that I would consider myself a Trekkie. Or a Trekker. I don't know which term is supposed to be derogatory. Either way, I don't put myself in that people group.

I will admit to being a sci-fi junky. I'm not too discriminating when it comes to science fiction entertainment. There are some franchises that I hesitate to get into, just because it feels exhausting to invest in brand new fictional realities. Though I recently (finally) sat through the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series and am now getting into the Doctor Who phenomenon.

But I was kind of raised on Star Trek. Dad was a big fan. I'd probably call him a Trekkie. Or a Trekker. Whatever. Though he never dressed like a Klingon to go to a convention, which might be a defining characteristic of the Trekkie/Trekker.

Before Dad passed away, he and I saw ever Star Trek film that was released in theaters. Well, from the fourth one on. I wasn't born when the first one came out and was far too young to see Wrath of Khan or Search for Spock when they were in theaters.

So now, every new Star Trek movie that comes out, I go to see in memory of Dad. He would have absolutely loved the reboot that came out in 2009. And I think he would have loved Into Darkness. By the way, from here on in, there be spoilers. You have been warned. If you just want to know what I thought of the movie without being spoiled, here it is: it was pretty much awesome. Now, you non-spoiler people, go away.

Everyone who's left, I expect you've either seen the new Trek or are ready to be spoiled on some key plot points.

I'm not sure exactly how much of the movie ended up being a huge surprise to fans anyway. There had been rumors since they rebooted the film series that the sequel would feature the classic Trek villain Khan. JJ Abrams did his best to keep details of the film on lock down. I think he did a pretty good job. Or maybe I purposely avoided possible spoilers on the internet over the last couple years. Still, the rumor was a pretty strong one.

Turns out, it wasn't just a rumor. Sure, they gave Benedict Cumberbatch's character an assumed identity, but about halfway through the movie, he admits that he is, in fact, Khan Noonien Singh. But, as it turns out, while Khan is still not a good guy, he's not the film's main villain. That honor goes to Admiral Marcus, played by Robocop. I mean Peter Weller. I'm getting ahead of myself.

Into Darkness throws the audience right into some action from the start. The crew of the Enterprise is on a mission to study a pre-warp society. Actually, they're pre-industrial as well. But while surveying the planet, they discover that a massive volcano is about the erupt, which would annihilate all life on said planet. And so, in a severe breach of the prime directive, they decide to stop the volcano from erupting. This causes all kinds of problems when Kirk and Spock return to Starfleet Headquarters. Kirk is demoted, Spock is transferred to a different ship. Great way to start the movie, right?

Meanwhile, this guy who's not supposed to be Khan manipulates someone in Starfleet Intelligence, making him become a suicide bomber at a secret installation in London. When the powers that be at Starfleet gather to discuss the bombing, Not Khan attacks and kills Admiral Pike, who has been like a father to Kirk. Understandably, Kirk is ready for some revenge. Admiral Marcus recognizes this and sends Kirk after Not Khan, who has decided to hide out on Kronos, the Klingon homeworld.

It's funny, I was wondering when we'd be introduced to the Klingons in this alternate Star Trek reality. They have a different kind of look that I'm still not too sure about, but maybe it works. Kirk, Spock and Uhura arrive in an uninhabited area of the planet where Not Khan is supposedly hiding out. They're met by a pretty aggressive squadron of Klingon warriors who, at this point in Federation history, do not get along with humans. A fight breaks out and Not Khan ends up saving our heroes. Then he gives himself up and is placed under arrest and returned to Enterprise.

But why would he do that? Because Spock mentioned the number of powerful torpedoes that were aimed right at his location. 72. What does that number mean? Turns out it's the number of cryogenically frozen people who represent Khan's crew. Oh, yeah, Not Khan admits that he's Khan.

See, when Vulcan was destroyed in the last movie, Admiral Marcus did a deep space search for the SS Botany Bay, Khan's cryo-ship. Marcus thawed Khan in order to use him as a tactician. Marcus believed that a war with the Klingons was coming and he wanted to be prepared. When Khan became a loose cannon, Marcus wanted to clean up the mess. And he wanted to use Captain Kirk to do that for him. And then he planned to destroy Enterprise and her crew. Real stand up guy, Admiral Marcus.

I loved this movie. As a fan of Wrath of Khan (which I consider the best of the original cast's films), I was excited to see all the throw backs and Easter eggs that were thrown into the movie. Alice Eve joins the cast as Carol Marcus. If you saw Wrath of Khan, you'd recognize her as a former flame of Kirk's, and the mother of his son. Obviously, these are younger, alternate versions of the characters we knew, but it's nice to see the possible connection between these characters beginning to form. Maybe they'll explore that further in the next sequel. Which is almost certain to happen.

And you know how William Shatner screamed "KHAAAAAAN!!!" when Khan stole the Genesis device and left him marooned underground? We got that scream again. But this time, it didn't come from Kirk. It came from Spock, who showed a surprising amount of emotion at the climax of the film. It was kind of touching. I nearly cried. But, unlike the Vulcan, I was able to contain my emotions.

So yeah, this was a really good movie. I'd go see it again if I thought I could afford it. If you liked the last Star Trek, you'll love this one. I definitely think it's better than the last one.

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