Pace is what made 2009’s Star Trek a block buster movie wonder. Few movies have kept me that engaged and that enthralled from opening credits to close—the plot expertly-woven, the characters dynamically-charged, the action meticulously-timed and the drama perfectly-dosed. Not once, did I find my thoughts drifting elsewhere. Not once, did I wonder how close to the end we were. As a Trek newbie at the time, The Enterprise had me hooked. I said it then: “Star Trek is the best movie of 2009.”
Its long-awaited follow-up, Star Trek Into Darkness, doesn’t pull back the reins. What J.J. Abrams and company aimed for in Kirk and Spock’s sequel is in many ways bigger, deeper and heavier than what came before. In a word, it’s ambitious. Unfortunately, in achieving that level of ambition, the film lacks the cleanliness of the first movie, losing some of the narrative-ease, impeccable-timing, and cohesion of our initial introduction to Abram’s re-envisioned Trek world.
Despite this, what Star Trek Into Darkness is able to achieve is worth applauding. Perhaps the plot isn’t quite as pristine or the pace as rapid-fire as it was in the first, but it aims for so much more with its complex, historically-relevant topics. Whereas the first film was about friendship, loyalty, and respect, the second takes it up a notch, swimming in a shark tank of heavy-hitting themes.
In the sequel, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) leads his crew on a perilous journey in seek of a super-human terrorist, Khan (played by the very-crafty Benedict Cumberbatch), who not only threatens their way of life, but whose capture has the potential to ignite a full-on Klingon war. Khan must be stopped, but like a bomb ready to detonate at any second or with any wrong pull of a wire, every move they make is littered with high-tension and the potential for a detrimental ripple effect. A premise like this allows the film to take its narrative deeper, moving beyond the surface themes of friendship, loyalty, and logic versus passion, and delving into richer questions, more historically and politically-charged themes (like the original TV series was known for), and all around deeper, richer, and more chilling prose.
Fear. Terrorism. Honor. Morality. Revenge. Pride. All while mirroring the historical truth of American wars, American leaders, and American tension. How one man set on destruction and glory can start a war. How another man’s emotions can lead to illogical, immoral action. How often does emotion get in the way of these high-tension issues? What is right and wrong? Can a villain be a foe and a friend? And the most important: Who do we trust? What do we live for? How do we choose who should lead?
The wrong person in charge, the wrong answer to the question, the wrong emotion taking the forefront and an uncontrollable war can be unleashed. We’re all walking in a room filled with gas and one wrong flip of a switch can change everything we’ve ever known.
But, regardless, a switch must be flipped. Who do we trust with the task?
I don’t know about you, but Abrams has me convinced. I’d go with Captain James Tiberius Kirk.
Spock can help.