Thursday, May 23, 2013

cumberbatch into darkness

Warning: spoilers abound, for those of you who haven't already guessed, viewed, or Googled Benedict Cumberbatch's true identity in the film.

J.J. Abrams's second entry in his rebooted Star Trek franchise, Star Trek Into Darkness, warped into theaters last week and did pretty well — over $164 million worldwide earned at the box office so far. Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), and the rest of the gang were back, but there's no denying that what made Star Trek even more fun and fascinating this time around was the arch-villain played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Abrams & Co. are undoubtedly big fans of the original series and its subsequent films, as there were many shout-outs to fans peppered throughout the film.

Cumberbatch made a swell villain, and the film-mmakers definitely wanted to tweak the fans by revealing him to be ... Khan, but ... by making him Khan they have really messed with what had come before, both in the original series episode, "Space Seed," and the film, Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan with Ricardo Montalban playing the Indian Sikh super-warrior Khan Noonien Singh. It is undeniable that as gorgeous and kick-ass as Cumberbatch may look on the widescreen, he is quite the pale fellow. Khan's ethnicity and the series' historic nod to Genghis Khan went right out the window. Reportedly Benicio Del Toro was originally slated for the role, but Cumberbatch was great, one of the best things about the movie.

A super-man who can take out an entire army of Klingons? Yes, please!
Spock and Kirk work on their relationship
Uhura is not only fluent in Klingon, but can save her man at the end of the day
Having Kirk go into a radiation tube so that Zachary Quinto could yell, "KHAN!!!" after his friend had seemingly died, and then go after him for revenge was a nice switch. A cameo from original Spock Leonard Nimoy was also fun, although it smacked of not only deus ex machina, but that wacky LOST sideways universe, which is not necessarily a good thing.

Dr. Carol Marcus, (of Genesis project fame) played by Alice Eve, made an appearance, mostly so that we could see her in her underwear. Oddly, bra and panty design doesn't seem to have changed or improved much in the future. How a British-accented lassie could be the daughter of the very American Admiral Marcus, played by Peter Weller is anybody's guess.

There were definitely some great set-pieces:
The opening sequence on the planet Nibiru, was visually stunning and exciting, as Spock tried to save a primitive civilisation from an about-to-erupt volcano, while Kirk as usual, broke every rule in the book to save him from being blown up with the volcano.

The banter between Kirk and Spock, Kirk and Scotty (a very funny Simon Pegg), Spock and Uhura, Kirk and Khan — all great stuff. The relationships, as always, are the heart of these movies. The CGI pyrotechnics are just window dressing.

Kirk and Khan teaming up (temporarily) and hurtling through space together, to save the Enterprise and its crew was a great sequence.
The overall experience of watching the film was a fun one, but Star Trek Into Darkness was one of the noisiest damn movies ever. So many things exploding in space, with tons of gray metal junk flying all over the place. Whatever happened to no one being able to hear you scream in space? There will undoubtedly be a sequel, although which aspect of the Star Trek legacy the filmmakers will choose to plunder next time around remains uncertain. The fate of Khan and his companions wasn't left ambiguous enough to really register as clever, or a twist in storytelling. I wouldn't mind at all seeing Cumberbatch again, but is that really a story that needs to be (re) told?
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