Year Released: 2013
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch
(PG-13, 123 min.)
“Mine eyes dazzle.” John Webster
Long on style, short on substance. This latest J. J. Abrams reboot goes boldly, but it’s hardly where no man has gone before. Like the best of sugary confections, this film rides high for its 2 hour plus screen time, but there is the inevitable letdown afterward.
The action, personalities, and special effects wag the dog, so much so that the screenwriters rely upon a reworked version of The Wrath of Khan from over 30 years ago for their plot. It is also telling that Gene Roddenberry, the creator and driving force behind the original “Star Trek” television series, had no part is that 1982 offering.
And real Trekkies will miss his deft touch. Roddenberry somehow managed to weave deep philosophical ideas into his weekly episodes. The ensemble cast was merely the colorful tapestry behind his fascinating ideas. Roddenberry knew that all the scientific gadgets were just that – gadgets. Playing with ideas and not phasers or transporters was his focus. With him we examined the limitations of immortality (“Requiem for Methuselah”), the ineffectiveness of pure goodness (“The Enemy Within”), the unlikely outcomes of good intentions (“The City on the Edge of Forever”), and the futility of war (“Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”), to name a few.
It is no coincidence that the original “Star Trek” series was and is embraced by the brainy nerd set so enthusiastically. The move toward mass marketing went fairly smoothly in J. J. Abram’s 2009 Star Trek, as noted by Different Drummer back then:
How to reboot the moribund Star Trek franchise, keeping its cranky fans aboard the Starship Enterprise while welcoming a new generation of recruits? Somehow director J.J. Abrams succeeds in this delicate balancing act by maintaining the core characters, throwing in some youthful rebellion, sexual tension, and plenty of reliable inter space swashbuckling as he revisits the youthful beginnings of the iconic crew.
This time the mass marketing ploys seem pegged to an audience addicted to eye candy, a generation glued to smart phones and obsessed with celebrity gossip. Instead of "Brangelina," it’s "Spohura" (the romance between Spock and Uhura) that gets their attention. And there is nonstop action, too – explosions, death defying leaps, mindboggling battles, as well as access to endless CGI possibilities making what was once impossible cinematically the merely expected now. Has the modern audience been reduced to the state of jaded seven-year-olds at yet another lavish birthday party where paid entertainment draws a yawn among the endless pizzas and cupcakes taken as their due?
Yes, I was as fascinated with Into Darkness as the next person, but writing this review almost a week later, I find it hard to remember much beyond the fluff. Yet I still recall in great detail many of the original television episodes, ham-fisted as they were in terms of production values and state of the art cinematic techniques.
In fact, I kind of miss the clunkiness of it all, as I was reminded in a recent viewing of the Steve McQueen 1968 classic Bullitt. There was a certain hard won authenticity back then. We heard the gears shift in the old muscle cars and had to wait painfully for the dot matrix photo to print itself out for the clue that would settle the case.
Yes, the characters from Into Darkness nail their parts, just like the young apprentices in the hallowed halls of Chicago’s Art Institute so easily replicate the masters on the wall. Benedict Cumberbatch, the dark villain, has a presence that rivets the screen, while Chris Pine captures Kirk’s audacity, courage and shrewd acumen. Spock, Bones, Scotty, and Checkov are almost more so than their small screen predecessors. But what we really crave, the mind-altering ideas that challenge our lazy old beliefs, seem left behind in old NBC Studio.
Our old friends the Klingons enjoy a little screen time in this recent Star Trek outing, so why not celebrate the return of their fierce ugliness with a favorite beverage: Klingon Boodwine
Said to be too strong for others not of the creased forehead lineage, this heady mixture must be approached with caution. I have selected two versions to choose from. You can thank me from refraining from the most authentic version, number thirteen of those listed. It consists of blackstrap molasses, ale yeast, and 18 quarts of blood.
'ej HumtaH 'ej DechtaH 'Iw
Normal wine glass:
3 shots of Wild Vines Blackberry Merlot
3 shots of 7UP
2 shots of Chambord
1 shot of Grenadine
1 part Southern Comfort
3 parts Sangria