Since comic books and old science fiction series are now turned regularly into big summer blockbusters, and generally nobody is coming up with a whole lot of new original content, it was no surprise when Star Trek relaunched successfully four years ago, with Chris Pine as Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, and the rest of the gang back too, most of them resurrected as far sexier versions than the original actors who played these characters. Not Simon Pegg, though. That dude is just fugly. Anyway, Star Trek: Into Darkness is the sequel to the prequel of four years ago…try wrapping your head around that. As young and hip as this new crew is supposed to be, let’s face it, none of these actors and actresses have been doing much else for the last four years, so they must have been glad when shooting for this one started. This time around, Kirk is being reamed for not following orders, stepping over the line, going to far, and all the other cliches that the detectives are always guilty of in every episode of Law and Order: SVU. Starfleet command on Earth is attacked by a new foe, identified as one of their own, John Harrison. Captain Pike, instrumental in recruiting Kirk in the original movie four years ago, is gunned down. Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the crew go after Harrison, with orders to terminate on sight. Some of the crew take issue with the idea of killing without a trial, bringing to mind certain drone strike activities the current US administration is guilty of…at any rate (spoiler alert) Harrison turns out to be none other than Khan, one of Kirk’s greatest foes, who gave him all that he could handle and then some in the classic Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan many years ago, and in the original TV show even before that. Khan is a genetically modified super-soldier, brutal, calculating, a tactical genius. But his motivations make him a somewhat sympathetic character, and there is more to this superficially simple story than meets the eye. I won’t reveal too much, other than to say that Khan goes from cold blooded murderer to somewhat likeable guy back to arch-villain pretty rapidly, and it leaves you wondering if, had the movie gone on for another hour or so, he might not have switched back and forth a few more times just to keep us on our toes.
The whole deal is pretty fun and entertaining, if not exactly high brow. It doesn’t feel quite as original as the re-launch of this series four years ago, which is nice in the sense that we’re able to avoid the origin-of-each-character type of back-story, but the action and the set pieces here seem kind of by the numbers. I know Star Trek is a retread of a retread of a retread at this point, but it seems like we’ve seen all of this before, repeatedly, and, of course, we have. Maybe I don’t find it so delightful since I’m not such a big fan of the original series or movies, but I’m more inclined to yawn when Spock says things like “That’s highly illogical,” or when Bones says “I’m a doctor, not whatever,” or when a Tribble shows up. (If you don’t know what a Tribble is, look it up online. Or don’t. I won’t judge you.) It’s not that there’s anything too objectionable about what we’re seeing on screen. It’s just we’ve been seeing it in one form or another for the past half century. Maybe this movie series would seem fresher if we had some characters from Next Generation or Deep Space Nine or any of the other Star Trek series’. Or maybe this flick would have grabbed me more if the Klingons had any more than a brief cameo. This was a mildly entertaining diversion, I think, nothing more or less. There’s more stuff this summer I’m looking forward to more. My rating: 6/10.