Movie review: Dark days for Star Trek crew

Kirk and co. return, but with less kitsch

Star Trek: Into Darkness

Now playing at the Rio, Scotiabank

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While J.J. Abrams Star Trek re-boot has been crafted for those too young to remember either the baby-boomer television show or the movies, there are certain expectations: you dont have to be a convention-attending devotee to know that anything Star Trek should always be accompanied by a decent dose of kitsch and humour.

The humour shows up sporadically courtesy of comic relief Scotty (Simon Pegg) and straight-as-they-come Spock (Zachary Quinto) but the kitsch is in short supply. Into Darkness becomes just that: a foray into darker themes of military ambition and revenge, in which we find the normally level-headed Spock beats an adversary to a pulp.

Things start out perfectly, however, with the gang exploring Class M Planet Nibiru. There the explorers find fluffy red foliage and a chalky white primitive species, but Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) cant resist playing god before the Enterprise heads home. That cockiness results in Kirk being stripped of his credentials by Starfleet command and Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood), his mentor. You dont respect the chair, Pike says simply.

We cant have Kirk chair-less for the duration, of course, and a home-bred security attack on an eye-catchingly futuristic London changes everything. Benedict Cumberbatch appears (evil perfection) as an old nemesis in disguise, and the Starfleet Admiral (Peter Weller) mobilizes his forces for a manhunt, pure and simple. It seems that the admiral is buoyed by militaristic opportunity rather than a sense of justice, and the manhunt leads Kirk and crew straight into Klingon territory.

What follows is one do-or-die incident after another: torpedo threats, radiation exposure, overheated warp coils, and the like. And you just know that at some point, a space ship is going to have to fly sideways to squeeze through an impossibly small passage: the genre demands it.

Theres a clever scene in which the gravity on the Enterprise shifts and tilts, and people are forced to walk on walls or dangle helplessly from railings. Visual effects elsewhere concentrate on spacecraft damage and the destruction of city infrastructure. Impressive, but a little too much of what were used to seeing Michael Bay and Christopher Nolan do onscreen. Abrams should stop trying to match firepower and return to the quirky, character-driven work at which he excels. (Or, better yet, to boldly go where no man has gone before.)

Other than a few relatively tame expletives and the gratuitous sight of new trekkie Alice Eve in her undies, the film remains resolutely PG, all the better to attract younger viewers (and for merchandising potential, no doubt). Composer Michael Giacchino gets the mood just right.

Credit goes to all leads for remaining faithful to the original characters, especially to Quinto, whose Spock manages to be reserved, tormented and even sexy, despite that ridiculous haircut. But the first Star Trek re-boot succeeded because of the relationship between Kirk and Spock, and the strange romance between Spock and Uhura (Zoe Saldana). We could have used more of that interaction, and less space junk.

But with key crew members intact, as well as a few welcome additions, a sequel is still welcome. If anyone deserves a second chance, its James Kirk, said Capt. Pike. The same can be said for Abrams next go-round as director.

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