It’s the year 2259. Star Fleet is now based out of sunny headquarters in San Francisco. The S.S. Enterprise, captained by volatile and noble James. T. Kirk (Chris Pine), has saved a primitive people from being consumed by a volcano, but as they leave the planet the people see the ship, contrary to strict Star Fleet rules which prohibit non-intervention on other planets.
Back at Star Fleet, Kirk is raked over the coals for his slip-up by his superior, General Pike (Bruce Greenwood). It seems that Spock (Zachary Quinto), who is half-Vulcan and therefore can’t tell a lie, reported the episode honestly, including the fact that Kirk had risked the Enterprise to save Spock’s life.. Uh oh, Spock’s unwavering logic and obedience to the rules are again in conflict with Captain Kirk’s tenuous hold on the truth and flexible morality. It’s good to know that the best things about Star Trek are never going to change.
Alas, neither are the stupid things. Officer Uhura (Zoe Saldana), one of only two female leads in the movie, is having a tiff with her boyfriend Spock and flips her pony tail at him as she saunters away. She’s dressed in a skin-tight space suit. Which is a lot better than the faceless female crew members in the background, who are still wearing thigh-high miniskirts. Sigh.
Everyone is shocked to find out about a terrible attack that destroyed one of the space agency’s chief data storage facilities, killing thousands of people. This attack was planned by a rogue fleet officer, known as John Harrison (the brilliant and charismatic English actor, Benedict Cumberbatch), who will later reveal himself as Khan, the leader of a genetically mutated superior race, created by humans, who has just emerged from 300 years of cryosleep.
As I always say, a hero is only as good as his villain is awful, and this villain is great—powerful, nasty, single-minded, wonderfully sarcastic and with the most compelling of motives–vengeance against humans for their unfair treatment of him and his crew.
There are as many twists and turns in the plot as there are in a dangerous mountain road in Tuscany. Suffice it to say that Khan is a worthy agent of darkness, giving all kinds of trouble to the Enterprise crew, so that each one gets a chance to tear up the scenery. Sulu (John Cho) must channel his confident self and take over the captain’s chair temporarily. Bones (Karl Urban) has to be a soldier as well as a doctor. Chekov (Anton Yelchin) saves the ship single-handedly with blind luck and grit. Scotty (Simon Pegg) is the busiest of all. After quitting when Kirk asks him to do something against the rules, he comes back and works himself into a lather to save everyone. Joining the crew at the last minute is beautiful and brave weapons expert Carol Marcus (Alice Eve), who Captain Kirk finds quite delightful.
It’s fun to see all the familiar original Star Trek characters updated. But the truth is, any scene in the movie without the mesmerizing Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain Khan, is a scene just filling time until he comes back. There’s one disturbing scene where the ship is so damaged that half the crew gets sucked out of the ship to their deaths in space. Quite different from a similar, and much preferable, scene in Iron Man 3 where the super-hero actually saves each person who fell out of a plane. Dutifully uplifting are the scenes where the Enterprise odd couple, Kirk and Spock, declare their undying friendship.
The best parts of Star Trek Into the Darkness, strangely enough, are the fight scenes, which are pretty darn intense. It’s gratifying to know that in the future, human beings still fight the old-fashioned way, mano a mano, good guy vs. bad guy–they beat one another to a pulp without the interference of aliens or factory-made robots.