Yes, I cried in a Star Trek movie: Star Trek Into Darkness

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Yes, I cried in a Star Trek movie. First time for everything.

I’m not exactly a Trekkie – before this J.J. Abrams-led reinvention of “Wagon Train in Space,” the only entry in the canon I truly loved was Star Trek IV (or as I always call it in our house: “the one with the whales”).

Like the recent craftily re-engineered James Bond (thank you, Daniel Craig and Judi Dench) and Batman (yup, you are ok by me, Christopher Nolan) franchises, 2009′s Star Trek and this new sequel Star Trek Into Darkness mine and refine the source material as if the filmmakers are re-staging one of Shakespeare’s famous “problem plays” to appeal to modern sensibilities.

Notably, Chris Pine as Captain Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Mister Spock eliminate the pork from their hammy forebears’ performances (William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy respectively) while keeping the trademarked tics (goony alpha male swagger and goonier pointy ears also respectively). What both do so smartly (and what brought me to tears at a significant twist in the film’s final act) is give these iconic characters vulnerability and flawed humanity. No offense Mr. Priceline Negotiator Shatner, but I will take Pine’s wounded-little-boy-compensating-for-his-deep-seated-insecurity-by-affecting-a-swaggering-prick persona over, well, your swaggering-prick-persona any day of the week.

The film wisely stocks its other iconic roles with a bevy of gifted character actors: Karl Urban (my personal favorite as the crusty, twinkle-eyed, metaphor-spewing Dr. Bones), Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Peter Weller, and the always phenomenal Bruce Greenwood. The ensemble work in these films is feisty, zippy, and fun and should be used as a case study in acting schools everywhere: how to engage your audience and create a credibly warm ensemble dynamic in the midst of rampant CGI, deafening explosions, tilt-a-whirl camera angles, and spoof-worthy use of lighting flares.

I will close on this point. Bar none the canniest thing Abrams does (similar to the casting of Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley in that other summer tent pole, a little movie called Iron Man 3) is select Sherlock‘s and War Horse‘s Benedict Cumberbatch (what a name!) as the film’s main big bad. He is a marvel, commanding every minute of screen time with his handsome yet slightly space alien visage and basso profondo voice. He almost seems bored with EVERYONE around him and, given his sociopathic mission in the film, that works swimmingly. With his nuanced menace, he joins the ranks of Heath Ledger’s Joker, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, and Javier Bardem’s Silva in the rogue’s gallery of perfect post-modern, post-millennial popcorn film villains.

16 thoughts on “Yes, I cried in a Star Trek movie: Star Trek Into Darkness

  1. I’m sorry, but you really don’t seem to know what you’re talking about in the middle…

    You claim that Chris Pine and Zach Quinto’s portrayals (good as they are) are better than Shatner’s and Nimoy’s because they manage to show insecurity and vulnerability? Since you haven’t actually seen much more Star Trek, citing you only liking Star Trek IV, you really have no idea how Shatner or Nimoy have portrayed their characters over the years.

    If you go watch Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, you will see exactly what you are claiming isn’t there – vulnerability and insecurity. The movie deals with the aging of our favorite heroes, and the uncertainty of what lies ahead. Also, events unfold similarly in Into Darkness as they do in parts of Wrath of Khan, and you truly, truly get to see vulnerability in those parts.

    Please get back to me once you watch at least that one movie, I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

    • Additionally, I know this is a review of the new Star Trek, not the old, and therefore my comment may not seem important. But you made a claim, which I have found to be untrue, and you made it seemingly without an informed opinion.

      • Fair enough! Appreciate your thoughtful reply. I actually have seen all the movies and much of all the various series over the years, and we own them all on DVD. Living with a Trekkie will do that! I have an appreciation for all of it but I like what I perceive to be a more humanistic approach among the reboot’s actors. I also have always just found Shatner particularly annoying in any show/movie. Probably not fair but my personal take. And at heart, I will always be more Star Wars than Star Trek. Thanks for writing!

  2. shatner was annoying in playhouse 90 and studio one and all of them live shows in real, real, real time…HAMMY….signed: seasoned critic and watcher of the golden age of tv even…wonderful review…almost makes me want to see the damned thing!

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