Waiting for Star Trek into Darkness (2013; dir. J. J. Abrams) to begin, I watched six trailers, each of them presenting a film about the apocalypse. There was apocalypse by alien invasion (Superman: Man of Steel), by blowing up the White House and Washington Monument (White House Down), by war between planets of the 1% and the 99% (Elysium), by zombie takeover (World War Z). I was exhausted and paranoid when the main feature began.
The new riff on Star Trek is a riff on the second film of the Star Trek franchise: Star Trek: Wrath of Khan (1982, dir. Nicholas Meyer), which a recent poll conducted by someone who had the inexplicably free time to carry it out revealed to be the most popular of all the Star Trek films. This new film is not a new version of the older one, but it presents the usual array of beloved characters confronting a younger version of Khan himself, in a similar plot, but with unanticipated twists. It carries forward, in a certain way, with a particular element of the 2009 Star Trek and echoes the 1982 film and the television series as well.
Star Trek into Darkness is certainly entertaining. Kirk and Spock and the others work their way into one of those impossibly tight spots well known to the franchise and then, though hijinks and maneuvers that defy logic and the laws of science (at least 2013 science) manage to extricate themselves. Certain scenes from the 2009 film are replicated—a free fall scene is one. Khan crashes his space ship into San Francisco, an event which obviously kills thousands of people, but the film (as reviewers have noted) barely takes note of the carnage.
Benedict Cumberbatch plays Khan, and as good as he is, he never quite measures down to the gloriously cheesy overacting of Ricardo Montalbán in the 1982 Wrath of Khan—the best Star Trek villain ever. (I did not like how the 2013 film transformed Chekov into a bumbling clown).
Most of these younger actors do a good job of inhabiting roles familiar from the television series and the early films. Chris Pine as Kirk and Zacahary Quinto as Spock are especially convincing. Those original actors are either dead now or well into their 70s and 80s. I’ve enjoyed contemplating the possibility of a geriatric Star Trek film where all the old cast reunites in a final episode, cf. Tennyson’s “Ulysses.” But no possibility of that now.
Fans of the Star Trek series, and especially of the 2009 Star Trek, will probably enjoy this new installment.