New 'Trek' Goes 'Into Darkness,' But Not Much Deeper NPR's Bob Mondello says J.J. Abrams' latest Star Trek film knows how to make the sparks and feelings fly, but doesn't bother making the sparks and feeling matter very much.


Movie Reviews

New 'Trek' Goes 'Into Darkness,' But Not Much Deeper

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You'll have heard by now that the Starship Enterprise is boldly going where big crowds have generally followed before. "Star Trek: Into Darkness" opened Thursday in the U.S. after a maiden voyage last week in a few other countries. Critic Bob Mondello just beamed back from a screening with a review.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: It's all there in the opening sequence...


CHRIS PINE: (as Kirk) I need to beam Spock back to the ship. Give me one way to do it.

MONDELLO: Kirk and his crew bellowing on the bridge, everyone worrying about the prime directive and our favorite Vulcan trapped in a volcano.


SIMON PEGG: (as Scotty) If that thing erupts, can he guarantee we can withstand the heat?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (as Character) I don't know that we can maintain that kind of altitude.

ZACHARY QUINTO: (as Spock) Our shuttle was concealed by the ash cloud, but the Enterprise is too large. If utilized in the rescue effort, it would be revealed to the indigenous species.

PINE: (as Kirk) Spock, nobody knows the rules better than you, but there has got to be an exception.

QUINTO: (as Spock) None. Such action violates the prime directive.

KARL URBAN: (as Bones) Shut up, Spock. We're trying to save you, damn it.

QUINTO: (as Spock) The rule cannot be broken...

PINE: (as Kirk) Spock. Try to get him back online.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (as Character) Ninety seconds to detonation, sir.

MONDELLO: OK, I'm in. I may not be a fanboy anymore, but I sure was in my youth. And having these guys in their youths again is just as cool at the outset as it was last time - Chris Pine's baby Shatner spitting his lines, Zachary Quinto channeling his inner Nimoy. We know these characters even if the reboot resulted in some weirdnesses - Spock and Uhura romantically involved, for instance. Even Kirk seems perplexed by that one.


PINE: (as Kirk) Wait. Are you guys fighting?

ZOE SALDANA: (as Uhura) I rather not talk about it.

PINE: (as Kirk) Oh, my God. What is that even like?

MONDELLO: Just as TV's original Trek boldly went where '60s civics classes had gone before, this trek into darkness tackles issues with a contemporary ring. There's a suicide bombing, drones, some chatter about genetic engineering, all of it debated by Kirk's man of action, Spock's man of thought and a villain who's a little of each: Benedict Cumberbatch playing a consummate warrior who surrenders to Kirk when he clearly doesn't have to.


BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH: (as Khan) Captain, are you going to punch me again over and over till your arm weakens/ Clearly, you want to. So tell me. Why did you allow me to live?

PINE: (as Kirk) We all make mistakes.

CUMBERBATCH: (as Khan) I surrendered to you because, despite your attempt to convince me otherwise, you seem to have a conscience, Mr. Kirk. If you did not, then it would be impossible for me to convince you of the truth.

MONDELLO: No. Don't listen. He's the bad guy. Director J.J. Abrams is working with a script that touches just about every touchstone from the original series you could imagine, which means I can't talk about much of anything without spoiling the fun. Happily, there's a good deal of fun if you like things crashing violently into each other and out-of-warp-drive at regular intervals.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (as Character) Emergency power at 15 percent and dropping.

MONDELLO: At one point, while a character urgently aligned what looked like giant sparkplugs, as if the drifting Enterprise were a stalled Buick, I found myself thinking that the film seemed aimed pretty precisely at the mindset of a 16-year-old boy: lots of stuff blowing up, strong feelings nobody quite knows what to do with, rule breaking a turn on, girls largely eye candy and confounding, and all of this tied to a plot that's almost entirely concerned with getting from one cliffhanger to the next, which is exciting but never left me feeling terribly engaged.

To borrow a term from a later generation's commander, this team of filmmakers knows how to make the sparks fly and how to mix the sparks with feeling, but it doesn't, on this trek into darkness, bother making the sparks and feeling matter very much. Does that matter very much? Probably not, if you're just looking to trek, with a bucket of popcorn, into some multiplex darkness. I'm Bob Mondello.

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