Opening day! And this adventure is quite a ride. (Film poster courtesy of startrekmovie.com.)

Opening day! And this adventure is quite a ride. (Film poster courtesy of startrekmovie.com.)

Why is a religion blogger writing about Star Trek: Into Darkness? Some options:

a) Doing so makes it imperative that I see the movie on opening day and call it “work.”

b) Writing about the film makes my ticket tax-deductible. (Not sure if this also applies to the popcorn.)

c) I needed to burnish my geek cred.

d) Star Trek is, um, totally relevant to religion. There’s even a whole book about it.

e) All of the above.

Yeah, OK, so this is only marginally related to religion news, but . . . lighten up, people. It’s Star Trek! And I’ve waited four long years since the last movie!

I like my action movies to have an actual story with characters I care about. I’m weird that way. And in that respect, Into Darkness more than delivers. When last we saw the newly minted Captain James Tiberius Kirk, he was a cocky but brilliant young gun assembling a crack shot team of other young guns. In the opening scenes of the new movie (no spoilers . . .) that cockiness does not serve him well. One underlying theme of the movie is Kirk’s being taken down a peg and learning to trust — and be challenged by — the people around him. It’s about teamwork and sacrifice and all those other great action flick ideals.

The supporting actors give it their all, but the movie is completely stolen by Benedict Cumberbatch as a villain who will be familiar (and yet not familiar) to longtime fans of the series. He was born for this part. He billows so well. Remember last year when I criticized the new Sherlock Holmes series on BBC for making the character of Sherlock too dark? I may have been wrong about that, but I sensed in the Holmes remake that too little separated Holmes from Moriarty. All that darkness and acedia afflicted both characters, not just Holmes’s archnemesis. But perhaps I perceived this not because of the script so much as the way Cumberbatch approaches the role.

Whatever he does, it works here in spades. It’s hard to take your eyes off the man. He puts the eeeeeeee in eeeeeeeevil.

Reviews of Into the Darkness have been mostly positive so far; right now Rotten Tomatoes has aggregated the critical reviews as being 86% in favor. It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s a great homage to the series (check out its reversal of one of the most touching and memorable Kirk-Spock scenes in Star Trek history) and a whole lot of fun. I mean, I would pay money to hear Bones say the requisite “I’m a doctor, not a __” again, or to hear Capt. Kirk order Bones to stop speaking in metaphors.

I’ve loved these characters all my life. I “have been, and always shall be,” their friend. And I am pleased.

4 Comments

  1. I agree with you completely. Cumberbatch was an amazing casting coup, and I was captivated by Abram’s reimagining of some classic Trek tropes and themes. I predict, though, that it will be pretty polarizing–fans of the classic show and movies will either love or hate what they do with it here.

    And I have to say there is a scene with Chekov in this film that is totally worth the price of admission alone. And what’s better–the payoff requires no dialogue on his part at all. I don’t think I’ve ever applauded a facial expression before.

    • Jana Riess

      OK, now I am sifting through my memory to try to come up with the Checkov moment you’re talking about. Since I am coming up blank, clearly this is a sign that I NEED TO SEE THE MOVIE AGAIN.

  2. I realy do not understand how this has anything to do whatsoever if in any case with religion. Its like mixing apples with a warp core. totaly different

  3. Raymond Takashi Swenson

    It has been noticed by a lot of people that Mormons seem to have a special affinity for science fiction and fantasy. It has been part of Mormon scripture from early on that God created innumerable inhabited worlds in the universe, a concept that was out ahead of astronomy in 1835. Mormons are largely comfortable in science, and there are many Mormon scientists. So this blog post is fully within Mormon culture.

    This November, the most famous science fiction novel written by a Mormon will finally see its debut as a movie: Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card. The movie stars Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley.

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