By Michael S. Goldberger
Intent on having the first word and setting the tone of the post film musings when exiting J.J. Abrams’s “Star Trek Into Darkness,” a 132 minute, colorfully amusing assault on the senses, I remarked to my wife Joanne, “Boy, they sure give you your money’s worth.” Translation: It’s huge and decadently excessive, but there’ll be no Pulitzer for writing.
Then, I ventured a zany analogy only an indulgent spouse would let pass. Maybe because my mind was switching its interest to food, I pontificated that both filmmaker Abrams and deli owner Harold Jaffe (of Harold’s N.Y. Deli in Edison, N.J.) happened upon ingenious business plans in their respective fields. In the latter case, the word is big.
The signature offering wowing ‘em at Harold’s for years, a giant pastrami sandwich now weighing in at $22.45, essentially represents two sales. Sure, while some lovebirds may share one, I speculate that most folks are only eating half and taking the other half home. Voila, they’ve bought two, good-sized meals. Don’t tell anyone I eat the whole thing.
The Abrams plan represents a different sort of savvy. Following the ten Star Trek films that logically evolved from franchise creator Gene Roddenberry’s 1960s TV series, the old gang was, uh, getting old. Surely nostalgia has its place, but it’s doubtful audiences were eager to follow them to their adventures in assisted living. So, enter Ponce de León.
With a few sprinkles from the Fountain of Youth, we are jettisoned back to the future, to when the largely likable, always heroic crew of the Starship Enterprise were young, well-scrubbed and, adding to the entertainment, still a little wet behind the ears. Welcome to the prequel, Filmdom’s answer to Hamburger Helper®. There’s just one problem.
It comes into play in this 12th big screen episode. Heroes and villains, by rights of a destiny now guaranteed them, attain a super status in that they can’t die….not yet. Hence, when it looks like an overly irradiated Kirk hath dived too deep into the breach to save his crew from destruction, we know there’s a comic-book style caveat in the offing.
However, a kaleidoscopic panoply of special effects delivered for two hours with the intensity of the last minute of a 4th of July fireworks celebration, and available for extra $$$ in just OK post-production 3-D if you choose, goes a long way to making you toss out reason. Likewise, an unnecessarily convoluted plot works to divert common sense.
Still, despite liberties taken and an obvious commercial thrust aimed at attracting the largest, 13-25-year-old audience in the universe, a web survey of card-carrying Trekkies concurs the film passes orthodox muster. I wouldn’t know, but I can vouch the pastrami at Harold’s, mustard or not, is almost as good as the stuff served at N.Y.’s Carnegie Deli.
Of course none of that would matter to this young, thin and fit crew of explorers who doubtlessly feed on some space age version of Soylent Green. They’re far too busy either saving humanity or pondering friendship, duty, honor and philosophies related to world- saving to take time out for a snack, let alone indulge in a fat serving of smoked bovine.
Bright eyed and bushytailed, the best the Starfleet has to offer, they’ve got their work cut out for them in the persona of John Harrison, a rogue agent who destroys the London office and is in actuality the notorious Khan. Not to alarm you, but this dude has been voted one of the ten greatest film villains of all time by the Online Film Critics Society.
What’s scariest about the scourge is that like the current crop of real-life terrorists threatening our way of life, we’re not exactly sure what he wants. Other than the usual litany of goals like world domination and frightening the bejesus out of everybody who doesn’t believe what he believes, odds are he really doesn’t know what he wants.
It’s perhaps telling how dysfunction, of late a cause celebre in our social consciousness, has been personified in the shape of our fictional antagonists. In this case, harboring a grudge related to some past perceived wrong, Khan’s entire group of genetically engineered, superhuman cohorts, frozen in torpedo capsules, awaits his call to vanquish.
Ah, but we have youth. It’s fun seeing the way they were, even if the genesis of the Kirk-Spock, right-left brain debate gets a bit much. But what a bargain at over 2 hours. Oh, I’d prefer a great plot to the techno schmaltz. Which, might I suggest, should be a first course for rumination if discussing “Star Trek into Darkness” over that big, post film sandwich.
“Star Trek Into Darkness,” rated PG-13, is a Paramount Pictures release directed by J.J. Abrams and stars Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Benedict Cumberbatch. Running time: 132 minutes