So, Star Trek: Into Darkness came out last week, which was a very exciting time for me. The opening sequence of its time-twisting prequel, Star Trek (2009), gets me a little teary every time I see it. Watching the premiere in 3D IMAX helped, too. As a hardcore TOS fan who happened to thoroughly enjoy the first movie, I more or less expected the same from Into Darkness. Let’s plunge into darkness with a sweet-sharp midnight blue martini then, yeah?
Neutral Zone Martini
- 1 oz. vodka
- 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
- blue curacao
Fill a shaker with ice. Add in the vodka and sweet vermouth. Shake (or stir) and strain into martini glass. Add a splash of blue curacao and garnish with a twist of lime. Inspired by the Blue Sky Martini.
Plot: The crew departs for the neutral zone to seek a wanted fugitive who attacked and killed many of Starfleet’s captains and is now hiding on the Klingon home world, Kronos. Along the way, they learn some mysterious secrets about both Lt. Marcus of Starfleet and the fugitive that the crew is trying to capture. Meanwhile, Captain Kirk learns a lesson about playing by the rules and respecting authority.
Before I criticize it too harshly, let me say that Star Trek Into Darkness is a fun movie. It’s got good action scenes, an endearing villain, and loads of references to the original series. If you’re looking to watch an lens flare-y action movie mostly on-par with its predecessor (although it’s not necessary to watch Star Trek to see this), go for it. If you’re looking for a little more from a movie, read on and make the decision for yourself.
For loving its predecessor so much, I had three very large problems with this movie. First, the two movies are effectively the same. Kirk does something impressive but breaks the rules and gets in trouble. He risks losing his ship, the USS Enterprise, for good, so he does something crazy and out of line to try to get it back. In the end, he learns it’s best to respect authority and manages to save the day at the same time. Sigh. I understand this is a parallel universe that gives J.J. Abrams all the freedom he needs, but what happened to the 5-year mission to explore the planets?
Second, J.J. Abrams lost all subtlety he had in referencing the original series and movies. I kind of appreciated the subtle lines thrown into Star Trek. McCoy introduced himself as a man who’s only got his “bones” left after a divorce, presumably leading to the nickname Bones he would take on later in life. Engineer Olson is seen wearing a red shirt, and promptly dies upon trying to take down Nero’s drill. Into Darkness lacked all such subtlety. I’d really like to not spoil things for you this time around, so I won’t. I will say, however, that one scene in particular is very evidently copied from one of the original Star Trek movies, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982).
Speaking of Khan, he was an interesting choice of villain. For the first many months of Into Darkness‘ production, the character Benedict Cumberbatch played was kept secret, and listed only as “John Harrington.” Then, before the movie came out in theaters, its imdb page was changed to list Cumberbatch as playing Khan. Revealing Khan as the villain did nothing for the movie. Yeah, he had a bit of a reputation, but since we’re in a parallel universe now, there wasn’t much content that was relevant to who Khan was as a character. It might’ve worked better had it not been a “surprise” that Khan would be the villain; it seems like misplaced suspense. That said, Cumberbatch makes a great villain. He’s confident, suave, incredibly strong, and has a powerful, smooth voice. He may not make much sense as Khan, but he was definitely fun to watch.
Now, about the drink. “The Neutral Zone” is the area of space that divides Starfleet space from Klingon space. This cocktail is a clear dark blue, reflective of the emptiness of the Neutral Zone. Be careful when mixing it, though. The blue curacao is very sweet and very strong; if you add too much, the martini will start to taste like cough syrup. That aside, it pairs with the sweet vermouth quite nicely when used in small quantities. This is a strong drink though, so beware. Definitely for sipping.
Unfortunately, Into Darkness has gotten a lot of flak for its treatment of women. When TOS came out back in the 60s, it was a revolutionary Utopian show. Men and women of all races worked together. Television’s first interracial kiss happened on Star Trek as well (“Plato’s Stepchildren”). It seems that nowadays, in the era of Star Trek for Jocks, Kirk is little more than a frat boy and Carol Marcus finds an excuse to be caught undressed and perfectly posed (although the writer has since apologized for the “gratuitous” underwear). I really would love to see the women of Star Trek being a little more bad-ass. We got a glimpse of Uhura standing up to the Klingons, but only after whining about her relationship with Spock.
Really though. Show me a group of diverse, hard-working, equally-treated individuals exploring the unexplored universe. That glimpse of the planet the crew tries to save in the beginning of the film was great! We see a new species of alien on a new planet with new flora and fauna while Spock tries to save the planet without being noticed. It’s great. One of (in my opinion) the strongest actors in the crew, Simon Pegg as Scotty, doesn’t have a great deal of screen time, and leaves the performances to be tossed between Pine, Quinto, and Cumberbatch. Into Darkness is definitely full of action and eye-candy, but talent and character development are a little shallow. For the die-hard Star Trek fan, you’ll still likely enjoy some of this movie, but don’t be surprised when you notice the decline into staple summer blockbusters.