Release Date: 5/17/09
Director: J.J. Abrams
Special Effects: Industrial Light And Magic
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Karl Urban, Zoë Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Alice Eve, Peter Weller, cameo by Leonard Nimoy
A disappointing follow-up to J.J. Abrams's "Star Trek" (2009) reboot, that makes a grave tactical mistake by revisiting and reimagining "The Wrath Of Khan" (1982). There, I said it. It's impossible to review this film without any spoilers, but the Khan reference was also one of the worst kept secrets in the business. A mysterious man (Benedict Cumberbatch) blows up a Starfleet research building and flees into Klingon space. Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) convenes an emergency meeting and organizes a manhunt to take the criminal down. Through a convoluted sequence of events, a demoted James Kirk (Chris Pine) is given command of the U.S.S. Enterprise and makes a daring incursion into the Neutral Zone with a payload of newly developed photon torpedoes. Unfortunately, the whole mission is a ruse to lure the Klingons into all-out war, and Kirk is set up to take the fall. But Kirk is not one to pass up an opportunity to tempt fate and fight in the face of impossible odds. A tense three-way stand-off between Kirk, Marcus, and Khan becomes messy and results in a massive amount of death and destruction.
While it's nice to see the crew of the Enterprise back in action, the regurgitation of older (and better) material leaves a bad aftertaste. Have they literally run out of ideas? Every little nod, wink, and in-joke becomes increasingly annoying, and I was rolling my eyes and groaning through most of the film. And this could have been easily avoided by either having an original story, or just changing the names of some of the characters. Benedict Cumberbatch's Khan is a sympathetic, but unnecessary adversary. He could have been anyone, and the thinly veiled Osama Bin Laden references certainly don't work in the film's favor. Cameos by Leonard Nimoy's Spock and Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) are equally unnecessary. While it may seem like clever fan service, it does nothing but sabotage the material.
On its own, it's an enjoyable science fiction action film, but the end result ultimately undermines and alienates the "Star Trek" fan base. Chris Pine gives an excellent and gripping performance as Kirk, and Zachary Quinto's Spock continues to shine. Lt. Uhura (Zoë Saldana) gets to kick it up a notch in the action department, which is delightful to see. The other characters are in fine form and work well with each other. The visual effects are quite good, but the action scenes are way too chaotic to tell what's going on. And for a space opera, they spend surprisingly little time in space, which is disappointing. Several scenes are also spoiled by needlessly spastic camera work, and glaringly inconsistent physics pull you out of the action. Sadly, I really don't see the series going anywhere from here, unless they totally cut out the goofy references and nostalgic nods to the classic timeline and do something completely original.