Film Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

With burlesque fan dances, a karaoke rendition of Gilbert and Sullivan, and amorous lizards, there are some places where Star Trek should boldly avoid going in the first place.

20.05.2013 // PRINT
DR
Let’s face it: after 716 episodes of television, 11 theatrical movies, and books and comics that number into the thousands, is there anybody left who still expects Star Trek to “boldly go where no one has gone before”? I didn't think so. Really, about all those of us who grew up with the franchise (the original series debuted two months after my birth) can hope for after all these decades is a well told story featuring familiar characters in familiar places doing familiar things. Oh, and not having the characters embarrass themselves too much along the way is also nice.
 
Fortunately, Star Trek Into Darkness provides only one really noticeable instance of that sort (Spock comes embarrassingly close to having a Darth Vader from Episode III moment), and plenty more in the way of good storytelling. That’s to say we get plenty of familiar stuff such as Kirk, Spock, and McCoy bantering and taking verbal jabs at one another, Scotty expressing his woes over being asked to accomplish the impossible (while actually accomplishing the impossible, of course), Chekov speaking in that Russian accent that even other Russians don’t understand, Sulu smoothly slipping into all business mode (as well as the Captain’s chair for the first time), and Uhura actually using the skills she was trained for (communicating through words, not dance).
 
In fact, it’s tempting to say Director J. J. Abrams (also born the same year the original Star Trek series debuted) and his team of writers (all born the same year the animated show first aired) come perilously close to going too far in playing up to the expectations of their fellow fans. They spend so much time being clever with the Star Trek trivia and references to past events that they seemed to have forgotten to proofread their own script. There are enough tiny gaps in logic throughout the movie that a viewer might begin to wonder if the mission of the starship Enterprise was to seek out and explore strange new plot holes. Regardless, Into Darkness is fun enough that most people will be willing to overlook such things.
 
A little more egregious is the film’s over-reliance on the franchise’s history. After taking great pains in the 2009 reboot of Star Trek to establish an alternate timeline (and therefore an uncertain future) for the crew of the USS Enterprise, the writers of Into Darkness appear to have decided some of the previous canon is too sacred to be messed with after all. As a result, things written with the intention of being shocking twists really aren’t, the ending is telegraphed midway through the film, and some plot points make little sense outside of the fact that they have to occur in order to set up future events which didn’t necessarily even have to happen anymore (or so Abrams’ first Star Trek movie would have suggested).
 
All of that is why I’ve yet to discuss much of the actual plot of Into Darkness. That’s because to tell a little would be to give away a lot, at least to those who walk into the movie with a passing knowledge of Star Trek lore. Suffice to say that Into Darkness is a Star Trek movie, so the Earth is in danger and only James T. Kirk and his capable crew can save it. Along the way they meet some Klingons, say goodbye to more than a few “redshirts,” and get tossed around the bridge while somebody shoots the Enterprise full of holes. During the film’s quieter moments, they make fun of Spock’s ears, show us a tribble, and even offer the first appearance of a Caitian in the live action Trek universe (surely, I’m not the only pathetic geek who mentally yelled out in excitement “Lieutenant M'ress!” when the cat-girls showed up). So even though the material is overly familiar, even the hardest of hardcore Trekkers (or Trekkies – take your pick) should still be able to find something to like about Into Darkness.
 
This is not to say that Into Darkness is nothing but scene after scene of fan service. Those uninitiated in the Star Trek universe should also find plenty of entertainment, especially if they enjoy action. If Abrams brings anything new at all to the franchise (besides the lens flares, that is), it’s his growing ability as a director to stage large scale set pieces. Everything in Abrams’ vision of the future is big, from the red jungles of alien planets to the shining cityscapes of London and San Francisco. Even the rooms inside the spaceships are large and cavernous, presenting plenty of opportunities for people to find themselves dangling precariously over certain doom. Oddly enough, the only thing not over-sized in Abrams’ Star Trek are the battles in outer space themselves. For some reason, despite all that elbow room out amongst the stars, Abrams has his ships close in on each other like pirate galleons with cannons ablaze. But even with that odd choice, the destruction caused by the battles is still pretty impressive, giving plenty of opportunities for the people inside the ships to fall through their inexplicably huge rooms. All in all, Into Darkness is probably the most adrenalin packed film in the Star Trek franchise, with enough phaser battles, fisticuffs, and falling starships to keep the most avid action fan happy. 
 
Of course, while all the action is nice, it just wouldn’t be Star Trek without the “big idea.” As long time fans are aware, Star Trek has always functioned as something of a soapbox from which  various writers could espouse their heartfelt philosophies. In the very beginning, the viewpoint expressed most often mirrored the virulent secular humanism of the show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, but as time went on, other ideologies – even religious ones – began to creep into the stories. For this particular outing into the final frontier, the “big idea” revolves around the timely concerns of how far we as a people are willing to go in order to ensure the public safety of our citizens. Do we accept the risks involved in adhering to our stated principles, or do we step “into darkness” and embrace the tactics of our enemies in the name of the greater good?
 
It’s never an easy question, and it wouldn’t be surprising to find some folks leaving the theater feeling a bit sympathetic towards the arguments of those in the movie who accept that some boundaries can be ignored during times of warfare. It’s not quite that simple for Christians, however; even though we understand that there is “a time to kill, and a time to heal,” that doesn’t mean we get to jettison our principles whenever the bullets (or nadion particle beams, as the case may be) start flying. Catholics in particular must always consider the tenets of just war doctrine as formulated over the centuries before committing to certain courses of action in wartime. As the Catechism reminds us, “The mere fact that war has regrettably broken out does not mean that everything becomes licit between the warring parties. ... Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation.”
 
As happens more often than not, this is one of the areas where Star Trek’s secular humanistic leanings and Christianity end up agreeing, a fact perfectly demonstrated by Kirk’s speech near the end of the film (hey, it wouldn’t be Star Trek if Kirk didn't give a speech at some point). So don’t worry about having to sit through any lame anti-religious sentiments this time around (I’m looking at you, Star Trek V) – the “big idea” on display here is just fine. As long as you’re willing to check some of your logic at the door (sorry, Spock), Star Trek Into Darkness should provide plenty of fun for fans and action aficionados alike.

KCBC Bible Commission & Kerala Catholic Bible Society POC

A Kerala Model for New Evangelisation It‰Ûªs just awesome! 560,829 are the participants this year for Logos Mega Bible Quiz to be conducted on 30th September 2012 in Kerala the great and ancient centre of Christianity in India. The interest in the Quiz has gone up steadily since it was initiated in 2000 the Great Jubilee Year by the Bishops‰Ûª conference. This year saw an increase of 25,000 compared to last year‰Ûªs registration (537,300). This colossal phenomenon, called ‰Û÷Logos Mega Bible Quiz‰Ûª, invites the keen attention of the universal Church at the dawn of the Synod on New Evangelization. The Aim The Logos Bible Quiz, which is organized by Kerala Catholic Bishops‰Ûª Council‰Ûªs Bible Commission, provides people opportunity to read and study the Holy Bible carefully. ‰ÛÏOur aim is to promote interest in Bible reading and to cultivate a culture of systematic study of the Bible in order to make a vibrant Christian life possible‰Û, says Rev. Dr. Joshy Mayyattil the chief co-ordinator of Logos Mega Quiz and Secretary of KCBC Bible Commission and Kerala Catholic Bible Society. The Mode The participants, in the quiz conducted by Bible Commission of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council, are divided into six age groups. People of all walks of life can participate in this popular Bible quiz. Many religious and priests too participate in it. The preliminary round of the Logos Quiz, conducted in parishes under the auspice of Diocesan Bible Apostolate directors, lasts for one and half hours in which the participants will answer multiple answer questions. Three toppers from each age category will participate in the written quiz conducted in KCBC headquarters at Kochi. Top ten from each age category from this round will be eligible for the final round which includes audio, video, written, oral and Bible verse recitation tests. Once the final round gets over, the winners in each category is awarded with gold medals and cash prizes. And the champion of the Logos Quiz (Logos Prathibha) will have a free pilgrimage to Holy Land. The possibility of introducing scholarship for Bible study for the Logos winners is under consideration. Last year the Logos Prathibha (i.e., Logos Champion) was Sr. Betty LAR from the diocese of Palai. Year before last it was Miss Reshma Pius a 16-year old student hailing from an economically poor family. This Bible lover has proved that her family‰Ûªs richness consists in their love for the Scripture. A Year-long Preparation for 35 chapters! People prepare themselves well in advance for the quiz. The syllabus of almost 35 chapters from the Old and New Testaments (the syllabus for this year: Exodus 25-40; the Gospel of Mark; II Peter) for the quiz is announced a year in advance so that the contestants can get ample time to prepare. Often people carry their personal Bibles during travels in order to read the portions. In many cases parents and children get ready for the Logos making collective study and preparing notes in the family. It is not a rare thing in Kerala to see members of the same family, especially children, competing among themselves to learn biblical verses by-heart. In some places, the participants of the Logos Quiz sit together after the Sunday Catechesis and revise the topics. Study guides are also available. Last year more than 20 various guides were available in the bookshops. In Future ‰ÛÏLogos Quiz has become a Herculean task for the conducting team. However it is also a pleasant task‰Û, says Bishop George Punnakkottil the Chairman of KCBC Bible Commission. ‰ÛÏLast year we introduced on-line registration (visit: www.logosquiz.org). In a few years we will be able to conduct on-line exam also. Thus the desire of numerous Keralites abroad to participate in the Logos Quiz would be realized‰Û. ‰ÛÏThe KCBC Bible Commission has plans to make this Bible Quiz popular in other parts of the world too. For this purpose, the Bible Quiz, which is currently conducted in Malayalam and English, will be made available in other languages also‰Û, added Bishop Punnakkottil. The e-mails that the organizers of the Logos Bible Quiz receive are evidences for the desire of the people around the globe for such methods and tools for Bible study. The great success of this Bible contest in Kerala could be a pointer for the universal Church ‰ÛÒ Bible Quiz, if culturally adapted, may be one of the best means for the new evangelization.

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