“Is There Anything You Would Not Do For Your Family?”: John Harrison and the Evolution of Abrams’ Star Trek Series


I meant to write this post yesterday, but instead I went to see the film again.

Yes, it really is that good.

Let me assure you before you read any farther: in deference to those who are still planning to see it opening weekend, I will keep this review absolutely spoiler-free. Not that spoilers will make the film any less enjoyable, but just as a matter of principle.

I will begin by saying this: J.J. Abrams first Star Trek outing in 2009 was a good film. I know fans of the original series have mixed feelings about it (on a scale from “meh” to full-on outrage, as I take it), but I had no background going into the film. Of course I knew all the original actors and that the ship was called Enterprise but that’s about it, literally. I came out thinking okay, that was a good popcorn flick, and the casting was great, but I’m still a Star Wars girl (always will be. Just putting that out there). It wasn’t until Into Darkness was released that I really began to reevaluate the film’s themes and compare it to the sequel, inevitably.

The sequel is superior in every way. You don’t hear that a lot with these big blockbusters, but it’s true. It was deeper, richer, and more emotionally moving. The humor was on point at all times, providing much needed levity in an otherwise dark and menacing situation (I’m looking at you, Simon Pegg). The emotional scenes moved me to tears, and I don’t easily cry during films (a tip of my metaphorical hat to Mr. Zachary Quinto there).

The theme of the 2009 film was finding your place. The first place Kirk truly fit in was with his Starfleet crew. Spock likewise had to find his own place when the majority of the Vulcans were wiped out. Captain Pike provided the center of this discovery for Kirk, becoming a father figure to him, and inadvertently brought the current crew of the Enterprise together as friends on a mission to save him. Towards the end of that film, we see that the crew has banded together and formed a family of sorts, what many of them sorely need.

This segues perfectly into this film, because the theme of Into Darkness is family. John Harrison (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) asks Kirk, “Is there anything you would not do for your family?” This question follows us throughout the rest of the film. Just what will Kirk do for his family, his crew? What won’t he do? Is he willing to risk everything for them?

This theme of family intertwines with another, closely related: loyalty. Kirk and Spock’s loyalty to Captain Pike sends them on a manhunt for the terrorist John Harrison and occasionally pushes them to do things not necessarily within their Starfleet orders (but what else is new?). Kirk and Spock themselves are changed from the events of the first film and are far more loyal to one another. They have become best friends, and they show that they are willing to lay their own lives on the line to save the other. Spock has a one-man showdown with Harrison in Act 3 on Kirk’s behalf, reminiscent of their Act 1 pursuit on Pike’s behalf. We have come full circle.

In summary, I was very impressed with Abrams’ story this time around. Perhaps some of you may disagree with this review, but this is what I have personally taken from the film. Fear not, geeks. I believe that the new Star Wars film(s) are in very good hands. Even if there is lens flare.

Four and 1/2 stars.

Please feel free to leave comments, but I must ask that you NOT post spoilers of any kind for Star Trek Into Darkness. Anyone who has seen the film will know that there are three major spoilers. Do not include them anywhere in your comment. It will be deleted if you do. Thank you for your consideration.


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