“Star Trek Into Darkness”
 Man, this movie was fun.  The CGI stuff is great, but the characters are strong, also, and it even throws in a little original humor.  Of course, all the Trekkies will love it, particularly the video-cameo appearance of the original Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy).  But this sci-fi action/adventure flick has enough savvy to appeal to a much broader base than just the tech nerds.  But, for the uninitiated, a bit of explanation:
 It’s the future.  Space travel is assumed.  Earth is governed by a Federation which operates a Starfleet, and one of the spaceships is the “Enterprise,” captained by James Kirk (Chris Pine).  His first officer is Spock (Zachary Quinto), who is half-Vulcan, the only survivor of an extinct race with human-like appearance (except for the pointy ears), but they supposedly operate on a purely rational, rather than emotional level.  (The tension between the rational and emotional is a constant interplay among the characters.)  The good ship Enterprise is entrusted with the exploration of the space frontier, to “boldly go where no one has ever gone”----and that, of course, makes plenty of opportunity for wide-open script creativity.
 Captain Kirk decides to rescue Spock from a particularly dangerous mission of “freezing” a volcano to save a primitive civilization on a distant planet, but in so doing transgresses the Federation “protocol” of not interfering, so Kirk is disciplined with demotion and Spock re-assigned.  But a new crisis emerges:  it seems that a previously-frozen cryogenic specimen has re-appeared, after 300 years or so, and this powerful “Khan” (Benedict Cumberbatch), thinking he is avenging his crew’s capture, wages a private war against the Starfleet Federation headquarters in San Francisco----the future’s version of terrorist attacks on unarmed civilians.
 Meanwhile, Marcus (Peter Weller), the Admiral of the Starfleet, has surreptitiously constructed a secret space station that is purely military in nature, designed to wage war against the rival Klingons.  Marcus is one of those militaristic commanders so itching to have a war that he will actually start one so he can gleefully be in charge of conducting the hostilities.  And he’s not afraid to manipulate supposedly obedient underlings---like the recently-demoted Kirk----to get what he wants (a not-so-subtle political diatribe against putting egotistical warmongers in a position of having too much power with too little oversight).
 So our intrepid Captain Kirk must not only save his own crew, he has to save the integrity of the Federation, and maybe even the well-being of planet Earth, all while being undermined from Headquarters and having his hands full with the evil Khan, whom he actually has to recruit for his own survival (part of the plot is the constant morphing about who is manipulating whom).
 The special effects are fantastic.  The acting (once you give permission to suspend disbelief about the sci-fi context) is so strong that the characters become truly vivid.  There’s just a hint of romance, just a whiff of tongue-in-cheek self-parody, just enough “teaser” to set up a sequel, and lots of soaring imagination.  “Star Trek Into Darkness” is no less than the blockbuster hit of the summer of 2013.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving, Texas