"The Weekend Rent offers quick-hit suggestions of what to watch at home to get psyched for new releases in theaters, on Friday."
There is only one new wide release in theaters this week, Star Trek Into Darkness, because the other studios want to steer clear of the hotly anticipated Paramount sequel that is looking at an opening weekend of around $100 million. We've posted countdowns for it and endless geek speculation for, oh, over a year now on this site, but that's because director J.J. Abrams is so protective of plot details and, well, we're talking about Star Trek. In the second Star Trek adventure directed by Abrams, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the rest of the crew of the Enterprise chase former Starfleet agent John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) across the galaxy after he attacks Starfleet Command. The movie's twists and surprises are now splattered all over the Internet for Trekkies to devour, but we're not going there and you shouldn't either—experience it firsthand in a theater.
Star Trek Into Darkness is only the fourth feature film directed by Abrams, but the 46-year-old director seems to have the golden touch. All of his films have pulled in over $125 million each at the box office, and he has also created or cocreated popular TV shows like Lost, Felicity, Alias and Fringe as well as produced blockbusters like Cloverfield.
Abrams' feature film debut came with Mission: Impossible III. Tom Cruise's third outing as IMF agent Ethan Hunt has him being lured back on the field just as he was about to get married so that he can help rescue an operative (Keri Russell) he trained after weapons dealer Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman) kidnaps her. M:I3 is the best reviewed Mission after Ghost Protocol, which Abrams also produced.
Next Abrams would boldly go where no director had gone before: the director's chair for the reboot/sequel/prequel of Star Trek. Joke all you want about Abrams' penchant for lens flares (it is overkill), but Abrams helped bring Star Trek to a more mainstream audience. This exciting origin story shows how Kirk first came to Starfleet and how he met the crew of the Enterprise, but it also cleverly starts an alternate timeline that allows the characters in this installment to interact with a time-traveling Spock Prime (Leonard Nimoy) without compromising the continuity of the original movie series. It's also a triumph of casting: Pine and Quinto are perfect as Kirk and Spock, respectively, but we can't imagine a more ideal Bones (Karl Urban), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Sulu (John Cho), Scotty (Simon Pegg) or Chekov (Anton Yelchin). Everything worked… to the tune of $386 million worldwide.
After the success of Star Trek, Abrams wrote, coproduced and directed Super 8 about a bunch of kids filming their own low-budget zombie picture who witness a train crash that unleashes a gigantic extraterrestrial on their unsuspecting town. The nostalgic 2011 sci-fi film, like Star Trek Into Darkness, was also veiled in secrecy with Abrams keeping details about the monster under wraps until the film's debut.
Forever-cranky fanboys and purists might grumble that Star Trek Into Darkness continues to move the series away from its nerdy origins (Abrams admits to not being a fan of the original series), but you'd be hard-pressed to experience a more thrilling popcorn film this summer. He just understands what works on-screen. Deal with it, because next up for Abrams is Star Wars: Episode VII, so Abrams is going to continue to reshape the two biggest sci-fi movie franchises ever. May the Force be with him as he lives long and prospers.
All of Abrams' films are available on DVD and Blu-ray as well as various VOD services.
Follow Robert B. DeSalvo @zuulboy