Arguably the most anticipated film of the summer season (it’s tied with Iron Man 3 , Man of Steel, and Pacific Rim), Star Trek Into Darkness marks Chris Pine’s second time stepping into the shoes of the iconic James T. Kirk, the headstrong captain of the USS Enterprise. Whereas J.J. Abrams’ 2009 series reboot saw us riding along with a brash, young Kirk, Star Trek Into Darkness almost immediately and relentlessly humbles the overconfident captain, teeing him up only to knock him down again. Pine’s towering charisma is one of the driving forces behind the rebooted franchise’s well-deserved success, and Into Darkness is no exception.
To give us further insight into the inner workings of Captain Kirk, I caught up with Chris Pine to talk about the evolving relationship with Spock, Kirk’s hubris, and the state of spoiler-obssessed cinema. So, go ahead and set your phasers to “flippin’ sweet” and beam this interview up directly to your brain. Want even more Star Trek Into Darkness goodness? Read our interviewwith Mr. Sulu himself, John Cho, too!
Nerdist: First of all, I rather enjoyed the movie. It’s a great follow-up to the 2009 film.
Chris Pine: Oh, thank you!
N: Despite its intergalactic scope, Star Trek Into Darkness deals with some very earthbound issues that we’re seeing in our own society today, namely that of homegrown terrorism. John Harrison seems like the realization of many of our fears. Can you speak a little to the film’s tone and the themes it addresses?
CP: Yeah, I think it does speak to many things that have unfortunately become a constant, namely terrorism and the use of not only physical violence, but also the power of manipulation by using fear. Above and beyond that, the questions it asks all of us is what do we do with a sense of bloodlust, a need to commit retaliatory violence, to commit revenge, to be owned by the eye for an eye way of thinking, and where does that really get us? John Harrison is certainly on the side of that, and he represents that great force that exists in all of us in times after an event like 9/11 or any form of terrorism. It has more to do with the cycle of revenge than anything else.
N: Very well said. In the film, this is a very different Kirk than we’ve seen in the past; he has to undergo a bit of a trial by fire, as it were. How has he grown and changed since the 2009 film?
CP: Yeah, in the 2009 film, Kirk begins and ends as this kind of cocksure, self-assured, confident young man and he believes in his own strengths probably more than he should. In the second, within minutes, he’s brought to his knees and brought to zero, faced with all this self-doubt and anxiety over whether he’s a good leader and whether he’s really meant for the captain’s chair. He has questions about his own self-worth, which I found to be an interesting challenge. For someone who’s usually so self-assured, having that vulnerability and insecurity, to have a weak hero, I thought it was really, really interesting.
N: I definitely agree. When you’re going into this, you expect these larger-than-life heroes, so seeing them humanized and cut down a peg gives the audience a moment of pause.
CP: I think so. He’s not a caped crusader. He’s not Batman, he’s not Green Lantern, he’s not Superman – he’s just a man going through a major existential crisis about his identity and that, if nothing else, is pretty human.
N: Another crucial dynamic in the film is the relationship between Kirk and Spock. It is instrumental in Kirk’s personal growth over the course of the film. While I hesitate to use the term “bromance,” you and Zachary Quinto make a great on-screen pair. How does the relationship between Kirk and Spock grow in Into Darkness?
CP: Yeah, the struggles are continuing and the struggle is defined by different perspectives on how to go about things. For Kirk, he leads with his gut, his heart; he’s kind of a bull in a china shop. As for Spock, he’s a cold analyst who always follows the rules, and those qualities that drive them apart in the beginning are the ones that they realize they need to subsume from the other one to become fully realized people. They can’t go about business in this kind of black and white way, and that, I think, is what resonates with people.
N: One of the big things surrounding the film is the secrecy surrounding Benedict Cumberbatch/John Harrison’s true identity, and it seems to be both a nod to series lore and a subversion of expectations. Was there any difficulty in keeping the secret?
CP: I don’t think there was any difficulty in keeping the secret. I think we were all so excited that J.J. was so excited about protecting the magic of this film. One of the many downsides of the Internet and new media is that everyone seems to know everything about everything and the need for information is so acute that by the time a film comes out, not only have people read the script, but there are photos from the set and there’s already behind-the-scenes footage. J.J. kind of has this analog way of thinking about the movie business, which is “let’s wait and save the surprise for the movie viewers.” What’s sacred to J.J. is that dark fear and the imagination of people going in, and he doesn’t want to spoil that with people making early pronouncements.
N: I think that’s a smart policy. Too many people want to spoil things for themselves before setting foot in the theater. One last question: what would be inside your ideal burrito?
CP: [laughs] Breakfast burrito, man. A breakfast burrito with all the fixins. Why in God’s name is that a question?
N: The end of our flagship podcast is “Enjoy your burrito,” and there’s a bigger, deeper meaning behind that, but I prefer to get down to the nitty gritty of what’s inside people’s
CP: [laughs] A couple of fried eggs sunny-side up. Wow.
Star Trek Into Darkness is in theaters nationwide. Benedict Cumberbatch is secretly young Jean-Luc Picard. I’m sorry you had to find out this way. Have you seen the film? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.