A few words: Slick, funny, gripping, visually inspiring, nobly acted. A viscerally entertaining sci-fi space romp. I saw it in 2D, and unlike my experience with Jack and the Giant Slayer, I never once thought, “Nuts. This would have been better in 3D.”
More importantly, this is a movie about integrity and compromise—and the price tag associated with each.
Integrity is rightly depicted as costly, even painful. When Scotty is faced with an order that would violate his conscience, he resigns his post on the spot.
When Kirk eventually chooses the high road over revenge and sketchy orders, his path puts the enterprise and its crew in mortal danger. They pay in blood, and Kirk is pressed to the inevitable precipice where he must give his own life for his friends.
Slimy Admiral Marcus, on the other hand, has given into temptation long ago—allowing himself to slip into darkness for petty reasons. In the end he is crushed between the raging palms of his own frankenstein.
Why then, we may ask, is integrity the best path? Is it truly worth it? When the dust clears, both the high road and the low road crush us. What’s the point?
The point is this: in the moment of death, Kirk possesses something Marcus does not: his own soul. He can look in the mirror, lock eyes with himself, and rest in peace. Kirk’s resurrection, while a bit contrived, does make sense from a spiritual story arc point of view. Kirk’s self-absorbed arrogance dies over the course of the movie, as the New Yorker’s Rachel Ededin brilliantly observes:
“Kirk throws himself into danger more than once–not because he can’t stand to stay away from the action, but because he recognizes that, of the crewmembers available, he is the most expendable. Spock is way, way better at commanding a starship. Everyone else on the core crew is otherwise irreplaceable. Kirk–well, by the time someone has to fix a damaged warp core leaking lethal levels of radiation, Kirk has come to terms with the fact that he’s mostly just a guy with a knack for being in the right place at the right time. When he finally sacrifices his life to save the Enterprise, it’s the climax of a long journey that, in retrospect, could only have had one possible destination: unexpected for the moment before you realize it was inevitable.”
Afterwards, a new Kirk rises: Still bullish, still driven by hunches and guts and glory—but a Kirk beautifully broken, crushed in such a way that that a major flaw is well on its way to being healed.
The wages of sin is death, Paul says in Romans 3:23. That’s present tense. It’s why Christ had to die to save us. It’s why we must die to ourselves to find the us Christ died to set free.