Star Trek Into Darkness boldly goes where franchise has gone before
Everything old is new again in Star Trek Into Darkness … well, not exactly everything. For the most part, the second film in J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the Star Trek franchise is refreshing and undeniably entertaining, but it certainly does not go where no man has gone before.
The first Abrams’ Star Trek film (2009) was an exciting origin story and a bold new look at the history of the USS Enterprise crew from the ’60s television series; and we learned things about the familiar characters that we never knew before (at least for a casual Star Trek fan like myself.)
The new film, though, lacks the originality of the first and retreads old storylines that borrow not only from other movies within the Star Trek wheelhouse, but also from obvious films like Star Wars; and for a while I even felt like I was watching the outer-space version of The Poseidon Adventure.
All that being said, I still thoroughly enjoyed Star Trek Into Darkness.
This film is the epitome of a summer blockbuster; it’s big, action-packed, thrilling and ultimately a lot of brainless fun. (Yes, I know I used the word ‘brainless’ in conjunction with Star Trek – but it was meant in a good way.) This outing may not cover much new ground, but you’ll leave the theater feeling like you just took an enjoyable two-hour road trip in a beloved refurbished car that you haven’t driven since you were a kid – if that car could do warp speed.
The difference between Star Trek and Star Wars is the difference between science fiction and science fantasy, and I think that it’s the former’s foothold in a potential future reality that makes some fans a “Trekker” rather than a “Star Warrior(?).” Star Trek Into Darkness felt like it was much more in the fantasy mode than in the realistic science-fiction stable; maybe it’s just because Abrams is now connected to Star Wars as the Episode VII director that I was more conscious of that aspect of the film, but I have a feeling that die-hard Trekkers might be a little disappointed with this new movie’s fantasy tint. (Please let us know in our comments section.)
Into Darkness begins with a prologue that has the crew of the Enterprise doing their “explore strange new worlds” and “seek out new life” thing on a planet that is coincidentally about to have it its “new civilization” wiped out by an erupting volcano. Even though they are not supposed to reveal themselves to the indigenous alien race (who all look like Hellraiser’s Pinhead minus the pins, but with Ewok eyes), lest they alter the course of the planets evolution, the Federation’s finest can’t help themselves from saving the planet.
For his selfless efforts, young Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is actually demoted to first officer under Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) who once again takes over the Enterprise helm. But before the ship even gets underway, Pike is killed in a terrorist attack that also takes out most of Starfleet’s upper echelon of officers.
Kirk is reinstated by Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) and ordered to follow the terrorist, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) to the Klingon planet of Kronos, and from a distance – so they will hopefully not anger the Klingons – deploy special proton torpedoes that will kill Harrison. Kirk gladly accepts this assignment so he can get revenge for the murder of his mentor.
Once in Kronos airspace, Spock (Zachary Quinto) persuades Kirk that he should try to capture Harrison and bring him to justice on Earth, so the Captain and his team, including Uhura (Zoe Saldana), who speaks Klingon, deploy to the plant to apprehend the terrorist, but they find themselves being saved by him instead as they encounter the deadly Klingons.
Once back on board the Enterprise with their prisoner, the truth is revealed about Harrison and I don’t want to give anything away to the few people that might not know who he actually is. Suffice it to say he has a “man creates monster, monster destroys man” backstory and is in cahoots with the leadership of Starfleet.
Cumberbatch as the antagonist in this movie is fantastic and you will absolutely love to hate him. There are excellent performances by all of the Enterprise crew, which also includes Karl Urban, who steals the show as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (a part he was born to play and so much different from his leading role in Dredd it is hard to believe it’s the same actor), Simon Pegg as Scotty, John Cho as Sulu, Anton Yelchin as Chekov and sexy newcomer Alice Eve as Admiral Marcus’ daughter, Carol.
There are some incredible, edge-of-your-seat-exciting special effects and action sequences in this film, but my advice, as usual, is to avoid it in 3-D so that you can enjoy its rich colors and not be distracted by mediocre and muddy visuals.
This film has a running time of 132 minutes and it easily could have been trimmed to two hours and skipped some its more fantastical moments without missing a beat, but this ride is so much fun I can easily forgive its minor missteps and it gives me great hope for Abrams’ Star Wars film(s), where he won’t be as restricted by reality.
Written by Roberto Orci (Fringe), Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek) and Damon Lindelof (Prometheus), Star Trek Into Darkness is sometimes a little cartoonish, but nevertheless a great homage to the films that came before, and it goes without saying that it is a must-see for genre fans. Grade: 8/10
Photos © 2013 Paramount Pictures