There has been much anticipation surrounding J.J. Abrams’ follow-up sequel Star Trek Into Darkness, and the mystery box has finally been opened. Star Trek Into Darkness delivers on many of the same levels its predecessor reboot had done upon its release, and it also fails in similar fashion as well. Basically, what I’m saying here is that this new Star Trek universe lacks balls, but is highly enjoyable to watch.
Star Trek Into Darkness takes place in 2259, one year after the cataclysmic events Nero had caused throughout the universe. We find Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban), Chekov (Anton Yelchin), Sulu (John Cho), and Scotty (Simon Pegg) aboard the starship Enterprise on the planet Niburi to observe the natives. But this isn’t your grandfather’s Star Trek, J.J. Abrams demands adventure. Needless to say, Kirk is reprimanded for his actions once he returns to Starfleet.
While Kirk is asked once again to man up and take responsibility for himself and the lives of his crew, a new menace threatens Starfleet. A mysterious man named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) bombs a Starfleet building in London and goes on the run. It turns out Mr. Harrison was a part of Starfleet before he went rogue. Kirk and his crew are tasked with a mission across the stars to bring Harrison to justice and face the consequences of his tyranny.
As the title suggests, Star Trek Into Darkness plays with a darker plot of the reboot. There are many strong character moments that work fantastically here and in Star Trek, but at the same time much of Star Trek Into Darkness feels recycled from past movies within the franchise. The tone is pretty much the same, but the stakes seem far less aggressive than the first film. Set piece after set piece flies by with no room for our characters or plot to develop and many of the secondary characters are given very less to do.
The villainous Harrison is portrayed wonderfully by Cumberbatch, far superior to Eric Bana. He is intimidating, vicious, and incredibly calculating, yet his character is given so little thought that you’re never sure what his motivations are or where his intentions lie. We are also introduced to another new character, Carol Marcus who is played by Alice Eve and does a fine job, but she too is wasted and used mostly as fan service and a pretty face.
What’s great about the Star Trek franchise is that many of the stories told carry ambitious messages about humanity, mortality, and foreign affairs. Star Trek Into Darkness seems to say absolutely nothing. There are some heavy-handed moments in the plot that thematically touch on 9/11, but are never a big focal point in the movie. J.J. Abrams juggles too much between Kirk’s duties as a captain, Spock’s further curiosity in human emotion, Admiral Marcus’ (Peter Weller) militaristic mindset, and Harrison’s ambiguous agenda, nothing ties any of these things together.
Technically, this movie is beautiful and that’s what we have come to expect from any J.J. Abrams project. Star Trek Into Darkness has incredible cinematography and it works very well in post-converted 3D. It’s clean and I almost think there are less lens-flares than the first film. And of course, the score by Michael Giacchino is absolutely moving and lively. I only wish that they visited more places. They only come across two planets besides Earth and we are mainly stuck on the Enterprise for the majority of the movie.
Where Star Trek Into Darkness ultimately succeeds is within the cast. Everyone brings out the best in their characters, yet again, and bounce off each other impeccably well. There is a lot of amusing character interactions and fun fan service. Every action sequence is full of strong tension and built up to keep me on the edge of my seat.
If you are looking for anything more than just a summer-blockbuster popcorn-flick Star Trek Into Darkness may not be for you. Most Trekkies will be up in arms against certain plot points and more specifically the recycled elements from previous Star Trek lore. The story is very uninspiring and the screenplay by Damon Lindeloff, Roberto Orci, and Alex Kurtzman is lackluster. A lot of the dialogue and character beats are reused from the first film in some fashion. The screenwriters needed to take more chances with this alternative universe they have created, which they did well in the first film.
All in all, Star Trek Into Darkness is far too enjoyable as an action-packed thrill ride with amazing charismatic actors to disregard as a wasted effort. There are moments of intelligence and wit that could make any fan boy/girl squee with joy, but it never dares to be original. If only Star Trek Into Darkness expanded the mythology a bit further and chose to boldly go where no Trekkie has gone before, it could have been one of the greatest tales in Star Trek history.
Star Trek Into Darkness is in theaters everywhere in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D running at 132 minutes long. It is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence.