Star Trek Into Darkness is the twelfth installment in the Star Trek franchise and the sequel to 2009’s Star Trek. J.J. Abrams once again directs with a screenplay written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof.
This new adventure brings back all of our favorite crew members, adds some new ones, and gives us one hell of a ride from start to finish. The movie is reverential, faithful, and steeped in “Trek” mythology. Good or bad, this is a damn fun movie that Trekkies new and old can enjoy.
We pick up right where we last left our fearless crew, still learning to work together on a series of random Federation missions. But after a terrorist attack on the Federation, they come back to Earth to find the culprit was one of their own. Captain Kirk leads a manhunt into a war-zone to capture this one-man weapon of mass destruction.
From the movie’s beginning, you can feel that the actors really enjoy their roles. In addition to the cast of the prior Abrams outing, newcomers include Alice Eve as Dr. Carol Marcus (“Wrath of Khan” fans will know who she is and her importance to Star Trek), Peter Weller as Starfleet Admiral Alexander Marcus who is a powerhouse in any role, and Benedict Cumberbatch as the mysterious Commander John Harrison. Sometimes adding new people to a cast that is already working so well can be tricky, but here it’s handed well. Each brings their character to life with such memorable talent, which can be hard sometimes when you already have an ensemble cast of great actors.
The Starship Enterprise is slowly learning about one another and you can see the growing friendships between the cast. There’s Captain James Kirk’s (Chris Pine) cocky attitude and his inability to follow the rules, baffling First Officer Spock (Zachary Quinto). Also a problem for Spock is hitting some speed bumps in his relationship with Lt. Uhura (Zoe Saldana). The rest of the crew keeps up their normal routines as you would expect: Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban) complains anytime he can, helmsman Sulu (John Cho) steers the ship, while navigator Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and engineer Scott (Simon Pegg) still work their amazing technical miracles when need be, and are always at the last minute to save the day.
It’s pretty much business as usual aboard The Starship Enterprise.
Most memorable for fans and meriting years of discussion is the performance of Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s Sherlock), who joins Ricardo Montalban, Christopher Plummer, and Alice Krige in the limited group of actors to play great “Star Trek” villains. With his deep scary voice and deathlike stare, Cumberbatch is a fearsome character. He is relentless in his mission. His one-man army truly is a match for the Enterprise and her crew. He steals every scene he’s in, not just because he’s damn good, but also because his presence demands respect. You can’t help but watch and enjoy him destroy everything he touches. As villains go, Cumberbatch is top notch.
The special effects are amazing. It could be one of the best-looking Star Trek films ever. Everything looks fantastic, no matter how little the effect is. All the aliens look and feel real, with a great combination of practical effects and CGI additions. However, what didn’t look good was the movie’s needless conversion to 3D, which muddies the beautiful images. In certain scenes it’s hard to tell what is going on. It’s just upsetting to have forced 3D in a film that doesn’t need to rely on it. The movie and all the action is top-notch, why mess it up with a cheap gimmick?
Just as in the first Abrams Trek film there are a lot of nods to past Trek films, but here they seemed forced. This pandering to the fans seems almost unfriendly, as if they’re saying, “Here, take that!” Maybe that’s the hard part of their film-making – taking established characters and stories and deciding to change them. There are certain times in the movie where it feels like the new controllers of the Star Trek franchise didn’t come up with much to call their own. They got stuck in a corner and the only way out is to rehash old plots and Trek standards. It was done in a new, creative way, but still, been there and done that.
As Abrams moves on to the galaxy far, far away, it now falls to the next filmmaker to carry on Star Trek, assuming Abrams doesn’t return for a third. The franchise hasn’t guided itself into deep space yet, so it’s in a good place for a successor to come in and tell a great rip-roaring sci-fi adventure. Hopefully they won’t rely on reruns of old Trek moments and we can begin new ones.
Overall, Star Trek Into Darkness is a great, action-pack science fiction epic that can be enjoyed by fans and general audiences alike. Some hardcore fans will not, and they’ll have to make peace with that on their own. Either way, it will provide endless “Trek” conversation for years to come.
Hopefully this isn’t our last journey with The Enterprise and her fearless crew as they boldly go where no one has gone before.