Star Trek Into Darkness Review
Star Trek Into Darkness is a fantastic, emotionally-charged thrill ride that will keep you on the edge of your seat for its entire run time.
After any great reboot, the bar is set high for the inevitable sequel. 2009’s Star Trek was an undeniably well-done film – immensely entertaining, full of emotion and very successful at reintroducing the classic characters. Above all, it made the franchise appealing for a modern audience, especially for someone like me who was not raised a Star Trek fan. Now, the stakes are higher for the team behind the previous film. With Star Trek Into Darkness, has J.J. Abrams proved that the revitalized franchise is here to stay?
Some time has passed since the events of Star Trek, and now James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) has found himself in an unfortunate position since his crew violated the Prime Directive – Starfleet’s most prominent guiding principle, which dictates that there can be no interference with the internal development of alien civilizations. This primary rule was broken while saving Spock (Zachary Quinto) from a fiery death on a primitive planet. Kirk refuses to let his friend die, revealing the Enterprise to a race that has barely invented the wheel, and Spock changes the course of the planet’s destiny by flash-freezing a volcano that is seconds away from eruption. This results in Kirk’s demotion to First Officer, while Admiral Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) is soon reinstated as Captain of the Enterprise.
Shortly thereafter, Kirk, Spock and Pike are all called to an urgent Starfleet Command conference to discuss a recent terrorist attack in London. A rogue Starfleet agent known as John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) organized the destruction of a secret military installation there, which Kirk quickly realizes was simply a red herring to get the Starfleet command all in one place. Harrison attacks via gunship, causing the deaths of many of these commanding officers. Kirk refuses to stand idly by, and requests that Admiral Alexander Marcus (Peter Weller) gives him special permission to hunt down Harrison and kill him. And so the Enterprise is outfitted with greater weaponry, and the crew sets out on a journey to extradite John Harrison and bring justice to those murdered by his hand.
Understand that this review is coming from a longtime Star Wars fan –- incidentally the same case for director J.J. Abrams –- and so diehard fans of the franchise may feel differently about Star Trek Into Darkness. That said, I absolutely loved this film. Star Trek Into Darkness essentially has all of the great elements that the previous film had, but it actually rises above that film for a number reasons – yes, I do feel that Star Trek Into Darkness is superior to its predecessor. First off, this film moves at a breakneck, intense pace that left me endlessly entertained throughout its entire run time. There was never a dull moment, and that makes Star Trek Into Darkness completely riveting. The story also walks a fine line between emotion and summer blockbuster fun; there are certainly many entertaining scenes, but Star Trek Into Darkness contains even more raw emotion and heart than the previous film had. As a result, this film is just that much more effective. Star Trek Into Darkness has strong, deep characters that one can truly invest in.
However, one of the main issues with the film is that the script does repeat some themes and character developments already addressed in the 2009 reboot, but this is only a minor issue. Despite this, and some plot murkiness in the second act, Star Trek Into Darkness’ story has little flaws. It’s fun, exciting, deep, and engaging, while also containing sharp dialogue from writing duo Alex Kurtzmann and Roberto Orci, along with Damon Lindelof. Plus, it hits pretty much all of the emotional chords one would want in a summer blockbuster.
The cast is one of the biggest reasons why the original film was so successful, and thankfully all have returned for Star Trek Into Darkness – and they are even better in this picture. Chris Pine has truly evolved into his role as Kirk for he not only nails down the side of his character that shirks responsibility and emanates ego, but at the same time there is true emotion and passion behind his performance. Zachary Quinto once again does a great job as Spock, taking his character’s stoicism and anger to new heights to portray his conflicted human and Vulcan sides. Speaking of which, the chemistry between Pine and Quinto remains quite strong in Star Trek Into Darkness, if not more so.
I’m sure most people are interested in seeing Benedict Cumberbatch’s villain, and he is absolutely fantastic in this film. Cumberbatch provides the exact sort of performance necessary for an ideal villain – he is menacing, conniving, intimidating, and he has a voice that will make you fall back into your seat with fear and amazement simultaneously. At the same time, though, he exudes emotion that actually makes you care for his character at parts, so I found that very interesting about his stellar performance.
I guarantee that Star Trek Into Darkness will be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, for this film is a masterful example of how to incorporate them. Yes, there is plenty of CGI here, but Industrial Light and Magic understands how to create shots with realistic detail and pristine quality. The imagery in Star Trek Into Darkness is spectacular to behold on screen, and it looks completely convincing. J.J. Abrams has solidified the fact that he is the perfect man to helm Star Wars Episode VII, for with this film he does a great job at keeping the intensity moving during the action while keeping the camera steady during quiet, emotional scenes, which balances out the film’s pace quite well. However, when things do get intense, his direction is bold enough to the point where Star Trek Into Darkness is a breathless, pulse-pounding thrill ride. There may be an abundance of lens flares as usual, but nonetheless this is a sharply directed, gorgeously-crafted film. Michel Giacchino once again does great work with the music, as well. His theme for this rebooted franchise manages to inject plenty of modern, blockbuster fuel into the film, while his other compositions integrate much emotion and intensity to Star Trek Into Darkness that any film score should do.
I can understand why some devoted Star Trek fans would be disappointed by this film. However, for general moviegoers and those who don’t mind changes to characters and series lore, Star Trek Into Darkness is the epitome of a great summer blockbuster. It has its fair share of visceral, action-packed scenes and fun dialogue to keep the story moving at a fast clip, but what truly makes this an above average thrill ride is the journey that these characters take. There’s a strong story line rife with parallels to modern culture, no dull moments, and a truly incredible villain. Star Trek Into Darkness is one film you cannot miss this summer. It may not exactly go boldly where no film has gone before, but I doubt any other summer blockbuster this year will match the thrills, emotion and fun that this one provides.
Second Opinion – Jason Bakker
I just have to echo what Zack stated above – Star Trek Into Darkness is an amazing film that every movie fan needs to see this summer. It’s the perfect smart popcorn flick, with fantastic performances, a ton of action, a great villain, and some powerful messages. The dynamic of Kirk’s gut instincts and emotional responses tempered with Spock’s stoicism and logic makes for some truly memorable on-screen moments. Like Zack said, the CGI was phenomenally well done – to the point where I got lost staring at some of the immaculately detailed backgrounds. The music was perfect as well, and honestly the only negative I could really think of is that Zoe Saldana’s Uhura was criminally underused. There’s so much going on in this film though that it’s easy to forgive, and it’s safe to say that you’d be hard-pressed to tear your eyes from the screen during Star Trek Into Darkness. Oh yeah, and it was great to see Robocop himself, Peter Weller back on the screen!