I want to start this review off by making it clear that I am not the biggest fan of Star Trek. I have only seen random episodes of the various series, and only a couple of the feature length films. I was very much impressed with 2009’s Star Trek, and Into Darkness only further’s my interest in the Star Trek universe.
On a recent episode of Jon Stewart, J.J. Abrams came on to talk about what it’s like to helm not only Star Trek but the upcoming new Star Wars films as well. It’s a lot to handle, but if any man is up to the task it is Abrams. Seeing him able to articulate his ideas and discuss the differences between the two series was quite insightful. It is also great that he is aware of the key difference between the series. Star TREK, is about the adventure, the unknown and the exploration. Star WARS is more about the battles of good vs. evil.
Of course, the two series also have many key similarities, but it’s the differences that will be most important for Abrams to focus on if he wishes to distinguish the two. Personally, I am not too worried, and this brings me into Star Trek: Into Darkness.
It has been 4 years since we last boarded the USS Enterprise but I can assure you straight away, this is a strong sequel.
We once again find Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) up to his usual, fun, reckless self. There is a fun opening scene where the crew of the Enterprise is sent to survey a primitive civilization on the planet Nibiru. Unfortunately for Kirk, some people are getting a little tired of his constant rule breaking. He is demoted to first officer under Admiral Pike and thus is the beginning of our story.
The villain in this film is Commander John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) who, after destroying an archive on Earth, retreats to a Klingon planet. It is up to Kirk and his crew to track him down and destroy him. Of course, things are never that simple. A nice little twist in the middle really changes up the film and in the spirit of avoiding spoilers, that is about as much of the story as I am going to divulge.
What first struck me about this film that improves over the first film is this is a much more personal and drawn back adventure. Don’t get me wrong. There are still plenty of terrific, intense scenes. The pacing is pretty much perfect throughout, mixing, drama, comedy and action effortlessly. This story is really about the characters and the majority of the film takes place in a very short window of time, making it feel almost as though it is happening in real time.
The timeframe has a great effect on the film and adds a certain level of suspense that was somewhat missing from the first film. The actors should all really be commended for growing into such prolific roles. Karl Urban as Bones and Simon Pegg’s Scotty offer plenty of comic relief. The growing relationship between Zachary Quinto’s Spock and Zoe Saldana’s Uhura was also delved into a bit more. Quinto and Saldana have a nice on screen chemistry, so the scenes between them work quite well. We get to really delve a bit more into the individual characters fears and hopes, which is really what a sequel should do.
Not everything in the film works. It doesn’t have the exact same level of surprise and epic-scope as the previous film. This could just be attributed to how surprisingly good Star Trek was, but still it didn’t have that same feeling of wonder and just doesn’t exceed expectations in the same way as the first.
Also, despite some solid acting, a few scenes do feel downright cheesy. This is mostly due to the sometimes thin scripting. To be honest, it’s hard not to feel like this movie is just a bridge to the inevitable third installment in the series. This isn’t really a flaw, however, considering how good everything else in the movie is. A bridge is needed for the probable war with the Klingons hinted at during the film.
On a side note, I did enjoy the fun elements they added from the original series, tribbles, to name a minor one. Some bigger ones really put a smile on my face despite not knowing a huge amount about the series. Abrams is a master of keeping things accessible enough for the casual audience, but adding in lots of flares from the originals to satisfy the die hard fans. All in all, this is one hell of a sequel and another great indicator that this will be one hell of a summer movie season!
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