Our resident movie theater employee lets you know if “Star Trek Into Darkness” boldly goes beyond the solid foundation of 2009’s franchise reboot or if it crashes like the ship in all those commercials.
Few series’ have the staying power and fan bases that “Star Trek” has accrued, really, only one other one can come to mind (that other “Star” franchise that’s gearing up for a reboot in a few years.) Fans have marveled at, praised, critiqued and above all else supported every iteration of “Star Trek” as they’ve come. The Shatner-tastic “Star Trek,” the Patrick Stewart-ed “Next Generation,” the Bakula-fest “Enterprise” and a slew of movies that have all cultivated feverish followings of loyal diehards.
Enter JJ Abrams; co-creator of “Alias,” “Lost” and director of “Mission Impossible 3.” He received the unenviable task of updating “Star Trek” to entice new audiences, while also making sure the fans of the series (notorious for their ability to find flaws in just about everything) would cast their seal of approval.
Abrams’ “Star Trek” released in 2009, did just that. New fans hailed it as one of the best (and one of the highest grossing) films of the year and the classic Trekkies praised it as finding the perfect balance of a new, stand alone story blended with a respect and nod to the original series.
“Star Trek Into Darkness” takes all of that groundwork and pays off with one of the most entertaining times at a theater audiences are likely to have this year.
Following the events of “Trek (2009),” “Darkness” finds James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) still trying to grasp the responsibilities that captaining the Enterprise entail, after a daring but ill-advised attempt to save a civilization, Kirk is relieved of his duties as Captain and informed that maybe he’s just too young to understand what it takes to be a great captain.
Kirk hardly has time to sulk though as John Harrison, (Benedict Cumberbatch; we’ll get to him shortly) a Star-Fleet officer gone rogue, has attacked Star-Fleet command, killing several high ranking officials and pissing off everyone else in the Fleet.
From there, the film takes off and the quest to find him and his motives unfolds before the viewer even has a chance to process everything they’re seeing. To say anything more would be to spoil the excitement that comes from seeing it unfold on screen, just trust me, it’s quite the spectacle.
From a technical aspect, the film is a massive achievement. CGI has never looked better and the set design, sleek and futuristic, helps blend the CG so seamlessly that it’s hard to spot what’s real and what isn’t. The action scenes impress and dazzle with a relentless and frantic energy that draws you in. If you can see it in IMAX 3D, there’s never been a clearer example of what exactly the extra dimension can add to a film like this.
The performances are all top notch as well, Pine continues to build his own place in the franchise as a younger and still-learning Kirk, as does Zachary Quinto who continues his great work channeling Leonard Nimoy as the Vulcan Commander Spock. Every cast member gets a chance to shine with Karl Urban’s McCoy and Simon Pegg’s Scotty getting more screen time than in the previous film that they take full advantage of.
The movie however, is the Benedict Cumberbatch coming out party. He so effortlessly captures all of this characters’ calculating ruthlessness while also having no problem gaining audiences’ sympathies, at times seeming not too far off from Kirk. Any time he’s on screen, you can’t help but be drawn to the (sometimes even wordless) charisma on display.
One longtime critique of Abrams is his seeming penchant for “fanboy service.” For as many that praise his willingness to listen to the voice of the fans with his nods to previous “Trek” classics, there are some (praying at their Joss Whedon alters) who declare him as an unoriginal fanboy with interest only in spectacle. In all honesty, both would be right; there are so many references to past “Treks” that it’s almost as if Abrams and co. merely sat on an internet message board and copied and pasted. In this film, you get:
- “Dammit Kirk, I’m a Doctor.”
- “I’m giving her all she’s got. She just can’t do it captain.”
- A certain pointy-eared predecessor
- “Khaaaaaaan.” and
- The Vulcan Death Grip
The fans should feel quite well represented and the Abrams naysayers should take a step back and look at the bigger picture. With a film, and a franchise, the size of “Star Trek” it’s impossible not to take the previous installments into account. To not acknowledge the history at all would draw more ire than any reference ever could, you simply can’t have a “Star Trek” movie without some of the landmarks of the franchise.
The biggest achievement of this film in my eyes however, is the notion that maybe I should be cautiously optimistic of Abrams stepping behind the lens to navigate that previously mentioned “Star Wars” reboot. “Wars” is similarly full of lore and beloved characters along with the passionate fans that love and would defend “Star Wars” to death.
Abrams has already proved he can handle the weight of expectations with a legendary franchise on his back, after seeing “Star Trek Into Darkness” it’s safe to say that the fans will let the “Star Wars” weight get a little bit lighter.