Reel Review: Star Trek Into Darkness
Written by: Ben
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It would be a lie if I were to start this review claiming I wasn’t a fan of Star Trek in general. I wouldn’t identify as a “Trekkie” per say, but my father was a fan of Star Trek: TOS and its movies as well as getting big into Star Trek: The Next Generation which I also loved. So I was with that group of fans who were apprehensive for Star Trek (2009) and when it came out and was so good, I was elated and anxious for more, and as such I have been waiting very impatiently for Star Trek Into Darkness. With the mystery and rumor behind the character played by Benedict Cumberbatch, and the expectations, there was a lot stacked against this movie that it had to live up to. I waited until the midnight screening instead of an advanced one because I wanted to be able to have that experience again, and I’m writing this on 5 hours of sleep, so I guess I should get into telling you if it was worth all of that effort and if you should spend the same kind of energy.
Star Trek Into Darkness starts how you’d want for it to start, with the crew trying to save an unaware indigenous people through highjinks and risking life and limb while also violating protocol. After a daring escape we are interested to Commander John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is a ruthless killer who manipulates a man into blowing up a Star Fleet facility, declaring war on the organization. After Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) are reprimanded for their violation they are separated with Kirk set to be the First Officer of the Enterprise back under Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood). They are called to a meeting with the other commanding officers of the Star Fleet ships in Earth’s orbit about Harrison when he attacks them with a gunship. After fighting off his attack and him escaping to the Klingnon home world, Kirk requests and is given permission go after him. Given back his command of the Enterprise as well as 72 experimental long range torpedoes with orders to kill Harrison from a distance Kirk sets off for his vengeance. With the addition of the mysterious Dr. Carol Wallace to the crew and the mystery of Harrison’s intentions looming in the background Kirk must fight his urge for vengeance and do what he can to protect his crew.
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Truly what has always been great about Star Trek and worked so well in Abrams’ last outing was the characters and how well they work together. They are a crew and they are family, and while I feel much of the crew was more underplayed this time, they each had their moments to shine and play off each other well. There is a lot of light humor thrown in that works and is fun as which helps break up the tension, but at other times I do feel like they put too much effort into keeping the humor going. Pine still is a great brash young Kirk, not yet fully the noble and legendary captain of the Enterprise we all know, but his heart is in the right place. He is fun at times, but his cold and deathly serious side burn through nicely and it is good to have Pine back. Quinto was surprisingly an amazing Spock, a character many thought could never be done by anyone other than Nemoy and this time he is still great. There is a lot of attempts to focus on his human side but I feel Quinto wins out when that Vulcan side plays out with a muted emotion that you can just pick up. However the true breakout here is Cumberbatch as a John Harrison. I’m a big fan of Cumberbatch from Sherlock and he has been popping up in movies all over lately, and if you were wondering who he is or why he’s becoming so popular, this movie is a great show of that. He commands the screen in each of his scenes, providing a strength that sells him as a villain and a force to be reckoned with, and he is a credit to the movie. The other new addition of Alice Eve is welcome to add some more to the mystery and she performs well, but she does have only a few scenes. The return of all of the original cast is great, with Karl Urban as bones and Simon Pegg as Scotty being the real standouts from that other returning adding the most to the movie out of all of them. I just still feel like I wish they could all provide us more of their presence but I also can’t say I can see where they could be added in.
J. J. Abrams has taken some flack in the past for not really doing anything new in his movies, though for the most part he does well at avoiding that this time. That is to say, at least for the first 2 acts of the movie that really are something to see and truly have you engaged and excited. Yes, there is almost too much fan service thrown in even in those sections, but that is only really an issue because the first one had those more toned down which worked because these are more of a Summer Blockbuster then a movie for fans. These movies have enough for fans to accept and enjoy it as Star Trek, but really these movies are to serve non-fans and get them into the story and grow the audience which the excess amounts of fan service just feels like fluff at times. However, that isn’t enough to really be an issue but it’s the third act that really hurts it as it is all just retreading ground that has been seen and done before, and that’s in Star Trek. To have even note for note/exact same quotes that are iconic for the series used here really just weakens a movie that had been great and creative, and they really stand out. I don’t know quite how they could’ve handled that last act differently to avoid going to that same place, but at very least they could’ve tried harder to avoid it. At least the movie still looked quite gorgeous, with the 3D being worthwhile as the visuals really do pop nicely there. Overall Abrams did enough to make it worth having and for us to see this sequel, just its always a shame for a movie to lose it after a great first 2 acts.
Star Trek Into Darkness is a really solid follow-up to a great reboot that got our expectations up. It didn’t really live up to the promises of Star Trek (2009) but it does its damndest and for the most part it pays off. With a great villain the movie utilizes well, the conflict is palpable and the return of characters we know and like already really lets you jump right in. It’s just a shame that the movie fails to live up to everything it had been setting up from the start. In the end though, it’s something definitely worth a watch, at least as a matinee but you shouldn’t feel too upset if you’re paying full price either.