Published on May 28th, 2013 | by Clint Davis
Star Trek Into Darkness 
Summary: J.J. Abrams's second 'Star Trek' installment is even better than his first. The actors seem more comfortable in these iconic roles while the visuals are as eclectic as the Enterprise's crew.
PG-13 | 132 min.
Director: J.J. Abrams | Screenplay: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch
Studio: Bad Robot, K/O Paper, Skydance Productions
Distribution: Paramount Pictures
When director J.J. Abrams set out to reboot the Star Trek franchise in 2009, the pressure was on — as it will be when he reintroduces the world to Star Wars in 2015. Fast forward to four years after that film was showered with praise from critics, Trekkies, and new audiences alike, and you’ve got a much more relaxed atmosphere surrounding its sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness.
I don’t want to nitpick on the title but…isn’t it irritating when studios decide not to number the films in a series and rather just give them subtitles? We all agree The Dark Knight trilogy was fantastic but explaining the order to someone twenty-years from now will be a bit more taxing than simply The Dark Knight 1, 2, and 3. But let’s move on, Star Trek Into Darkness is similar to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in many ways — including that it’s superior to its preceding entry in the series.
From the film’s opening sequence, a plunge into an active volcano by Spock (Zachary Quinto) as Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Dr. “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) are chased through a bright red forest on an uncharted planet, this movie is pure action. A blessing with sequels is that you don’t need to spend 30+ minutes on exposition as you introduce your characters — you can simply throw us right into a dangerous mission and take off. Star Trek Into Darkness has a relentless pace, as over two-hours of runtime fly by in what feels like no time. The movie doesn’t drag at any time as even when the crew of Starship Enterprise aren’t in a perilous situation, they’re spitting entertaining dialogue full of jests.
Our plot follows the classic crew as they carry out a “pure and simple” manhunt of a ruthless killer named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). Harrison is a former Starfleet member who is now bent on revenge against the organization for their treatment of his own people. Kirk and company take a massive payload of experimental photon torpedos with the order to kill Harrison rather than capture him, but the story thickens when the true purpose of these weapons, and Harrison’s actions are revealed.
New additions to the cast include the villainous Cumberbatch, Peter Weller as Starfleet Admiral Marcus, and the gorgeous Alice Eve as his daughter Dr. Carol Marcus. All three are strong additions, with only Eve feeling a bit redundant — a point that even Spock makes in her first scene, but fans of the original Star Trek trilogy know her character will likely play a pivotal role in future installments. Cumberbatch successfully puts a unique spin on arguably Star Trek‘s most classic villain, as Abrams does the same to the series’ most classic storyline. As previously mentioned, much of this film is lifted from The Wrath of Khan, but Abrams doesn’t simply take that beloved flick and remake it with better special effects — instead he flips many of the key plot points upside-down.
As a villain, Cumberbatch (BBC’s Sherlock) uses a menacing voice and intense delivery to be effectively terrifying in scenes. However, I felt his performance was very exaggerated in some parts, especially early-on, which made him a bit cartoony…but then again this is the series that made William Shatner a household name. A clever plot device at the end of the film also may allow us to see him again, which I would gladly welcome.
The movie’s title can certainly be taken literally, as the Enterprise warps to the far reaches of uninhabited space during the film’s mission — but many of the characters also experience a less obvious darkness of their own. Death is hinted at and talked about a lot during Star Trek Into Darkness, including the fear and ultimate loneliness that goes with it. The characters also experience great individual highs and lows as they work together to triumph at the end. At least four different Enterprise crew members are promoted in rank at some point in the film only to be demoted again, while supporting characters like Scotty (Simon Pegg), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), and Dr. Marcus experience personal crises of their own.
Star Trek Into Darkness is a lot of fun, though and one that you don’t need to have seen the 2009 original to enjoy. These are great characters that we will never tire of spending time with and it’s a joy to see the comfort each actor has found in portraying them for a new audience. As a huge fan of the original Star Trek films, I love what Abrams has done for the series as he pays respect to original classics while keeping them fresh — and I think by the time we see Jedi and Sith return to the screen, he will have erased the awful taste left in our mouths by George Lucas’s prequel episodes.