In 2009 creative wunderkind J.J. Abrams boldly went where no one had gone before: rebooting the Star Trek franchise (well kind of, anyway.) Simply titled Star Trek, the film blazed a new trail for the original crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise while lovingly paying tribute to what had come before them. Fast-paced, fun and brave, the film was Star Trek with a Star Wars approach. Abrams anticipated sequel Star Trek Into Darkness hit theaters this week, does it stack up? SPOILER ALERT: Yes, yes it does.
The film begins en media res with the crew of the Enterprise frantically attempting to save a primitive culture from the imminent explosion of a volcano on their planet. It’s the kind of fast-paced scene Abrams loves opening with. Meanwhile, our mysterious villain John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) begins his one-man-assault on Star Fleet by blowing up an archive in London. After another particularly brutal attack, Kirk takes it upon himself to head the unofficial hunt for Harrison, which leads them to the Klingon home world of Kronos (Oh snap, Klingons!) After an Empire Strikes Back-style air chase, Kirk, Spock and Uhura fight off a handful of Klingons and behold the one-man-army that is Harrison in action. Once they have Harrison in custody, he reveals that Kirk’s assignment to bring him to justice is not as cut and dry as it appears (as these things tend to go.) To sum up everything without spoilers, the remainder of the film is a series of tensely-played action scenes, plot twists and endearing character moments that gains strength from the lifeblood of the original series.
Star Trek Into Darkness is one of the few films in recent memory that truly commandeered my attention; I never once checked the clock because I didn’t want it to end. It’s just that fun. I suppose that the film falls more under the category of sequel than reboot, but it still needs to be said that if you’re going to reboot a franchise THIS is the way to do it. Ideas are replicated and transformed all of the time; it’s human nature. Star Trek Into Darkness doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel or do outrageous things with the concepts and ideas that Gene Roddenberry created in 1966, but it brings the reasons why these characters have endured to the forefront. It rides a fine line between homage and gratuitous fan service, maintaining this impressive display of balance throughout the entire feature, with perhaps one minor exception. The script subverts expectations of what Star Trek fans have experienced and revels in pulling the rug out from underneath viewers’ feet. The spotlight is once again evenly shared between Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto as Kirk and Spock, respectively. Pine continues to play Captain Kirk as Han Solo, with a swashbuckling attitude which makes for a more complete character. Quinto takes Spock to some more emotional areas in this film, hitting mostly every mark and allowing us to more easily relate to the logical pointy-eared manbot. Benedict Cumberbatch seethes with anger and venom in his antagonistic role, daring Kirk and moviegoers to underestimate him. It’s also a delight to see the entire Enterprise crew work together more smoothly than they did in the first film and allow for more growth and development. Star Trek Into Darkness is a love letter to Star Trek fans and has an awesome-meter that never settles for anything less than “Batman high-fiveing God on top of a high speed train heading for Castle Fantastico.” Fans of 2009’s Star Trek alone cannot miss this exceptional sequel by J.J. Abrams.
Final Grade: ★★★★★ 5/5 Stars