A few months ago, I put out a list of my Top 10 Anticipated Movies of 2013. Of those 10 films, four have now been released and the returns have been pretty wildly inconsistent (Thank you very much, Good Day to Die Hard). After receiving new hope from Iron Man 3, I had every finger crossed for Star Trek: Into Darkness, aka my Number 1 entry on the list, to hold up to expectations. Like J.J. Abrams, it took me some time to warm up to Star Trek. As a kid, I experimented a bit with the crew of The Next Generation but all in all I was always more of a Star Wars fan than anything. The more that time has gone on, though, I’ve found myself absolutely falling in love with Shatner’s Kirk, Nimoy’s Spock, and the rest of the original crew of the U.S.S Enterprise. When Abrams came out with his sleek, modernized reboot of the franchise in 2009, I was absolutely floored by how well the end product turned out. Finally, we had a Star Trek that made the rest of the population understand why we love the franchise so much while still preserving the spirit of the series that us dedicated fans expect. As a result, Into Darkness had a lot to live up to in order to prove that Star Trek (2009) was more than a fortunate anomaly. While it might borrow a little too much from the original series for the uninitiated to appreciate or even understand, Star Trek: Into Darkness is an extremely entertaining new chapter in the series that does even more than its predecessor to reward true Trekkies.
The Plot: 8/10
After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.
My one and only issue with the plot is that the pacing is occasionally a little jagged, which makes the movie feel fairly long once you get closer to the end. That being said, I thought the story line did an excellent job at keeping me guessing, though parallels between the film and it’s alternate timeline will allow most Trekkies to see where things are going far before they actually get there. Speaking of the alternate timeline mechanic, I was incredibly impressed with how well the film worked that angle in when it came to referencing the original series and films. There are a lot of aspects of this that I can’t talk about here, but as I said before they all come together to produce an extremely rewarding experience for fans of the series.
The Writing: 9/10
The film’s writing, specifically its dialogue, feels very much in line with the overall theme the movie has of bringing things back to the feel of the original series. The characters all feel much closer to their counterparts than they did in the previous film, and the writing is the biggest reason why that shift works so well. A lot of these elements worked in the original series because of the campiness of it all, but Into Darkness doesn’t have that cult-status forgiveness that the original series does. Some of the aspects of the universe it occupies and the characters themselves (i.e. Spock’s calculating dialogue) could easily come across as silly in this day and age, but the writers once again proves their ability to avoid that reaction, without compromising the characters, by injecting a hearty level of wit into every line.
Some reviews I’ve read have criticized film’s efforts to tie things back in with the original series, stating that it makes it feel like Abram’s Star Trek is simply adopting the identity of its predecessors instead of creating an identity of its own. To that I would argue that the characters in both franchises are intended to be the same people. Sure, they’ve had different things happen to them and as a result have slightly different attitudes and quirks, but at the end of the day they’re still two copies of the same design. The alternate universe concept might act as something of an open door to allow Abrams to take the franchise in new directions without re-writing its history, but creating parallels between the events and characters of the two universes allows the film to explore how even alternate history may be doomed to repeat itself.
The Acting: 8/10
Across the board, the crew of the enterprise is just as great as they were in the last film. If anything stands out as substantially different, I thought that Into Darkness did a better job of giving each character a chance to shine in a meaningful way. Sure, the last film gave some time to each character, but most of those scenes involved some skill or ability that crew member brought to the table (i.e. Chekov’s technical skill, Sulu’s piloting/fighting ability) This time, each character is given something to do that doesn’t solely involve them doing something they’re really good at. I would like to specifically mention Zachary Quinto, who does a better job than ever of conveying Spock’s internal conflict between his Human side and his Vulcan side.
Every light casts a shadow, however, and as you might expect that shadow is quite a large one here. Benedict Cumberbatch is just as great in his role as you’d expect him to be, and the way his character is handled in the plot allows him to explore the character in a much more complex way than I would have expected. John Harrison is cold, calculating, and absolutely ruthless, but he’s still a human being at the end of the day. Among all of his action-oriented scenes, however, I still thought that his brief sparring with Spock was one of the best moments of the entire film.
The Sci-Fi: 10/10
This is Star Trek, so anything below a 10/10 in this category would have been some level of disappointment. Thankfully, that’s not the case here. On top of the aforementioned alternate universe mechanics, the other Sci-Fi aspects of the film are absolutely spectacular. The visual effects are incredible (I saw it in 2D and was more than happy with that choice), the scale is bigger than ever, and the fact that we finally get to see some f*cking Klingons certainly doesn’t hurt. The action sequences are just plain cool, the highlights of which include a Debris Field obstacle course and a heart-pounding chase scene through future San Francisco. The only thing I would have like to see more of is large-scale space battles, but it’s entirely possible that Abrams is waiting to play that card until the next film.
Oh yeah, did I mention there are Tribbles? Honestly, that should be all I need to say to get any remaining fellow Trekkies off of their asses and into a nearby movie theater.
The Verdict: 9.0/10 – Incredible
+ A reinforced connection to the original films and series that will delight most Trekkies
+ Action sequences are as beautiful as they are exciting
+ Cumberbatch is just as ruthlessly awesome as you’d expect him to be
- Viewers unfamiliar with the original films won’t be able to appreciate most references
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Tim’s Film Reviews: 96%
The Velvet Cafe: 4.5/5
Amonymous Reviews: 4.5/5
Fast Film Reviews: 4.5/5
The Focused Filmographer: 4.5/5
Keith and the Movies: 4.5/5
Black Sheep Reviews: 4/5
The Bishop Review: 4/5
The Code is Zeek: 3/5
KCG Movie Reviews: 3/5
Average: 8.5/10 – Impressive