So the 2009 version of Star Trek did something I didn’t think was really possible. It got mainstream viewers back into the theaters to watch a Star Trek film. Was it the magic combo of J.J. Abrams and lens flares, or was there some techno-babble validation that Spock could rattle off for us? In any case the success of the film was enough to convince Paramount to get a sequel in the works. I for one was looking forward to seeing where the crew trekked next. But was Into Darkness the destination I had in mind?
Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) finds himself in a bit of trouble when he ignores the Prime Directive during a mission, and exposes a pre-space faring culture to the sight of the Enterprise rising from the ocean. Kirk faces disciplinary action, but not before the Federation’s base in London is destroyed. Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) believes that a terrorist named Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) was involved. After Starfleet headquarters are attacked in San Francisco, Marcus sends Kirk and the Enterprise on a covert mission to attack Harrison who is hiding in Klingon space.
Kirk is all for the mission, but Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Scotty (Simon Pegg) are disturbed by it. Scotty even resigns his post, and Dr. Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) picks up point on the new photon torpedoes that the Admiral has given them. As the mission proceeds, Kirk makes a fateful decision that will put him at odds with Marcus and face to face with an enemy who will spell doom to a member of the crew. Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, John Cho, Anton Yelchin and Bruce Greenwood join in this Star Trek into Darkness.
- Amazing visuals and sound design in this film
- Excellent acting by just about everyone in the cast
- Has great pacing and tells a compelling story
- Aims for a more dower atmosphere
- Some of the familiar plot beats are going to be too distracting for some viewers
- Those looking for less action than the 2009 film are going to be disappointed.
This movie gets a bad rap, but it is solidly entertaining and is actually a better made film than its predecessor. Cumberbatch brings a lot of gravitas to his role and makes for an excellent antagonist to our favorite crew. Meanwhile the plot delves into a moral dilemma that is relevant in traditional Star Trek fashion. While I was hoping for a film more about space exploration, what we got instead was a military thriller set in the Star Trek universe. It works well and is worth checking out, if you can get past some of the familiar surface plot and character points.
Scores (out of 5)
In Depth Review
|You can't keep a good starship down.|
I mentioned in my review of Nemesis that I think Paramount is really fixated on The Wrath of Khan, and that they feel that film is the template that all other Star Trek films must follow. I remember the writers saying early in preproduction for this film that they were going to focus on space exploration and not include a central villain in the story. They would instead have the conflict build from the unknown. That sounded great to me!
|Has the Enterprise met her shadow self?|
The thing is Abrams and his writing crew took the story of Khan (and most importantly Space Seed the classic episode that introduced us to Khan) and used it as a starting point. Instead of making this a tale of one man’s revenge against Kirk, they turned it into a military thriller in which the crew of the Enterprise finds themselves trapped between a terrorist and a ruthless government. Into Darkness does what the 2009 film didn’t do: present us with current social problem in the lens of science fiction adventure.
This becomes the major stumbling block for a lot of people. If you can’t get past the concept of Into Darkness reimagining the story of Khan and his conflict with the Federation, then you just aren’t going to enjoy this movie. All the beats are there, with a few deviations. You know how the film is going to end, and even be able to predict some of the dialogue.
|"No, I'm not Loki, I'm Khan. Not even the same actor...|
are you even paying attention?"
But leave aside those elements and focus on the film as part of the new direction of the franchise. Does Into Darkness continue the growth of the characters, the world of Star Trek established in the 2009 timeline, and provide an action packed adventure. I think it does. In fact, I hear people calling this one loud dumb movie, and I’m not sure where they are coming from. Did they see the same film I did?
|Admiral Marcus' model collection is the envy of the|
Abrams does stick to his lens flares, so if those annoy you, well you aren’t going to get away from them here. But I did find this film to be edited a little smoother, and actually have a lot less shaky cam going on it. In fact most of the action scenes and big special effects moments are top notch, another high point for the series.
|The subdued colors are seen when the crew is not|
on the Enterprise.
Much of the sound effect work continues to be top notch. Once again Ben Burtt that mastermind behind the amazing sound effects of Star Wars returns to supervise the sound design. We get a mix of the old and new and it works wonders in supporting the visuals of the film.
Michael Giacchino is back as the composer. His work for the 2009 Star Trek was really impressive. He continues his winning streak with Into Darkness. He brings back his bold and heroic theme for the Enterprise and Kirk. This time he uses many variations to keep things interesting. He also brings back Spock’s theme a couple of times, but not quite as fleshed out as we got in the 2009 film.
|"What are you looking at, smooth head?"|
Khan does get a theme, one that is calculating, building slowly to greater and greater intensity. Giacchino uses it to great effect in the score, again playing it subtly when Khan is at work. One of my favorite moments in the film and in the score is when Kirk and Khan attempt to board the Vengence by propelling themselves bodily through space. Giacchino plays Kirk’s theme in counterpoint to Khan’s creating one hell of a musical ride that builds and builds in excitement. Giacchino is one of my favorite film composers working today and his work in the Star Trek franchise is consistently great.
|Scotty pleads his case to Kirk.|
|Carol pleads her case to the Admiral.|
|Khan doesn't plead to anyone.|
|"The needs of the many... oh wait, wrong movie."|
Or is it?
On its own, I think this core concept is a great one. Unfortunately the writers are locked into the Wrath of Khan template. And so they are forced to kill off a key cast member, because Wrath of Khan did it. Some people defend this as a way of reinforcing the mirror concept of the two timelines, and Spock Prime’s key scene suggests such a thing. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t change the fact that Kirk’s “death” in this film feels unearned and resolved way too quickly.
|Let the rage of a million Trek fans consume you!|
Sadly Into Darkness feels like it is just mimicking those films because they were beloved. Kirk’s death feels flat because we haven’t been with Pine’s performance over years and several adventures. And his return just seems too convenient and pat. It isn’t a deal breaker for me, but it does harm the ending the film when it wants to deliver its biggest punch, it falls flat.
|One of the more creative and thrilling scenes in|
the whole franchise.
|"Wait, you're a guardian of the what?"|
|"Wait, you're a Rider of what?"|
|The Enterprise prepares for some Vulcanology.|
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