‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ Review

Published 2 years ago by , Updated November 15th, 2014 at 12:40 am,

Star Trek Into Darkness Captain Kirk Commander Spock Star Trek Into Darkness Review

The result is another bold voyage for the Starship Enterprise – one that will likely wow most moviegoers (even if it irks a few die-hard Trekkies).

J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness continues the voyage of the Starship Enterprise and her crew – following the director’s 2009 origin story/alternate reality reboot of the classic sci-fi series. The sequel catches up with Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) several months after the events of the original film – as they, along with their iconic Enterprise crew, begin going (“boldly”) where no-one has gone before. In Kirk’s case, that means ignoring a prime directive, endangering the lives of his shipmates, and defying Starfleet regulations (not without consequence).

However, when a massive terrorist attack rocks London, Starfleet scrambles to maintain order and bring the perpetrator to justice. Ignoring Spock’s pleas for restraint, Kirk refuses to back down from the fight, putting him at odds with members of his crew, as he commands the Enterprise in deadly pursuit of the mysterious attacker – known only as John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch).

Star Trek Into Darkness International Trailer Enterprise Star Trek Into Darkness Review

The USS Enterprise in ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’

In Star Trek Into Darkness, returning writing team Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (as well as Damon Lindelof) seek to expand on their alternate Star Trek timeline and dig deeper into this version of the Enterprise crew members (along with the larger movie universe). Casual filmgoers flocked to the 2009 “reboot,” reigniting interest in the beloved sci-fi property, but in spite of the positive response, certain die-hard Trekkies were less smitten with the resulting variations of fan-favorite characters. Does Star Trek Into Darkness build upon the success of its predecessor and present a fun adventure that also pays homage to the classic series with smart additions to the expanded Star Trek canon?

Overall, Star Trek Into Darkness benefits from a much more focused storyline than its predecessor – since the franchise is no longer saddled with bringing the crew together, establishing each person’s respective duties, while also juggling an inter-connected time-traveling arc. Surprisingly, the film actually evolves key themes and character dynamics, via a journey that includes engaging riffs on the classic source material. As a result, Star Trek Into Darkness will easily please the same moviegoers who enjoyed the 2009 effort – but there are definitely going to be a few controversial choices that will irk longtime fans of the series who are not already onboard with Abrams’ rebooted take on the franchise.

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Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) and Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) in ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’

Chris Pine once again delivers as a young Captain Kirk, continuing to find a good balance between the traits and disposition that made the William Shatner character so memorable, without relying on imitation or caricature. Kirk’s story arc once again serves as a motor for the narrative, drawing heavily on his reckless “impulsiveness.” Thankfully, Pine is also given plenty of room to develop and grow the Captain throughout the course of the film, allowing for the kind of sincere insight and thoughtful evolution that makes this Star Trek reboot more than just a standard Hollywood cash-grab. Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) is equally enjoyable this round – especially when the filmmakers probe the ongoing conflict between his Vulcan and human emotions.

One of the sequel’s biggest strengths is its management of the large ensemble cast. Every core Enterprise member – Dr. “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban), Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu (John Cho), Lieutenant Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Ensign Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin), Lieutenant Commander Montgomery “Scotty” Scott (Simon Pegg) – along with side characters like Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood) – all have their own individual arcs (as does the ship itself). Not only does each one result in fun or exciting payoff, they’re expertly interwoven into the larger Star Trek Into Darkness plot, resulting in a smartly-paced storyline. The unrelenting velocity of the film does undercut one or two key moments that deserved (and needed) a bit more time to unfold, but overall the film juggles a lot of different elements without becoming bogged down in minutia (especially considering the 132 minute runtime).

John Harrison Examined by Bones McCoy Star Trek Into Darkness 570x378 Star Trek Into Darkness Review

John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Bones McCoy (Karl Urban) in ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’

Newcomers Alice Eve and Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr. Carol Marcus and John Harrison, respectively) provide memorable performances in roles that had been dissected and analyzed for months leading up to release. For that reason, the characters will likely be a point of contention for moviegoers – especially anyone clinging to pre-conceived notions about Harrison and Marcus ahead of time. The pair would have benefitted from a bit more development, and some casual moviegoers will be lost on some of the film’s subtle nods – but onscreen they serve the story at hand, driving plot beats as well as juxtaposing key traits in the mainline Enterprise crew members. Harrison and Marcus might not quite live up to the pre-release hype, but moment-to-moment they’re both quality additions brought to life with nuanced performances.

Much like its 2009 predecessor, Star Trek Into Darkness prioritizes character and sci-fi world-building over large-scale action beats. There are plenty of eye-popping effects and tense set-pieces, but compared to similar blockbusters, certain sequences are a bit more restrained. That said this is a Star Trek film, so even when action is depicted through ship-versus-ship destruction and crumbling CGI environments (instead of in-your-face hand-to-hand brawls or large-scale battle sequences), the film still offers an engaging blend of big-budget spectacle, humor, and heartfelt character moments.

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Spock (Zachary Quinto) & Uhura (Zoe Saldana) in ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’

Star Trek Into Darkness is playing as premium 3D and IMAX experiences – and it’s easy to recommend either version to interested moviegoers. Abrams relied on subtle depth-of-field for his 3D approach – which definitely enhances the scale in larger action beats, while adding shape to the twists and turns of the Enterprise bridge and hallways. Viewers who are typically underwhelmed by less-noticeable 3D will not find pop-out effects (or other gimmicks) – but to those willing to invest in the added cost: the 3D post-conversion from StereoD is clean and crisp. Similarly, roughly 30 minutes of the film was shot using IMAX cameras, resulting in some genuinely breathtaking big screen visuals accompanied by an amplified soundtrack featuring booming Star Trek sound effects and Michael Giacchino’s rousing score.

J.J. Abrams has delivered a true follow-up in nearly every way imaginable – successfully exploring the iconic characters and expanded universe of his alternate timeline. The film is bigger and more personal than its predecessor, presenting another fun Trek adventure with captivating character drama that draws from the foundation established in the 2009 reboot (not to mention larger Star Trek mythos). The result is another bold voyage for the Starship Enterprise – one that will likely wow most moviegoers (even if it irks a few die-hard Trekkies).

If you’re still on the fence about Star Trek Into Darkness, check out the trailer below:

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Star Trek Into Darkness runs 132 minutes and is Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence. Now playing 2D, 3D, and 3D IMAX theaters.

Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below. If you’ve seen the movie and want to discuss details about the film without worrying about spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it, please head over to our Star Trek Into Darkness spoilers discussion.

For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant editors check out our Star Trek Into Darkness episode of the SR Underground podcast (featuring an interview with the film’s writer Roberto Orci).

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Our Rating:

4 out of 5

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  1. Although I would not classify myself as a Trekkie, I enjoyed the show in its various incarnations growing up. Overall, I found the new film to be a wonderful piece of entertainment – flawed, certainly, and full of a lot more noise and fury than the original ever had, but a fun flick and a solid kickoff to the summer movie season.

    Abrams shows he has the chops to lead a major sci-fi franchise and balance between the sensibilities of today’s audiences while paying homage to a classic of the sci-fi canon. As in the series, Abrams realizes that the movie is at its best when it focuses squarely on the interplay between Kirk’s impetuous decision-making and Spock’s coldly logical Vulcan world-view. By keeping this relationship in focus at the forefront, he takes what could have been another empty blockbuster and creates a movie with a lot more resonance.

  2. An awesome movie. But I simply wish that John Harrison would have turned out to be John Harrison. The Kahn stuff was unnecessary.

  3. Being one of the ‘die hard trekkies’ from way back when it started I am not impressed with Abrams re-envisioned Trek. The alternate universe may be excting to many but I find it disheartening. Also the time spent on eyeball bending huge, but less than detailed FX, is done at the cost of storyline and character development which seems to reflect the attention deficit shallow new audiences Abrams appeals to. He claims to be have been a real fan of the original shows and films yet I do not see it in his new versions.

  4. I think this was the best star trek vie ever… Of all time (red vs blue reference, I love doing that :) )

  5. One of 2013’s best summer movies. Cumberbatch really gave an incredible performance here. Plus there were more Kirk-Spock “bro-mance” and other funny moments, especially with Bones and Scottie. The action and special effects were also amazing and more improved than the first one. Needless to say, I think this movie is a reboot of “The Wrath of Khan”

  6. There’s less crying on screen in a Nicholas Sparks picture. Every other scene someome’s tearing up, what is that about? Seriously, what a waste of potential in this film. I request a do over.

  7. Small Spoiler Alert.

    The Klingons are in it if you do not know it already. Theres alot of things wrong here but I wont say it. I want my fellow trkkies who haven’t seen it yet to have something awful to take them by surprise. What I will say is they spelt Qo’noS … Kronos….

    Ya thats right … a movie backed by Paramount and CBS got that wrong. Not really a spoiler but yeah….

    As a prime universe Trekkie I can safely say that this film will irk alot of Prime Trekkies. In alot of ways. If you haven’t seen it yet, be prepared for that voice in the back of your head to point out all that is not right in this movie. Note that this movie did not irk me half as much as the 2009 reboot.

    However for all the Neo-Trekkies or Abramverse-Tards this movie is epic cool! All it was missing was Kirk or Spock yelling out YOLO and making duck faces at the camera.

    Seriously though … Mr. Abrams I know you have a hard on for lens flares, so let me take this opprotunity to thanks you so much for your sacrifice in ST: Into Darkness in regards to the LACK of lens flares in this sequal!! Instead of 5 flares per scene its like 2 maybe 3!

    No but let me be seriously serious this time, this movie wasn’t THAT bad, it was much better then the first and incorporated/nodded to some Prime Universe aspects which I thought was kinda neat. It is action packed and the story aint bad either!

    When it comes to the Abramverse Trek I personaly can (Other Trekkies can to if they adopt my tactic here) enjoy it so long as I convince my self that I am not going to watch a Trek film but a vary interesting Trek fan fiction.
    Small Spoiler Alert.

    The Klingons are in it if you do not know it already. Theres alot of things wrong here but I wont say it. I want my fellow trkkies who havent seen it yet to have something awful to take them by surprise. What I will say is they spelt Qo’noS … Kronos….

    • I think you’re being too harsh on it, and also need to lower your trekkie fandomness down a notch.
      A) It’s rude to spoil even a small part of it to other people, it’s like that guy who yelled out Dumbledore dies on the day the book came out to people waiting to get it.
      B) I didn’t notice any of those lens flares that people go on about, and even if I’m just clueless you’re just being unnecessarily annoying, who cares they aren’t blinding you.
      C) Spelling the planet different isn’t that horrible, first off Kronos is how one spells the Greek Titan so it fits, secondly it makes it easier for people with less of a hardon for star trek as you have.
      D) the movie is good, and I don’t know why you need to bring up yolo, sure it’s not the best film out there, but it’s exactly what one needs to make a successful film out of a complicated fandom. If one were to want people to watch their incredibly expensive film to be watched by more than just the hardcore fans you need romance, action, drama and attractive actors. Therefore Star Trek was made the way it was made, in order to get a larger audience. And just because you love star trek doesn’t mean that they’ll cater the film to fit your needs, not unless you represent a million people.

    • In regards to the Kronos/Qo’noS non-conspiracy. Here on Earth, how a country spells its name is not necessarily how other countries spell it. For example, Espana/Spain. Same difference. Much ado about nothing.

  8. ***spoiler**

    is into darkness a mass up of the plot’s of star trek 2 and 6

  9. As a Trek fan from the original series til now, this move was o.k.. I did enjoy it for the most part, but I expected it to be as flawless as the previous film. Into Darkness felt thrown together to me. There were wat too many quick, random moments of excessive comedy, and I don’t appreciate the character story line swapping, or whatever you call it. I definetly need to see it again, now that my build up of excitement is gone. Maybe I would appreciate whatever its supposed to be, but I doubt it.

  10. I must sat, fanboys never fail to be predictable.

    With all of the positive comments here, it still does not surprise me to see all of the fanboy whining that Into Darkness was “Not Faithful” or a “Rip-off.”

    Trekkies fall into several catagories: devoted sci fi loyalist, Gene Roddenberry cult members, K/S worshippers…can’t we all just get along here, folks? Every one of us loves in his and her own way, and just because someone does not share your affection the same way, does not make their point invalid. I for one do not particularly like Mr. Abram’s work–can’t get the taste of Cloverfield out of my mouth- but rebotting a tored old franchise like Trek can not be anything but a good idea. And I am so glad that I did not have to see William Shatner clogging up my visual arteries with his porcine acting…

    • Yeah, and did “Cloverfield” SUCK, or what?! I do not think J.J. Abrams is an artist, but an accountant looking to profit on the hard work of others. Nasty guy, with no real talent…

  11. Another fairly poor review (sorry) that misses the point. Is it not possible to find film people who know anything about science-fiction and Star Trek to do these reviews? OK, here’s the thing: the good, and there was a lot of good, doesn’t outweigh the outrageous amount of bad. This was a lazy, uninspired action film that blatantly ripped off plot-points from previous Star Trek films and other recent blockbusters, without any of the traits that characterize Star Trek. Why is that a problem? To those who say the Trek fanboys need to chill essentially we were ROBBED by this film. We went in with expectations based on the Star Trek label, and were given a generic fantasy adventure. How would you feel if you went to a restaurant based on a advertisement promising authentic Szechuan-style Chinese food and received frozen egg-rolls and chop suey? I know how I’d feel: ripped off. So don’t blame the victims here; they called it Star Trek to exploit a familiar brand name. Period. What’s frustrating – besides the bad science, convoluted script, lack of character development, lack of good female characters, simplistic anti-US foreign policy theme to pander to the European market – is that Paramount has basically killed off its own Star Trek franchise to create a new franchise, which bares little resemblance to its parent. That’s fine. It just means old fans like me will continue to watch our DVD’s but will stop going to new movies. Star Trek will cease to be an institution that challenges and influences viewers. It will be no different that Fast and Furious, and that’s pretty sad. Also sad because we cannot blame Hollywood alone; as film-viewers we’ve made it pretty clear, when given a choice between thoughtful drama and dumb adventure, dumb wins every time. So shame on them; but shame on us, too.

  12. I am not a big Trek fan anyway, so my expectations were pretty low. I thought the TV show was kinda junky and stupid, but at least the new film would have good special effects and Benedict Cumberbatch to make it bearable, so I went to check it out two weeks ago.

    I have a theory that Trekkies love all things Star Trek pretty much out of hand–sure, there are some fanboy types who will complain about anything not starring the original cast, or without Gene Roddenberry at the helm, but my oldest friend is a first gen TrekkER (her differentiation, not mine)and is just happy to see the franchise still going on. I do not get the level of devotion, though my old girlfriend has tried to explain it to me many times. I enjoyed this movie for the fluff it was; I liked seeing Benedict at the weight which seems to fit his frame–he was very handsome, filled out like he was–but then, I did not expect this film to bring world peace or solve the deficit–and I think some posters here need to get over the simple fact that Star Trek, as a cultural thing, is NOT THAT IMPORTANT, SO QUIT WHINING ABOUT IT!

    Fanboys love to yack about what Science Fiction is, (or what they believe it to be)because it is one of the few things they are actually knowledgeable about. But again, the subject, outside of a few exceptions (Arthur C. Clarke, Olaf Stapleton) is not realy worth all of the fanboy strum and drang–just take STITD in its intended spirit–fluffy nonsense with no bearing on anything important, and enjoy the pretty lightshow! You want content, go READ A BOOK!

    • Van, I think you’re half-right. The suggestion that there are fans who will see anything called Star trek WAS absolutely true when that brand name meant something; there’s a reason why Big Macs taste the same in Boston and Istanbul. But if the name now means something else, they can’t complain when fans criticize what they’ve done.

      But keep in mind, Star Trek has always had two different kinds of fans: there are the devotees, who actually care what Star Trek means; and the mercurial fans, who loved the “One with the Whales”, and thought Spock and Picard were sexy. There was never any more attachment for them than that. Look, lots of people drink wine: some are connoisseurs, some are just drunks. Their money is the same.

      But it has always been the ‘fanboys’ (which is actually unfair, since thousands of women also love Trek) that have sustained the franchise: it was these devotees who were writing letters in the 60s’, running home to watch the show in reruns and going to conventions in the 70’s, seeing movies in the 80’s and buying DVD box-sets in the 90’s. The simple truth is, without these fans, there would be no Star Trek today, and this whole discussion would be moot. And these are the fans Paramount chose to crap on. Whatever. It’s not a big deal, but it is sad. And despite what some idiot film reviewers have suggested, no part of me believes Roddenberry would have been pleased by that, despite all of the financial success of this reboot.

  13. With all the movie failures coming out right now like iron man 3, the amazing Spiderman, man of steel,and MIB. Its a relief to know Hollywood hasn’t become a complete failure. This movie restored my faith in movies. Great job. Didn’t completely follow the star trek story but it was still a great movie

  14. Wow… there is a lot of harshness on the new Treks. I have watched all the original Star Trek movies and the show, and I love the story. Now, I love the story, but I’m not that guy going to conventions and dressing up like Trek characters.
    What I really like about Abrams’ approach is how he’s not just remaking the original series with special effects. IMO I think that is the reasoning for the whole black hole in the first movie. Honestly, I think that Roddenberry would really like his take of it. Instead of remaking his movies or trying to make another failure like Enterprise, he is taking Roddenberry’s original storyline and has made a twist to make it his own.
    I can understand people not liking the differences, but even if he had remade the same storyline, then they would be complaining about the exact shape of the Enterprise not being right, or that they don’t the casting choice, which I think was about as good as anyone could do.
    I think that these movies are really good so far and have a lot of potential. The crew is great IMO, and I love the whole aspect of having new and old Spock in the same films. Great twist.

  15. Van, it amazes me that you can be so spot-on with what is wrong with the new film but not realize it. And then criticize Trekkers for things they not saying. Who wants Shatner in another film? The issue IS storytelling; you’re absolutely right. They should have kept it fresh – exactly as you say – instead of rehashing an old story. And the new film, despite having the backstory and main character handed to them on a silver platter, was badly plotted, and simplistic. It just looked good. That’s it. What old Trek fans wanted, and still want, IS better story-telling and credible characterizations not an inferior remake composed of a couple of illogical scenes interspersed with an hour of SFX destruction. We know JJ Abrams can do that because he’s done it before. Trek 2009 had it’s faults but a really solid reboot. He should bring on some of the Fringe writers, whose work was mostly excellent. And Anna Torv. Just because 😉

  16. Moe; you just verified my point about this fandom taking themselves too seriously. Dude, we re NOT talking about anything of any real import; this is just a silly TV show for KIDS, if we are honest. And the Fanboy populace cannot handle criticism of their holy-of-holies. I have been in Organized Fandom for longer than you have been alive, I would wager. I know the players and the terrain of which I speak, and I will criticize whatever I feel can stand a bit of improvement. You can do the same; no skin off my nose. But you do not to get to dictate how anyone else should feel about any property or fandom out there. Go ahead; love what you love. But I don’t have to squelch my opinion , just because a few folks disagree with it.

  17. Hey Van, seeing as how I watched TOS in the 60’s, I don’t think you’re much older than me. And since we’re both chatting on a film forum, and have both been involved in organized fandom, we’re on an even playing field. And I can’t help but notice that you’re accusing fans of taking it too seriously but you’re still here, months after the film came out, defending it. Look, I’m not telling anyone what to think; think whatever you want. But here’s what I think: we do have a right to comment on this film for a couple of reasons. Partly because it’s FUN. Don’t take this discussion too seriously. I’m enjoying picking the film apart and sharing thoughts with other fans. I assume that’s why you’re here, for fun. Mostly, because some of us are emotionally invested. You can say you’re not, but here you are. I’m not posting on a Breaking Bad or Once Upon a Time post because I don’t care about those shows. But other people are. That’s how the entertainment industry works: it wants us to be emotionally involved (and I say that as someone who has worked in film and television for 25 years.) If you’ve been involved in fandom you know exactly what I mean. As far as Star Trek goes, of course it’s not more important than, say, children dying in Syria or shootings in the US, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter at some level. I’ve met scientists that went into astrophysics because of Star Trek; it obviously matters to some people. It does matter to me too. Not more than the real world, but it’s a part of who I am. But that said, having been disappointed by this film, I’m probably done with Star Trek for now, other than watching the occasional repeat. I’m walking away from it. I think that’s what the old fans should do, because, as you say, it’s just a silly TV show. Not like Doctor Who, mind you. Now THAT’S serious stuff 😉

  18. I am just reading this now, having unfortunately not seen the film until last week. I give it 2 out of 5 stars. Decent simply as an action film, but oh so problematic in so many other ways. New writers, please.

  19. I felt Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) was the most an annoying character.

  20. I kind of enjoyed, but little things did bug me. Since when was Carol Marcus British? (She reminds me more of Elizabeth Dehner with that accent, which is probably where the story should have gone, but…) Since when was Khan British? Even though Alice Eve is smoking hot, and I don’t mind seeing her in her underwear, was the scene really necessary? No. (Okay, leave it in).

    Spock’s “Khaaan” was stupid, but even though there wasn’t the years of friendship between him and Kirk, I’ll chalk it up to him being emotional after melding with Captain Pike.

    It was good though. Lots of action, lots of fun. Story works for the most part. Nice twists. You know, good mostly.

  21. I loved the actors, and the effects. What disturbed me was the retelling of the Khan character. Can’t they come up with a new idea for a story? I have watched Star Trek since the original series. These should be dynamic characters that are fleshed out more in new movies, not simply given the same old one liners, and storylines as previous tv episodes or movies. I was very disappointed with this movie because of this. The Klingons looked nothing like they should have ( did they run out of money for make up, and costumes?) What a downer! Give us something new, and exciting! These great actors deserve a better storyline, and scripting!

  22. 4 out of 5 stars?

    Are you being paid by Orci?

  23. “Much like its 2009 predecessor, Star Trek Into Darkness prioritizes character and sci-fi world-building over large-scale action beats. ”

    What movies did you watch? The Star Trek 2009 I watched was nothing but action set piece after action set piece to the point that by the end of the film a moment that should have had any action adventure fans jumping up and down in their seats only elicited a yawn. For some reason the pacing that Abrams exhibits on television is utterly lacking in these films, and he managed to turn iconic characters into cardboard place holders.