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).
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.
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).
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.
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:
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).
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