Star Trek: Into Darkness is the sequel to the 2009 reboot, Star Trek. Directed once again by J.J. Abrams, Into Darkness aims to balance what everyone loved about the old Trek and keep it modern in a way to attract that “common audience”.
Abrams succeeds for the most part. We start with an exciting teaser involving Kirk (Chris Pine) and Bones (Karl Urban) attempting to help Spock (Zachary Quinto) save an indigenous species from total annihilation. Such a task puts Spock in the center of a volcano and in need of rescue. Of course, in order to do so Kirk is forced to break a bunch a rules, something Starfleet doesn’t take too kindly to. Luckily for Kirk the consequences of his actions are quickly reversed, leaving you to wonder why they were even written into the story in the first place.
Not soon after we witness a series of terrorist attacks, perpetrated by one John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). Caught in the crossfire is Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood), and in an instant we’re off on a journey of vengeance. The plot follows a series of twists and turns throughout Into Darkness. Alas, many of them are easy to see coming. The writers rely too much on foreshadowing their own surprises, so much so that by the time they happen there’s no shock. You knew it was happening a good fifteen minutes before the characters did.
Despite the fact that he may not carry the same presence of some former Trek villains, Cumberbatch a far cry better than 2009’s Nero. His dialogue occasionally suffers from being too “chewy” but he does the best that he can. Harrison, shrouded in mystery for the first half the movie, is easily the best part of Into Darkness. He’s just as intimidating when kept in a cell as he is on the battlefield. Such skills are put on display during one of the film’s best sequences, a battle set on Kronos, the Klingon homeworld. My only complaint is that we didn’t see more of the Klingons.
Moving on to our heroes, Chris Pine’s Kirk suffers from a general lack of character growth. For most of the film, it feels like we’re watching the Kirk from the first movie, not a character who has grown past his issues to disregard all authority and rules for what he feels is best. It’s not until about the halfway point we get a character who seems like he’s grown. This is when Pine works his magic as Kirk and we get to see something other than the man-child we’ve come to know.
In contrast to Kirk, Spock has grown from his troubles in the first movie, so much so that now he has the opposite problem. Instead of being unable to control his emotions, he has repressed them completely. When Kirk tries to connect with him as a friend, or Uhura (Zoe Saldana) tries to connect with him romantically, it’s like there’s nothing to be found. This thread continues throughout the entire film, resolving itself in a meaningful way.
The rest of the characters – save for Scotty (Simon Pegg) – are given little to do. Sulu (John Cho) gets to sit in the Captain’s chair, Uhura gets to speak Klingon, Chekov (Anton Yelchin) becomes an engineer, and Bones gets to flirt with Alice Eve’s character Carol Marcus. Scotty is at least given a minor subplot that plays nicely into the overall plot.
Speaking of Carol Marcus, she has little to do except bat her lashes at Kirk and act sexy occasionally. It’s sad, because her character is introduced with a great deal suspicion and mystery. Is she a spy? Is she working for the villain? The answer is more boring than you could imagine.
And ultimately that’s the problem with Into Darkness. It’s a very sterile film. It takes little to no risks. Instead it chooses to mine scenes and lines from previous films and simply reverse them (in some cases they don’t even do that much). There comes a point where the film goes from sequel to remake and from there the film loses all sorts of importance.
That said, there is plenty to enjoy here. The acting is great and we finally have a fantastic villain worthy of a Star Trek film (though there’s more than one reason for that). The action is intense and never lets you catch your breathe. It isn’t perfect, far from it, but Star Trek: Into Darkness is a fun ride and absolutely worth seeing.