[Movie Review] ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ Is Made For Trekkies
If the 2009 reboot of Star Trek was made to introduce the crew of the Enterprise to a new generation that missed out on the original incarnation, the sequel Star Trek Into Darkness is made for the diehard franshise fans known as Trekkies, with more than enough subtle (and not so subtle) shout outs to both the tone of old school Trek and its classic mythology.
Before taking off to a galaxy far, far away, director J.J. Abrams (Super 8, Mission Impossible III) has some unfinished business in the Star Trek universe, delivering a fast paced mashup of some Trek‘s most beloved storylines and motiffs presented in his trademark flashy style, with enough lens flare to seemingly brighten all of deep space.
What Abrams’ version of Star Trek does so well in both films is to remind us that this universe is in fact not far, far away (or a long time ago), but rather right here in front of us. It’s our universe, complete with a futuristic vision of Earth that we can identify with far more than in the old CBS TV show that never ventured to the crew’s home planet, keeping them always off on new adventures on numerous uncharter planets “where no one has gone before”.
In the 2009 origin story, Abrams milked the previously vague history of future Star Fleet captain James T. Kirk to stellar effect, allowing viewers to finally identify with the Indiana-born Earthling dreamer full of misdirected angst who gets a chance to find himself aboard a virgin starship. It was the story of Kirk finding his place in the universe, but this time it’s about Kirk earning the captain’s chair and finding himself in relation to his adopted family – his crew.
It’s a pretty unanimous opinion, among Trekkies, casual fans, and general critics, that the Enterprise’s second adventure on the big screen, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (1982), is the best of the entire series of films. We all like it because it carries the most emotional weight, is thematically the darkest and most tragic of the films, and of course because of the most memorable badass to ever cross the cocky Kirk in Kahn, brilliantly portrayed by Ricardo Montalban, reprising a role he initially created in an episode of the TV series.
Much like the furry tribble, last seen in an well known episode of the TV series, that plays a small but key role in the movie, Abrams knows viewers are already eager to compare this “new Part II” to the old one, so he and the writers embrace this comparison and have fun toying with it.
Which brings us to Benadict Cumberbatch, soon to be heard as the voice of Smaug the dragon in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, who sinks his teeth into the role of the mysterious villain hellbent on wreaking all kinds of havoc on the unsuspected Star Fleet. Cumberbatch commands your attention as much as he captures Kirk’s, with a scary assuredness and that wicked voice, and my only complaint is that he’s not in the movie more.
Most of the cast of the 2009 reboot is back, including Chris Pine, who keeps Kirk on course with his often unpopular attitude that breaking the rules is precisely the answer to beating the odds in every situation, that fate is never predetermined. His smackdown at the hands of Cumberbatch early in the film grounds Kirk’s machismo, but it’s the big reveal later on about the villain’s larger mission that most challenges Kirk to truly respect the captain’s chair that he attained all too easily.
Zachary Quinto is great once again as Spock, who is lifted from “number two” to near superhero status in the final reel, though a cameo appearance from the original Spock, Leonard Nimoy, is redundant after the same stunt was used in the first film.
Abrams also makes the most of another major difference in this crew from the original, which is the ongoing love affair between Spock and Lt. Uhura, upgraded to a modern badass babe by Zoe Saldana.
John Cho has some fine moments as Sulu, but nothing as cool as his fight scene in the first film, and poor Anton Yelchin is almost lost among the anonymous red shirts as Chekov.
Simon Pegg fully inhabits and owns his role as the new Scotty, while the always capable Karl Urban quotes the original version of Bones one awkward time too many for comfort.
Alice Eve seemingly serves little purpose beyond looking like a robot version of a life-sized Barbie doll in a surprisingly out-of-place underwear scene, but her Carol Marcus character is ultimately yet another huge wink at the existing canon of Trek films, as is her banter with Kirk about “family” near the end.
The greatest strength of Into Darkness is in taking what old school Star Trek fans will come into the movie expecting and turning it upside down, resulting in a series of weirdly nostalgic twists that pay homage to the classic mythology, while still managing to rewrite the history of the Enterprise.
In the end, J.J. Abrams’ biggest success is in boldly sending Kirk and his crew where only their original predecessors have gone before, and reminding us that they were never that far away from where we are.
Official Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Reviewed by: Matt Artz
Write your own review in the comments below!
Star Trek Into Darkness (rated PG13) is now playing at R/C KDH Movies 10 in Kill Devil Hills.