Saturday, May 25, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness (Theatrical Review)

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, 132 minutes
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin and Benedict Cumberbatch

I'm old enough to remember the original Star Trek series, and I have a deep affection for it despite its obvious flaws. I was ready to despise this latest reboot when Star Trek was released in 2009, but some terrific choices were made and I left the theater grinning. I was delighted with the casting choices four years ago, and how this new version of Star Trek gave enough nods to the original without going over the top.

So, I have been anticipating the release of Star Trek Into Darkness ever since the credits rolled on the last entry. I was not disappointed.

What do you want from a Star Trek movie? The world has changed over the past 45 years, and action is an essential element of any science fiction movie. Special effects rule, and the budget can be enormous for proven franchises that simply can't fail at the box office. There is certainly no lack of action in this movie, and it doesn't waste any time in surfacing. Kirk and some of the crew are shown fleeing the inhabitants of a primitive planet, after trying to prevent a volcano from destroying it. The fast cuts look like something out of a Bourne movie, and provide the first adrenaline rush. There are no shortage of similar moments over the remaining two hours.

While I loved Star Trek (2009), it was pretty light on story. It served as a vehicle to introduce the new crew, and did so splendidly, but the actual story wasn't particularly memorable. That's not to say that it wasn't tremendously enjoyable. What Into Darkness does is develop on that strong foundation. We learn more about the characters, and what binds them together, but this time we're also given a story with more depth.

The story is built around the hunt for John Harrison, who is a man that seems out to destroy the Federation. Who is he? What are his motivations? Needless to say, Kirk is given the task of tracking him with the Enterprise and her crew. Expect chase scenes, fights, battles, and all the special effects you could possibly desire. It's what you won't expect that will make you smile most of all. The theme of family is used in various forms, as well as revenge and the lust for power.

The great thing about this reboot is that, thanks to a plot device in the previous movie, anything can happen to the characters we know and love. Part of the fun is recognizing events and people that you know from other versions of the franchise, and seeing where their story deviates from the one you expect. Into Darkness introduces a couple of characters that you'll know, if you remember your Star Trek history. I wouldn't dream of ruining that surprise for you, so I'll leave it at that. You'll also an encounter an alien race that you might be familiar with.

I've mentioned that the movie is action-packed. Its budget also means that the effects are superb. But don't make the mistake of thinking that Into Darkness is all action and no substance. There are several exchanges of dialogue which create genuine emotion. This cast can act. One example takes place in a bar between Pike and Kirk, and it's an excellent example of key characters forming a bond.

My only disappointment with the 2009 movie is that Simon Pegg didn't seem like the best choice to play Scotty, but he won me over this time. My only criticism of the movie is that some of the key characters don't get enough screen time, but I am sure they will all have their moments to shine in future entries in the series. As with the original series, the relationships between Kirk, Spock and McCoy are vital, and I think all three actors do a great job portraying them. However, it's also wonderful to see characters like Uhura with more significant roles.

There's really no way to explain the plot without giving away too much. If you enjoyed the first reboot, and like these actors, there's a strong chance that you will love Star Trek Into Darkness. It seemed to last about an hour, but had enough content for four hours. That's meant as a compliment. You won't see anyone washing dishes for 20 minutes in this movie.

Where will the franchise go next? I hope that it is a long and glorious journey. I would happily watch another five movies with this crew, and can only hope that there won't be a four-year gap between them.

Go and see this movie if you care about Star Trek in any way, because you'll have a lot of fun. Oh, and be prepared to see more lens flares. They are apparently here to stay.

Overall score 4.5/5

This is the first movie I have seen in theaters since Roger Ebert's passing. Normally I would head over to his site to see whether his opinion was close to mine. It seems very strange not having that option. 

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  1. Glad you liked it, Steve! And you're right that it feels like an hour!

    1. I just watched the 2009 movie because I needed more.

  2. Good review Steve. It was a solid movie because it kept all of what we loved about the first movie, and gave us more emotion and feeling to have with these characters and what they've been through.

    1. Thanks Dan.

      It was difficult to review without revealing major spoilers. I think any fan of the last movie should like this.