Star Trek Into Darkness is the direct sequel to 2009’s Star Trek and a continuation of a science fiction franchise that’s been around for almost 50 years. Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Alice Eve and Benedict Cumberbatch, the film follows the crew of the USS Enterprise as the chase down a terrorist who attacks what the crew holds most dear. Watch the trailer after the jump and then read my review.
First of all, I want to say I liked Into Darkness way better than the 2009 Star Trek. But also, I am not a Star Trek fan and am not familiar with the TV show. I do know that these two movies follow their own story line that acts as an alternate realty compared to the original show. And while I find that interesting, it still gets confusing.
Which leads me to what I didn’t like about Into Darkness. There were tons of twists and interesting plot points, but I feel like if I was more familiar with the source material, they would have been more surprising.
This applies very much to Cumberbatch’s villain, John Harrison. It is quickly revealed that he is actually a being named Khan, but that reference went right over my head at first. Thankfully, Leonard Nimoy’s Spock Prime shows up for one scene to clarify who he really is. Apparently he is evil on the scale of the Joker or the Green Goblin. Who knew? But once Nimoy’s scene happened, the suspense of Khan’s intentions was gone and the film’s plot very predictably fell into place.
That is not to say I didn’t like this movie. The first half is pretty cool sci-fi action and the movie has an interesting set-up. Early on, after breaking the Prime Directive, Kirk loses his captaincy title and it looks like he will have to fight Harrison with less power than usual. But that lasts about 15 minutes and quickly it goes back to what fans are used to, with everyone taking their normal posts on the Enterprise.
And then the focus shifts just to Spock, Kirk and Khan. By the start of the second half, Zoe Saldana’s Uhura and the other crew members mostly disappear or play very little into the story (except Simon Pegg’s Scotty, who has an important role). They are all just on the Enterprise doing their jobs. This is why I think the TV show would be more interesting. I want to learn about these characters and see them grow. Over the many hours of a show, that would happen. But in a two hour sequel, the secondary characters get pushed to the sidelines.
There still is some character development. Kirk and Spock both grow a lot in this movie. After starting on polar opposite personality scales, they eventually meet half way and begin to be more friendly with each other. The friendship Spock Prime references in the first movie finally shows up here and the results are pretty cool. Quinto and Pine have good chemistry and exchange plenty of quick lines between each other.
Cumberbatch is quickly rising through the ranks of Hollywood and Into Darkness should be the movie that makes him a movie star. He is fantastic here. He is cold, calculating and manipulative, without a single facial expression to show his many bluffs. And he kicks some serious ass in multiple fight scenes. The character of Khan didn’t have that clearest motives, but I am sure he will be back again and I hope Cumberbatch reprises the role.
But what I really hope gets taken away from this movie is that he can be a James Bond villain too. Please make that happen Broccoli family.
As the leading man, Pine gives a better performance here than he does in the first Star Trek but he still can’t compete with Quinto’s Spock. I just don’t buy him as the lead in a big franchise like this. Based on what the other characters say, James Kirk is supposed to be a rebel who does what he wants and leads his crew in less practical ways. But Pine is trying to keep up with the other actors on screen, which makes an awkward cross-roads. The character may be leading, but the actor is not. While Quinto becomes Spock, Pine just seems like a guy thrown into the movie.
One quick spoiler: Kirk dies near the end but is saved by his crew. I was kinda hoping he would stay dead so we could get a Quinto Spock movie down the line without Pine’s Kirk. I have a feeling I would enjoy that more, even though they seemed to resolve their differences at the end.
Quinto is the star of this movie. He is cold and calculating like Khan, but is not threatening and is simply doing what he was raised to do as a Vulcan. Be logical and emotionless. Even when called out on this, Spock holds firm to this lifestyle for most of the movie, except for one key moment that gave his character a good ending. A big part of this being successfully pulled off should be credited to Quinto. He delivers all of his lines perfectly and looks very much like you would imagine Spock would. He is tough and brave, but holds the same emotion firmly, regardless of the scene. It is really cool to watch. I hope his portrayal of Spock helps Quinto expand his career outside of TV because he is a talented actor with lots of potential.
As expected from the trailers, the effects look really good in this movie. There are tons of explosions, fights and flying things and the CGI is flawless. I really liked how Abrams made sets for the key scenes, instead of just using green screen. There is a big fight scene on the planet Cronos that used a very large set instead of a green scene and it was probably my favourite action scene because of that. Sometimes, practical affects just look better.
Overall, I think I would have enjoyed this movie more if I was familiar with the Star Trek universe. While it looked good, this movie’s story left much to be desired. Like the Hobbit, not knowing the characters and the universe did hinder my experience. I may just have to go back and watch some of the old show. Because I know I’ll still be back in the theater when the next movie come out in a few years.