The rebooting of Star Trek four years ago by director J.J. Abrams was a much-needed shot in the arm for an endangered franchise. The last film in the series, Star Trek: Nemesis, had come out in 2002, and Star Trek: Enterprise, a TV show on UPN, had petered out in 2005.
Balanced nicely with nods to the past, great action scenes and a compelling story, the new Star Trek was a bold start. The challenge for the sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, was to build on that momentum and not just repeat the same formula.
Consider that goal mostly met. Into Darkness finds Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the rest of the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise dealing — as usual — with issues that take them all across the universe.
For the most part, the film hums along nicely and delivers a few stellar action sequences to keep the adrenaline pumping.
The main thrust is a rogue Starfleet member named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), who takes it upon himself to wreak havoc on the rest of Starfleet.
It’s a poorly kept secret that John Harrison is not the villain’s real name, but for the sake of propriety, I won’t reveal it here.
Suffice it to say that he is a person who holds tremendous power and is willing to use it any way necessary to reach his goals. And he’s capable of quite a lot, if the destruction he single-handedly achieves is any indication.
For the most part, the film hums along nicely. Pine, Quinto, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg and Anton Yelchin already have great chemistry as a crew, and the film delivers a few stellar action sequences to keep the adrenaline pumping.
Things do get a bit muddled with the introduction of a second villain who’s at odds with both Kirk and Harrison. It’s never entirely clear why this person is so angry or what the ultimate objective is. It’s a twist that comes out of nowhere and therefore isn’t sold as properly as it should be.
Abrams and the trio of writers maintain little retro flourishes like references to redshirts; random people getting thrown back by a phaser shot hitting the Enterprise; or Bones McCoy complaining, “Dammit, man, I’m a doctor, not a [insert a thing he is not here].” While those are still fun now, they’ll have to make sure not to be too reliant on them in future installments.
Stylistically, the film looks great. The effects are seamless no matter what environment the film encounters, and Abrams thankfully keeps his obsession with camera flares to a relative minimum this time around.
Aside from the regular crew, who all come off well, Cumberbatch is a fantastic addition. His understated demeanor serves to underline how threatening Harrison is and also makes the few times he erupts truly powerful. Peter Weller and Alice Eve are good in limited roles, but their characters aren’t involved enough to make huge impacts.
The end of the film seems to point to a dovetailing with the timeline of the original series, so it’ll be interesting to see where the filmmakers take things from here, especially considering Abrams is moving to another galaxy by directing the next Star Wars.
Into Darkness doesn’t quite reach the heights of its predecessor, but it’s still a solid outing that more than justifies the continued existence of the Star Trek franchise.