At the end of Star Trek (2009) we left the crew of the Enterprise “boldly going where no one has gone before.” And yet instead of finding the characters at their peak, they’re still falling into adolescent traps. In the wake of a failed mission to covertly alter the fate of a primitive planet Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is stripped of his rank by Star Fleet and busted back to the academy; while his first mate, Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto), is reassigned. However, when Star Fleet London is laid to waste by an illusive terrorist, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), Kirk must reunite with Spock and his former crew (Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Simon Pegg) to take him down.
The J.J. Abrams chorus of writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof aren’t in a rush to progress their characters to their ‘mythic’ status. Kirk’s still impulsive, Spock is categorically logical to a fault (and to the detriment to his interpersonal relationships) and the other crewmembers are bull-headed and stubborn. This isn’t repetitious or laborious, in fact it’s a great device to reveal and explore the essential ingredient of each of the individual iconic crewmembers. Star Trek Into Darkness forces the crew to cut the metaphorical umbilical chord from those parental figures and institutions in their life.
Whether it’s being chased down and attacked at warp speed, fighting the sublime power at the centre of a Volcano, or the Enterprise in a spiral toward the surface of the Earth – J.J. Abrams applies that big-budget action spectacle to the Trek franchise, whilst staying true to the brand. Trek is not Star Wars and the Enterprise isn’t running into an awaiting Empire armada hiding behind Endor’s moon – the Fleet’s directive is to find peaceful solutions. Abrams and his team find opportunities to show off the action and tension without all out warring. Abrams gets the characters at the core of Gene Rodenberry’s genius and vivid projection of the future; and uses them as the gateway to the greater mythology. There are some brief moments where this non-Trekkie film critic felt like I missed essential references that were transforming some of the more mediocre scenes into significant signposts for fans.
Once again Pine is custom made for Jim Kirk. He’s a cocky scoundrel that’s in a rush to achieve the ‘greatness’ that Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood) sees on his horizon. Pine throws Kirk into the fray with the necessary cocksure, gusto that makes him impossibly charming. Quinto does a tremendous job of projecting emotions with the shackles of his Vulcan heritage. The highlight of the film is the interplay between one of pop culture’s most iconic partnerships. Each man must learn from the other into order to grow. The other members of the ensemble (Saldana, Urban, Cho, Yelchin and Pegg) all get great moments to shine. Finally, Benedict Cumberbatch’s villain is an inspired piece of casting. Cumberbatch’s ‘Morgan Freeman level’ iconic voice has a frequency and purpose in his delivery that will have you hanging on every syllable.
The introduction of Alice Eve’s Dr. Carol Marcus; didn’t have the emotional impact (despite the feeling that it foreshadowed her character’s importance for future films in the franchise) that was intended.
This isn’t the franchise defining ‘middle’ picture that this reviewer was hoping it to be. It’s not the Empire Strikes Back of an Abrams trilogy; and consequently it didn’t quite hit the emotional crescendo of that kind of film.
Star Trek Into Darkness isn’t ready to stretch to the unknown pockets of the universe just yet; instead it relishes in the evolution of the key characters in the wake of their defining challenge. It’s a rousing adventure and Abrams has laid the platform for a healthy and long lasting franchise.
[rating=3] and a half
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman & Damon Lindelof
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin