STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS
Director: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Bruce Greenwood, Alice Eve
Trekkies might have been on edge back in 2009 when J.J.Abrams was going to reboot the beloved Star Trek films with a younger cast playing all the old familiar characters from the original series. I am sure there are some purists out there that turn their head in disgust, but Abrams successfully brought back a series that made the Star Trek universe cool again. Old fans rejoiced and new fans came in droves to check out the reboot. If these new fans were like me, they went back to the original source material to gain a whole new knowledge and appreciation for this series.
Abrams is back in the director’s chair and has re-teamed with his writing crew of Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof for another dangerous adventure for the members of the USS Enterprise. Captain James T. Kirk (Pine), Bones (Urban), and Spock (Quinto) are observing civilization on the vastly red planet of Nibiru. As Spock’s life becomes in jeopardy when he is stuck in an active volcano, Kirk disobeys Federation protocol and exposes the Enterprise in order to rescue him. Back at the Starfleet Headquarters, Kirk is punished and demoted to first officer and Admiral Pike (Greenwood) resumes position as Captain. There is an emergency meeting after a bombing occurs at a secret location in London. The bombing has been traced back to one of their own Starfleet agents, John Harrison (Cumberbatch). The meeting comes to an abrupt end has Harrison flies in and opens fire. He escapes but one of Starfleet’s member’s lives has been compromised sending Kirk out for revenge. Harrison flees to the Klingon world of Kronos and Kirk, Spock, Uhura (Saldana) and the rest of the crew set out to capture him.
Rest assured that Abrams and his cast come back to deliver a sequel that is one high-octane ride to say the least. The special effects are top-notch and don’t ever have that phony CGI feel to them. Some may claim the film feels more like an action movie than a true sci-fi movie with the constant explosions and chase scenes. I can understand this feeling, but I was never bothered by this choice. The idea of terrorism and rebellion from within an organization grounds the story in a more realistic society than some of the other films in the canon have dealt with as themes. In order to take this approach and still have fun, you need to have a kick-ass villain played to perfection. Benedict Cumberbatch completely blows it out of the ballpark and becomes one of the best villains seen on screen since Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. He has found the right voice and physicality to make him this larger-the-life maniacal villain while keeping him grounded and realistic. He never falls into campy bad guy territory.
The screenplay provides great material for the actors to play with no matter what role they inhabit on the Enterprise team. It is by no means the Kirk and Spock Show. The idea of working on a team that operates like family really resonated with me. They may all have different opinions and ways of operating but they all have the same goal of looking out for each other. Pine and Quinto have really grown into playing Kirk and Spock, respectively. They keep in line with the previous actors that played them but give them their own breath of fresh air and unique personalities without ever giving into to doing cheap Shatner impressions. Their brotherly love plays a key factor in the story. Kirk will always do what he thinks is right versus what should be done by the book which is how the non-emotional Spock operates. This difference of opinion comes to blow during the opening sequence. In addition, Simon Pegg’s Scotty is hysterical and always full of energy. I would expect nothing less from Simon Pegg.
Abrams knows how to make a great summer blockbuster that is more than just your standard popcorn fare. Like Christopher Nolan, he can take a series and completely re-invent it while staying true to the source material but also opening it up to a broader audience base. The filmmakers intentionally made a stand-alone film so you do not need any knowledge of previous plotlines or characters in order to understand this movie. However, there are plenty of little snippets and nods to the Star Trek universe to make it still feel inclusive to the history. He blends genres and themes to give it a universal approach and feel. If he has done his job correctly, it will hopefully cause the new fans to go back and invest into the world Gene Rodenberry created and gain an appreciation for the older Shatner/Nimoy movies or even binge watching the original TV show.
RATING: **** (4 out of 5 stars)