I’ve been a big fan of Star Trek for most of my life and I’ve tagged along with the franchise through good times (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Star Trek First Contact ) and troubled times (Voyager, Enterprise, Star Trek Insurrection). When I was kid, I loved the original series, but I love the movies more and watched Wrath of Khan so many times that I could (and, embarrassingly, still can) recite the lines along with the actors.
When they announced they were re-booting the series back in 2009 with an all new cast playing Kirk, McCoy, Spock, et all, I was cautiously optimistic. After all, nothing they did could hurt the franchise worse than anything Rick Berman did. Star Trek came out and everybody loved it and it made a ton of money and, most impressively, it made Star Trek cool.
When the sequel was announced I was more than cautiously optimistic and bounced around like a loon waiting for it to come out. To the credit of the marketing team, the trailers they released showed almost nothing of the plot. I knew next to nothing about what to expect going in. Except explosions.
And lens flares.
Star Trek Into Darkness picks up pretty much where the first left off, with Kirk (Chris Pine) the Captain of the Enterprise and still as reckless and brash as he was in the last movie. Spock (Zachary Quinto) still doesn’t get human emotions. Uhura (Zoe Saldana) is still dating Spock. And so on.
One of the reasons why the first movie was so successful with both old and new fans is that they jettisoned decades of cumbersome backstory in order to tell new stories wit established characters, which Into Darkness continues to do. Everyone still feels very familiar, but you don’t need to have seen Spectre of the Gun to understand the multiple layers of Chekhov’s character. The classic characters have been rebuilt on the same foundations, but with enough tweaks and modifications to keep them compelling and interesting.
In fact, the plot of this movie builds upon plots of some older episodes and reintroduces a few new/old characters as well as aspects of Starfleet like Section 31, more so than Star Trek. Into Darkness has a stronger villain, a more compelling plot and a tighter grasp of the characters that comes from everyone involved being more comfortable.
It’s a visually brilliant movie right from the beginning where Kirk and McCoy (Karl Urban) run through a vivid red alien jungle chased by striking, white aliens while Spock rappels into an active volcano from a shuttle. And, if you couldn’t tell from that preceding sentence, the action is just as lively as it was in the first movie. There are ships exploding and fight scenes and disintegrations and cool warp effects. It’s a shiny, pretty movie and one that does the genre credit.
Also, spoilers: Benedict Cumberbatch is exactly who you think he is and he’s wonderful and I want to hug him and hold him and never let him go.
All in all, Star Trek Into Darkness is a funny, explosive and intense entry in the Trek series and J.J. Abrams once again proves that he was the right person for the job and it makes me want to see, more than ever, how he handles the Star Wars series.
I give it a Baker’s Dozen of bowl cuts and pointy ears.