STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS review by Mark Walters

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS review by Mark Walters


in 2009, director JJ Abrams rebooted STAR TREK in a big way, garnering new fans of the series and even angering some fans of the classic tales. Regardless of how people felt, it was very successful, and a sequel was naturally in the cards. That sequel is STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, and while mostly shrouded in mystery with its plot, it’s easily (for many) one of the most-anticipated movies of the year.

The story opens with Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) fleeing from a primitive species on a strange planet, trying to avoid capture and certain death. At the same time, Sulu (John Cho) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) are attempting to lower Spock (Zachary Quinto) into a nearly-erupting volcano, in hopes of saving this strange new civilization. In the process of all this, Kirk violates the Prime Directive, revealing Starfleet’s technology to a unfamiliar species without making proper first contact. As a result, Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood) takes command of the USS Enterprise away from Kirk, and Spock is reassigned to another vessel. Shortly after, a mysterious terrorist-like attack in a public record data center brings all of Starfleet’s top brass together for a meeting. In that meeting the men and woman are brutally attacked by a man named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), the same man believed responsible for the previous incident. Kirk gets permission to pursue Harrison with lethal force, regaining his ship and Spock on the crew in the process. But there’s more to this villain than anyone realizes, and secret agendas soon begin to reveal themselves.

As a sequel, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is bigger and better in many ways than its 2009 predecessor. There’s more action, loads more special effects, and bigger scenarios all around. The dialogue is engaging and fast, and the audience is rarely given a chance to catch their breath before the next big moment on screen. All that said, there’s a few minor annoyances in the film as well, and certain things that will undoubtedly grate on the nerves of classic Trek fans. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto have found a definitive rhythm with their Kirk and Spock dynamic, and it’s safe to say it’s more fun and pleasant than William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy ever attempted. It’s also so different, some classic fans may feel it strays too much from the way they should behave, but ultimately it’s a storytelling choice that will likely prove beneficial with non-Trek enthusiasts. Zoe Saldana also gets some solid moments to show the strength of Uhura, stepping up on more than one occasion to get the job done where the boys might not be able to. Karl Urban did a great impression of DeForest Kelley in the 2009 film, but here he’s just the living embodiment of the man. The McCoy lines are back to back joys for hardcore fans, and the characterization of Bones is carried out much more fully than the previous outing allowed for. It’s also nice to see great glory moments for both Simon Pegg as Scotty and John Cho as Sulu. Scotty becomes an audience favorite almost from the onset, and there’s interesting plot points that give his character some great scenes. Cho as Sulu also gets some fun moments, even eluding to his eventual Captain status we saw play out in the classic film series. Being a fan of George Takei’s Captain Sulu, this was particularly pleasing to me. Perhaps the only regular cast member not getting much memorable screentime is Anton Yelchin as Chekov, though part of that may be due to his unexpected role in the story, and how it frequently removes him from the principal setting. Also watch for Bruce Greenwood as he makes the most of his few scenes, and transcends the likability he had in the last film.

Joining the cast this time are Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve and Peter Weller. Cumberbatch has fun playing the mysterious John Harrison, and plays it so conflicted and confusing, the audience never really seems to piece together what’s coming next with him. It’s a definite improvement over the first movie’s villain played by Eric Bana, who while visually interesting never seemed to carry much weight as a baddie. Cumberbatch chews the scene, but respectfully, and really gives our heroes a force to be reckoned with. Alice Eve plays a character from the classic series, but in a whole new way. While she shows promise after her introduction, there’s not terribly much to her, other than a female interest for Kirk… I guess I wanted more there, but there’s a lot of story surrounding it. Peter Weller gets a welcome return to the big screen in a bigger role than we’ve seen him in for a while. From the moment he first shows up, you could hear the audience appreciation for a strong actor used too sparingly these days in Hollywood.

Abrams also shows just how impressive his filmmaking can be, particularly in the action scenes. There’s no holding back, and a lot of what we see is visually breathtaking and terribly expensive-looking, but man oh man does it impress. This film gives renewed confidence toward his next directing gig of the new STAR WARS movie, that’s for sure. I should also note as a 3D movie, this frequently works very well, and makes the most of the 3-D capability. Some films touted with that gimmick seem unnecessary, whereas this 3D experience is in your face and well thought out – I don’t normally enjoy 3-D, but here it was pleasing on many occasions. STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is about 90% great and really satisfying. There’s 10% of it that’s at times goofy or just falls flat, but it’s safe to say the good far outweighs the bad. Being a fan of classic Trek, I understand how some fans can get frustrated, but I also find myself forgiving when the ride is so much fun.

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is set to beam into 2D, 3D and IMAX 3D theaters on May 16, 2013.

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.