Boldly Going – A Film Review of Star Trek Into Darkness

j-j-abrams-discusses-star-trek-into-darkness-villain-124454I am no Trekkie. I’m not. Yes … I’ve seen all the movies. I’ve watched some of the original television series – mostly to make fun of them – and I’ve enjoyed going back through old episodes of Next Generation … mainly for the all the sexy-time undertones (or overtones.) But, I am no Trekkie. Basically I know enough to have conversations with our KC Studio editor and be dangerous to other teams at a pub quiz. Thankfully, you don’t have to be a uniform-wearing, “Phasers set to stun” kind-of-a-person to enjoy the newly released, action-packed, thrill-ride that is JJ Abrams’ second installment into the Star Trek universe.

With all the crew from the 2009 reboot coming back, Star Trek Into Darkness jumps right in and never looks back. Timelines and canon be damned, this is not the Star Trek of before. While the first film was successful, yet highly criticized by devotees of the franchise, this film is really going to piss some Prime Directive Zealots off.

Of course, there are plot lines to the film that are extremely spoilerific and by me mentioning them here, will ruin the fun.  So here are the bare essentials of the story: Still brash and headstrong, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and his team aboard the Starship Enterprise are traveling on missions and getting into trouble all throughout space. Unluckily for him, a threat he and the rest of Starfleet never considered is waiting for them right under their noses. By enacting a terrorist attack in futuristic London and potentially causing war between the Federation and the Klingons, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) walks the line between good and evil. What are his true intentions and who is he really? Well it’s up to Kirk to find out.

And … that’s all you get.

With hilarious dialogue that I found smart, witty and near Empire Strikes Back levels, I genuinely enjoyed this film experience. Strong acting from all the principle characters with Easter eggs scattered throughout for fans of the fiction and pop culture jokes, I know mass audiences will be wolfing down popcorn and enjoying every Gorn-fearing minute of it.

In terms of the cast, the writers do a great job giving us what we want. With eight characters needing appropriate attention and purpose, I found the screen-time both balanced and interesting. Standing out above the rest is Zachary Quinto as Spock and Simon Pegg as Scotty. Yes, Karl Urban is great, once again channeling Bones and Zoë Saldana’s sleek Uhura makes being smart sexier than it already is, but in this film, it’s all Spock and Scotty. A close second is John Cho as Sulu and that really is based on one scene where he shows a level of bassassery that this actor never gets to show.

Quinto as Spock is excellent and a shining reason to see this film. While not only capturing the overall feeling of the character, Quinto also does an impressive job expressing emotion while keeping Spock’s deadpan, serious personality.

And then there’s Cumberbatch. As an adversarial-type character, Cumberbatch exudes self-confidence and commands every second he is shown on screen. Almost computer-like you can see him assessing ever detail in front of him in a way that makes everyone around him uncomfortable. And I liked it.

In terms of the action and special effects, I was blown away by the size and pace of the film. I could feel myself leaning forward with giddiness wanting more and enjoying the eye candy dancing across the screen. Were there explosions? Hell yeah! Was there running and jumping and fighting and stuff? Hell yeah! Was it loud with lens flares? Um … yeah. But so what? Above all, this is where most Trek fans are going to get annoyed. Big explosions to some equate to big dumbness and that’s not always true. Usually true. See Transformers for proof. But was Next Generation … with a Klingon (gasp) on board just like the original series … no. This is for new audiences and while clearly there are films I do not like because of these very reasons, Into Darkness is not one of those films.

While Into Darkess does borrow a great deal from another Star Trek film of the past, I enjoyed how the story brought the overall arc back to near it’s roots. Again, this is where many of devoted fans may also have some very big problems and you know what, they may be right. However, it’s clear that in trying to make this new arm of the franchise, the filmmakers do have a love and respect for the original series.

As always, there are holes in the story and as a narrative, it does sag a bit in the middle. However the solid acting, kinetic pacing and action all help keep it on a track that I believe mass audiences will love. I do, however with the camera was a little more stationary. Critics give Michael Bay a bunch of crap form constantly keeping the camera in motion and in that sense, I feel Abrams deserves similar criticism. Along with that, clearly this is a project Damon Lindelof worked on because there a few holes in logic that would make Spock raise an eyebrow.

Overall, I really enjoyed this film. It’s a space adventure and everything that Episodes 1, 2, and 3 of Star Wars was not. Building on the success of the 2009 film, Abrams has added  solid addition to the franchise. Some will call Star Trek Into Darkness a dumbed-down version of a beloved series that is to be worshiped forevermore … and that’s just not true. At its center, there is a wonderful focus on friendship, the importance of the team and the capacity of sacrifice that people will give for the one’s they love. Plus you get explosions, a Klingon or two, Tribbles and a few reveals that, while may seem obvious to some, pay off well in the end. Audiences will love the crew and leave highly entertained.

Lastly … the 3D. If you know me … you have heard me complain countless times that I dislike 3D. It’s a ploy to get people to pay more for an overrated experience. Since 3D found its way back on the scene, I have only had a handful of good experiences … Avatar, Hugo, the Avengers, Life of Pi and maybe, possible, kind of The Hobbit. With that being said, I was very impressed with the 3D on this film. It was clear, crisp and added an enhanced to the viewing. I still think it’s overrated but, I would recommend seeing this film in that format.

4 out of 5 Red Shirts on an Away Mission

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