I grew up a science fiction fan but never got into Star Trek. I never had much interest until the 2009 J.J. Abrams reboot. Abrams, admittedly not a “trekkie”, paid tribute to longtime fans and brought new ones with his version.
Star Trek: Into Darkness continues Abrams’ action packed style but flies farther from Roddenberry’s original vision…
The sequel reunites cast from the previous entry. Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), First Officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) and crew of the USS Enterprise open this adventure in the middle of a mission, Indiana Jones style. Kirk and Spock have seconds to save a planet but can’t agree on a method. Ignoring Spock’s logic and adherence to the rules, Kirk makes an impulsive move that costs his Captain status.
Kirk’s demotion takes a backseat to a terrorist attack on London, led by John Harris (Benedict Cumberbatch), a member of the same Starfleet organization that commands the Enterprise crew. Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller of Robocop fame) authorizes Kirk to go after Harris, and it’s warp speed ahead.
Into Darkness never has a dull moment. It’s packed with action, laughs and surprising emotion. Everything from natives throwing spears, to laser space combat, jumps off the screen in 3D. This is how it should be done.
Visually, we get an idea of what Abrams’ Star Wars film can be. One space chase mirrors the famous trench run from Episode IV. Composer Michael Giacchino’s score amps up every moment, both frantic and dramatic. This is the most complimentary director-composer team since Spielberg and John Williams.
The challenges presented to the Enterprise create a journey that questions Kirk’s leadership and forces Spock to attempt to understand his human companions. The rest of the crew expands their screen time as great comedic relief, especially Bones, Chekov (Anton Felchin) and Scotty (Simon Pegg).
Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s Sherlock Holmes) is a brilliant addition to this series. He’s an intense, frightening villain and one of the best I’ve seen in a while.
Into Darkness is not without problems. Female characters take a backseat in Starfleet or have no real function. Uhura (Zoe Saldana) spends most of her screen-time playing the whiny girlfriend to Spock, even in the midst of a tense reconnaissance mission.
Admiral Marcus’ daughter Carol (Alice Eve) shows up, as a potential love interest for Kirk. All she’s remembered for is her British accent and a brief scene in her underwear.
A lack of female characters with equal strengths, in numbers and ability, to male counterparts, ruins the original Star Trek’s utopian vision of equality that made it so relevant. One character’s strength is also tied to his almost magic blood, something very out of place in a movie rooted heavily in science.
The things that made Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek so important as social commentary have been erased to make a popcorn flick. The Enterprise crew become military rescuers instead of peaceful explorers.
Star Trek: Into Darkness is the most fun I’ve had in the theater so far this summer. As a sci-fi action film, it’s one of the best. You don’t have to know why “red shirt” comments are funny, but if you do, you may enjoy it too. Trekkies may nitpick this one a bit but the series seems to be in great hands.