Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness

Also opening this week:

• Only God Forgives ★★★★

Star Trek Into Darkness



Rating

Directed by J.J. Abrams. Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, Karl Urban, John Cho, Benedict Cumberbatch, Bruce Greenwood, Alice Eve, Leonard Nimoy, Peter Weller, Tom Archdeacon, Noel Clarke, Nazneen Contractor, Heather Langenkamp, Nolan North, Nick Tarabay, Beau Billingslea, Hina Khan, Jonathan Dixon, Chris Hemsworth. Written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman & Damon Lindelof.

Despite the gloomy title, Star Trek Into Darkness is anything but: this is a big, bright, slam-bang action-adventure film, though the ‘dark’ theme makes for a trendy poster; the film proper features little of the devastation hinted at in promotional materials, but it’s plenty fun anyway.

Come to think of it, there seems to be previous little Star Trek in this movie, too; whereas director J.J. Abram’s first Star Trek flick had a fun sci-fi plot that involved time travel and other science-themed elements (in addition to Eric Bana’s more typical baddie stuff), this one is more of a straightforward revenge-themed action movie, with one minor, but ultimately irrelevant, twist.

Of course, there are all the familiar Star Trek characters, and a plethora of references to earlier films and the original TV series that even a non-Trekkie like me will find easy to pick up on: the return of Khan (the chief villain of Star Trek II), that famous “Khaaaaan!” shout, the presence of tribbles, and so on.

Despite all the fan service, however, there’s something missing here: there’s little of the mind-warping science (nonsense or not) that made the previous film so much fun. In fact, there’s none of it at all in Into Darkness’ story: this is simply a revenge-fueled hunt-for-the-bad-guy adventure.

Not that it’s bad: Into Darkness is especially well-paced and well-executed for what it is, with all of director Abrams’ trademark visual style (while all the lens flares didn’t bother me in the previous film, however, they started to get on my nerves here). Despite a length of 132 minutes (five minutes longer than the 2009 film), this Star Trek never feels overlong. 

But with all the characters firmly established by the earlier film, screenwriters Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman (Transformers) and Damon Lindelof (Prometheus) struggle to find something to latch onto besides plot mechanics. New major characters here are limited to chief baddie John Harrison (played by scene-stealing Benedict Cumberbatch), Starfleet Admiral Alexander Marcus (Peter Weller), and science officer Carol Wallace (Alice Eve).

Chris Pine returns as Captain Kirk, who heads after criminal Harrison with vengeance on his mind following a terrorist act. Pine is a sufficient action movie lead, but he makes for a rather bland and unmemorable Kirk, especially when compared to William Shatner’s commanding presence in the original series. 

The rest of Kirk’s crew – including Spock (Zachary Quinto), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), and Sulu (John Cho) – fare better, but outside of Spock they all seem to have little to do this time around. Karl Urban once again steals the show as Bones, while Simon Pegg (as Scotty) and Anton Yelchin (Chekov) still feel awfully broad in their characterizations, complete with over-the-top accents. 

At its best, this Star Trek succeeds when exploring strange new worlds, new life and new civilizations, such as the tribble-stocked jungle planet in the opening sequence, or the volatile Klingon homeworld later on. But it doesn’t exactly boldly go where no man has gone before: the lengthy Earthbound scenes feel action-movie ordinary, and the script never feels compelled to deliver anything other than an entertaining ride. 

That’s a bit of a surprise coming from Orci and Kurtzman, who wrote the rather complex (by comparison) first film, and Lindelof, who was behind the maddeningly ambiguous Prometheus. But while Star Trek: Into Darkness has few surprises in stock for its audience, it’s still a fun, exciting journey with the crew of the Enterprise.


Jason Pirodsky

Hailing from Syracuse, New York, Jason Pirodsky made his way to Prague via Miami and has stuck around, for better and worse, since 2004. A member of the Online Film Critics Society (www.ofcs.org), some of his favorite movies include O Lucky Man!, El Topo, Berlin Alexanderplatz, and Hellzapoppin'. Follow him on Twitter for some (slightly) more concise reviews.

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