Going In:

I’ve never considered myself a ‘Trekkie”, but I really enjoyed Abrams’ first Star Trek film and I was definitely looking forward to seeing this one.

Review:

As an action movie fan without a deep-rooted love for the Star Trek franchise, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed JJ Abrams‘ first film.  He gathered a talented and
charismatic cast and told a simple story of how they met and formed the Enterprise crew.  With those introductions out of the way, Abrams is able to use this second film to tell a bigger story with a far more interesting villain, without losing the personality and tone of the original.

It really is the personality of the crew that carries this film.  From Scotty’s reluctance to fill his usual role to Spock’s complete transformation from Science Officer to full-on action hero, the strongest moments in the film absolutely revolve around the cast.  And the cast really is outstanding.  The young(ish) members of the cast not only do a fine job selling their own characters, but they sell the oftentimes complex relationships between them.  The best example is certainly the love/hate bromance between Kirk and Spock.  Their relationship is at the core of the film, and the exploration of this friendship drives many of the movie’s main themes.

The best dramatic parts of Into Darkness play out as Kirk (among others) is forced to make moral decisions that affect everyone around him.  Morality in decision making is a common theme throughout the film, and one that reveals depth within the Kirk character that otherwise would have remained hidden.  This exploration of morality extends to other characters as well.  The film deftly explores the humanity of its villain, and it does it so well that I found myself rooting for the most unlikely of scenarios at times.  Speaking of the villain,  Benedict Cumberbatch (seriously his name) was outstanding here.  If he hadn’t so effortlessly and completely inhabited his emotionally complex character, you might actually have recognized him as the titular character from the Sherlock television series.

Another of the film’s strengths has to be its incredible and epic action sequences.  From the visual spectacle of the opening sequence within an erupting volcano to its grandiose climax, Star Trek: Into Darkness doesn’t disappoint in the action department.  It’s big budget was spent wisely, as I was totally captivated by the amazing visuals and stunning set pieces.

My only real complaint is the great lengths that the film seems to go to connect with its biggest fans (the Trekkies!).  Ironically I think this heavy-handed ‘fan service‘ is more likely to create a backlash against the movie than it is to create a surge of appreciation.  Without spoiling anything I’ll just say that Abrams walks a fine line between paying tribute to the most sacred of the Star Trek films and completely trampling its memory.  Interesting and seemingly unnecessary choices are made to create connections to familiar Star Trek lore, and a familiar face makes a completely superfluous cameo.

I feel the filmmakers also had a hard time bringing the film to a close.  Perhaps they were just having too much fun, but Into Darkness continues for 20+ minutes beyond what could have been a satisfying ending.  It unnecessarily stretches out the most predictable part of the film (even showcasing a Tribble for further fan service!), but at least it does so with gusto.  Unnecessary?  Yes.  Fun?  Absolutely!

Conclusion:

Without being perfect, Star Trek: Into Darkness is still a resounding success.  Go for the explosions, but stay for the surprisingly complex story and the energetic talented cast.

Rated PG-13 for boldly going into space and blowing stuff up.

Star Trek: Into Darkness Review
Storytelling5.5
Craftsmanship8
Acting8
Satisfaction7.5
The Good
  • Charismatic Cast
  • Epic Action
The Bad/Ugly
  • Fan Service
  • Dragged-out Ending
7.3Very Good
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About The Author

By day I’m a producer/director at a video game development studio. By night, I’m… um… yeah, i’m usually just a more tired producer/director at a video game development studio. BUT, by weekend I’m a husband, father, and critic of all things.