J.J. Abrams and the Bad Robot crew take their second shot at the Star Trek universe with Star Trek Into Darkness. Coming four years after its 2009 predecessor, Abrams and company made sure they took their time to get the film right. The good thing about sequels, especially those of an iconic franchise, is that the first movie already introduced the main characters and their relationships. This allows the new film to jump right into the action.
The central thread of the film explores the enemy within. Distrusting superiors, and digging a little deeper for information, is a prevalent theme. The role of the villain may shift during the course of the film, but the narrative never veers far from the main topic. The film opens with the Enterprise crew on an observatory mission of a primitive tribal society. The team decides to intervene when they realize that the civilization is threatened by its own environment. The decision is contrary to the prime directive on which Starfleet is based. Upon their return to Starfleet headquarters, both Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) are disciplined for their actions. As Kirk and Spock deal with the ramification of their choices, we are introduced Jonathan Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch); a mysterious figure that is willing to assist a Starfleet officer with his family health issue for a price. It is only a matter of time before the paths of Harrison and Kirk cross to surprising results.
The main cast continues to grow into their given roles, as the writers strive to give each crew member a moment to shine. The current reboot has created a new triumvirate of Kirk and Spock with Uhura(Zoe Saldana) replacing Bones (Karl Urban) as the third member. However, Bones still has some memorable scenes in the film including an away mission, with the new science officer (Alice Eve), that turns out to be trickier than he expects. It is tough to talk about the performance without mentioning Cumberbatch’s excellent turn as the shadowy Harrison. Equally adept in the lab as he is in battle, Harrison is more than a match for Kirk, Spock, and anyone who opposes him. He can even best a Klingon squadron on his own if need be.
Pacing is a key element to this film. The script by Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof and Roberto Orci keeps the action coming on a regular basis. The script also has a couple of nods to Abrams next project that also has the word “Star” in the title. In one scene Kirk, Spock and Uhura are in a shuttle, that looks suspiciously like the Millennium Falcon, being chased by a Klingon patrol ship. In an attempt to escape, Kirk pilots the shuttle towards a narrow passage and debates openly with Spock whether or not the shuttle will fit into the tight space.
The cinematography work by Daniel Mindel on this film is notable. The visuals are sharp and, similar to his work on the 2009 reboot, are amongst the brightest in recent memory. The first time the Enterprise appears fully on screen, and then heads into warp drive leaving the signature trail, is truly stunning. However, it should be noted that there are some issues with the 3D version. In the early part of the film, some frames of actions move faster than the 3D technology can register.
Star Trek Into the Darkness has all the elements of a summer popcorn movie: excellent pacing, relentless action, and images that need to be seen on the big screen. If you are not a trekker, or fan of the original series, then this film is aimed at you. However, if your niche is the classic Star Trek, with the traditional roles of the holy trinity of Kirk, Spock and Bones, then you may find the film a bit lacking. Overall, as someone who really came on board with Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek Into Darkness is a film that I can recommend.