J.J. Abrams jump-started the flagging Star Trek franchise with his 2009 reboot, with a new cast and an alternate universe storyline that gave the series a fresh direction. Now, four years later, Abrams returns to the franchise with the cast settling into their roles nicely and a couple of new characters, including a terrific villain, that make worthy additions. A fun thrill ride from start to finish, Star Trek: Into Darkness starts fast and rarely lets up until the credits start to roll. It gives us a spectacle worthy of the big screen, with some incredible visuals and exciting action sequences. And it does so without sacrificing the characters that we have come to know and love, giving even the supporting players a chance to shine over it’s 2 hour and 12 minute running time.
The movie opens up with a sequence that would feel at home in any of the Indiana Jones flicks. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Dr. “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) are fleeing a horde of natives on a primitive planet through a crimson forest. It’s all to provide a distraction so Spock (Zachary Quinto) can plant a device to prevent a disastrous volcanic eruption. Naturally, things go awry, and Kirk and Spock both have to answer to Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) for their actions. Before any real punishment can take effect, a crisis rears its head in the form of a terrorist bombing in 23rd century London, followed by an attack on Starfleet headquarters during a briefing held by Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller). The culprit turns out to be a man named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a person of great cunning and ability. Kirk heads up the manhunt for Harrison, taking the crew to Klingon space and a confrontation with some familiar enemies. After a fierce Klingon attack, Harrison is captured, and brought aboard the Enterprise. I won’t divulge any thing else of the plot, save to say that there are a few twists and turns on the way to the film’s thrilling finale. Even if you figure the twists and turns out, they’re still well done and entertaining. Abrams does engage in a bit of fan service, but he does so in a way different than before.
The cast again does a terrific job in their roles. Pine performs ably as the roguish and charming Kirk, even providing him with an emotional range that Shatner didn’t always capture with the character. Quinto’s Spock is once again a stalwart of logic as he struggles to deal with emotion, both within himself and from those fellow crew members, especially love interest Uhura (Zoe Saldana). Saldana evens gets to show off her Klingon in a tense scene before things devolve into a firefight. Urban once again provides the bulk of the quips, and shows that he has the character of Bones down pat. Even the supporting cast get their moments- Sulu (John Cho) gets to sit in the captain’s chair, Chekov (Anton Yelchin) helps out in engineering, and Scotty (Simon Pegg) gets his own humorous sub-plot which proves to be quite important. Newcomers Weller as Admiral Marcus and Alice Eve as his daughter Carol fare well, and prove to be nice additions to the cast.
But it’s Cumberbatch’s portrayal of the villain John Harrison that really stands out. The intensity he brings to the character of Holmes in the BBC show Sherlock shines through his portrayal of Harrison, bringing out an intelligence and sharp wit that makes him a worthy adversary for Kirk and crew. Cumberbatch handles the action scenes quite well, giving some brutal beatdowns to both Kirk and Spock. His voice is both measured and menacing, and his eyes hold you like the hypnotic gaze of a deadly snake. It may be that Cumberbatch has set the new standard by which all future Trek villains will be judged. His performance was that good.
In addition the performances, the visual effects and music also shine. Michael Giacchino’s score provides a great backdrop to the action, weaving familiar themes throughout. The visuals just astound, from the crimson foliage in the opening scene to the Enterprise bursting out of the ocean (giving you a nice idea of just how big the ship is) to a thrilling chase through a debris field to a crashing starship, all are just thrilling and a wonder to behold. The film is paced nicely, giving you just enough time to catch your breath before you’re whisked off into the next action sequence.
Star Trek: Into Darkness is a thrill ride from start to finish, and just flat out fun, the way a summer blockbuster should be. It’s terrific visuals and great cast make it well worth a trip to your local cinema, as this is definitely one to watch on the big screen. Abrams has the franchise well in hand, and on firm footing for future voyages.
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