Sequels are always meant to raise the stakes on the original and Star Trek Into Darkness scores on that front. Yet, this particular film in this franchise, could easily tread on territory that has already been traveled by the series. Just a little cryptic, no?
How that is handled will be the key to whether the film is solid or a bust. Breathe easy Trek fans -- our Star Trek Into Darkness review can firmly state that J.J. Abrams' latest effort boldly goes where no man has gone before and is a thrill ride to remember.
Sorry for the mysterious references, but to spill any of those beans would be firmly in spoiler land. But, what we can tell you is Abrams took the promise he gave audiences with his 2009 Star Trek and added layers upon layers of rich storyline, increased camaraderie between the Enterprise crew, a much more villainous villain (even as Eric Bana was no slouch), a much wider scope and at the same time, brought the danger to a palpable level that you can feel in your bones.
The story begins with Captain Kirk (the expertly cast Chris Pine, who captures the William Shatner Kirk swagger with his own flair) leading his crew on a mapping mission. As per usual, knowing the character’s wild independent streak, he takes the mission a step further and is punished back at Starfleet headquarters because of it. He is stripped of his command, Pike (Bruce Greenwood) is returned to the Enterprise’s captain chair and the crew is re-assigned to other vessels.
Except our villain has other plans set in motion before any of that can actually happen, shown brilliantly in the Star Trek Into Darkness trailer.
John Harrison, at least that’s the name we’re told, has blackmailed a Starfleet insider to blow up an archive in London that sets in motion a full-on terrorist attack on Starfleet’s brain trust gathered at headquarters, including Pike, Kirk, Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Peter Weller’s Starfleet head, Marcus.
It is at that moment that one would believe that Star Trek Into Darkness is a revenge tale. You would be wrong. It is so much more than that.
Again, we don’t want to tread into spoiler territory, but fans of the franchise will delight in how Abrams and writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof have crafted this story with not only nods to the original TV series, but icons of the franchise and how they are interwoven into the plot.
As Kirk is reinstated and his crew sets out to get the man responsible for the terrorist attacks, why the film works so well is unspooled moment by moment until the film’s credits roll -- because you don’t expect what is coming at you.
Abrams may have used the word “darkness” in his title, but the film is still packed with dizzying brightness and yes, lens flares flourish. Oh, this story gets dark, but it is handled with a boyish amount of charm and humor that keeps things light, even as shown in this Star Trek Into Darkness clip as the Enterprise appears to be heading towards destructive peril.
The cast, again, shows why they were so impeccably chosen. Quinto continues to find nuances in the Spock character that must make Nimoy proud. John Cho’s Sulu gets some added responsibility and handles it with power and panache. But, the one who gets some seriously added screen time is Simon Pegg’s Scotty. And, who doesn’t love Scotty and Pegg for that matter?
And we cannot say enough about Benedict Cumberbatch. His villain is a combination of brute force and exceptional intelligence with a passion for making a wrong a right that should place his character firmly near the top in the annals of villainy movie history.
Purists of the Star Trek universe may scoff at how the plot is laid out in Star Trek Into Darkness. But, in the world that Abrams has created, it not only works and ups the ante, but also triumphs in giving audiences a summer movie that meets and exceeds the hype.