Director J.J. Abrams returns some four years later to deliver a sequel to his well-received Star Trek reboot, which managed to impress both fans of the series and newcomers like me. Star Trek was an exciting and fresh piece of sci-fi that managed to pay respect to the classic characters and stories, while also updating and creating new adventures. Abrams showed his talent as a big-budget director by giving us some dazzling special effected mixed with a story that was smart and full of new energy. Lens flares aside, Abrams knocked it out of the park and yet here we sit with a sequel that can really only be described as dumb. Star Trek Into Darkness is big summer blockbuster fun, but its mindless plot and unnecessary twists and secrets hold it back from becoming remotely as good as the last one.
Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) are back leading the gang into the unknowns of space. Kirk disregards authority and lives on the edge whenever he can, while Spock continues to attempt to balance emotion and logic.
A new threat is introduced to the world as a man by the name of John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) starts a one man war with the entire Starfleet. Now, Kirk, Spock and the rest of the crew must go after Harrison and bring him in, while also discovering who he really is and what he’s really up to.
Director J.J. Abrams‘ Star Trek Into Darkness might just be the dumbest movie of 2013. I mean this in terms of what we come to expect from Abrams and what we actually get. People might get confused by my review and blame me for hating the film and that’s actually far from the truth.
I enjoyed Star Trek Into Darkness. It’s big-budget blockbuster filmmaking that deserves to see a release in the heated summer, but it’s also mindless and without a clue. It’s a flashy spectacle to watch and forget almost immediately. This isn’t the most incoherent film to come out this year or even the most boring, but after watching Star Trek it certainly hurts having to take a gigantic step back to watch Into Darkness.
Abrams applies his usual bag of tricks to this one and not one of them registers. A lot of people make fun of Abrams for his use of lens flares, but I’ve always thought that they worked well in this particular setting. What doesn’t work well is a story with so many plot holes and disregard towards basic logic.
Star Trek had some moments where it asked you to believe in it a little more than we probably should have, but it made for a more exciting experience. Star Trek Into Darkness on the other hand simply doesn’t give a fuck about anything. It moves quickly and with disregard towards everything. The story is a balled up mess of ideas that partially feel like they’re ripping off previous Trek material, while also bringing a new level of dumb to the equation. There are sequences that are laughably bad and Abrams doesn’t do a damn thing to cover them up.
It’s almost as if Abrams just doesn’t care about the series at all anymore and is instead saving his skills for Star Wars. Abrams clearly shoots the action with his usual eye for grand carnage and sci-fi chaos, but none of it has any weight. Things get blown up because you need something to look at and nothing else.
Locations are better explored this time around and the crew gets in more than one battle, but none of it matters if we’re simply being thrown into everything while the film cruises through warp drive on autopilot.
The only reason Star Trek Into Darkness would be worth a ticket is to see the continuation of the Kirk/Spock relationship. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are perfect in their roles and it’s great getting to see them expand that friendship and show us that family-like bond. They steal the film’s thunder whenever they’re on screen together. The comedy feels natural and keeps the film light and yet the dramatic moments they share give the film its much-needed heart. The actual material that they’re working with is garbage, but the two performers give it their all and it shows.
The supporting cast helps out too. Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin and the addition of Alice Eve help make Into Darkness feel like a rounded out adventure that actually relies on its team efforts to progress forward.
Benedict Cumberbatch is great as “John Harrison”. Why Abrams decided to put the entire character into one of his mystery boxes is a question that still puzzles me, because knowing the character’s true intentions would have made the film a lot more interesting going in, since we already knew who he really was anyways. It also would have helped the marketing sell the film, since no one had any clue what the real story was about. Abrams has a weird obsession with surrounding things in mystery and for once it doesn’t pay off at all and actually hurts the film’s effectiveness.
Cumberbatch is a champ though and weighs in heavily on the film. His character is by far the most interesting one to follow, not because of Abrams’ approach, but because of Cumberbatch’s level of intensity. He gives Harrison proper emotion and purpose, despite leading towards the inevitable reveal.
The character stuff is spot on. Abrams knows how to direct the team and keep the film balancing its humor and expensive sci-fi set pieces, but his writers spit out bottom-of-the-barrel stuff and it shows. Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Damon Lindelof are no strangers to writing mediocre trash. Into Darkness has their smelly fingerprints all over it and it’s a shame, because clearly Abrams can direct these films in his sleep, but he needs good writing to do so.
Star Trek worked because of its fast-paced action and light story that didn’t necessarily feel like the smartest thing on the block, but was far more intelligent than Transformers. It honestly felt like a more mainstream version of Star Wars, with a more concentrated focus on action and sci-fi fun and not so much on the little details. It worked and it pleased lots of newcomers to the series while also getting a few smiles from fans of the original films and shows.
Star Trek Into Darkness tops its predecessor in the action department. Sequences are much bigger and better filmed this time around, but there’s no purpose for almost any of them. Logic is tossed out the window and Abrams instead focuses on mystery and secrecy. The entire John Harrison thing is a joke and by the time Spock shots out the “memorable line” you’ll be laughing in your seat asking yourself why Abrams decided to go through all of this fuss hiding certain things about the story in the first place.
Fans of the remake will still want to see this, because it’s not awful. It’s just not all that good. The 3D is a waste and the IMAX surcharge isn’t worth the upgrade, even if the visuals and sound are top notch.
Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto clearly care about their characters and they give it their all trying to convince you that you’re watching a movie with a story and a purpose, but Abrams covers up any interest in those sorts of things with twists that aren’t needed and action that feels bigger only because it’s trying to make up for everything else that the film lacks.
Star Trek Into Darkness is one of the most mindless pieces of summer blockbuster cinema ever made, but it’s occasionally fun. It’s soulless and without a brain for 95% of the time, but it still remains fun in certain areas. Go into it knowing that you just might come out on the other end.
Star Trek Into Darkness – 7/10