The year 2013 marks four years since director J.J. Abrams released his first Star Trek motion picture. It received tremendous critical and audience responses. I'm not a Trekkie and I found the 2009 entry to be outstanding, which truly speaks to the talent that was on board. It was bold, fresh, and highly exhilarating. Summer blockbusters aren't always able to arise such reactions out of me. Moviegoers around the world have been highly anticipating Star Trek Into Darkness, especially with the massive marketing campaign that continues to remind us of the picture's approaching release date. Now that it is finally here, there's one question that continues to be relevant. Is it able to stand as tall as J.J. Abrams' first outing in this fantastical universe?
The crew of the Enterprise returns to Earth after breaking protocol, which lands Kirk (Chris Pine) into a lot of trouble. Soon after, the Starfleet discovers an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization. Kirk requests to bring his crew back together, along with Spock (Zachary Quinto) in order to track the criminal down and kill him. This mission ultimately leads Captain Kirk on a manhunt to a war-zone that could possibly destroy him and his entire crew. Those on the Enterprise will soon uncover the truth about the man that is being hunted.
This sequel's screenplay has been written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof. The film instantly opens with the Enterprise on a mission to survey a planet's living species. This attention grabbing sequence instantly digs its hooks into the audience. Afterwards, we return back to Earth. There's a little bit of character development leading up to the feature's primary focus, which is the manhunt of a seemingly mysterious man. The entire first act is entirely captivating, as many viewers will find themselves feeling the same reactions they did upon watching 2009's Star Trek. The characters are absorbing and a lot of the dialogue is rather solid. There's a lot of humor incorporated throughout the running time, and the majority of it works. There are quite a few good laughs to be had throughout Star Trek Into Darkness, which allows viewers to become more intimate with the characters on screen. The comedy is at its strongest through the duration of the scenes between Kirk and Spock. I missed seeing such quality bickering on screen.
Once Star Trek Into Darkness continues to move along, it continues down an incredibly predictable path. There are several twists and turns revealed throughout the running time, although none of them are particularly surprising. Towards the end, the writers attempt to draw a specific reaction, which is too distant for us to feel anything. While the narrative doesn't hold strong, the action scenes continue to impress. Even though the audience knows what will happen, the adventure is a lot of fun. You won't find yourself thinking about anything else while watching this movie. It draws us in and doesn't let go until the credits begin rolling. The final few minutes will have you excited for a third entry, regardless of the film's flaws. In fact, it doesn't deliver too much of a blow to the picture's replay value. I can see myself watching this a few more times once it hits Blu-ray.
With every compliment given, it ultimately brings me to think about the film's biggest issue. Star Trek Into Darkness doesn't offer the same freshness that we received with the previous entry. There's so much material that could have been explored in this universe, which makes me question why the screenwriters decided to pull so much from previous films in this franchise's past. References are one thing, but taking major plot points puts this picture in a completely different ballpark. It simply isn't able to compete with the entry it is pulling from. The given villain could have made an intense final conclusion, but he's an empty shell. While we know the power this character is supposed to have, he never delivers the sense of urgency that we're supposed to feel. Instead, the audience is being told to fear the antagonist, rather than allowing the role to speak for itself. When such a small amount of thought goes into a villain, it hinders the picture from going very far.
This cast ensemble proves to be quite impressive. J.J. Abrams has successfully directed this strong crew in order to deliver convincing characters. Chris Pine returns to the role of Captain Kirk. He once again makes this character incredibly likable. Zachary Quinto matches this performance as Spock. No actor could have made this representation more convincing, since he fits every aspect of this half-vulcan and half-human. The conversations between Pine and Quinto allow the audience to become even more attached to their dynamics. The remainder of the crew is played by recognizable names such as Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, and Anton Yelchin. The antagonist may be disappointing, but Benedict Cumberbatch's performance in this role is the best that could be delivered with the given material. Kudos to him for making something out of the most one-dimensional character in the feature.
It shouldn't be very surprising that Star Trek Into Darkness looks absolutely phenomenal. J.J. Abrams uses a heavy amount of lens flares, but his concept for having them there is clear. Since this is so far into the future, he wanted to have a unique look that would shine through the screen. While there are a few too many, he accomplishes his goal. The CGI is impeccable, as every action sequence will leave viewers in complete awe. It's most certainly worth spending the extra few dollars to see this on an IMAX screen. The 3D is alright, but it isn't anything to write home about. Fortunately, it never becomes distracting and it never mutes the colors. Other than the 3D, this blockbuster is utter eye-candy.
J.J. Abrams' first outing with Star Trek was fresh and exciting. While this sequel is most certainly exciting, it isn't fresh. Instead of simply referencing the original films, it steals entire plot points. Whether or not you have seen the older motion pictures, you'll still find this entry to be entirely predictable. The antagonist isn't threatening, which puts a critical dent in this feature. However, the visuals are outstanding and the comedic elements work. There's a lot of fun to be had throughout this picture, which gives it a substantial amount of replay value. Star Trek Into Darkness didn't entirely impress me, but it still manages to be a theatrical experience well-worth having. Recommended.