into_darkness_2Year: 2013
Director: J.J. Abrams
Writer(s): Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof
Region of Origin: U.S.
Aspect Ratio: 1.44:1 (IMAX), 2.35:1
Rating: PG-13
35mm, 65mm, Color, 132 mins

Synopsis: After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction. (Source)

With 2009′s prequel/reboot/sequel of Star Trek, director J.J. Abrams put the franchise in an exciting new place, giving it the option to both adhere to it’s predecessors and rewrite history, taking off on a completely new path of it’s choosing. Star Trek Into Darkness again manages to do both those things, but leans a bit too much on some of the series’ most iconic and powerful moments, recreating them to lesser effect even if they’ll play just fine to the uninitiated. Still, at its best, Star Trek Into Darkness is an exemplary example of top notch thrills and breathtaking action that only J.J. Abrams could achieve.

The film picks up sometime after the events of it’s predecessor, with the crew’s skills being put to the test as they race to save a primitive species from an erupting volcano. After a foot chase evoking something out of Indiana Jones, an underwater Enterprise reveal and Starfleet’s Primary Directive being broken (no interference with the internal development of alien civilizations), Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is demoted and Spock (Zachary Quinto) swiftly reassigned. Faster than those punishments can be dealt with however, a suicide bombing at one of Starfleet’s top secret bases pits the crew against their deadliest foe yet, a former agent named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). What follows is Kirk leading the Enterprise on a secret manhunt behind enemy lines, risking his entire crew’s lives in the name of vengeance while getting wrapped up in a bigger, political conspiracy.

Given the film’s tricky position in terms of rebooted continuity and the ground this chapter needed to cover, the story does a good job at looking both backwards and forwards, even if its nostalgia gives way to repetition from time to time. Naturally, the film fares best when we’re in the middle of one of it’s breathtakingly staged action sequences, highlighting the type of emotionally rooted and unparalleled spectacle that Abrams excels at. The action set pieces are bigger, faster and more diverse, offering up gravity-defying feats, massive space battles and more, never giving us a chance to catch or breath before escalating into something else. There are even a few attempts to touch on some socially relevant hot topics this time like terrorism, government distrust and even warmongering; and while their thematic implications aren’t too deep,  they’re understandable enough to pay service to the story in a way that helps the characters. Ironically, where the story falters just a teeny bit is when it stops paying homage and starts recreating entire sequences from the series’ legacy. Because of this, the film misses out on an attempt to try something new, becoming a little predictable (especially in the final act) to those of us who have already experienced it’s reimagined sequences with much more weight. It’s a delicate mix the film attempts to bridge, and while it bites of more than it can chew, it’s still a satisfying experience full of style, humor and energy. Helping Abrams on the visual journey of the film are Daniel Mindel’s cinematography and the timeless production design of Scott Chambliss, serving the director’s skill for impeccable detail and delivering a visually gorgeous epic full of danger, death and destruction.

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If the first Trek was about the introduction of a family, Into Darkness is the testing of their loyalty, with each character getting their fair share of moral decisions and stances to keep each other accountable and united for the right reasons. It goes without saying then, that the film’s true spectacle is the ensemble cast and their ability to shine with the timeless heroism and camaraderie that makes Trek’s legacy one of a kind. Though the film puts Kirk and Spock through some of the same situations they’ve been in before, it works within the context of this newer setting and Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are finally given the chance to completely live up to their inherited iconic characters. The rapport between the two is unbeatable and the film’s two-stage climax featuring the pair is something you can’t help but cheering for, giving Spock a new type of humanity and Kirk a newfound respect for his family and leadership. The more prominent position of Zoe Saldana’s Uhura is still welcomed, adding a new dimension for Spock while Karl Urban continues to uncannily evoke the best parts of Deforest Kelley’s Bones with a freshness and vitality (you gotta love his wacky metaphors). The film also gives Simon Pegg’s Scotty his due, allowing him to take the film’s first moral stance at the Enterprise’s shocking militarization, giving him a side mission that brings out plenty of humor and excitement. The introduction of Alice Eve’s Carol Marcus doesn’t mean much within this story, but Eve plays off the cast well and will hopefully have more to do next time.

As with previous installments, Trek is only as good as it’s villain, and this time there are more than a few worthy adversaries to test our heroes’ mettle. Almost stealing the show is Benedict Cumberbatch; cold, calculated and ruthless, he has an eerie charm and charisma that never quite lets you know where his allegiances stand. In the scheme of things, his character’s tragic story and true motivations are a little rushed, but the actor more than makes up with it thanks to an intimidating demeanor that matches his super strength. If Cumberbatch doesn’t get the wide recognition he deserves for this role than it’s a sad day indeed. Additionally, fans of the original show will get excited with the reintroduction of the series’ memorable villains the Klingons, with a nice new redesign and their newly renamed home world, Kronos. Their new look is a lot scarier, culminating in just one of the film’s standout elements and they’re a good example of the film’s ability to show us what we haven’t seen before while possibly giving us a taste of what’s to come. There’s also an additional threat played by an actor who I’m always glad to see.

In spite of it’s minor pitfalls, there’s no reason why most people shouldn’t have a giant grin on their face for amount of the film’s duration. Seeing as we’ve only had two chapters with this new crew, they’re already shaping up to be quite a team worthy of the franchise’s legacy. While I would’ve loved to see the film avoid some of it’s rehashed material, it does feel like the necessary evil for getting the crew to where they needed to be. I do love where the story leaves them at the end, and if it’s any indication, the best has yet to come.

Crome Rating: 4/5

Bonus: Check out our comprehensive Trek retrospective featuring brand new art from Matt Ferguson.

SG