Review: Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

Star Trek: 90210



Star Trek: Into Darkness is the twelfth Star Trek film. Twelve. That's a lot of spinning celluloid devoted to a bunch of dudes who hop on a spaceship that looks like a dinner plate with a penis and tadpole legs and trek around the universe(s) looking for stuff to do. 
Personally, I've seen three of these baby's. I'm not a Star Trek fan. Never watched the show, never even seen an episode of it. 
There's a stigma attached to these movies, much like the one attached to shows like Battlestar Galactica and Star Gate and Dr. Who, that they're for dorks. Although there are a great many I'm sure who would consider me a dork (I have a movie blog for goodness sake), this stigma has kept me clear of them for decades. 
When the 2009 reboot dropped amid proclamations that this was the Star Trek for people who don't like Star Trek, I was doubtful but curious. After seeing the movie, I got what people were saying; gone were the cheesy bleeping lights and cheap plastic sets. The stiff, cardboard acting replaced with young blood, hungry actors and actresses excited to be there and prove their worth. 
I liked Star Trek (2009) and while it didn't spark in me a desire to go back and watch the rest of the movies, it did spark an excitement at what Abrams would do with the sequel.

Into Darkness takes an even more pronounced step away from the Trek of old, emphasizing special effects and inter-character relations to make for a movie that is both bigger and more boombastic than the last, and also more character driven. 

Into Darkness starts off with Captain Kirk ignoring protocol during a mission to save Spock's life, resulting in his suspension and having the Enterprise taken away from him. This doesn't last long of course, as an intergalactic terrorist known as Khan (maybe you've heard of him) is targeting Star Fleet headquarters and causing all kinds of headaches as a result. The crew chase him down and beam him up and the rest of the plot is fairly spoiler heavy so I'll stop right there. 

Benjamin Cumberbatch is, oh how would Perez Hilton put this, having a moment right now. Starring mainly in television for the first part of his career and moving on to bit parts in a number of (mainly English) films, he got his big break being cast as Sherlock Holmes in the 2010 Sherlock TV series reboot. From there he landed juicy roles and gave impressive performances in movies like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and War Horse. 
He plays the young Khan in Into Darkness and is, quite simply, amazing, easily the best performance in the film. He's got one heck of a film slate lined up for the next couple years and I'm excited to see where he goes with it. 

Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Salanda, Simon Pegg, John Cho, et al, are back as the crew of the Starship Enterprise and they're all great as well. These roles were very well cast for the last movie and now that they've all had some time to get comfortable with their characters, they all seem much more at ease here, brave enough to try something new now and again. 

One thing that kept occurring to me while watching this movie was that this is really just a Star Trek movie superficially. As I said, I'm not well versed in the back catalogue of this franchise, but Into Darkness isn't so much a 'Star Trek movie' as it is just a well made, well acted Sci-Fi actioner. Oh sure, you've got the familiar names of the characters, the occasional line of dialogue that throws back to the original films and director JJ Abrams still hasn't stopped having the orchestral score swell up like a water balloon every time the USS Enterprise is shown on screen. But you change the name of the ship, give the characters different clothes and give the bad guy a different name (like Peter or something) and you wouldn't be sitting there watching the movie thinking to yourself, 'gee, this is a lot like Star Trek.' 

But maybe that's the point. I'm sure there are a great many fanboys (is calling them 'Trekkies' a derogatory term?) who are incensed at the liberties Abrams has taken with their hallowed franchise aesthetic. But I truly don't think he's making these movies for them, they've got movies. Ten of them. I think Abrams is making these new reboots for the everyman. The regular Joe who, as a result of stigma or some other cause, has avoided affiliation with one of the nerdier name brands in the entertainment industry.  
And by doing so he's shown us that, while spitting your four fingers in two different directions still looks as dorky now as it did in the 80's, Star Trek can be fun, hip, smart and exciting nonetheless. 

Verdict:
Truly the Star Trek for people who don't like Star Trek, Into Darkness is a great movie filled with impressive effects, a good story, great acting and interesting characters. 

Rating: ****







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