Review: STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS
Space….The final frontier. The voyages of the starship Enterprise have fascinated fans of all ages for decades. When director J.J. Abrams took the reins of the beloved franchise, many fans were uneasy about the prospect. After reviving the series with 2009’s fantastic Star Trek, Abrams goes bigger, bolder, and better with Star Trek Into Darkness.
Arguably the best achievement with this film is that there is plenty to please the most devoted Trekkies and enough appeal to attract those reluctant to enter this sprawling and exciting universe. With Darkness, Abrams daringly displays why many of us have become so emotionally invested with these pop culture icons over the years while giving us many familiar elements and brand new twists.
The film’s opening scene attempts to set the pace for the rest of the film, and boy, does it ever. This thrilling set piece opens with Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Bones (Karl Urban) fleeing a pyramid-like structure, on the run from a tribe on the primitive planet of Nibiru. Meanwhile, Spock (Zachary Quinto) is being lowered into a volcano on the verge of eruption which could ultimately destroy the planet. The plan is for Spock to insert a high-tech freezing mechanism, subsequently halting the volcano’s eruption.
Nibiru is a beautiful and colorful world. As Kirk and Bones weave in and out of the dense forest, dust particles fly at the audience’s 3D glasses and crimson leaves fall as tree limbs snap. Nibiru’s inhabitants are caked in thick white body paint from head to toe.
While it’s only natural that the mission quickly goes askew, a classic verbal standoff which is a battle of wits and intelligence between Spock and Kirk ensues. The inside of the volcano is a vast sea of crashing lava, and Kirk is desperate to save Spock’s life.
From that point on, the pace doesn’t slow down – not one bit. This is a film that is grand in scale, epic in its storytelling, and awe-inspiring in its visuals.
As the film’s plot begins to unfold, we learn of the mysterious and devious rogue Starfleet officer – terrorist, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). Cumberbatch shines as the film’s villain, and the TV star shows that his talents are destined for big screen greatness. He is a skilled warrior – there is one very impressive action sequence where Harrison singlehandedly takes out a Klingon troop. Through much of the film, the sophisticatedly crafted storyline makes it tough to tell whether or not Cumberbatch’s Harrison is friend or foe.
Seemingly much more comfortable in their roles, the returning cast shines in their second round as the Starfleet crew. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto have wonderful chemistry as the film’s character development builds around their convoluted, yet maturing relationship. Pine shows us a deeper, more emotional Captain Kirk this go around, and you can see him rising to the fame that William Shatner brought to the role.
Quinto also brings more emotional character depth to Spock in this sequel. While Vulcans are taught to suppress their emotions, they are capable of experiencing very powerful sentiments. Quinto is very impressive in his second turn as the half-human, half-Vulcan, and just like Pine is seen maturing into Shatner, Quinto can be seen maturing into Leonard Nimoy.
Star Trek Into Darkness is the quintessential summer box office blockbuster – and then some. Seriously, this movie is wildly impressive. While it’s really no secret at this point that J.J. Abrams was heavily inspired by 1982’s The Wrath of Khan, he and screenwriters Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and the always reliable Damon Lindelof have crafted an intelligent script that beautifully pays homage to past adaptations of the Trek franchise while putting their own spin on many iconic elements in Wrath of Khan and making much of the source material their own.
The film’s visuals are astonishing, especially in IMAX 3D. Abrams is no stranger to gorgeous production design and cinematography – see Super 8 and 2009’s Star Trek. The visual effects in Darkness exceed that of its predecessor as its scale is much larger. I frequently found myself in awe by its beauty as we’re taken from the dense crimson Nibiru forests, to the furthest reaches of the galaxy and back to the city skylines of London or San Francisco. The beauty of the Enterprise rising from the sea in the film’s opening set piece, glistening with ocean water, is just amazing.
This film is something that needs to be experienced on the biggest screen possible, with the loudest speakers theaters have to offer, because this one threatens to jump right off the screen and into the audience’s laps with every punch, scream, and explosion.
The action scenes in Darkness are woven together seamlessly with careful precision and accuracy and shows us the kinds of amazing things that can be done in cinema. Abrams and company go bigger than any Trek film has gone before on the action front, and it delivers the thrills – BIG TIME. There are some really great hand to hand combat scenes – featuring Cumberbatch’s Harrison more often than not – and one that particularly impresses comes in the midst of the film’s rousingly thrilling conclusion. One action scene that comes to mind as the most remarkable is one featured throughout many of the film’s trailers, involving the USS Enterprise in a free fall back into Earth’s atmosphere – a scene that absolutely must be seen in IMAX format.
All in all, Star Trek Into Darkness is simply great fun. From minute one to minute 132, the film’s blistering pace keeps the audience on the edge of their seats while delicately handling the much beloved source material.
Grander in scale than its 2009 predecessor, J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness is an on the edge of your seat thrill ride that goes where no Trek film has gone before as it moves by at blistering and exhilarating warp speed. While paying homage to the adaptations that came long before he took the reins, Abrams boldly displays why many of us have become so emotionally invested with these iconic characters over the years.
This is gigantic entertainment that sets its phasers to stun audiences with both style and substance. With great performances – especially from Benedict Cumberbatch as the fantastic antagonist – stunning visuals, giddy humor, and jaw-dropping action sequences, Star Trek Into Darkness is sure to be one of the most impressive of 2013’s Summer blockbusters.