In this second movie in the reboot of the original movies based on the old TV show, Captain James Tiberius Kirk of the Enterprise must face not only the renegade bad guy but also himself. Yes, I know, it’s deep. Star Trek Into Darkness is, however, even better than its immediate predecessor, with spellbinding effects that actually look good in 3D, fleshed-out characterizations, and fine acting all around.
It’s a year after the events in the first movie, and Kirk (Chris Pine) and company have been sent to a remote planet to observe and report. They discover that an active volcano is about to erupt, which would eradicate the indigenous society. Ignoring the Prime Directive, Kirk has Spock (Zachary Quinto) lowered into the volcano via shuttle and line to place and then detonate a nuclear device that would render the volcano inert. But, as they tend to do in ST films, things go wrong and Kirk has to reveal the hidden Enterprise to the society in order to rescue Spock.
That’s just the leadup. At Starfleet HQ, Commander Pike (Bruce Greenwood) is livid. You see, Kirk’s report terms the trip as “uneventful”; Spock’s, however, details everything. The insubordination, the unwillingness to follow the rules, the hubris, and the lack of humility, all add up to Kirk’s being stripped of command and demoted, with Spock to be transferred. However, an emergency meeting of top Starfleet brass is convened to discuss the recent bombing of a Starfleet building that housed archives. The meeting itself is attacked by a former Starfleet agent named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), who then flees to an uninhabited part of the distant Klingon homeworld of Kronos. The Enterprise, with Kirk at the helm – but minus Scotty – takes off after Harrison, armed with 72 long-range missles; the idea is to park just outside Klingon space, aim the torpedos at Harrison, and fire away. But things…well, you know the drill. Things ain’t what they seem to be.
There are plot revelations in this movie in almost every other scene, and certainly I won’t go into them here. They all made sense (save for one, which seemed more like a red herring than anything else). But one point you should know going into this movie: a man without peace may desire war, the best way to gain power.
Elements of some of the original films are in play here. I think this rebooting is better than, say, redoing the Batman or Superman sagas every so often, because director J.J. Abrams simply grabs some plot points from various iterations of the series and inserts them at rational points. There is a feeling of real progression, that the crew grows with each mission, especially Kirk himself. Their transformations are sometimes excellent foreshadowing and sometimes elegant and subtle.
I also feel that the actors playing the crew members are growing into their roles, growing together as a cohesive unit. We no longer see one person doing one job, incapable of helping; they are a team much more like the The Next Generation gang was, less like The Original Series.
The acting ranges from adequate to fantastic. Loved Pine and Quinto, who have several difficult, emotional scenes; loved Zoe Saldana as Lt. Uhura, Anton Yelchin as Ensign Chekov, Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy, John Cho as Lt. Sulu, and especially Simon Pegg as Lt. Cmdr. Scotty. None is a liability; all seem well cast and developed. In fact, we to get to know a little more about Uhura, Spock, and Scotty, and I suspect in future ST films we’ll get more backstory as needed.
Star Trek Into Darkness does contain quite a bit of dazzling effects, and it might be best seen in 3D. Even in 2D, it would be a spectacle to watch. It’s one of those rare films that combines visual wizardry with an actual compelling plot and multidimensional characters.
It is possible that real Trek fans will be displeased with the movie. Some may have wanted a replica of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Some may have wanted a completely original story. The writers and director knew very well that they couldn’t possibly please all mega fans, so they boldly chose a third path. The movie is, above all, a believable entry that is both faithful and original to the Trek universe.
Star Trek Into Darkness: ***1/2