Into Darkness is J.J. Abrams’ second foray into the Star Trek franchise after his successful but controversial take on the series back in 2009. For the fans who didn’t like Abrams previous film, you’re probably not going to find much to change your mind here, but if you were like me, and quite enjoyed his take on Star Trek, then you can probably have a good time with Into Darkness.
If you have any idea how J.J. Abrams works, then you will have a good idea as to what to expect here. Explosive set-pieces, lens flare, good actors, witty dialogue, and a slightly underdeveloped script are all in play here, and for better or for worse, it works more often than it doesn’t.
James Tiberius Kirk and the lovable crew of the Enterprise spaceship are back, and thanks to a great cast, they feel like the classic characters that we know and love while also being just original enough to appeal to a modern audience. The actors are young and attractive, and for the most park, play their parts really well.
The performances in Into Darkness are actually quite good, and outside of some occasionally jarring dialogue, that tries to hard to wink at the camera, the actors deliver their lines strongly and with the desired amount of wit and intensity. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto have some especially good banter, and it really works to sell the strong, but unlikely, friendship these two men share.
However, as entertaining as the crew of the Enterprise is, I can’t help but feel like they’re pushed to the sidelines here. While they do all get their time to shine, they’re not given a lot of development and feel less like an integral part of the movie and more like entertaining side-liners.
Of course, this is Kirk and Spock’s show, and for the most part this is Into Darkness’ strongest strength. As previously stated, the relationship shared between these men is iconic and easy to enjoy, and whether you’re a long time ‘Trekkie’, or a newcomer to the series such as myself, I promise that you’ll have a great time watching these two interact on-screen.
If J.J. Abrams needs to be applauded for anything here though, it has to be his superb scene direction. He is a great director, and seeing how he navigates the many action-packed set pieces is really impressive. While there is a fair amount of lens flare, it never really bothered me, and in some cases actually adds to the grandeur of the explosive action sequences.
Speaking of action, Into Darkness has a lot of it. Obviously the sci-fi weaponry and space battles enthrall the nerd in me, but the highlight of the action sequences are the ones involving Benedict Cumberbatch. Not only is he an amazing actor, but his aggressive screen presence eats up every shot he’s in, and when you see him let loose in combat, you’ll have to bend over to pick your jaw off the floor.
Easily surpassing the previous Star Trek movie in terms of a quality villain, Cumberbatch’s rogue Starfleet Commander John Harrison brings an electric personality to the movie, and thanks to his superb line delivery, you really do feel like this is a man that could crush your skull with his bare hands.
One of the few major problems I have with this movie, however, also involves John Harrison. It’s true that I think he’s the stand-out character in the movie, but because of that, I felt like the way they handled his backstory was disappointing. For a character this exaggerate and dark, he needed realistic, tragic motivation to really sell why he was doing what he was doing, and I don’t feel like we got that.
While his motivation is explained, it’s kind of silly and I had a hard time believing he would wage war on all of Starfleet over something like it. And since the climax ends really abruptly, we don’t get proper closure for Harrison’s character, and it almost feels like the movie ran out of time and rushed to tie up loose ends.
Maybe this is a reflection of the script, which plays it a little too safe, or just me nit-picking, but it still irritated me that they built up to this epic climax, just to have it end just as it was about to get really good. And because the writers felt the need to the use a deus ex machina plot twist to remedy a major turn-of-events, the ending really did feel rushed and lost some of its impact because of it.
In its entirety though, I enjoyed Star Trek Into Darkness. It has a lot going for it, is beautiful to look at, and is jam-packed with intense, brutal set pieces that are really sights to behold. And thanks to some strong acting and a villain with real screen presence, the movie is fun and exciting all the way through.
However, because of the lack of a truly strong script, and not enough convincing character development and backstory, Into Darkness feels a little less important and impactful than it probably should be.
If you’re looking for a good time, or are a fan of all things Star Trek and science fiction, then definitely give Into Darkness a look. Just keep your expectations lower, as I did, and you’ll most likely have a lot of fun with this movie.