I’ve never been a Star Trek fan as I have never seen the show or seen any of the movies except 2009’s reboot/alternate timeline film. I guess I’ve always just been more of a Star Wars guy (even though I would say I am far from a super fan) but the newest Star Trek film, Star Trek Into Darkness, sort of intrigued me. Maybe it was the strong previews or how second installments (Spider-Man 2, The Dark Knight, The Empire Strikes Back, etc…..) seem to be the strongest of any franchise. Hell even the second film in the original Star Trek franchise (Wraith of Khan) is considered to be the best of series so I was hoping that that would be the case for this new Abrams Star Trek film. Into Darkness isn’t as good as those second installment films that I had listed above but it is one damn good time at the movies. Having enjoyed 2009’s Star Trek, I was pleasantly surprised in how much I loved this movie. I mean I saw the film on Thursday and liked it enough to see it again two days later just to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. This is just 2 hours of pure blockbuster fun with a great ensemble cast, enjoyable humor, and some of the best action scenes around. After the disappointments of the first two summer blockbusters (The Great Gatsby and Iron Man 3) Star Trek Into Darkness has finally gotten the summer of 2013 kicked off right.
J.J. Abrams is one of the most overrated filmmakers around. He really hasn’t made a great film as his MI3 was all right and his Super 8 failed to live up to expectations. So much of his name is built up on his supposed Mystery Box where he tends to conceal his plot and numerous plot twists. Star Trek Into Darkness is the first film of his that his mystery box actually works (well if you don’t count Cloverfield). This maybe to his credit for how he likes to market his films but I think a lot of the credit has to go to the writers (Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof) who have put together a wonderfully twisty script. I won’t ruin any of the numerous plot twists but the movie has a ton and each one works because the film doesn’t force them. They present themselves for both Trekkies and non-Trekkies as the main story garners your complete attention. Abrams though has to be commended on how he brings the story to life with great filmmaking. This is his best film as he is able to balance an action heavy plot with a smart story. He also is able to mix in a whole bunch of elements into his film’s tone. This film just gives proof that you can be dark while still infusing humor in-between the dramatic beats. He also infuses the film with a lot of emotion that works well for this huge blockbuster. There is a moment at the end of the film that begins with intense sadness and then turns into complete rage. That rage almost had me out of my seat (go get him Spock!). I have to say that this is the first time I really have to tip my hat to Abrams and his style of filmmaking.
The cast here is awesome as they are the heart of the film. There are a lot of different characters here but Into Darkness is able to give each their due. It is amazing that the movie doesn’t get bogged down with the huge ensemble cast as it fleshes out almost each main member of the crew. Chris Pine is excellent as Captain Kirk who is the definition of a leader. Pine isn’t a great actor but he plays the role the way somebody should when they are given the task to be the leader of a large operation. Benedict Cumberbatch is the main villain and he is very good even if his performance tends to fall on the melodramatic. I won’t ruin his character’s big reveal but I think it is the best of the plot twists as it pays homage to the original films while still making the character something new and refreshing. The rest of the cast is solid as well but I would like to highlight a few others. Zachary Quinto gives the best performance of the film as the character Spock. He is like an alien Dexter as he has a somewhat dulled sense of emotion. He is great with his constraint in the earlier points of the film but when the movie asks him to feel, well that’s when his character is kicked up to another gear. Karl Urban provides the humor as Bones and it is nice to see him play a less masculine character very well. Then you have Simon Pegg who is just perfect. He doesn’t steal the spotlight but his character deserves every bit of screen time that he has.
Then you have the best part of the movie, the action. The battle scenes are thrilling as the movie has many of them. They are just stylized well and no action scene is lazily put together. From the shot out at the planet of Kronos (man you Trekkies get so worked up over the spelling of planet) to the exciting foot chase finale, Abrams knows how to put together an action scene. So much of Into Darkness hinges on how well the action is put up on screen because the action commands so much screen time. Well the action works and it works better than any film that I have seen in a long time. If I had to pick one action scene to talk about it’d have to be the flight of Captain Kirk and our main villain to an enemy vessel. The film should be a shoe-in for a nom for best visual effects for this scene alone as our two characters dance around debris from an earlier firefight. It is one of the best action scenes I have ever seen and a moment that totally took my breath away.
One of the biggest trends from online blogging criticism is the habit to nit pick every film possible. We saw this with Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises, which were dissected over and over again. Not to say that each film shouldn’t be held to a logical standard but this trend has almost gotten absurd. Into Darkness has gotten similar treatment as many critics have questioned some of the details of the plot and I can’t blame them but I sort of try not to do the same myself. Yea some of the flaws of Into Darkness come from its patchy logic but you can say that about almost any film. Is Into Darkness a little bit more egregious than most films, maybe but I never let the plot holes cloud my enjoyment of the film. Like Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Avengers, Into Darkness has its leaps of faiths but the movie is strong enough for the audience to take them. I know some critics couldn’t do that (take Devin Faraci’s review of the film which makes me feel stupid for liking the movie) and I don’t begrudge them for that but I believe Into Darkness is more than just a sound plot. For me, at least, the plot holes never get in the way of the final product as the movie soared past any of my expectations.
Maybe its because I’m not a Star Trek fan or maybe its because I got wrapped up in the stunning visuals but I walked out of the theater twice with a big smile on my face. This is everything I could ask of a summer blockbuster. Like Skyfall, Into Darkness makes you want to explore more of its franchise roots. I actually Netflixed Wraith of Khan after I watched the film (which I was underwhelmed by) and that speaks volumes to how much I enjoyed the movie. Am I a Star Trek convert now, no I think not but I guess you could say that I have a new found respect for the USS Enterprise.
P.S. Abrams you get kudos for this film but if you mess up Star Wars, then I will…well I guess it can’t get worse than Bro Bro Binks.