While advertised as a reboot, J.J. Abrams created a new way to reinvent a failing franchise with 2009’s Star Trek. While working as a sequel to the original series and the subsequent films, Abrams also found a way to make his film completely new. While the film easily could have been confusing it turned out to be one of the better blockbusters in recent memory. Star Trek Into Darkness continues Abrams’ reboot-sequel series. While it isn’t as structurally sound as its predecessor, Star Trek Into Darkness is able to make it worth your while by allowing its talented ensemble to carry the weight of the film. While the logic may become a little sillier and the action sequences a bit repetitive, the film saves itself by allowing the characters to go to a more emotional place.
Star Trek Into Darkness follows the USS Enterprise crew as they are told to launch weapons of mass destruction of a mysterious nature at a rogue Starfleet agent (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) who is hiding in Klingon space. As the crew gets closer to their target, they learn that not everything is as it appears (especially in regards to the rogue Starfleet agent). The film is directed by J.J. Abrams and is written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof.
J.J. Abrams had a tough act to follow after the success of the first film in Abrams’ (soon to be short?) tenure as director of the Star Trek franchise. Abrams and his creative team’s solution to this problem seems to be just throwing everything that Trekkies love onto the screen. Everything that Trekkies complained was missing from the first film is present here to the point that this film acts as much as a sequel to a certain Original Series film as it does the 2009 Star Trek. Surprisingly this never seems like fan service (other than in one scene where a cameo is wasted with a bunch of exposition), and the film is even able to make two big homages in the third act seem natural.
Yet it’s not this fusion between fan service and plot that makes the film work. Through two films the Abrams Star Trek series has proven that it is presently the best franchise when it comes to character development and interaction. Chris Pine and (especially) Zachary Quinto go even further than they did in their first film with their portrayals of Kirk and Spock respectively. We are lucky to get just one well-developed character in a summer blockbuster, but with this film we get two. Supporting members such as Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, John Cho, Anton Yelchin and Simon Pegg also get at least one moment to shine each. However, much of the promotional focus around this film has been around Benedict Cumberbatch’s mysterious villain. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get as much screen time as he probably deserved (he disappears for a large chunk of the film early on and the film doesn’t conclude his arc by the time the credits roll). However, Cumberbatch is brilliant as the character. Growling lines such as “I am better at everything than you”, Cumberbatch is able to combine the skills he deftly displays in his breakout performance as Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock with a physicality that I didn’t know he would be able to pull off.
While not as good as its predecessor, Star Trek Into Darkness is a solid blockbuster that is able to find just as much room for character development as it does spectacle.