Star Trek : Into Darkness
You are a pawn, Kirk. You can't even guarantee the safety of your own crew.
There's no denying 2013 is a good year to be a sci-fi fan. Offerings like Oblivion, After Earth, Pacific Rim, and Riddick all promise to keep fans of the genre quite happy. However, its J.J. Abrams sequel to his masterful 2009 Star Trek reboot that is arguably the most anticipated release of the year, and rightfully so.
The 2009 film was an accomplishment; successfully modernizing the series while remaining decidedly true to what Star Trek is expected to be. Now, four years later, does the sequel, Into Darkness live up to its predecessor?
That all depends on what sort of film you want to see.
If youre all in for an action-filled, gut-wrenching adventure featuring the cast and characters you love from the reboot, then this is the movie for you.
The sound design is some of the best Ive experienced in recent memory. From photon blasts to screeching metal to warp drives, its unbelievably immersive. Jarring, subtle, soothing, adrenaline inducing, loud, its what sound in a film like this should be. Everything even simple punches have a weight and realness to them that is often overlooked in films.
This beauty extends to the musical score as well. Haunting melodies and rising crescendos are superbly placed to manipulate the mood to exactly what the viewer needs to feel at the time, whether that be wonder, dread, or excitement.
The returning cast members from Pine to Urban to Quinto to Pegg to the superb Bruce Greenwood - are every bit what they were in Star Trek 2009, and have arguably improved in their roles.
Quinto's Spock has noticeably grown, as has Urban's Bones McCoy. Pine's Kirk is a less explicit progression, but has successfully shaken some of the annoying frat-boy persona he exhibited in Trek 2009, which in itself is an accomplishment I can applaud.
The new cast members serve their roles for the most part minus Alice Eve, who seems perfectly content to act as a hollow shell placed in the film to be nothing but eye candy.
Benedict Cumberbatch's Khan, on the other hand, is a force to be reckoned with; Vastly superior to 1982s Khan played by Ricardo Montalban, this new Khan is a sight to behold.
Equally menacing and relatable, there were many instances in the film that I truly felt for him and thought he was justified in his villainous actions. Cumberbatch's brooding, emotional portrayal is one the better characters in the series history, and I can only hope hell somehow be used again in the future. As engaging as he was, the final turn-about of his character arc was sadly predictable.
That is where we come to the bulk of what is wrong with Into Darkness
For all its victories, the film was almost too familiar for a returning fan like myself.
It leans on its source material 1982s aforementioned The Wrath of Khan like an ugly crutch, all too often borrowing plot points and twists in unneeded ways.
2009s reboot also did this, but in a far less greedy way, and ultimately managed to be original and surprising. Into Darkness does not succeed in this regard.
While the story is serviceable; if youre an old fan, chances are youve seen a lot of it before. This means many of the scenes meant to evoke shock or suspense may ring hollow, because you already know the outcome.
On occasion, Abrams has an inspired stroke, and instead of lifting a plot point, turns it on its head and gives us a legitimate twist that we can appreciate, but too often he eschews this in favor of trying to play to our nostalgia.
I was much more impressed with Oblivion's story line and unique ideas than I was with the script of Into Darkness, which is rather sad. Star Trek has always been more of a thinking-mans sci-fi, but this new film falls squarely in the action/thriller department. If youre looking for a good thought-provoking romp through the future, I recommend Oblivion.
Overall, Into Darkness is lacking in comparison to its older brother - and it seems to its competition this year as well. I will give credit to its final act, which was superbly engaging and had a pair of wonderfully executed twists though they may be lost on newcomers to the series.
The film is lots of fun, and if your introduction to the universe was the 2009 Trek, then you will likely be perfectly satisfied with this merely adequate sequel, but if youre a veteran of the world, you may be a tad disappointed.
In closing, I cannot help but feel let down. Into Darkness was engaging while it lasted and had plenty of great moments. The humor was frequent enough that it prevented things from ever becoming too dark, while also keeping its distance during the most dire of situations; and as previously stated the final act of the film was a superb ride.
Yet, there are so many little things that while competent, were not astounding. So much potential literally brimming around the surface of the display, but never being fully realized. Does it deserve a place in your collection? Yes, though perhaps not on your classics shelf. Into Darkness will find itself much more comfortable alongside contemporaries like Prometheus or Terminator : Salvation.
E. C. Cook 2013