Movie Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

I think I should call this review: Confessions of a Non-Trekkie.

With the release of Star Trek in 2009, J.J. Abrams had gone where no man had gone before…or at least where no Star Trek director had gone before…. bringing Star Trek into the mainstream pop culture pantheon and number one spot at the international box office.

Star Trek Into Darkness is a fun, action-packed 3D extravaganza! It’s a good summer movie, and definitely lives up to the hype created by its predecessor. As a person who has no experience with Star Trek (aside from the first installment in the rebooted series), I was really impressed with the characters, action and overall visual onslaught that was Star Trek Into Darkness.

Continuing the adventures of the USS Enterprise, this film features Captain James T. Kirk and his loyal crew facing off against an intergalactic terrorist who threatens the Enterprise and Earth’s existence.

The challenge in rebooting any franchise is selecting the right cast to live up to the expectations of the already established fan base. The casting here is so spot on. Of course, I’m basing all of this on pop culture references and Simpson’s episodes. In my opinion, all of the characters are very well cast.

This is arguably one of the most attractive casts ever put together for a sci-fi film. Set phasers to “STUN”…if you know what I mean.  Really though…. look at them! Reprising his role from Star Trek, Chris Pine as Captain James T. Kirk is the perfect mix of arrogant ladies’ man and loyal captain. Zachary Quinto’s portrayal of Spock has almost equal footing as co-leading man of the franchise. The two leads have great chemistry, adding humour and tension in equal doses. The entire cast has something to add to the film. Zoe Saldana is a sci-fi queen with her fierce portrayal of Nyota Uhura, communications officer and Spock’s feisty girlfriend. Karl Urban is hilarious and often thinking the same thing we’re thinking in his role as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy. Anton Yelchin as Chekov and John Cho as Sulu get plenty of screen time and have fun sequences. Simon Pegg really shines as Scotty, bringing so much fun and humour to his role. Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s Sherlock) is fantastic as the menacing villain John Harrison. As a self-professed “Cumber-bitch”, I’m bound to be biased.  He’s magnetic on screen, and delivers his lines with such grandeur.

That cast though....
That cast though….

You can tell that J.J. Abrams is a Star Trek fan. He infuses his characters and story with nods to the original source material. My theatre was full of “Trekkies” or “Trekkers” who laughed and cheered at the little inside jokes thrown their way. J.J. Abrams is respectful of the source material, but keeps it fresh enough for new fans like me to stay involved with the story and characters. While I’m a fan of J.J. and his creations, he often falters when it comes to consistent story. Actually, I think this is writer Damon Lindeloff’s calling card. As touted in the title, J.J. Abrams’ second installment is darker than the first – with references to terrorism, death and war.  Without giving away too much of the plot, the motivations for John Harrison’s villainous campaign becomes confusing, and often unnecessary. Some plot points are predictable, while others are left completely unexplained, or are fleshed out so quickly that the audience doesn’t have the chance to process the information. There’s a lot of plot to deal with: Kirk and Spock’s friendship/rivalry, Spock and Uhura’s relationship, John Harrison, Klingons, war, weapons of mass destruction, character deaths, new characters, Danger! Danger! Danger! The action is riveting and incredibly entertaining. The film really excels when the characters have moments amongst themselves. This movie has some really great banter. I love banter.

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The film is visually spectacular. The 3D is fun, and beautiful (especially in warp speed sequences). J.J. “lens flare” Abrams creates a world that is so entertaining and nice to look at. Beautiful people, amazing action sequences, and stunning set pieces. While the story sometimes falters, the characters keep you invested and interested in the adventure. If the weekend box office performance is any indication, the franchise is expected to live long and prosper.

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I’m already looking forward to, Star Trek 3: “We have to go baaaaack!” (For all the LOST fans)!

Spoiler alert…..

….

You better set phasers to “run” if you don’t want anything spoiled.

I really enjoyed this film, and as I’ve mentioned above, it’s mostly due to the cast. There are moments in the film where we really get to see the relationships that the characters have formed between the first and second installment – the actors seem more comfortable in their respective roles, as if the weight of the long established characters have been lifted, and they’re finally allowed to have some fun, and infuse their own quirks into their roles. The cast is a cohesive whole, everyone serves a purpose. None of the characters seem unnecessary – except maybe Carol (more on her later).

While I really enjoyed the film, the only little, tiny issue that I had was with the plot – mainly the big reveal, or should I say, REVEALS. There were so many…in such quick succession.

John Harrison is…wait for it…. KHHHHAAAAAAAAN! While I haven’t seen the original Star Trek films, and I don’t know all the details of the original character, I do understand the significance of the character in terms of the Star Trek universe and its fans.  The true identity of Cumberbatch’s character John Harrison was shrouded during the impressive press tour before the movie was released. There was so much speculation about this so-called “alternate persona” that the big reveal was ruined before the opening credits of the movie even had a chance to roll.

I really liked that Kirk’s relationship with his crew mirrored that of Khan and his crew….minus the whole genetically engineered super-human factor. Khan’s vengeance stems from the supposed loss of his own crew. He begins his terror plot against the Federation after being double crossed by the people who created him. The bombing of the Federation archives was emotionally devastating, mostly because it introduced something that our generation has seen and experienced. There were quite a few analogies referencing U.S. overseas policy and 9/11. It added realism to a story about intergalactic travel, space gadgets and aliens.

I thought the film started out incredibly well. Benedict Cumberbatch is a spectacular villain, but his story seems a little disconnected from that of the USS Enterprise. Cue torpedoes filled with human popsicles…oh wait…gasp…they’re Khan’s crew?!?!? What the!? On top of all of that….we find out that Admiral Marcus has plans to start an all out war with the Klingons and also…that the new Enterprise crew member Carol is actually his daughter.

One of the things that really stood out in the film was Spock and his emotional outburst. He flips the switch from zero emotions to revenge-fueled badass in a matter of seconds. It’s really out of character (or at least what we know about the character so far). Then again, Spock is half-human. He can choose the emotions he wishes to feel. Maybe that’s the explanation.

Sequels for action blockbusters tend to be bigger and try to be better than their originals. I really loved 2009’s Star Trek. Here we have more of the same…A LOT more of the same. There’s more non-stop action, more fast-paced dialogue, more plot twists within plot twists, and more reveals. Plot details aside, the visuals and action sequences are sleek and sophisticated. I especially loved the sequence when Khan and Kirk basically base jump through space from one ship to another.

It’s a fun ride. Fast paced, never boring, and unbelievably entertaining.

Beam me up for the next movie in the series.

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