J.J. Abrams and the crew of The Enterprise return for Star Trek Into Darkness, the sequel to the surprisingly successful 2009 reboot that silenced Trekkie naysayers the world over. J.J. Abrams continues to surprise by accomplishing something rarely achieved in film franchises… creating a sequel that is better than the original. The success of the first film was largely thanks to the spot-on casting of familiar characters developed over 11 films and four television series; specifically Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto as Captain James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock, respectively. The same is true of the latest installment which keeps the spirit of these beloved characters alive while taking some clever liberties that cement Star Trek Into Darkness as the greatest blockbuster of the year thus far.
Star Trek Into Darkness starts off on a distant planet whose inhabitants are at risk of an active volcano that could wipe out the entire primitive civilization. It is up to the crew of the Enterprise to lay the volcano to rest while going unnoticed by the indigenous population (per a Starfleet mandate that Spock is only too happy to continuously remind Kirk about). Captain Kirk and Bones (Karl Urban) distract the native people in a mad dash that sets the pace for the film and makes the most of the vivid CGI and 3D technology, while Spock is lowered into the volcano to activate a device that will render the volcano inert. Inevitably the plan fails and Spock is trapped in the belly of the volcano causing Kirk to violate the mandate, despite the ever-logical thinking Spock’s insistence on sacrificing himself for the greater good.
No good deed goes unpunished as Captain Kirk loses command of the Enterprise, becoming First Mate under Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood), while Commander Spock gets reassigned as a result of Kirk’s reckless behavior and inability to take responsibility for his actions. While still brooding over his demotion, a bomb goes off at Starfleet’s main archives in London. Kirk and the rest of the crew, including Spock, Bones, Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Sulu (John Cho), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Checkov (Anton Yelchin), and a sexy stowaway (Alice Eve) are back onboard the Enterprise and off to kill the man responsible for the attack against the archives. The man responsible being none other than Starfleet agent John Harrison played by a brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch, whose onscreen presence threatens to steal the spotlight from the rest of the cast.
The Enterprise is in a race against the clock to track down and eliminate Harrison that has them bouncing from London to Kronos, the home world of the Klingons, and galaxies in-between at warp speed. Enraged by Harrison’s wanton betrayal, Captain Kirk is an emotional mess whose desperation to kill the Harrison is palpable, despite the rest of the crew’s reluctance to kill Harrison without a fair trial. It is here that Star Trek Into Darkness finds its major theme hinted at in the opening sequence of the film — how do our feelings affect the choices we make, specifically in the gray area where the line of right and wrong is blurred? To remain as free of spoilers as possible I will simply say that the manhunt for Harrison offers the opportunity for some fun-filled action sequences that pit Kirk and Spock against Harrison, whose super-human strength and intellect prove to be more than a match for the duo.
The film rings true to J.J. Abrams fashion with its fair share of lens flares and twists that will have you guessing and second-guessing what will happen next. The members of the supporting cast aid Star Trek into Darkness with romance and comedic relief; Scotty’s quips and wit bring ease to the intense film, and Uhura, in the midst of a lover’s quarrel with Spock, provides a heartfelt edge to the blockbuster. Characters such as Chekov and Sulu, who saw major roles in the first film, take a back seat to the emergence of new characters and the heart-pounding performances of the Star Trek franchise’s main characters. Writing credits go to Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof who manage to deliver a fresh film that pays homage to the original series. Star Trek Into Darkness is a triumphant blockbuster that offers more than its predecessor — more action, more laughs, and more heart.