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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
Note: Given that I was avoiding all types of spoilers and was irritated when I came across some in sensational news headlines in what was pure click-bait, this review is going to be spoiler-free.
Star Trek Into Darkness is the twelfth entry in the Star Trek film franchise and the second directed by JJ Abrams. The prior film was a runaway hit with critics and audiences back in 2009, so I am sure there was a lot of pressure on Abrams in this second installment to meet and, hopefully, exceed four years-worth of expectations. After absorbing the film for a few days, I have to say that Star Trek Into Darkness is a solid, enjoyable romp. Mostly.
The film starts off fantastically. Lots of adventure and mystery with a sense of fun. The cast of characters, led wonderfully by Chris Pine (Kirk) and Zachery Quinto (Spock), are completely into their roles and are having a blast. The chemistry between Pine and Quinto is perfect and is what really helps sell this incarnation of Star Trek.
About the mid-way point, things take a bit of a hit when we meet one of our central villains played by a scene-chewing Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch is great, but the revelation of his character is a bit “why are we going there?”. However, it is not a deal-breaker as film finds new ways to use his character which actually enhances the story where I, as a viewer, became more invested. The only real downside is that the threat this character presents is never explored in the film. Instead, Abrams hinges Cumberbatch’s true villainy of what audiences might already know about this guy from past Star Treks. Speaking of which…
The big problem occurs in the final act when Abrams completely abandons trying to carve out a new Star Trek universe and instead gives us a greatest-hits reel of past adventures. And, I am not talking about winks for the fans – he nearly remakes various sequences from past films. He puts a new spin on it, and the performances are good, but I just cannot shake the feeling it was pandering gone horribly wrong. Instead of having this movie stand on its own, it harkens back to past films in order to get viewers more emotionally invested through nostalgia. I do not think it was needed to this extreme, and Abrams is a better filmmaker than that. I am really surprised how blatant (including using the exact same dialogue) some scenes were.
That said, I would recommend this movie. It is fun, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. Could my opinion change upon a second viewing? Possibly, but I doubt it would waiver to any extreme. As its own thing, Star Trek Into Darkness works. The pacing is great, and the plotting is pretty tight. Just keep in mind when seeing it to prepare yourself for some pretty blatant riffs on some classic scenes.