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Note: For Nick’s review, click here.
A few days ago I went to see the latest JJ Abrams-directed Star Trek movie, subtitled Into Darkness, at one of my local multiplexes. I am honestly still trying to gauge how I feel about this sequel, released four years after the successful reboot of the series. Into Darkness has a lot about it that I should like on paper, and yet I’m having a hard time ultimately deciding whether or not I liked this film. Let me get one thing straight: Into Darkness is a high quality adventure and a good movie – I’m just not sure it was the movie I wanted it to be. It is for this reason that I didn’t post an immediate review. I’m not sure I could have been honest and genuine in an immediate review, and I didn’t want to regret my words months later. Now that it has been a few days, I am hoping I can get my thoughts together and write a cohesive review that sums up my feelings for the movie. Maybe I’ll also be able to finally decide whether or not I thought this film was any good on a personal level as well.
The plot of Star Trek: Into Darkness is easy to summarize: there is a rogue terrorist threat (a scenery chewing Benedict Cumberbatch) within Star Fleet, and our intrepid heroes (a returning Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, et al) must band together to put a stop to his machinations, and maybe just avert a possible war with the newly discovered Klingon Empire as well. There’s also subplot about a militaristic general (played by an apathetic Peter Weller). I actually have a lot of problems with the story in this movie. Some of the story details in Star Trek: Into Darkness ended up being very much like those found in three big blockbusters released last year. Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Avengers all dealt with a cunning, ruthless villain who was eventually “captured” by the good guys, only to escape and cause more havoc in the process. Into Darkness follows this trend, unfortunately. Additionally, a good chunk of the latter third of the film follows an earlier Star Trek movie pretty closely, and feels shoe-horned in. If the filmmakers were aiming for some kind of homage to earlier Trek lore, I feel they missed the mark completely. That Into Darkness also ends on an incredibly contrived deus ex machine is also disappointing.
Despite these general misgivings, I still found elements of the story to appreciate and admire. I loved the continued interactions between Kirk and Spock, and the opening scene, wherein Spock and company attempt to stop an active volcano from destroying a young civilization, is both breathtaking and tense. I thought Into Darkness did a pretty good job of humanizing our characters as well, particularly Spock, who Quinto plays well. I liked the idea of the Enterprise venturing into Klingon territory, but I just wish more had been done with it. I absolutely love the idea of a militaristic Star Fleet general using the Enterprise for some kind of False Flag mission, but again I wanted them to explore this more than they did (General Marcus could have been the sole big bad in the film honestly). In a way, I feel like the story we got was much less than the story we could have ended up getting. There was so much potential for something great here that I can’t help but feel let-down just a little bit. Into Darkness is still largely breezy and entertaining like its predecessor, but it just didn’t do as much for me this time. The movie is a step in a different direction from the first film, which I feel is good. I’m just not sure if it’s a step in the right direction overall.
I’m still having a hard time deciding whether or not I actually liked this movie. I can appreciate it on a technical level, and I love the interactions between the primary characters (Karl Urban’s McCoy continues to be a highlight for me and must be mentioned). I’m just not sure I found the mixture of old versus new to be particularly charming in this film, especially considering how much it apes from what is my favorite original series Trek movie. I found the direction that Into Darkness took to be the easiest possible way to make the film, and that kind of disappoints me. There was such great potential in this sequel, but I feel it kind of missed the mark on the whole. Star Trek: Into Darkness is not a bad movie. I think it’s actually well-made and entertaining. It just wasn’t what I hoped it would be. I’m not going to complain about the little changes/details or the fun, breezy sense of adventure like a hardcore Trek fanboy might. For the most part, I liked them just as much here as I did in the original film. The sequel just didn’t up the ante the way I thought it could have. Star Trek: Into Darkness is a good summer movie that just didn’t meet my high expectations – check it out, but don’t expect a romp on the level of the first movie.