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Star Trek: Into Darkness – Movie Review

Star Trek Into Darkness IMAX 3D Poster

Written by: Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof & Roberto Orci, based on the series created by Gene Roddenberry
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Peter Weller, Alice Eve

All you know about Into Darkness is just a smoke screen.

Where to begin? How about some rules. A contract if you will, between you, the reader, and me, the reviewer. I ask you to stay away from any and all spoilers. I ask you not to speculate with others about this movie before you see it. In return, I will write a review that will sail around those spoilers and still serve you enough information to make a decision whether or not you want to see it.

With the second Star Trek by J. J. Abrams though, this spoiler-or-no-spoiler problem is key. How so? You have to consider that the marketing campaign–including every interview and every word that Abrams himself has said–are part of the game and the experience. After watching the movie I can summarize the effect the campaign had in one, simple formula: The more you know about the (old) universe of Star Trek and the less (i.e. spoilers) you know about this movie, the bigger the fun will be for you.

[ad#longpost]Into Darkness begins with a nice action packed opener, that has little to do with the rest of the movie (although it sets up a plot point) but shows the crew of the Enterprise at their job: saving the day. In this case, lives are at stake and Kirk lives up to his reputation in order to save them. The opening is also the only part of the movie that benefits from the 3D conversion, which for the rest of the adventure seems to only serve as a copy protection.

When the Enterprise arrives home after their latest adventure, Kirk gets into trouble because his tendency to bend or break the rules is not to the liking of Starfleet. Before things get too serious for the man with the powerful middle name, a terrorist attack by one cumberbitching villain interrupts…well, everything. The Enterprise sets off to bring the mysterious stranger to justice.

If you are like me, then you expected the second rebooted Star Trek film to stand on its own legs and only refer to the traditional continuity once in a while, in order to give the long time fans something to smile about. In fact, it does stand and walk and run on its own legs quite elegantly. The movie works as a stand alone action adventure with typical Trek-themes in the background but at the same time, offers a plot that will not only make fans smile…but also worry, think, speculate and maybe worry.

Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch and Chris Pine from Star Trek: Into Darkness
Weirdest staging of 'Art' ever.

While objectively, I know that some fans might not like a few of the details this sequel brings, I enjoyed them all. I would have enjoyed the movie without them but I enjoyed it even more so with them included. Here is why.

Somehow, Abrams as well as his writers and actors managed to distill what made the character dynamic between Kirk, Bones and Spock great. If you take a close look at it, you have several layers of character relations. First and foremost, there’s the basic but intense duality between Kirk, who uses his brawn and his gut feeling, and Spock, who relies on logic and strategy. Secondly, Bones who brings life experience and common sense to the table–all served with a big shovel of sarcasm.

Then there is the rest of the crew…but they don’t have a lot to say when it comes to the big decisions. Yet, they all get their moments. Especially Simon Pegg‘s Scotty has a lot more going on. I did not particularly like how his plot was handled in the first movie but this time around they did for Scotty what they did for Uhura in the first film.

The dynamic between Spock and Kirk dominates the psychological aspect of the movie and might lead to a slew of “What would Kirk/Spock do?” shirts. This human(oid) aspect of the plot grounds the movie and gives it depth at the same time. This all while also being fun to look at. Visually, the sequel is a subtle improvement to its predecessor: the lens flares are fewer and a little less in your face, the engine room looks less like a Budweiser Brewery (where the 2009 movie was shot) but still not as believable as the engine rooms in Next Generation.

What else to say? Well, in summary: this is a true sequel, not only to Abrams’ first film but to the whole Trek universe. It’s a fun flick with a lot of subtle similarities to Avengers, which I think are purely coincidental. Also, as fun as it is, it’s not as much fun as Avengers, mind you. When it comes to fun at the movies, Marvel‘s capper to Phase One of their plan looks down from its mighty throne in Asgard on Into Darkness…but it’s in good company with the Warriors Three (Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones and Back to the Future).

Oh, yes. And Cumberbatch is brilliant. Was there any doubt?