By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
The crew of the USS Enterprise has returned to theaters, and once again is distracted from their space exploration mission to save the universe. Director J.J. Abrams also returns to take the directing “con” with a screenplay that does deliver some outstanding character development and an engaging story, but also comes with some corny and cheesy moments and attempts at homage which feel a tad redundant at times. Star Trek Into Darkness is one hell of a thrill ride, but also feels like J.J. and his writers are trying to hard to steer the film towards original Trek canon.
After a mission on a primitive planet has been handled somewhat clumsily, the Enterprise and her crew return to Earth under much scrutiny. When a couple of attacks threaten the Federation, Kirk (Chris Pine) leads the Enterprise to a hostile world to pursue the attacker. The man responsible for the attacks, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), may be the key to preventing a huge, costly war between the Federation and its enemies, but Harrison has an agenda of his own.
Written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof, Abrams’ sequel has most of what makes his first Star Trek film great, and does advance the continuing story arc wonderfully with outstanding character development of James T. Kirk and his relationships with his mentor Admiral Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) and his closest friends Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Bones (Karl Urban). The story also develops his maturity as leader of a starship by putting his skills through intense testing. J.J. and his technical crew deliver visually stunning and thrilling action sequences. The film also has its share of heartbreaking human drama which actually brought tears to my eyes. On the negative side, the most poignant scene in the film suffers when it turns corny all of a sudden. This really took me out of the moment. Overall the film works well, though as I previously said, it feels like Abrams and his writers are trying too hard this time to pay homage to Star Trek’s history.
As with the first film, the entire cast delivers stellar performances, perhaps outshining their work in the first film. However, the most significant acting work in the film comes from the incomparable Benedict Cumberbatch who oozes and slithers nothing, but cold, calculating tenacity and animal-like ferocity as the villainous John Harrison. If Cumberbatch isn’t a household name after this movie’s theatrical run, then I don’t know what this amazing talent has to do. His acting here deserves award nominations across the board. He outshines and outdoes all Star Trek villains who have preceded him. I would love to see him take on a role as a comic book villain such as Lex Luthor, because he has the chops to own any role offered to him.
The screening I attended was presented in 3D which actually looked pretty good for a post-conversion 3D movie. For fans of 3D and those who don’t mind spending the extra money, I will give this version a moderate recommendation. As for the film itself, I will highly recommend it for even a full priced ticket. The movie has enough positive attributes to make it an exciting time at the cinema. Star Trek fans should be pleased. Fans of Benedict Cumberbatch will gush with joy. Those who hadn’t heard of him will recognize his talent from now on.