The 2013 summer blockbuster season is finally upon us. It likely began with the release of Iron Man 3 earlier in the month (which had one of the highest grossing opening weekends of all time), and now for the next few months, we should see a steady stream of high-budget, action extravaganzas plowing their way into movie theaters near you. And if the initial reviews surrounding Iron Man 3 (which I should be seeing sometime soon with my sister) and the newest Star Trek film are any indication, we should be in for a hell of a summer. Star Trek Into Darkness may come just shy of the high bar set by the 2009 Star Trek reboot, but it comes damn close.
I left the theater yesterday when the final credits rolled on the latest entry in J.J. Abrams’s re-imagining of the Star Trek franchise with a panoply of conflicting emotions. On the one hand, J.J. Abrams upped the “spectacle” portion of the Star Trek equation to new heights. As a science fiction action film, Into Darkness is a heart-pounding success, and the script also further cements the truly wonderful group dynamics at the core of these new films with some genuine emotional resonance. On the other hand, there’s one aspect of the plot that I can’t spoil but it left me finding the film’s climax to be riddled with one massive cop-out.
An indeterminate amount of time after Kirk (Smokin’ Aces‘ Chris Pine) and the rest of the crew of the Enterprise saved Earth from the evil Romulan Nero at the end of the last film, the Enterprise is still helmed by Kirk as they perform science missions in Federation space. After Captain Kirk violates the Prime Directive (to not interfere in the affairs of an underdeveloped alien species) in an attempt to save Spock’s (Zachary Quinto) life, he is grounded by Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood) and demoted to First Officer. However, it’s not long before the terrorist machinations of superhuman genius John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) threaten all of the Federation and call Kirk back into service.
Much like when Cloverfield was originally released and just discussing even the most basic elements of the plot could be considered a spoiler, I have the same fears about Star Trek Into Darkness. With the exception of one gratuitous “Chekhov’s Gun” (the playwright, not the ensign of the Enterprise) meets a “deus ex machina” at the film’s end, Star Trek Into Darkness is a tightly plotted and well-executed series of reveals, twists, revelations, and betrayals, and I imagine much of the fun (particularly for those who aren’t immersed in Trek lore) of the film will come from watching the many plot threads slowly start to converge.
One of the great surprises of the film was just how much Chris Pine stepped up his acting game for this entry. Not to imply that he did a bad job in the 2009 film but perhaps because Into Darkness affords Pine’s Kirk the opportunity to do more than be an arrogant hothead, but the emotional journey and heroic path that Kirk charts in this film is its most rewarding pleasure. And Pine rises to the challenge of capturing the slow destruction of Kirk’s cocksure confidence with ease, and through his chemistry with Zachary Quinto, you really get an eve better feel for one of science fiction’s most legendary heroes than almost ever before. I can’t say much about Benedict Cumberbatch’s John Harrison other than to say he proves an excellent and efficient foil to the Enterprise crew.
I’m awake at 5:30 AM and I have to be at work at 8 AM for the new job that I start today. I actually went to bed at around 10:30 PM last night but I woke up at about 4:40 this morning. Thankfully, I’m only going to be at work for a couple of hours for training and then back much later in the evening for training again. The moral of this rambling is that I’m tired and I’ll draw this review to a close. Had Star Trek Into Darkness not done one thing at the end of the movie, I think it would have been even better than the 2009 film. It’s that good. But that one decision seemed so weak and cheap, that it lessens the whole experience just a little bit. But not nearly enough that I can’t wholeheartedly recommend Star Trek Into Darkness to every science fiction fan I know. Live long and prosper.
Final Score: B+