When a traitor known as John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) attacks Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and the crew of the USS Starship Enterprise are sent to track him down and destroy him. But after capturing the fugitive, Kirk begins to suspect that his ship is wrapped up in something much bigger than he initially thought. Caught in the middle of a blood feud of sorts, Kirk, Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto), and the rest of the crew must face down their toughest challenge yet, one that threatens to tear apart everything they hold dear.
Star Trek Into Darkness is EXACTLY what I wanted it to be. It falls right in line with the excellent groundwork JJ Abrams laid out in 2009’s Star Trek without missing a beat and works only to further the mythology of this refreshed franchise without bothering to retrace the steps of the previous film. That is to say, this film relies on the understanding that the viewer has seen the previous film and therefore throws the audience directly into the action. While Star Trek was, of course, an origin story that required a great deal of character development and story setup, Darkness is an immense thrill ride with a simplistic story that still works incredibly well in this environment. Darkness starts fast and doesn’t let up for the majority of its runtime, the film version of a shark in perpetual motion. Abrams is an incredibly efficient filmmaker who wastes no time on screen that could be devoted to anything else and I love that both about him and this film. This is a much more focused film than Star Trek was and there are far fewer distractions to get in the way of what is essentially a story of revenge on galactic level. It has been argued that Darkness is too much style over substance but I contend that it simply know its identity to be a non-stop action movie for adults and Abrams goes to great lengths to hit that mark.
While Abrams work behind the camera is strong to quite strong, it is still the cast that makes this reinvigorated franchise so good. Pine is the perfect embodiment of Captain Kirk and in this installment you get to see him exhibit a number of traits that were purposefully excluded in the last film. Likewise, Quinto again proves why he was perhaps the perfect choice to take over the role of Spock and the opportunity to see a vengeful Spock is a glorious thing. Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, and Jon Cho are all great as well and moreover, the chemistry between all of these characters/actors is probably the best part of the franchise as a whole. What really sets Darkness apart, however, is the presence of a superior villain which Harrison most certainly is. I can’t believe that two years ago I had never heard of Benedict Cumberbatch considering that he is now one of the performers whose presence in a film I get the absolute most excited about. His magnificence in this film cannot be overstated and the intense darkness he brings to the role is palpable. Even if you’re not a Star Trek fan, Cumberbatch is worth the price of admission by himself.
All told, Star Trek Into Darkness is an outstanding blockbuster that delicately pays homage to its Trekkie heritage while furthering the new and improved vision Abrams set out to create for the franchise in 2009. It is beautiful to look at and incredibly fun, a lock to become a favorite of mine for repeat in home viewings. Grade: A (Rated PG-13 for a bit of language and violence)