Notable Cast: Chris Pines, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Karl Urban, John Cho, Zoe Saldana, Alice Eve, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, Peter Weller
*Note: This review contains spoilers. Read if you want, but know for me to amply talk about this film - I have to spoil some of the film's "surprises."
Let me be upfront. I've been a "Star Trek" fan since I was little. Some of my earliest memories are watching "Star Trek" films and I, for one, loved JJ Abrams ridiculous reboot of the long time franchise. It kept the spirit of the original series, maximized the action for newer audiences, and still somehow balanced characters and science fiction into the film. The long awaited sequel "Star Trek Into Darkness," does not quite find that same concoction of making it all work. The film is, indeed, quite the action film, but too often it lacks the 'darkness' and 'freshness' that it needed to be as good as the original.
Capt. Kirk (Pine) and Spock (Quinto) come to a disagreement when the captain breaks the Prime Directive on a foreign planet to save his First Officer's life. This argument becomes quite the case for Starfleet and Kirk finds himself demoted on his starship Enterprise. When a terrorist act by a top agent John Harrison (Cumberbatch) kills a horrendous sum of civilians and leaves many of the seniority of Starfleet crippled, Admiral Marcus (Weller) sends Kirk and the Enterprise an a military mission to find the villain. Not all is what it seems though and Kirk will have to make some sacrifices to finish his mission.
That's just the problem though. A great "Star Trek" film doesn't just deliver fun action. It has great characters, silly but thoughtful political/moral commentary, and plenty of science fiction moments to deliver. "Star Trek Into Darkness" only delivers on some of these. Not all of them.
To make matters worse, all of this plot that thrust at us takes away from the one key element that always makes a "Star Trek" film so awesome: the characters. Granted I appreciate the fact that Scotty gets a slightly bigger role and the spatting bro-mance between Kirk and Spock is as spot on as ever, but the rest of the crew and cast sort of get the shaft. Sulu, Chekov, and Bones all sort of get thrown in as almost limited cameos with little in the way of character work - and the new girl, Marcus is essentially a plot device and nothing more. Even the fan infuriating romance between Spock and Uhura seems negated to being a comedic element rather than something expanded upon. It's rather frustrating for the fan in me.
If there was anything that saves this film when it comes to character writing, it's the unique way that they go about delivering use the villains of the film. That's right. Villain...s. With an 's.' While the media focused down Cumberbatch as this ultimate baddie, which I will admit delivers some awesome moments, the appearance of a war bound Peter Weller as an Admiral covering up his tracks is pretty enticing. Weller has always been a man with a demanding screen presence and his owns his role here.
This in turn, brings me to the most controversial and largest spoiler of this review. Khan. It's revealed in the film that Cumberbatch's Harrison is actually a young Khan out to tear shit up. Now far be it for me to criticize the use of Khan here, in fact, I quite like how they go about making him an anti-hero for a good portion of the film, but the finale with Khan seems a bit tacked on. I actually would have liked for the film to end before the final act where Spock and Uhura somehow overpower him (when he previously destroyed an entire Klingon kill squad and took a vicious beating from Kirk with little to no reaction) and everyone good wins. Where the hell is the darkness in that?!
Perhaps my severe reaction to the film comes from holding it in such high regard. The first one was a stunningly effective effort with a fantastic cast and wonderful director. This one is just...a disappointment. It lacks the epic scope and darkness that was indicated from day one and many of the classic "Star Trek" elements are surprisingly missing. It definitely has it's moments here and there including some stunning action sequences...but I just can't shake my disappointment. Perhaps others will be willing to overlook the elements I found distracting, but I found "Star Trek Into Darkness" to be just slightly better than mediocre. A definite step down.
Written By Matt Reifschneider