It doesn’t live up to the first movie in the franchise, but Star Trek Into Darkness holds its own as an action thriller
With Star Trek Beyond hitting theaters this week I thought it’d be the perfect time to go back and review its predecessor, Star Trek Into Darkness (the title gets a negative review).
I need to explain my history with the Star Trek franchise before diving into this review. Three words: I. Have. None. Yes, my first experience with Star Trek was J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot and Patrick Stewart’s facepalm meme. That being said, it was nice going into this film with no prior conceived notions of even the tone of what came before. I didn’t know if it was going to be a crowd pleaser like Star Wars or a gritty action thriller like Alien. I quickly found that it essentially toed the line down the middle, though straying more a bit to the crowd-pleasing side.
I loved the first movie. I thought it was an incredibly sleek and well-shot action thriller that had a surprising amount of depth in its characters. It was the chemistry among the cast and Abrams’ surprising grasp of the film’s mood that made it so successful. It’s surprising that it took me this long to finally get to the sequel. It’s simply one of those movies that just slipped through the cracks. But when I finally did I thought it was a mixed bag.
Starting off with the cast. I think that the supporting cast was severely underutilized. Zoe Saldana‘s strong, take-what-I-want Uhura was relegated to a pissed off girlfriend role while Anton Yelchin‘s (RIP) endearing Chekov simply ran around saying what was going wrong. John Cho‘s Sulu, even though at one point becoming the acting captain of the Enterprise, didn’t get much more than some strong lines then fades into the background.
“Nyota, you mistake my choice not to feel as a reflection of my not caring. Well, I assure you, the truth is precisely the opposite.” – Spock
Instead, a lot of time was devoted to the relationship between Chris Pine‘s Captain Kirk and Zachary Quinto‘s Spock. I didn’t mind that per se, but much of that storyline didn’t need nearly as much time as it received. Another storyline that had a little too much time was Benedict Cumberbatch‘s villainous turn as Kahn. While I appreciated the attempt to create a multi-layered antagonist with motives that could be perceived as admirable, they gave him too much time to monologue and not enough to be a really cruel bad guy.
We get a moment briefly when his cruelty is truly explored when Kirk, Spock, Scotty, and Dr. Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) are trapped on an enemy ship, but that moment is short lived. That’s the issue I think Abrams had this time around. He was too concerned with creating these epic set pieces like Kirk and Kahn space diving to another ship or a battle with a Klingon patrol and forgot that there was a story to tell.
That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed these set pieces and the chemistry between the two lead actors. Plus, there were some moments that weren’t as epic but still showed great vision from Abrams, like an attack on a Star Fleet archive early in the movie. He showed some great restraint and focused more on this incredibly minor character’s motivations to the point that it very well might have been the most affecting part of the movie.
If you enjoyed the first Star Trek, then you will probably enjoy Star Trek into Darkness for what it is: a summer blockbuster. It doesn’t have the charm or the heart of the first, but it gives enough fuel to the franchise to warrant its existence.