Star Trek Into Darkness

star2 star1 halfstar

Director: J.J. Abrams

Writers: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and  Damon Lindelof

Main Cast:
Chris Pine James T. Kirk
Zachary Quinto
Leonard Nimoy
Spock Prime
Karl Urban
Leonard "Bones" McCoy
Zoe Saldana
Simon Pegg
Montgomery Scott
John Cho
Lt. Hikaru Sulu
Anton Yelchin
Pavel Chekov

Bruce Greenwood Admiral Christopher Pike

Benedict Cumberbatch John Harrison

Peter Weller Admiral Alexander

Alice Eve Carol

Running time: 133 Minutes

Rating: PG-13

Year of Release: 2013 

To sum up: When an evil terrorist threatens the very existance of the Federation, it's up to Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the gang to take daring steps and we will learn just how far they are willing to compromise their integrity and honor.


“Dammit, man! That was our ride. You just stunned our ride!”


         2009’s Star Trek was one of those films that defied expectations. It was so good, so entertaining, so full of great character moments, that it was almost effortless in its ability to entertain. At the time, I stated that there was maybe one scene in which I would go out for popcorn. Unfortunately, this film has many such scenes. It's never a good sign for me when you come out of a film entertained on the surface level, yet most of what you remember about it is the things that you didn't like. Were there problems with the first 2009's Trek? You betcha! But its heart was in the right place and it learned to respect the Trek.

        The main thing that can be determined with a degree of certitude concerning this Star Trek film is that the film's director, J.J. Abrams is wholly capable to direct the next Star Wars film. There's so much wiz bang action and Stuff! Stuff!! Stuff!!! flying at you that during one point in the film, while two small ships were weaving through the buildings of a cityscape, my wife turned to me and said, “No, that looks nothing at all like Star Wars.”

        And that may be this film's biggest problem. It's so action oriented, that this film series has veered away from anything that resembles what could be defined as Star Trek. It seems that in the effort to broaden the appeal of Star Trek, the studio and the film’s creative team are content to transform Trek into something it never was and probably never meant to be. It is now a summer tent-pole actioner which is almost indistinguishable from the other types of science fiction adventure films out there.

        In the 23rd century...

        Some time has passed for our heroes. Since the end of the first film, the U.S.S. Enterprise has been on several adventures. And in the classic tradition of the opening teaser that was so prevalent in all the Star Trek television shows, this film opens right in the middle of one. While on a mission to a strange new world, and assigned to seek out, but simply observe, new life and new civilizations (here in the form of a primitive culture), Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and his Chief Medical Officer, and best friend, Doctor Leonard McCoy (Karl Urban) decided it would be more exciting to be seen by these primitive aliens and now are on the run from a group of them. At the same time Vulcan First Officer, and Kirk’s other best friend, Spock (Zachary Quinto), is in the middle of a local active volcano in an effort to prevent it from erupting and destroying that very same primitive civilization.

        Unfortunately, in an effort to save Spock from the violent vulnerabilities of volcanic vaporization, Kirk allows the Enterprise to be seen by the primitive culture. Kirk is ordered back to Starfleet Headquarters, is promptly demoted and loses command of the Enterprise. Spock, for his part, thanks his captain with heartfelt admonishments of, “You have violated the Prime Directive,” while never having a true understanding of why Kirk had to save him. (For those not in the know, the Prime Directive is THE supreme law of the United Federation of Planets, and is basically a directive to not interfere in the natural developement of other cultures. [For those not in the know, the Federation is a collection of worlds that have come together to form a large democratic governmental body, living in peace and harmony, and is protected and explored by Starfleet. {For those not in the know, Starfleet is... Man! One could do this all day! }])

        Meanwhile, a bigger threat is looming as a currently disgruntled former Starfleet agent by the name of John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), has vowed to unleash terroristic revenge against the Federation and begins by bombing a records facility in London. Then, he boldly attacks Starfleet Command itself, before escaping into hiding on the Klingon homeworld Kronos.

        Kirk is quickly (and I mean quickly) given back his command and ordered by Admiral Alexander Marcus (Peter Weller) to take the Enterprise to the edge of Klingon space with seventy-two specialized photon torpedoes, with orders to launch them into Kronos and take out Harrison, even though it will certainly cause a war to erupt between the Federation and the Klingons. Now Kirk must wrestle with the dilemma of killing a Federation Citizen who hasn’t even stood trial for his crimes as well as the uncomfortable rift between him and Spock.

        After the much and deservedly loved reboot of the Star Trek franchise in 2009, naturally there were going to be high expectations to come with this second adventure of our beloved crew. With that film, the filmmakers progressed through the lengthy introductions of the characters and their world, as well as creating a clean slate to create new stories without the cumbersome baggage of the forty-six years of lore that had come before.

        Here, J.J. Abrams again crafts a yet another breezy adventure that transports the viewer from on set piece to another. His hand is more assured and comfortable in navigating this new Trek world that he’s established. Of note is an entertaining teaser and some genuinely awe inspiring moments involving the Starship Enterprise. He’s come up with a more interesting villain than 2009’s Romulan, Nero, as well as a palpable sense of unease as the Federation itself comes under threat. In short, we fly through the film and leave without the feeling that we’ve just sat through a two hour film, a tribute to the talent of Abrams.

        The film’s cast also has an easier time with this outing. After 2009’s Trek, having imparted the characters with their own personal stamps, the actors are now free to come out from under the very long shadows of the original cast and free to mold these people any way they like, limited only by the personality types that the characters are. In other words, the roots are the same, but the sprouting plants will differ.

        So, no longer is it Chris Pine’s interpretation of William Shatner’s James T. Kirk, It is now Chris Pine’s Kirk. And with this new freedom, it’s a very different Kirk indeed. Pine expands on the brashness that he established for the character, starting out as a Captain who has “no humility”, “doesn’t respect the chair”, and is “relying on blind luck” for his success. Pine begins with that brashness, then capably bring his character to a more mature place as the seriousness of events start to pile on and he learns of the weight that command must place on him.

        Zachary Quinto’s Spock is never better. He starts out as a person who is so clinging to logic and non-emotion that he really doesn’t understand the depths of loyalty and friendship until the seriousness of events start to pile on and he learns of the weight that relationships with humans must place on him. But in the end, the question is, “Is he choosing not to feel or hiding from his emotions.” The answer will surprise him (but probably not the audience). Quinto, as an actor has quickly mastered the ability to balance a performance of suppressing his emotions, yet infuses the character with a dry charm to keep his Spock an engaging and likable character.

        Of the rest of the cast, Zoe Saldena’s Uhura, is again given the most to do and is allowed to share in the adventure in a way that Nichelle Nichol's Uhura from the original series would have dreamed for. But the truth of the matter is that Saldena has less of an opportunity to shine than in the previous film, and that may be in part to the lack of scenes in which she is allowed to be a real person, instead of someone participating in the action. Still she is just as confident and professional as she was in the first outing, but never more than that.

        And what can be said of Karl Urban’s McCoy? McCoy used to be a vital part Star Trek, being the emotional voice, there to counterbalance Spock’s logic and show Kirk the humanity of the situation, so that he can fulfill his role in what course of action must be taken. It was the Kirk, Spock, and McCoy triad and the heart of Classic Star Trek. Unfortunately here, he suffers the same fate as Uhura. And while Urban has definitely gotten his portrayal of McCoy down, he’s more there to sound off with a sarcastic quip. “Dammit, Jim! It’s not Star Trek unless I can spout a McCoyism!” This will be most jarring to long time Trek fans, but even if we take the film on its own, Urban has a character who’s been given less to do.

        The chief problems of the film lie with its writing, or because of the film’s preoccupation with action spectacle, the lack of it. The characters get lost because they are people in a film so overwhelmed with action that they aren’t allowed to let the relationships to each other or their humanity shine through.  

        Benedict Cumberbatch’s villain, John Harrison, could have been a great one. From the moment he’s onscreen, you are drawn in, compelled by the sheer strength of his catlike magnetism to watch his every move. Cumberbatch brings an elegantly graceful menace that contains a suppressed strength ready to lash out. And though the film attempts to bring a logical motivation to his actions, he’s fleshed out as a character through people talking about him and the always obligatory monologue scene where he tells our heroes how the world "done him wrong", rather than spending time with him and letting him show us who he is. Cumberbatch creates a performance that owes much more to the actor than to the material he was given.

        The chief illustration of the film’s writing problems, though, is found in the relationship between the two leads. Kirk and Spock (and should have been McCoy) are two people that are joined at the hip, in a bond of friendship so strong that they would die for each other. But in the first film, their relationship consisted of spending most of their time at odds with each other, and only beginning to form their friendship towards the end of the film. Most of Into Darkness is spent with them again at odds because Spock’s by-the-book attitudes cannot enable him to understand why Kirk risked his life and career by breaking the Prime Directive in order to save Spock’s life at the beginning of the film. As a result, their bonding as friends has taken place between the two films. So, when the big emotional payoff scenes hit, they ring hollow because the audience has not shared in that relationship.

        Other problems are that the film has many plot holes that go unanswered (hence being holes). One wonders about the logic in which Harrison has come about his wrath. One wonders about the few people who are able take so many questionable actions, that it begs the question, “Are they working in a vacuum where higher authorities play no part?” One wonders how these can occur without resulting in major investigations and our heroes questioning their very beliefs?

        By the end of the film, no one cares. We’ve been given a breezy, yet almost hollow, two plus hours of entertainment, with lots and lots and lots of action, some interesting and some just pedestrian (“What’s this flying platform for?” “So we can have a fistfight on it.”). And in the end everyone prepares to boldly go where this Star Trek has never gone before, to a galaxy far far away…



(2013. Reviewed by Frederick Holbrook)


    Back to Home