I’ll just dive right in with a rating and a warning.
First, on a scale from 1 to ‘What?! You haven’t seen this movie yet?!! Go. Go immediately. Why are you still standing here?!’ I’d give Star Trek Into Darkness a strong ‘Have you seen it? You haven’t? Well you should.’
Now for the warning. There are spoilers in this review. Spoilers that will, by definition, affect (but not destroy) your enjoyment of this movie; so if you haven’t seen it stop reading this. By the way, you haven’t seen it yet? Well you should.
Okay, now that that’s out of the way shall we begin?
Full disclosure I’m not a harsh movie critic. I’m an easy date. Wine me, dine me, make me laugh and give me a plot that doesn’t frustrate or befuddle me and I’m yours. In addition I’m a huge fan of both J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof, as well as a vocal advocate of the latter. So if you are looking for me to be hyper critical of this film you are going to be as disappointed as 97% of the people who saw Prometheus. Hey-O!
I am not a Trekkie or Trekker or Trekkette or whatever they call themselves (Trekken Sie Deutch?). I have not seen the original series in its entirety. My exposure to the characters came from the films, Wrath of Khan, Search for Spock, Voyage Home, etc., which I enjoyed immensely. The 2009 edition of Star Trek was by far my favorite and all of the elements from that film were present in this one (side note: I’m deliberating which one I liked better as I type this).
When I see a movie I’m not very picky but I do look for four things to qualify it as a good movie (side note: to qualify as a great movie it must have a head-butt. Side side note: stop using side notes.). I want it to stimulate me intellectually, visually, audibly and emotionally. Do that and you’ll have earned a thumbs up from this guy.
A lion’s share of the credit or blame goes to the writers on this one and as a Lindelof apologist I will try to be objective. With the first film they took the younger versions of the characters we know and love and ripped them from the timeline that we were familiar with and plotted a new course, so to speak, with this cast. The twist was brilliant and liberated them to do whatever they wanted going forward without being beholden to any of the story’s history. They could have literally done whatever they wanted to and said, “Hey this is an alternate reality so deal with it.” What they’ve chosen to do is so much better than that. They’ve given us an alternate reality while staying true to the stories and characters we know as much as possible but setting these things in their new reality.
A lot of this rides on the director although the casting, actors and production crews play a large role. Into Darkness was amazing visually speaking. The grand scale of the action sequences were enthralling and really put you on the edge of your seat. Full disclosure (stop with the full disclosure already) I am no fan of 3D. This probably means my visual palette isn’t as sophisticated as yours but 2D can be plenty for me when done right and this was done right. Bravo to Abrams and the technical crew at Bad Robot for their vision of this story and kudos to the actors who, let’s face it, are a visually stimulating in their own way. You know what I’m talking about ladies. Second test, check.
To pull this off you have to have a great sound crew and great sound mixing and effects first and foremost. And second you must must must have a great composer. Hello Michael Giacchino (LOST and Up. Oh yeah!). Hopefully this doesn’t sound like a criticism because it’s not, but I felt that the score to the first Star Trek movie (also composed by Giacchino) was a much bigger player than it was in this film. In the first Trek film the score was so powerful and prominent and although it was similar in many ways it didn’t feel as big a part of the action as the first. Still the sound of this film definitely kept pace with the sights so we are three for three and looking good.
This is last but certainly not least. As a matter of fact this is a compilation of everyone involved; the writing, directing, acting and composition all have to come together to make you feel something. Into Darkness makes you think for sure with how our actions affect others and what motivates people to do what they do. Without being too preachy they held a mirror up to the United States on our actions and how we view our “enemies”. If the events in the first movie were comparable to 911 then Star Fleets decisions to go from an exploratory organization to a military one is comparable to our retaliation for 911 and Harrison is comparable to the extremist that we are continually combating. For me this was equal parts intellectually and emotionally stimulating from a writing perspective. The directors and actors work hand in hand on an emotional engagement level and both were excellent. The one-liners that Trek is famous for were delivered flawlessly. From the back and forth banter from Kirk and Spock to Bones and Kirk to Spock and Bones, it was thoroughly entertaining. I found myself smiling my way through most of the film. The cast was really amazing and engaging and Cumberbatch (Harrison/Khan) enhanced an already spectactular chemistry. I can't confirm this but I believe Benedict Cumberbatch's middle name is Motherflipping, at least that's what I'm calling him from now on, Benedict Motherflipping Cumberbatch. Then there were the thrilling action scenes where Abrams easily immerses you in the tension of the moment. The one knock I have was that I felt the movie failed to deliver a real sense of eminent loss. They clearly were setting up to save Kirk in the end, which I’m fine with by the way, but it robbed what was supposed to be an emotional parting of any credibility. While we are on the subject SPOILER ALERT (why are you still reading?) the KHAAAAAAAAN!!!! from Spock was more comical than anything but I’m not mad at you for doing it. With that said it still past the final test.
Star Trek Into Darkness (more like Into Awesomeness, am I right?) is a phenomenal movie on par with its predecessor and I would recommend it without reservation. So if you haven’t seen it…well, you should.