Velocity, spectacle, sexy actors and lense flares. This isn‘t exactly what Gene Roddenberry originally had in mind, but the difference of having now two VERY good Star Trek movies in a row, which is unprecedented, is most welcome.
J.J. Abrams has always been less of a Trekkie and more for being one with the Force. The guy‘s already had great practice for directing his own Star Wars movie, seeing as how he‘s already made two, almost accidentally, but at the price for toying with a sci-fi universe that mountains of people care way more about than he does. Still, the guy is undeniably terrific at his job. Whatever he‘s potentially doing wrong with this franchise, he sure as hell does it right!
Old school Trekkies have many been none-to-fond of the adrenaline-fueled injection Abrams has stabbed into this "reboot" series. New timeline equals new rules and a blind person could see how an attempt was made to draw out more (possibly dumber?) mainstream-fans as well as keeping the devoted ones. If anyone has a grudge against this approach, and without agreeing with it, I totally understand it. Personally I just don‘t see how anyone can‘t embrace a true action-adventure that uses this sort of iconography with open arms. It‘s kind of like someone put a Star Wars-brain into a Star Trek-body. I do, however, dare someone in the near future to make an incredibly slow, almost boring, Star Wars movie that uses Utopian ideology and fixates on moral dilemmas. That should even things out a bit, shouldn‘t it?
Abrams‘ 2009-movie was somewhat of a miracle for this brand, if you will. It wasn‘t perfect but spectacular fun nontheless as a fantasy roaller-coaster ride with some geek-spicing, and despite being way more nostalgic than the last movie (something that was always destined to piss off some fans), I would say that STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is a textbook sequel that is pretty similar to its predecessor, yet different enough, but ultimately neither better or worse.
Here we have more plot, more intensity, more darkness (duh), yet more humor, a way cooler villain, but in other areas this one is inferior to the first. There‘s a bit more "Trek“ in this one but the action is also bigger, more furious and the spectacle feels like being beaten up by fantasy joy. It‘s more or less a reward for being patient through the "slower“ scenes while the action is charging up for the next two rounds.
It is, however, odd how the movie gets you so pumped up with adrenaline and, yet, in the final moments it just quickly decides to... end, very abruptbly, like someone off screen was tapping his watch. The finale really gets the blood flowing, you‘re more than ready for more, and then this disappointing anti-climax feeling washes over. This is a step down from the near-flawless pacing of the first one, or the rousing end action scenes. Abrams doesn‘t take many missteps as an action director, but when he does, it leaves bigger logic- and plot holes. But overall, few are better at shining lights at your face and ramping upp the speed whenever script flaws become appearant. That‘s why I sometimes feel like a cat chasing a laser-beam when I watch these movies. That‘s a good thing.
Like last time around, the script isn‘t really air-tight (but how does that surprise anyone when Damon Lindelof has his fingers in something?). I am, though, starting to dislike how standard it has become in scripts by Alex Kurtzman & Bob Orci how much they rely on contrivances, forced expositions and deus ex machinas (yes, plural). It almost feels like these writers don‘t think anyone notices these things. This isn‘t a huge problem, though, thank god, because STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is very invested in it‘s (main) characters and drama. Or at least as much as the brisk runtime allows inbetween all the crazy stuff.
The effects work is amazing, but that almost goes without saying in a bigger, meaner sequel to a grand spectacle. The movie‘s energy is what keeps it so incredibly entertaining. Abrams truly knows how to vent out when the tension keeps getting higher. Here in the sequel there are sometimes wider spaces between action sequences but instead we get a much meatier little plot going, and through a much stronger villain (with a „surprising“ development that I actually quite liked). Abrams has his head in the game all way but gets a tremendous amount of help from his cast, almost good enough to light up the screen if the director didn‘t do it for them.
Benedict Cumberbatch (let‘s just call him „Cumby“) is quite the hell of a guy, with his pearcing stare and baritone voice that makes you pay attention to his every word. His precence is also dominearing in the right way and poisonous thirst for revenge (which is always popular in Trek) gets you right into his head. Obviously there are a lot of people here, and most of them right at home, but Cumby outshines every actor by default.
Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine slip back into their roles like no time has passed, together and apart. Their profiles are kinda the same but at a higher level, and they‘ve also added some pounds of emotional baggage. The supporting characters are a mixed bag, likeable as they all are, but the movie treats them more as action movie bit-players instead of a fully formed Trek crew. Everyone gets their little moments, but guys like Karl Urban, John Cho and Anton Yelchin get unfortunately very sidelined. As always, Zoe Saldana is both pretty and nice, even though I‘d personally swap her out for, say Urban, in a heartbeat. Simon Pegg gets a lot more to do here than last time (maybe even a tad too much) and it really shows how much Peter Weller (another geek-fave) adds to a boring part. The always stunning looking Alice Eve is also a welcome addition, without that having anything to do with her little insert where she takes most of her clothes off. It‘s a pretty bizarre and random shot, but Eve is a trooper and my... (*ahem*) crush on her constanly grows.
Despite some supporting characters being better used than others, it does feel very good to be around these „new“ characters again, and most still keep in tune with the originals. The familiar feel of the first movie makes it easier to zoom right back into this universe, even though the tone has changed a bit. Costumes and sets are also incredible, as expected. Michael Giacchino‘s music helps the scenes as well to blast off and expand the scope. It even feels wonderful to hear some of the old themes again. The brain starts humming these tunes before you even realise it. Those who‘ve seen the first one many times will get a much better kick, obviously. I trust the sequel will hold up as strongly in repeat viewings, if not, then only slighty less.
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS wants to strap its viewers down and shoot them through worlds of powerful space action, with regular, standard stops for plotting reasons and drama, to make the bigger, more intense things more worth it. Well, it works! One doesn´t have to be a Trekkie at all to enjoy this movie to pieces. However, the Trekkies themselves, and most demanding of which, need to keep an open mind beforehand. Like every geek in the galaxy I am curious to see Abrams‘ take on the Wars. He at least manages to leave the Trek-verse on a very strong note, spectacle-wise, at least, and it‘ll be exciting to see where this new series goes from here. Hopefully someplace bold.
We liked The Awesome Spectable, The Intensity, Cumberbatch's Performance, The Drama, and The Terrific Score.