Like I said in my review for Star Trek, I was never a huge fan of this franchise growing up. Consequently, I’ve never seen Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which is where this sequel gets much of its plot (With a twist, of course, thanks to the time travel shenanigans that impacted the first movie.). Because I had no deep affection for the original film, I was not bothered by the changes they made in this one. I could enjoy it for what it was, a great follow up to the awesome reboot that introduced a new Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew of the USS Enterprise.
We pick up with Kirk and his buddies a few years after the events of the last film. They are off exploring the galaxy and attempting to prevent a huge volcano from erupting and wiping out a race of aliens. In the process, Kirk breaks protocol trying save his first officer, Spock (Zachary Quinto), and gets demoted from captain. Before anyone can react to this, Star Fleet is attacked by a disgruntled former member (Benedict Cumberbatch). Kirk and his crew are sent on a secret mission to bring him down. Along the way they discover things aren’t as they seem.
I really liked this film. I’ve listened to the complaints made and think all of them are unwarranted, and generally blinded by an affection for a movie from the 80s. People complained that Abrams kept the identity of Cumberbatch’s character a secret, which they derided as being deceptive. I’m sorry, but I actually like the fact they were trying to keep something a surprise for the audience. I wish more movies would do this, and JJ Abrams has historically been very secretive about his projects. I had no issue with him trying to make the movie going experience as surprising as possible.
Spoiler alert, Cumberbatch is playing Khan, the Enterprise‘s worst enemy. Another complaint I heard was that Khan had been played by a British actor. I have no issue with this. The character’s name is Khan Noonian Singh, which makes him Indian, yet he was played by a Mexican actor originally. If people had no issue with a Mexican playing Khan, then there shouldn’t be one if a British actor plays him. At least Britain owned India once. That’s closer than any connection Mexico might have. I liked Cumberbatch as Khan. He is duplicitous enough that you question his motives and are never really sure whose side he is on. His scenes with Pine and Quinto are great and very suspenseful.
I had no problems with this movie. It is fun and exciting. Pine and his crew are again great as the crew of the USS Enterprise. Abrams has made a solid film, and I believe this experience prepared him perfectly for his next assignment, creating a Star Wars adventure for a whole new generation.
I have mixed feelings about Star Trek: Into Darkness. On the one hand, it wonderfully expands the timeline created in Star Trek and showcases an intellectual gravity that the first movie was lacking. On the other hand, it’s less fun to watch.
I guess Into Darkness lays it all out there right in the title. Is it really surprising that a movie whose title contains the word “darkness” is dark in nature? No, but there is a major shift in tone from Star Trek to Into Darkness that was unexpected. This movie starts with an Indian Jones-inspired cold open, full of the comedy and action that was established in Star Trek, and quickly gets real serious from there. This wouldn’t be such an issue if there was more fun throughout, but it’s almost entirely contained to the opening sequence.
Of course, there are many positives about Into Darkness, despite its serious nature. For one, the main cast is still on point. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto reprise their roles as Kirk and Spock, respectively, continuing what is one of the best bromances in the history of film. You really believe that these two not only are best friends, but have grown in the relationship since the previous movie. If you’re not emotionally wrecked by these two by the end of the story, you have no heart.
Joining the regulars is Benedict Cumberbatch as John Harrison/Khan Noonien Singh (I’d spoiler alert this, but I’m sure Ben’s review has already spoiled the reveal). This was the first role in a string of great performances by the actor, who has been in just about everything for the past several years. I will admit that I was not a fan of his casting once I realized who Cumberbatch would be playing. Khan is of Indian descent in the original Star Trek canon, so casting a white actor is inherently problematic. I’d imagine it’s even more insulting that Cumberbatch is English, given the UK’s treatment of sub-continent natives. But, after reading the filmmakers reasoning, I’m inclined to be forgiving. After all, the plot is set in motion by an act of terrorism, and casting an actor of color would inevitably play into the hands of more racist film goers. A major theme of the movie is confronting the evil within us all, so maybe a white actor makes that point more clear to white audiences. That said, I’m on the lookout for whitewashing shenanigans in the upcoming sequel. You only get one pass, guys.
Altogether, Into Darkness is a solid addition to the Star Trek franchise. My only real disappointment comes from the fact that we’ve yet to really see the Enterprise crew tango with Klingons. There’s a brief fight with this iconic alien race near the beginning of the film, with promises of a full out war in the future. However, the trailers for Star Trek: Beyond don’t point to this being the plot of that movie, but we shall soon see.