JJ Abrams strikes back with a darker film than the first chapter of his “Star Trek” reboot.
Kirk and co. fight for survival in space as they face their greatest enemy yet in a big budget action packed summer spectacular.
Starfleet is severely crippled when a man named Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) bombs a research facility, and then makes a direct assault on Starfleet Headquarters, killing many of its top officers and officials. After Scotty (Simon Pegg) discerns where a fleeing Harrison transported himself to, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and the crew of the Enterprise are assigned to travel to the distant planet and obliterate him from afar using a new, technologically advanced torpedo.
Unfortunately for them, the planet that Harrision has hidden himself on is the Klingon homeworld.
Kirk, Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Bones (Karl Urban) will have to decide whether assassinating a man without a trial is something that they’re willing to do. Further, the act of aggression against the Klingons could launch an interstellar war. They’ll also face challenges when they discover the true identity of Harrison, and the nature of the weapons programs that created the torpedos they’ve been given. Before it’s all said and done, the Enterprise and crew will be fighting for its very survival. With the help of Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Chekov (Anton Yelchin), Sulu (John Cho) and their new science officer Carol Wallace (Alice Eve), Kirk will have to find a way to keep the Enterprise in one piece after being outmatched and outgunned.
As with most second installments, “Into Darkness” is a much darker film than the first offering in the series (if the title didn’t give that away). The crew of the Enterprise is given a morally questionable mission in response to a terrorist attack, and wind up in a fight for their lives against enemies both within and without. Though still not without its share of comedic beats, the tone is much more serious this time out.
Following the pattern of the first Abrams’ Trek offering, “Into Darkness” is an action packed film filled with death-defying leaps, phaser battles and Starship shootouts. There are plenty of fist fights, a couple of bomb disarmament countdowns, and of course, the requisite engine room emergency, where the engines need to be brought back on-line or else the ship will be demolished and everyone on board will die. It’s a big budget action movie in space; light on the sci-fi concepts, heavy on the adrenaline. I may prefer my “Trek” a little more thought-provoking and character based, but I can’t deny the thrills and chills presented here.
The reboot crew lives up to their performances in the first film; some are excellent at reprising the roles they’ve been given (Quinto, Urban) others not as much (Pine, Yelchin, Saldana), but they all work fine together onscreen if you’re willing to not compare them to their original counterparts. Benedict Cumberbatch is a seething, scowling villain. He’s short on charisma but long on menace. Alice Eve brings some “pretty” to the table, but not much more. As an ensemble, however, they more than get the job done together. They manage to stand out and apart amidst an array of action beats, imparting charm and drama in the downtime.
“Into Darkness” also features a number of callbacks to the original TV series and films, particularly to the second movie, “The Wrath of Khan”. Some of these worked for me, and left me smirking at being in on an in-joke, others had me rolling my eyes and wishing the new series would cut the cord to the past completely.
Regardless, the film winds up being just the type of summer spectacular you would hope for. It’s plot isn’t exactly airtight, but it has deft enough sleight of hand to keep your mind off of its flaws and focused on the fun.