Abrams' first reimagining of the beloved Gene Roddenberry franchise was a stellar surprise in 2009. The casting was spot-on with
There were astute nods to that history — Leonard Nimoy's cameo as Spock in old age was by far the showstopper. The expectations were impossibly high, but Abrams proved to be a cool-hand Luke as he kept the Enterprise moving at warp speed.
A follow-up was risky. And, in fact, "Star Trek Into Darkness" doesn't quite match 2009's blast from the past.
There are times when it feels as if the director has pulled a page out of the Michael Bay playbook, taking some of the action to exhaustive extremes. At other moments, all that bravado collapses into safer-than-necessary choices. But before that whither-Star Trek sigh has time to build, the film does something bold, surprisingly pointed in its treatment of terrorism, for one.
So many things are done right that even with the bombast, "Into Darkness" is the best of this summer's biggies thus far. It's a great deal of brash fun, and it should satisfy all those basic Trekkie cravings.
The movie begins in blinding light. Kirk and Bones (
Naturally, being dropped into a very hot spot doesn't phase Spock, though I do believe he breaks a slight sweat. He's not the only one in mortal danger, and in short order, Starfleet rules have been broken to save the day.
The icy volcanic ash has barely cleared before Kirk and Spock have that age-old logic-versus-emotion argument. And they are barely back on Earth when they find themselves on the ropes for the Nibiru fiasco — Kirk suspended, Spock reassigned.
Indeed, there is virtually no time to breathe until the credits start rolling. The script by Kurtzman, Orci and
Which means Kirk has only started to grumble about Nibiru when a bomb blows up the Starfleet's main archive in London. Control of the Enterprise is handed over to Kirk's old mentor, the no-longer wheelchair-bound Capt. Pike (Bruce Greenwood). Somehow, before the ship lifts off, Kirk and Spock are back on board along with the rest of the
This time out, "Sherlock's"
As important as the Klingons and Cumberbatches of the Star Trek world are, villains do not this franchise make. What helps keep the motor humming are the ship's family dynamics, the very familiar squabbles between crew members that all Trekkies and most of the rest of the movie universe know so well.
It is here that "Into Darkness" really shines. One of the movie's major themes is what place, if any, feelings have in guiding actions.
This comes into play in broad strokes as cities are attacked in ways that echo today's terrorists. And, more telling, with a great deal of intimacy as the crew comes to each other's aid.
Pine and especially Quinto expose much deeper layers of the complex bond between Kirk and Spock. So intensely personal does it become, you may find yourself moved in unexpected ways. In this way, "Star Trek Into Darkness" really does boldly go where no man has gone before.
'Star Trek Into Darkness'
MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence
Running time: 2 hours, 12 minutes
Playing: In general release