I was a pretty big fan of the J.J. Abrams re-boot of the Star Trek franchise in 2009. Aside from the excellent production values, great new cast, and a new take on an aging (some would say “stale”) franchise, the thing I appreciated most was the attention to previous movies/shows while also completely spinning established canon on its head. It created an “alternate timeline,” allowing the writers to change things up without really pissing off longtime fans (for the most part…I mean…they destroyed Vulcan, after all…)
But, in the end, the first movie was still an origin story. Most of the plot was taken up with getting Kirk into Starfleet, getting him onto the Enterprise, and bringing him in contact with all the folks that would ultimately make up his legendary crew. While Eric Bana is a good actor, frankly, he wasn’t given much to do as the villain. This isn’t a new problem among superhero-type movies, where the first movie in the franchise can only have so much time devoted to a proper villain or conflict.
Which leaves the second movie to fill in the gap. The characters have been introduced and developed. The audience knows generally what to expect. Now, they just want a good movie.
And boy, does Star Trek Into Darkness deliver.
I’ll refrain from spoilers, as this is one movie where I see some value in keeping the secret(s). In short, Kirk & Company seek revenge for an attack on a secret Section 31 installation (nice callback to somewhat deep “Star Trek” lore there, guys…) and Starfleet Command by John Harrison, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. And honestly, that’s all I want to say about the story. Really, I’d like to write more on it, and perhaps I will in a few months, but for now, you’re best served by not reading anything more about it. Heck, I already knew a few of the details before I saw it, but even I didn’t see some of this movie coming.
In the end, they did a wonderful job of incorporating elements of the “alternate timeline” established in the first one with the “core timeline” of the…well…the rest of “Star Trek.” They even did a good job of transferring lines from the previous movies (one specific movie, in particular…) to the characters in this one. Is some of it cheesy? Perhaps. Personally, I got a kick out of it. Hearing an important line delivered by a different character than who originally delivered it is fascinating, and keeps you guessing.
Despite knowing the few details that I did, I was actually “on my toes,” to some degree, regarding the villain. Cumberbatch was obviously a bad guy from the beginning, but there were times we saw him working with Kirk toward a common goal. But damn, once he turns bad, he turns bad in a real way. It’s like the writers chose to let the audience feel for the plight of the villain for awhile, then, once you start to feel like you understand him, he shifts radically in another direction. It’s one of those moments where you have a villain in front of you, but then the real one steps out from the shadows.
The writers also did a good job of “spreading the love” between characters this time. The last movie featured Kirk, Spock and Uhura, primarily, with bit parts for the others. This time, the only character lacking was Checkov, though he still had his moments. I got a bit tired of the “folksy metaphors” Bones kept spouting and felt he could have expanded his role a bit more, but by the end, I was fine with his portrayal. Overall, the cast did really well, and notably, Zachary Quinto was able to inject a remarkable amount of “feeling” into a “non-feeling” Vulcan. They’re doing a great job re-creating those characters and wish they could have a TV series to really do it right (never gonna happen…).
It goes without saying that the effects were spectacular and the action set pieces were wonderful. I’m glad they showed more of the Enterprise this time around, as I really, really like that ship design. I was also impressed by the 3D in this movie. While you don’t need it to enjoy the movie, of course, I’d still recommend it if you have the option.
All in all, it was a fun ride and a movie I’d like to see again (and again). I haven’t quite decided whether I like the 2009 “original” or the 2013 sequel more yet, however. Perhaps I’ll need a second viewing before I really decide. But right now, I’m leaning toward the new one.