In both a narrative and figurative sense, “Star Trek: Into Darkness is like a time machine.
The film greatly expands the possibilities of the alternate “Trek” timeline established by 2009’s “Star Trek.”
Director J.J. Abrams, working with writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof, cleverly jumbles and weaves elements of the original series and of “Star Trek II” and “VI,” mixing them into an original story involving characters beloved, familiar and new.
We open with Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) violating the Federation’s Prime Directive to save Spock (Zachary Quinto) while on mission to a non-Federation planet.
As a result, he’s demoted to first officer of the Enterprise, while Admiral Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) returns to the Captain’s chair.
This arrangement doesn’t last long. Thanks to the machinations of Starfleet-secret-agent-turned-terrorist John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), Pike is killed and Kirk returned to the captain’s chair.
With Uhura (Zoe Saldana), McCoy (Karl Urban), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Sulu (John Cho) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin) in tow, Kirk flies the Enterprise into Klingon space to hunt Harrison down. The Klingons are none-too-friendly toward Starfleet, and there’s a conspiracy afoot to start full-scale war.
Kirk and his crew find themselves in the middle of that conspiracy, with Kirk torn between duty and his borderline obsession to seek justice for Pike, his one-time mentor.
Complicating matters, Harrison is not all he seems; unfortunately, neither are certain members of the Starfleet family.
Even more so than Abram’s 2009 reboot of the beloved franchise, “Darkness” really moves. There’s little time to consider plot holes or illogical story devices. He’s got a strong script and a cast with great chemistry to help keep the audience involved and engaged. Despite its two-hour-twelve-minute runtime, “Darkness” never lulls.
Abram’s also brings aboard Peter Weller as Starfleet Admiral Alexander Marcus and Alice Eve as Marcus’ daughter and Enterprise Science Officer, Carol. Leonard Nimoy also steps briefly back into the role of “Spock Prime.”
There are no weak links among “Darkness’” cast, but two of the returning leads stand out for their improvements. Pine, for one, offered a strong interpretation of Kirk in the first film, but here he’s far more nuanced.
He’s clearly more comfortable playing the legendary character, perhaps owing, in part, to an increased confidence level in the wake of a Hollywood career that’s exploded since the first film.
This time there’s less Han Solo in Pine’s interpretation and more similarity to William Shatner’s. Not to worry though, no one will ever mistake the two.
Simon Pegg gives the impression in “Darkness” that, since the last film, he’s spent serious time watching episodes of the 1960s series and the films featuring the original crew. As with Urban’s interpretation of McCoy, Pegg’s Scotty is like a channeling of the original actor. His performance, taken with Urban’s and Pine’s helps bridge the gap between old cast and new, providing badly-needed familiarity between the two interpretations that might otherwise be lost in all the dazzling special effects.
That said, “Darkness” does feel a bit overly generic. More, I can’t help thinking Abrams and his team would’ve been better served to simply create new characters within the “Trek” universe instead of invalidating so much of what came before.
Regardless, “Star Trek: Into Darkness” is slick, fast-moving, involving and fun. There’s something here for both hard-core “Star Trek” fans (myself included) and fans of movies or of sci-fi in general. It’s well worth a trip to the den.
Runtime: 132 minutes
Rated PG-13 for, mostly, sci-fi/fantasy violence, with a few instances of more realistic violence that might be disturbing to younger children
Rating System Explained: Rabies = 0; Yip = *; Bark = **; Howl = ***; Lone-wolf howl = ****; Leader of the pack = *****
Contact: Rob Cox 812-663-3111 x7011