By David Seaman | Echo
The 2009 reboot of "Star Trek" brought new life to the aging sci-fi franchise. With a new and exciting alternative universe and superior visuals, the film was fresh while respecting what came before. The inevitable sequel "Star Trek Into Darkness" continues the trend, bringing good old-fashioned sci-fi action to a series not exactly known for it. It is a film with thrills, chases and impressive special effects, all wrapped up in Starfleet shirts and technical jargon. The acting and effects, however, along with some important themes, make it stand out from a typical summer blockbuster.
Taking place a year after the first film, "Into Darkness" begins with the crew both saving and revealing themselves to a primitive alien race. Seen by Starfleet as breaking protocol, James T. Kirk is reprimanded and relieved from his duties as captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise. When a rogue Starfleet agent causes a terrorist attack and attacks the organization, Kirk is called back to duty and joins his crew in meeting this new threat head-on. The villain has bigger motivations, however, and a deadly game of cat-and-mouse develops between the forces of good and evil. As the situation mounts, Spock must come to terms with his emotional side while Kirk struggles to fulfill his calling.
This is not the "Trek" of old. The mantra of "exploring strange new worlds and boldly going where no one has gone before" is substituted for a military operation against a space terrorist. Fists and phasers are preferred to negotiation and reasoning. That's fine, though. Even though "Into Darkness" may lack the themes of previous films, it maintains their spirit and sense of excitement. This mainly comes from the great interplay between the Starfleet crew.
The gang's all here; Chris Pine as young and brash Kirk, Zachary Quinto as the logical Spock, Karl Urban as sarcastic doctor "Bones" McCoy. Simon Pegg as engineer Scotty and John Cho as Lt. Sulu have bigger roles from the first film. They seem to be enjoying themselves, overcoming the sci-fi buzzwords they have to say with a touch of humor and knowingness.
New additions to the cast include Alice Eve as Carol Marcus and Benedict Cumberbatch as the sinister John Harrison. Eve does not bring much to her character, but Cumberbatch steals the show every time he is onscreen. He makes every word he says sound terrifying in his baritone British voice. Both he and Quinto bring the most depth to their characters. Cumberbatch's tone chills the soul, but he also adds unexpected sympathy to the character. Likewise, Quinto's Spock gives rational and, ironically, poignant reasons to why he chooses to repress his emotions.
Both Pine and Quinto are good actors (especially Quinto) but they lack chemistry together. The friendship between these two is the core of the series, but in "Into Darkness" we are not quite up to the level of loyalty William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy displayed in their respective films. Only a couple scenes between Pine and Quinto seem to connect. In contrast the few scenes between Kirk and Captain Pike are much more convincing, with an almost father-son relationship between the two adding pathos and wisdom.
Along with above-average acting, "Into Darkness" succeeds in the visual department. Three scenes stand out: a high-flying escape on the Klingon planet Chronos, a space jump through debris at an enemy ship and a surprising warp speed chase. All of these scenes portray real suspense and grandeur of the environment surrounding them. New worlds and the wonders of space are created digitally, and they look wonderful. Not all the set pieces work, however; the climax is fast and furious, but ends the film too abruptly.The acting and visuals lift "Star Trek Into Darkness" from being a bland and repetitive summer blockbuster. It may not have the complexity and nuance of the previous "Trek" films, but it does know how to put on a show.