Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), PG-13, 132 minutes - The last couple of weeks have been pretty chaotic in our house and I wasn't sure that I was going to get the chance to see Star Trek Into Darkness over opening weekend.  As it turned out, the opportunity presented itself Sunday evening so I jumped at it.  I thoroughly enjoyed J.J. Abrams' 2009 reboot of the Star Trek franchise and was very much looking forward to this sequel.  Into Darkness marks the second sequel film that I was wicked excited about to kick off this year's summer movie season (Iron Man 3 being the other).

Abrams successfully navigated the waters that often lead to a sophomore slump for many franchises and produced a film that is equally as fun, entertaining, emotional, and action packed as the first.  All of the important players from the 2009 Star Trek return, led by Chris Pine (Captain Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (Spock).  Outside of further exploring the adventures of the U.S.S. Enterprise, Into Darkness is very much a look at how deeply Kirk and Spock's relationship has developed along with their continued attempts to understand the way the other thinks.  The way that Abrams frames the driving threat of the film with these moments as well as with great character moments from the rest of the main Enterprise crew is excellent.  Karl Urban (Bones) and Simon Pegg (Scotty) are the strongest in my opinion, but Zoe Saldana (Uhura), John Cho (Sulu), Anton Yelchin (Chekov), Bruce Greenwood (Pike), and franchise newbie Alice Eve (Carol) all have their time to shine.  That brings me to the two other names worth mentioning.  One was part of what could quite possibly be one of the worst kept secrets of all time. So poorly kept, that I'm surprised that Abrams bothered to continue denying its validity.  The other probably flew under the radar a bit because of all of the talk surrounding the first.  I'm talking about Benedict Cumberbatch and Peter Weller.  Both were absolutely fantastic in their roles (Cumberbatch as Jon Harrison/Khan and Weller as Marcus).  Some people know Cumberbatch from his highly regarded portrayal of Sherlock Holmes on BBC's Sherlock, but for those who didn't know him before, this was his coming out party.  He gave the performance of a villain that I had hoped for (but didn't get) from Iron Man 3.  So much talk about the cast the last few months has focused on whether or not Cumberbatch was actually Khan, Weller's inclusion in the cast was a pleasant surprise.

The writing team of Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof (all will sound familiar to Abrams fans) told a story, that at its core was fairly basic, but managed to deftly juggle a large cast, introduce new characters, and push the overall narrative of the franchise forward all while including winks and nods not only to the 2009 film, but to the original television series created by Gene Roddenberry and the series of feature length motion pictures that it inspired.

In my mind, Abrams can pretty much do no wrong.  He has done an amazing job with Star Trek thus far.  The way he has handled the modernization of the franchise while reverently respecting what came before is what makes me so excited about the news that he will direct Star Wars Episode VII (and what actually scares me a bit to learn what will happen with this franchise at this point).  I would highly recommend giving Star Trek Into Darkness a look (if you haven't already), especially if you like Abrams' work or enjoy good, strong, character driven stories.  Just like the 2009 reboot, Into Darkness is a great blend of action, drama, and comedy and is worth every penny of admission.


- I mentioned that the story is fairly basic.  By that I only meant that the 'working for a corrupt organization/organization head and not knowing it' is a regular occurrence these days, especially in Abrams projects (not that there's anything wrong with that).

- Cumberbatch IS Khan!  Ok, so that really wasn't a spoiler, which is why I didn't feel bad about mentioning it in the main body of my review.  We've heard the rumor for over a year now.  I'm actually glad that he turned out to actually be Khan and not some other random new bad guy.  Not only that, but he was absolutely worthy of the mantel as he was every bit the threat and the force as Ricardo Montalban was in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (in my opinion).  

- Since we did get Khan as the baddie, I loved the fact that they also included the good old classic 'KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN' yell.  Even if it was Spock this time around and not Kirk.  I'm ok with the change in delivery.  It fit the story being told.

- Another nice nod to earlier Trek incarnations: Spock calls upon his alternate self (Leonard Nimoy) to get a scouting report on Khan.

- Tribbles!  Another nod to the original television series.  I was actually a bit disappointed that I was the only one in the theater that got a chuckle out of the inclusion of a Tribble at the time that I saw it.

- I absolutely loved the inclusion of the Beastie Boys' 'Sabotage' in the 2009 Star Trek, so I was just as happy to hear a verse of their 'Body Movin'' in this film.

- The man that Khan has bomb the archives looked really familiar and it took me a while to figure out where I knew him from.  It was Noel Clarke, better known to Doctor Who fans as Mickey from the Eccleston/Tennant years of the show.

- I liked the inclusion of the Klingons even if it was really just a cameo.  It'd be nice to see them pop up in a future installment as the primary threat.

- There was one scene on Marcus' ship (U.S.S. Vengeance) in which an officer says something to Marcus.  He looked vaguely familiar in his five seconds of screen time.  I thought that the actor may have been another character on one of the Star Trek television series.  After a little searching on I found that he was Scott Lawrence, Garon from Star Trek: Voyager.

- There was a scene in the trailer that appeared as though the Enterprise was crash landing on Earth.  I liked the little twist that it was actually another Federation ship, Marcus' U.S.S. Vengeanc

- I've mentioned it before, but while I grew up on re-runs of the original Star Trek television show along with Star Trek: The Next Generation, I'm not a die hard Trekkie/Trekker.  I caught a few winks/nods, were there others that I missed?  Let me know!


My review for Star Trek pre-dates the existence of this blog, so I am sharing it as a bonus here now.

Archive Review - Star Trek (originally posted on flixster in May of 2009)

Star Trek (2009), PG-13, 127 minutes - While I cannot claim to be a Trekkie (or Trekker, or whatever the hell they want to call themselves), my appreciation for the classic Star Trek series (and even its first spin off, Next Generation) caused me to be extremely cautious heading into this reboot by J.J. Abrams.  Abrams hit a home run with this movie.  He managed to bottle the feel of Star Trek while re-introducing the classic characters (as well as their catch phrases).  Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Karl Urban (Bones), Simon Pegg (Scotty) all peg their characters and Zoe Saldana's Uhura is more than just a little bit fine.  The story is helped out by a time traveling Spock (the one and only Leonard Nimoy).  And Eric Bana is even a serviceable villain.  I'd be willing to guess that most long time Trek fans would be willing to accept this latest installment of the long running film franchise.  And I can pretty much guarantee that the rest of you (us) will enjoy it for it's fun, action packed, emotional storyline.  Props to J.J. Abrams for not only tackling a such a project, but for delivering an excellent flick in the process (and for slipping in my favorite Beastie Boys song of all time).


  1. I didn't read any of the spoilers, since I didn't get to see this yet. Tucker went with his girlfriend's family. (okay, can you believe he's old enough for me to write that sentence? Even if it is only a cute 6th grade thing...) Anyway, that means I'm stuck waiting until it comes out on BluRay.

    But I'm really excited about it, because the first film was great. And also because I LOVE Benedict Cumberbatch, and am sure he'll be a wonderful villain.

    1. Wait, what? Tucker's in 6th grade?? When did that happen? :P
      You should make him go with you while Chris is in CO!


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