Captain’s log, Stardate -310389.15. It’s been one week and a day since I viewed JJ Abrams’ much anticipated sequel to Star Trek (2009). I have since received mixed reviews from both hardcore enthusiasts and general moviegoers and I find myself comfortably settled on one solid opinion…
It was a very good movie.
Anticlimactic? Sure is. Let me go on. JJ Abrams with his first Trek movie (remembering that he himself was never a Trek fan) successfully rebooted the series in a way that did what is seemingly impossible to do in nerd-dom: he didn’t piss off millions of fans. In fact, he introduced the next generation of fans (bah dum psssh!) to some very beloved characters. With Into Darkness, he continues the same thread of these great characters, backs it up with strong, punchy dialogue, and provides stunning visuals which is exactly what a movie going audience wants out of a summer blockbuster.
The highlight of the film is in the actors performances. Once again Chris Pine channels early Shatner’s bravado and daring in a way that is downright charismatic. John Cho and Karl Urban’s Sulu and Bones (respectively) were well timed and most welcome in tense moments. Zachary Quinto is of course an impeccable and self-aware Spock, and Zoe Saldana brings that extra element of Uhura’s female confidence and sincerity to round out the main crew. But you already knew that if you saw the first movie.
The real stars here though are Simon Pegg and Benedict Cumberbatch. Pegg earned himself more screen time in the sequel and made every second worth it, as he was responsible for more than just laughs, but also crucial movements in the action. His Scotty is truly the heart and soul of this take on the Enterprise. Cumberbatch was stunning as the villain, and no one could have played it like he did. I am already a fan of his from Sherlock the BBC TV series, but this dark deceptive character is startlingly different than the Asperger-like eccentric detective. One thing the Cumberbatch does really well – aside from, you know, just talking – is that he always presents his characters as thoughtful and ten steps ahead of everyone.
Abrams did tone down the dreaded lens flare this time around, so even though it was present, it wasn’t excessive and I hope that critics can feel good about that. The 3D visuals were well worth it, and only in one segment in the beginning did they do the obnoxious 3D movie trick of having stuff shoot out at you. I will say that many of the plot points were predictable but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the ride along the way. My biggest annoyance however (as a movie lover) was one short scene with a lovely, intelligent physicist in her underwear. It was a cheap way to create sexual tension between Carol and Kirk, and was clearly added to give all the straight dudes in the audience a nerd-on. I would have cared less if there was more Chris Pine in his underwear to balance it out. JJ, you owe me more half naked Chris Pine.
THIS IS WHERE THE SPOILERS HAPPEN. GO AWAY IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE.
Of course, this is where we mention that yes, the mysterious villain that we’ve clamoring to know has been Khaaaaaaaaaaaaan all along. This is some dicey discussion for the hardcore fans, so go read Eric Bricmont’s review for his problems with the pasty-white version of Khan. I do wonder why the writers didn’t create a new villain for this movie. It is a reboot after all, with an alternate timeline excuse to create someone awesome and innovative. Why do something that’s the same, but different sort of? Perhaps it was a reason to get Nimoy back (and I admit, I cheered when I saw him). Why didn’t they take the opportunity to redo storylines like the Doomsday Machine, the Gorn, or Balok (I’m sure Clint Howard isn’t doing anything right now…). This movie works very well for those who haven’t seen The Wrath of Khan though, and that counts for something.
Despite all that, it still was a solid, entertaining, and well-constructed film. Abrams knows the bulk of the movie going audience and he plays that game well. He gets the best out of his actors, and he has successfully made Star Trek fresh, fun, and exciting. So just relax, Trekkies and Trekkists. This doesn’t erase anything that’s happened before. Remember, it’s an alternate universe.