Let me begin by saying I'm not a Star Trek guy. Prior to J.J. Abrams' fantastic 2009 reboot, I only saw one of the older films when I was a wee lad and I don't even recall what happened or which one it was. So, if you're curious about how this film handles the franchise's extensive history, you're not going to find the answer in this review. However, if you also loved the reboot and have basically no expanded Star Trek knowledge -- and I suspect that applies to many of you -- then rest assured, you're probably going to really dig this one, too. The handling of the plot is kind of a mess compared to the first, but you'll be having so much fun that you probably won't care all that much about many of the smaller details.
We begin with Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew attempting to save an alien planet from destruction. One excellent transition later and his rash actions and blatant disregard for the rules have once again placed him in the hot seat (isn't that what the first one was about, though?). Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) aims to demote him but that's all interrupted when the fleet is struck by a terrorist attack. Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) gives Kirk and Spock (Zachary Quinto) the go-ahead to hunt down and eliminate this new foe (Benedict Cumberbatch) with excessive force. And by "excessive force," I mean 72 brand new torpedoes.
Star Trek Into Darkness succeeds because of two elements: the terrific cast and Abrams' direction. Some characters don't get a moment to shine (Anton Yelchin), feel kind of pointless (Alice Eve) or are essentially reduced to comedic relief (Karl Urban), but despite that, there isn't a lackluster performance in the bunch. Simon Pegg once again gets a little more of the spotlight and, while he doesn't get much focus this time around, John Cho has a totally unexpected and completely badass moment. Pine's character is missing the charm that made him so appealing the first time around (he's slightly unlikable at times... or at least I thought so), but he still does a commendable job with his role, especially in the more emotionally demanding moments. Zachary Quinto is superb once again. Unfortunately, he's forced into a line which made me spit my coffee (luckily I saw it early and the theater was empty), but the blame certainly isn't on him for that moment. If I thought that single line was cheesy and unnecessary, I can only imagine how die-hard fans will react to it. I have some small gripes with Benedict Cumberbatch's character, but regardless, the actor still manages to give a topnotch performance and has an engaging scene (even if it is totally forced exposition). Somewhat off-topic: please tell me I'm not the only one who sometime envisioned Bones wearing Judge Dredd's helmet?
Abrams successfully moves this film from one hugely entertaining and massive set piece to the next and never really slows down the pace. You're constantly living in the moment and almost always engaged in a rather thrilling scene. Yes, the lens flare distracts from time to time, but it's really not a big deal and is just a small element which helps define this flashy new look for the franchise. During the enthralling firefights and exciting space sequences, I couldn't help but think about how J.J. is a freaking fantastic choice for bringing Star Wars back.
The plot doesn't feel as polished as 2009's film, and while I wouldn't necessarily call them plot holes, there are a fair amount of questionable decisions and smaller moments which made a question mark pop over my head. Apparently, communicators can make a call just fine across the galaxy? It's a totally minor point, but moments like that stand out to me and slightly take me out of the moment -- and there were quite a few of them. There's a huge discovery made and because of this, it really detracts from what should be an emotionally gripping moment. This new factor makes the outcome predictable and takes away from the tension. Additionally, it creates a lot of questions about the franchise's future, but we'll just have to see how that's handled in due time. Also, the movie has a lot of truly exciting action scenes, so ending it on a somewhat generic chase scene and melee felt like an odd choice.
Star Trek Into Darkness is pretty much your traditional crowd-pleasing summer blockbuster. It's big, super fun and looks phenomenal. If you're cool with not sweating the small stuff, then odds are you're going to have a blast.