Director: JJ Abrams.
Writers: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof.
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve and Peter Weller.
Running Time: 132 minutes.
Rated: PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Sci-Fi Action and Violence.
There's something I really enjoy about JJ Abrams style of filmmaking. Yes, its flashy and fast and it may come off as a bit shallow, but there's something about it that gives off a spark that really gets me engaged. He can get establish a lot within the first 15 to 30 minutes of a movie, which would take most filmmakers quite a while to build up. Everything from the big action scenes, to the core characters and their motivations to what they do - He knows exactly what he's doing behind the camera.
A prime example of this would be when he did Super 8. Within a half hour, we know just about the entire cast, what the kids are doing in the movie, the big awesome train crash that was so publicized happens and it happens at full force and it never feels like its overstuffing its self.
Which brings us to his take on the much loved Star Trek franchise. These films of his really cause some weird reactions with people. They make nice amounts of money and get excellent reviews from critics, but if you went to a random forum on the cesspit that is the internet, you'd probably find the opposite reaction. Almost like as if Abrams and co. spat in the face of everyone's mother and other relatives.
Personally, I actually really liked - hell, maybe even loved - his reboot of the Trek franchise. Great visuals, excellent chemistry, fun dialogue, fast paced, awesome music - It did a lot of things right, even if the plot was a bit confusing, with the alternate universes, black holes and what not.
Something that puzzles the hell out of me is why did the sequel, Into Darkness, take so long? I know Abrams was busy with Super 8 but maybe he should have put that off (as much as I love that film) in favor of doing this. It probably would be doing better business at the box office and critics than it is doing now.
Now, in the event you are wondering if I'm attacking the film or am going to spew out negative thoughts on the film, let's get this out of the way:
While Into Darkness certainly has its problems, and we'll get to those latter, its a worthy sequel to the original and one of the most entertaining things I've seen this year. It still has all the elements I loved from the original with a few new things thrown in.
Set a few years after the original, the Federation has come under attack from a terrorist by the name of John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a former Starfleet officer out for revenge after he felt that Star command screwed him over in the worst ways possible. The crew of the Enterprise, led of course by Kirk n' Spock (Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, respectively), are sent in to take him down by orders of one Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller). But while the plot may seem simple, things are not as they seem.
I feel the need to get the bad stuff out of the way first, like in the same way a bratty child is forced to eat his vegetables before he can get to the good stuff. One of my main complaints of the film is that I feel it goes on for far too long. While Abrams's previous films have sported great pacing, Into Darkness kind of mess up a bit. There's filler in the movie that could have been seriously cut out and it would have been all the better for it, like bits where good ol Scotty (Simon Pegg) gets drunk off his ass or the bar scene between Kirk and Commander Pike (Bruce Greenwood and yes, I know its done to show their Father-Son-like relationship but it came off as forced).
Another thing that film does that bothers me is that it suffers from being unpredictable to predictable. There's some twists that caught me off guard but there's some stuff that can be seen a mile away. I think it may have to do with the fact that it had 3 screenwriters doing it, the first two being the scribes from the previous film Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman while the third scribe was divisive Prometheus and Lost writer Damon Lindelof. I always get this weird feeling like whenever Mr. Linelof is involved, the product always ends up spawning weird reactions with people. Eh, moving on.
As for the good stuff for the film, a lot of the things that made the first film great are still here. The visual effects and set design are better than ever, ranging from seeing things like an incredible fight in hyper-space in which we see all sorts of people flying out of the hull as things explode left and right, to the now famous scene in the trailers and advertisements where we see a Starfleet cruiser crash into a sprawling metropolis. Michael Giacchino's score is still nothing short of incredible, bringing out some true excitement and wonderment to the universe and some of the music is bound to get stuck in your head after its all over.
The performances across the board are quite good as well. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto continue to show they have their characters down pat and never ceases to stop being amusing from watching them be bros one moment to bickering about the rules and personal approaches to how the current mission on hand should be accomplished. Or how Karl Urban, who will always be Judge Dredd in my mind from now on thanks to to the excellent 2012 adaptation, continues to be the best replacement for Bones McCoy, with his quips and grumpy attitude.
While some have had problems with the character of Dr. Carol Marcus, a doctor who pops up on the Enterprise under a different name (Don't worry: No spoilers), and her actress Alice Eve, I never really had a problem with her. I thought she did well with the material that was given to her, especially her scenes between her and Bones.
But special mention must go to Benedict Cumberbatch as Harrison. Charismatic, intimidating, fierce and methodical are just the few words to describe his villain. One moment, you can go from being fascinated and even wanting to see him defeated, to feeling incredibly sorry for the guy. Quite a performance here. He's a true threat and makes the villain of the previous film, Nero (Eric Bana), look like a chump. No disrespect to Mr. Bana, who played a very fun and dangerous villain, but you look like old stuff compared to Cumberbatch. Kinda funny how the guy who has a ship with the ability to create black holes looks less threatening than one man with superpowers.
One might ask me: "Is Into Darkness better than the original?" I cannot say no, as due to the problems I've mentioned here that were not or at least weren't as big in the 2009 reboot. Star Trek 2009 was incredibly fresh at the time and sadly, with this, some, if only a little of the polish has come off. But that's only minor. Both films are pretty much on the same plane, with Darkness coming up just a tad short.
Into Darkness is bound to piss people off, as with most "sacred" works in nerdom, like whatever Joss Whedon pumps out or live action adaptations of Anime (which always almost suck). But even with the problems that the film has, there's still a lot to like here. If you can get past the pacing issues and the predictability of the film, you're in for one fun summer movie.
Now that all that is said and done, two questions remain: How will Abrams take on Star Wars turn out and what will Paramount do with the next film in the Trek franchise? I've got high hopes for his take on SW, but I'm not sure what to think the next Trek film will turn out. I just hope they get someone who's just as confident and energetic as Abrams is.