STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS
Running Time: 132 mins.
Premise: Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), and the rest of the Enterprise crew are sent on a revenge mission to catch and bring to justice war criminal John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) after a massive terrorist bombing, but neither Harrison nor the mission itself are what they appear to be. Kirk's mettle as captain of the ship is severely tested in this sequel to the critical and commercially successful 2009 reboot from director J.J. Abrams.
Behind-the-Scenes: Producer Damon Lindelof (Lost, Prometheus) shares a co-writing credit this time around. Rampant fan speculation surrounded the movie in the months leading up to the release: who is Cumberbatch really playing? J.J. sure does like to keep things as secret and mysterious as possible.
The Good: Now this is how you do a sequel. Into Darkness gives audiences everything they loved about the first Trek, and builds upon it - adding bigger stakes, more impressive action set pieces, and a better villain. Abrams is a master at pacing his movies at an almost unrelenting breathless speed, and this is no different. Pine and Quinto continue to shine as Kirk and Spock, but the rest of the cast is just as good. Each character gets his or her own moment to shine. I especially liked the bigger role Scotty (Simon Pegg) plays in the second half of the movie, and Karl Urban practically steals every scene he's in as Bones. Cumberbatch is magnetic, chilling, and (surprisingly) physically imposing. The special effects look amazing. The cinematography is spot-on. I just love J.J.'s asthetic, lens flares and all. Michael Giacchino's score is everything it should be - hugely catchy and memorable, with some great new themes mixing it up with many of the best themes from the first film. The action is intense and dynamic - the best sequence involves Kirk space jumping to another ship. This is just a really great summer blockbuster. It's fun, exciting, and action-packed. The script manages to keep you on your toes about 80% of the time. It plays with interesting themes about war, militarization, and retribution, but never sacrifices the smaller things, like comedy beats or character moments. Audiences should be so lucky to get a movie like this every week.
The Bad: I'll try to stay vague here to avoid spoilers. As the movie progresses, it becomes less original and starts to crib key moments from one of the Star Trek franchise's more popular prior films. I didn't mind the spin that Into Darkness put on those moments, but I can see (and already have seen) some hard-core Trekkers take issue with it. A cameo by one of the original cast members is wholly unnecessary and kind of cheapens the movie for the 30 seconds that he/she's on screen. Like most sequels, this one's close but not as good as the first Trek.
Should You See It?: Yes, definitely. One of the best movies you're likely to see this summer. If you're still harboring the notion that Trek is not for you, get over it. Like most of J.J.'s films, this is a smart, entertaining thrill ride designed for mass consumption that everyone will be able to enjoy. It deserves to be seen in the theater, and IMAX 3D is the way to go. I've already seen it three times.
Rating: ****1/2 out of 5 stars.
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