My voyage with the Star Trek universe was captained by my grandfather Glen, or Papaw as we called him. He loved the show and the movies, and shared them with my brothers and me when we would visit him during the summers of our childhood. I never cared for the show, but the movies have always been close to my heart. Like GI Joe and Star Wars, both gems of childhood, I’m always precarious to try to rule a fair verdict on their re-births into the pop culture lexicon through film and other mediums, but who am I kidding, I review them all anyway.
JJ Abrams newest installment “Star Trek: Into Darkness” picks up where his reboot of the franchise left off with high octane spectacle. Many fans of the original series have complained that Abrams vision is missing what the series was all about, a search into far out space to discover new life forms and while doing so riffing on the human experience. While I agree that Abrams is more concerned with lens flare I have no complaints on where he has taken this series. The earlier films do spend more time on human relationships, self discovery, and asking big questions about existence but it’s not as though Stanley Kubrick and Terrence Malick were at the helm. Star Trek remains at its heart a space serial, and Abrams has just ratcheted up the action, and scaled down the melodrama(increasing the lens flares 10 fold).
“Into Darkness” doesn’t boldly go where no one has gone before but it does lay down some ground work for what should be an extensive continuing of this world-wide beloved franchise. The story involves a terrorist who seems to come from within The Star Trek Federation’s own ranks. Benedict Cumberbatch(who proudly hails from PBS’ ranks as Sherlock, coming back to Channel 5 this fall, stay tuned) plays John Harrison as a mysterious yet determined bad guy who wants nothing more than to watch the world burn. Heath Ledger’s Joker in “The Dark Knight” seems to be an inspiration for most baddies in block buster’s these days, but Harrison turns out to be much more than just a terrorist and his motivations left the audience gasping, which was cool.
Abrams and screenwriting/producing collaborator Damon Lindelof always do a great job of setting up elaborate plots, think LOST, yet they always have to rely on a device or twist that is absolutely coincidental/hammy/unbelievable, think magic fountain in LOST. It happens in “Into Darkness” and I’m sure you’ll know exactly what I’m referring too after you see the movie, I can’t help but feel they always are one step away from telling a story that goes beyond tropes and actually inspires but they just can’t seem to make it work. Have I mentioned lens flares yet? Abrams ups the ante and puts lens flares on lens flares on lens flares. It would be frustrating if it wasn’t so…no wait, it’s just frustrating.
Here’s what you need to know; Benedict Cumberbatch is excellent, the action is superbly done, the special effects are gorgeous, and the plotting is enjoyable. If any of those things appeal to you in your summer movie going mind then I recommend “Star Trek: Into Darkness”.
3.5 stun guns out of 5.