Film Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

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Following a huge explosion at a Starfleet building in London, James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the rest of the Enterprise crew are tasked with brining the man responsible, one of their own agents, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), to justice. However, Harrison is a much greater foe than they had first feared and threatens to bring Starfleet and the world to its knees.

If any franchise was in dire need of a reboot it was Star Trek. Beloved by many, it was starting to fade away and was on the verge of disappearing into deep space forever. 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis would be the last a lot of people would hear of it until J.J. Abrams made the franchise relevant again with 2009’s Star Trek. Now Star Trek is just as much a part of the fabric of sci-fi cinema as it once was and, whilst not without its flaws, Star Trek Into Darkness should see it stay that way for the time being.

Whilst there are still the customary money shot set pieces throughout, the film does feel a little more grounded. Despite zooming across the universe a fair few times, the story never really feels that far from home, which could, in part, be due to the obvious allegorical main plot centered around terrorism and the conflict between those who have a desire for true justice and those with an itchy, revenge-motivated trigger finger. The film is rarely short of excitement and the pacing is damn near perfect throughout, although a few too many action movie cliches and a slightly underwhelming climax is a little disappointing. Also, some of the characters’ motivations do feel a little flimsy and at times you might sometimes find yourself asking why everything is happening.

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With any reboot, it’s absolutely essential that much-loved characters are well represented and Star Trek Into Darkness takes the foundations built by its predecessor and builds on them. The relationship between Kirk and Spock is starting to feel much more developed and genuine, which is vital as neither character feels anywhere near as strong without the other. Bones (Karl Urban) feels like a an integral part of the crew and Scotty (Simon Pegg) has a significantly larger and more important role this time around. However, characters such as Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Sulu (John Cho) feel a little surplus to requirements despite efforts to find them something worthwhile to do. We also get introduced to new character Carol Marcus (Alice Eve), although it’s unclear exactly what narrative purpose she has whatsoever. Her inclusion feels nothing more than an excuse to shoehorn in a new character and provide a little more eye candy.

Then, of course, we get the new villain with his super evil name, John Harrison. Benedict Cumberbatch is suitably menacing as the one man wrecking machine, unsettling calm one minute and violently crazy the next. Despite Cumberbatch’s excellent showing, the character does feel a little underused. He seems to spend rather a long time about to do something rather than actually doing something, which does make it seem as if no-one is ever really in massive amounts of danger.

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Just like its predecessor, Star Trek Into Darkness (pretty sure there should be a colon in there somewhere) looks superb. From the Indian Jones inspired first scene on a distant planet to a futuristic London, everything looks rich, expansive and, more importantly, believable. Oh and there’s lens flare. Lots and lots of lens flare. So much so, in fact, that it is actually a little distracting at times.

With Abrams taking the helm of Star Wars Episode VII, his future with the Star Trek franchise is currently unclear. However, if he is to walk away from Kirk et al, then he has left it in good health. Star Trek Into Darkness is fast paced and fun, and if he can reinvigorate Star Wars in the same way he has with Star Trek, then it can only be good to have the two giants of sci-fi duking it out once more.

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

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72 thoughts on “Film Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

  1. ckckred says:

    Nice review, I hope to check this out soon.

  2. Nice job, a great summation of a great film. Well done on the Lammy nominations by the way :)

  3. keith7198 says:

    Nice review my friend. Mine just went up this morning and I have to say I was surprised. I wasn’t a huge fan of the first film although it has grown on me a little. For me this was a step in the right direction. You make a lot of points that really summarizes some of the things I was thinking while there are a few things I think I liked a little better than you did. Mainly though it sounds like we both enjoyed it. It’s definitely better than I expected.

    • Thanks Keith. I definitely enjoyed it, make no mistake about that. Time absolutely flew by when I was watching it so I must have been pretty absorbed with it. I didn’t think it was perfect but it definitely did more right than wrong for me. I’ll swing by your review and have a read :)

  4. claratsi says:

    4 pigeons will do me. Not reading it sorry mate until I have seen it, but v.encouraging. Here’s a like and a share instead!

  5. Ewan M says:

    Good review. You touch on a few of the reasons I didn’t really like this film as much as previous outings, things which for me made me overall disappointed in it. Ha ha, also I had already forgotten when I wrote my review about the entire Carol Marcus character. I realise her existence is another nod to Star Trek II, but she didn’t really do much here. Then again, there were plenty of people doing things for reasons I didn’t really understand (not least of which, the entire Starfleet organisation). Ah well, it was fun at least.

    • Thanks Ewan. Yeah it is fun and that’s the biggest thing I took away from it fortunately. I did have a few issues with it, some of which I think are down to lazy writing (Lindelof strikes again). Yeah I think she was a nod to Star Trek II but that just turned her into a huge red herring here, she was literally pointless!

      • Ewan M says:

        Ah does Lindelof have previous history with lazy screenwriting? I definitely thought the writing here was the weakest part of the film. Too much stuff didn’t make any sense to me.

      • Well he was a writer on Lost and a lot of people were pissed off about the ending of that! He was also one of the main writers on Prometheus and the writing on that was pretty awful.

  6. Frame Rates says:

    Cannot wait to see this! Sweet review, I’ve heard almost all good things about this one. I just want to see how Cucumberbatch performs in his role. He’s one of my faves.

    • Cumberbatch is great here, I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I kinda wish there had been more of him though! Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this :)

      • Frame Rates says:

        I watched Wreckers the other day. It was kinda weak, but Cumberbatch was awesome! Hopefully will get to see this soon, so we will definitely get something written! Thanks :-)

      • I’ve not seen Wreckers but it’s not really much surprise to hear he was excellent. I dunno how well he’s known outside of the UK but he’s starting to get some pretty major stuff now.

  7. Nice review. I haven’t seen this yet but have read a lot of negative stuff about it… nice to see some more positive!

    • Cheers man. I’ve read some pretty negative stuff but some really positive stuff too, it seems to have polarised opinion. I liked it but I’m not a Trekkie at all so I don’t really know how it compares to a lot of the previous stuff.

  8. Smash says:

    A villain should have a name with a bit of menace to it. If Darth Vader ha been called John Harrison instead, he probably wouldn’t have gotten so high up the corporate ladder (so to speak) lol. Great review! Looking forward to seeing the movie :)

    • Haha, yeah I can’t imagine Darth Vader would have been quite as tyrannical if he was called Philip or something! ;) There is more to John Harrison than there appears to be though, so it’s all a bit more appropriate by the end. Hope you enjoy the film! :)

  9. CMrok93 says:

    Good review. By far, my favorite of the year that kept me on-edge the whole damn time.

  10. mettelray says:

    As a fan.. I was surprisingly not impressed.. I don’t know what happened for me but.. I liked Iron Man 3 more than this! :/

  11. Jessica says:

    I agree with most of what you say, though I ended up giving it a half pigeon more (but I’m known to be pretty generous in my rating.) I didn’t notice that Cumberbatches character was underused. Was it really? But like you I never wrapped my hand around ms Marcus. She was a little bit more than eyecandy, actually essential in one of the events. But I wished she’d been more competent/interesting.

    • I thought he was a little underused, not massively, but I thought he spent a lot of time either explaining plot or just sitting/standing around when held captive. I’d have liked him doing a bit more, but it’s only a very small gripe. I loved Cumberbatch so I just wanted more! And as for Ms Marcus, I can’t think of anything of note that she actually did!

      • Jessica says:

        Well she did take a side against someone in a crucial moment, didn’t she? And sort of help out somehow I think. But yeah. She was a dull character. She’s already fading out from my memory to complete oblivion.

  12. Nick Powell says:

    Can’t wait to see this! Good review. I’d leave more feedback but I haven’t seen it yet! lol

  13. ruth says:

    Great review Chris!! Funny you mentioned about the name John Harrison, I thought it was so generic, better use Benedict’s name as it’s much more unique and actually sounds menacing, ahah.

    Glad we agree on this one, I might actually gave it a 4.5 as it piqued my interest in the whole franchise! “Despite zooming across the universe a fair few times, the story never really feels that far from home, which could, in part, be due to the obvious allegorical main plot centered around terrorism …” Agreed! I think that’s what Star Trek franchise has been good at, that somehow it’s relatable despite being set in a different universe and timelines.

    • Thanks very much Ruth! Cumberbatch does have an amazing name, doesn’t he?! He could only be an actor with a name like that :)

      I really did think it felt very relevant and I liked how grounded it felt. Bombing a major city is something we have to live with on a seemingly day to day basis now, so even though it was set far in the future and across galaxies, it still seemed based on present day thoughts and events.

      • ruth says:

        Did you know his mom wasn’t keen on him keeping the name when he became an actor. I was like, seriously?? Glad he didn’t change it.

        Funny you mentioned about the relevancy of the topic. That’s what I mentioned in my post today how this franchise STILL has legs after over 40 years, and I think the allegory to contemporary times is one of its strength.

      • Haha, no I didn’t know that! So glad he kept it, he just wouldn’t be the same otherwise!

        I haven’t seen that much Star Trek stuff to be honest, so I don’t know what the older stuff was like in terms of relevancy but this film did a really good job of showing current events in a dramatic setting. I’ll pop by and take a look at your post, too :)

  14. Good review, I loved the film :D

  15. mistylayne says:

    Haven’t seen this one yet but was pleasantly surprised by the first one as I’m not a fan of Star Trek at all.

  16. Garrett says:

    Glad you liked this one too. I’m really hoping Abrams can turn Star Wars back into something great as well. Nice review!

  17. Awesome review, Chris! :) We feel similarly about this one.

  18. Mark Hobin says:

    I’m happy to see you liked Benedict Cumberbatch too. I’ve heard mixed reaction to his character. I thought he made a menacing villain.

  19. nediunedited says:

    Great review! I enjoyed this, too! A worthy sequel, indeed.

    I believe the best part of this reboot is the cast–pitch perfect. It is fun watching them all–great chemistry. At the heart of that is Kirk and Spock–the bromance of the ages. :D

    As a Cumberbatch fan, I am loving all the attention he is getting–I’ve been trying to tell the whole world to watch BBC’s Sherlock (so brilliant) and now everyone will know how awesome he is.

    I am looking forward to the next installments–without Abrams and hopefully without too many ties to original timeline. I think that would be full of truly exciting, new adventures.

    • Thanks man! It is a superb cast. I don’t know much about Star Trek but I do know that this cast work well together and that’s one of the main reasons the film works well.

      A new story would be interesting, rather than going back to older timelines, and that should really show whether this version can stand up on its own. Very much looking forward to seeing what comes next.

  20. “Star Trek Into Darkness (pretty sure there should be a colon in there somewhere)” LOL!! Thats a good point Chris, I’ve felt that way too! They’re turning the franchise title into a verb on us! Quit it!! :D

    Nice review, I’m right there with you. I found it enjoyable, but its not without things to nitpick. 4/5 is spot on! :D

  21. sati says:

    Abrams creation without lens flare would be odd :) I’ll probably catch it on DVD, I did like the first movie and how fun it was, given that this one is more serious I’m not sure if I’ll like it as much.

  22. pgcooper1939 says:

    Agree with a lot of this. Thought this movie was a ton of fun.

  23. theipc says:

    I just saw this this weekend – I LOVED IT!!!

  24. Issy R. says:

    I agree that Cumberbatch felt a bit underused but every time he was on screen he stole the show. Good review.

  25. cinemasamurai says:

    Some refreshing views, some of which completely passed my mind when I saw Into Darkness. I just wish we could have seen more of the planets, the wild-life, the sub-space spectacle. I found in this, and it’s predecessor there’s just a bit too much ship-based espionage. Oh well. Good Review.

    • Thanks! Yeah that’s a good point and I would definitely like to see some planets and their inhabitants. I don’t really know much about the older stuff so I don’t know if that used to be the case but I would like a little more variety next time, definitely.

      • cinemasamurai says:

        Well, typically there’d be some exploration and the set pieces would pretty much climax on the ‘main’ planet in the story, usually. For example when they landed on Kronos (Chronos?) they would have been there for more than 5 minutes.

      • That sounds pretty good, I could go for some of that. I reckon there’s a real opportunity to bring back the TV show now, that could be huge.

  26. Nice one Chris, enjoyed the review. I thought they used the Harrison character just enough myself though.

  27. filmhipster says:

    Still haven’t seen it but I’m getting excited. Congrats on the 2 runner up awards this year Chris. You deserve it.

  28. Nice review! I have been impressed with the reboot treatment of Star Trek. You’re right. it definitely needed it and deserved a good one. Abrams has done well here.

  29. Quite possibly the worst movie ever made. It was just plain stupid and banal in every possible respect. Fast cuts and lots of stuff blowing up cover up the total absence of a plot and a script and anything that remotely resembles acting. The Star Trek franchise has been set for autodestruct and the warp core has just breached. It’s over. THIS WAS GARBAGE.

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