“Star Trek Into Darkness” faces the same predicament almost every movie sequel encounters: how to top the first one. Rather than devising some truly suspenseful plights, this chapter opts for gratuitous lengthening and preposterous exacerbation of its rather foreseeable scenarios of calamity. Continually compounding additional dilemmas onto situations already teeming with the weightiness of inescapable downfall apparently forced the writers into a corner – one that could only be maneuvered out of with a deus ex machina, or worse yet, a miracle. “Into Darkness” does trump the previous film with a more engaging villain, though even this suffers from a trivializing lack of limitations. The antagonist is both superhuman and essentially unassailable, but when necessary to wrap things up, unexplainably vanquishable. Yet for all its flaws, the film still barrels forward with an admirable momentum, a handful of absorbing action sequences, and protagonists likeable enough that the melodramatic moments in between the flurries of mayhem evoke more empathy than indifference.
Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is relieved of his command aboard the USS Enterprise when his reckless actions during a routine expedition endanger the lives of his crew. Relegated to first officer under Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood), Kirk quickly receives a second chance when the traitorous John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) attacks Starfleet headquarters and Admiral Wallace (Peter Weller) tasks the brash young man with tracking down and exterminating the rogue soldier. As Kirk inches closer to his target, he discovers that neither his mission nor his quarry is as it appears, and with the aid of his exceedingly perceptive second-in-command Spock (Zachary Quinto), the resolute leader must lead the resourceful crew of the Enterprise against an enemy of unimaginable power.
Like a “Fast and Furious” film in space, this science-fiction adventure converges all of its energy into scene after scene of unwieldy destruction, intense action, hand-to-hand combat, and photon torpedo barrages. When a pause is taken between obliterations, it’s entirely too brief; seconds later, spontaneous new scenarios are devised for further demolition. After the Enterprise arrives on the outskirts of the Klingon homeworld, the film’s pacing reveals nonstop contrivances to put the entire crew in the face of absolute eradication. More times than can be counted, Kirk commands decisions that the emotionless Mr. Spock must assign with the certitude that some great loss of life will be occur. Just as each deathly serious situation is narrowly recalibrated, another more potent one is popularized, replete with its own high percentage of unavoidable fatality (this trick is even utilized to take mastery of the Enterprise away from Kirk, only for him to captain it again five minutes later). These cheap devices wouldn’t be so intolerable if it weren’t for the overuse of technology jargon and the lack of explanation for character vulnerability and invincibility.
“Star Trek Into Darkness” suffers from the increasingly common design of creating an indestructible antagonist, while the equally undying Kirk is stated to succeed in his incautiousness, playing god with the lives of his officers, and impulsive disobeying of orders, through blind luck. His jaunty attitude is reminiscent of roles in “Starship Troopers,” many of who retain an air of heroism while staring down certain death. Fortunately, Spock’s unique comic relief demeanor is a smart counterpart to Kirk’s overconfidence and illogical irrationality; their onscreen partnership never dulls. But just as the lead characters prove to be the franchise’s greatest asset (measuring up to exhilarating special effects), the theme music struggles to find lingering notes, an odd predictability for solutions loiters (despite the “anything can happen” setup), and Alice Eve snags an unimportant role created solely to insert a young blonde woman into the famous alien universe – for adolescent fans anxious for extra sexual provocation.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)