With his original reboot of the Star Trek franchise, director J. J. Abrams managed to revitalize a flagging property and please fans old and new alike. While this sequel still has its entertaining moments, it’s a shallower affair lacking the level of depth and charm of its predecessor.
Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), and the rest of the Enterprise crew return to face a dangerous new threat: John Harrison (Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch). The villainous Harrison’s true motives are mysterious, but he has no qualms about killing Starfleet members en masse to get what he’s after. The Enterprise’s pursuit of Harrison takes them from one end of the galaxy to the other, and even onto the infamous Klingon homeworld. Internally, the crew faces a slew of strife, as relationships are strained to their breaking points.
There are a lot of major plot points in Into Darkness, but half of them are resolved within ten minutes or so and many have no lasting impact on the story at all. The threat of potential war with the Klingons is stressed several times throughout the film, and even after a pitched battle with Kirk et al on their own planet the Klingon plotline amounts to nothing. The screenplay doesn’t do much better with the characters. The Enterprise crew was given virtually no new character development whatsoever, and in fact, Kirk and Spock go through surprisingly similar character arcs as they did in the first film. Kirk still starts off reckless with a chip on his shoulder before realizing what it really means to be a Starfleet captain, and Spock once again struggles with his emotions (or lack thereof) and must learn to embrace his human side.
The movie was not without its bright spots (besides the lens flares), however. The Enterprise actors still completely own their roles, with Quinto’s Spock being a particularly standout example. J. J. Abrams maintains his trademark directorial style, and sets up some truly memorable scenes in spite of a few instances of choppy editing. Of course, the most exemplary facet of the movie is the visual effects. ILM has outdone itself, with everything from CG starships to stun blasts looking just as real as any practical effect. Michael Giacchino’s rousing theme music returns as well, supplemented by new euphonic additions to the score.
Despite the retreading and lack of dimension, “Star Trek Into Darkness” is still a viscerally exciting addition to Trek lore.