Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch
Directed by: J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek”)
Written by: Roberto Orci (“Star Trek”), Alex Kurtzman (“Star Trek”) and Damon Lindelof (“Prometheus”)
Already having given audiences the best “Mission Impossible” film of the series with the third installment in 2006 and the best “Star Trek” movie with his hip revamp in 2009, director J.J. Abrams attempts to top himself again by joining up with the Starship Enterprise in “Star Trek Into Darkness,” a solid follow-up to Abrams’ first foray into space seven years ago. It’s more proof that you don’t have to be a Klingon-speaking geekboy to find this franchise one of the more fascinating big-budget sci-fi projects to hit the mainstream in the last four or five years.
Of course, if you are one of those hardcore “Star Trek” fans that won’t be happy with the shape of Mr. Spock’s ears in comparison to Leonard Nimoy’s or looking forward to nitpicking any number of creative choices Abrams makes that are different from the original TV show, then it’s probably best if you stay home and Netflix “The Trouble with Tribbles.” This isn’t your grandfather’s “Star Trek.” For those interested in another fresh take from Abrams and have the open-mindedness to let things go, then “Into Darkness” just might be the popcorn movie of the pre-summer.
Working loosely off 1982’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” which is what most “Star Trek” aficionados agree is the best of the original films, we join the crew of the Enterprise as they search for John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a former commander who has gone rogue. On his trail and reprising their roles from the 2009 film are Chris Pine as Capt. Kirk, who was recently relieved and then reinstated as Captain; Zachary Quinto as Mr. Spock; Zoe Saldana as Uhura; Karl Urban as Bones; Simon Pegg as Scotty; John Cho as Sulu; Anton Yelchin as Chekov; and Alice Eve as new and attractive science officer Carol Marcus. When they catch up to Harrison on a Klingon planet, the crew is shocked to learn there is more to their manhunt than simply eliminating a powerful villain.
Aside from the outstanding action sequences and set pieces that packed its predecessor, “Into Darkness” also takes an effective emotional turn with the relationship between Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock. Kirk’s massive ego and bullheaded nature and Spock’s reluctance to break regulation frame their interaction very well. Pine and Quinto once again take command of the characters in the same way William Shatner and Nimoy did in the late 60s. Sorry, purists, but those roles are theirs now.
With today’s technology catching up to Gene Roddenberry’s creation, the universe feels even more volatile, which makes for an exciting adventure with this crew. Who knows how long Abrams will stay on board (now that he’s been dubbed to lead the new “Star Wars” movie in 2015), but he’s laid some great groundwork for a dozen more and has taken the storytelling to a place few directors have gone before.