Review: 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Packs Standard J.J. Abrams Punch

May 16, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

J.J. Abrams' Star Trek universe is one of excitement, adventure, loads of action, the kinds of Summer blockbuster entertainment probably better suited for another sci-fi franchise with "Star" in the title. Don't worry. Abrams will get to that eventually. For now, though, he's determined to inject explosions and shoot-outs into this seemingly scientific mission to explore new worlds. Like its predecessor, Star Trek Into Darkness is one, fine blast of a good time, adding an abundance of laughs to all the excitement, even if the logic on display would make a certain green-blooded somebody break out in an uncomfortable sweat.

All the added entertainment value is exactly why Star Trek Into Darkness finds the crew of the Enterprise, scientific vessel, leading a manhunt. A Starfleet agent (Benedict Cumberbatch) has turned on the organization, bombing a library in London and setting guns on the headquarters in San Francisco. Many Starfleet members are killed, and Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and his Enterprise crew must trek to the Klingon homeworld where the criminal has fled and dispatch him with extreme prejudice. You know, scientific-like.

Star Trek Into Darkness

The crew in this new, brighter Star Trek universe is young, but all the familiar traits are there. Kirk is brash as ever, snapping back into old habits harder than a character on a network sitcom. Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto), Kirk's Number One, comes with all the ratios and percentages of success you might expect. Everyone else is pretty one-note, playing that one Star Trek note they're all known for pretty hard. Bones (Karl Urban) even get's a "Dammit, man…" moment.

But while the crew is front and center and even though this second film continues shaping them into the classic Star Trek cast of characters we know and love, Star Trek Into Darkness feels more alien from the original series as anything we've seen before. That's probably a good thing given the new direction this series has chosen to take, but that doesn't stop Abrams from visiting old territory.

As with all J.J. Abrams projects, the mystery box is hard at work, his team of screenwriters; Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon "Call Me Prometheus" Lindelof laying on the conspiracy angle pretty thick. Star Trek Into Darkness is, from frame one, an action/adventure movie, showing right off the bat how this crew of scientists can quickly get themselves in hot water. But earth-shattering reveal after earth-shattering reveal builds the film's multi-layered story to satisfying but spoilery results. It's what makes critics vague about Abrams' films or face a wrath of readers and potential movie-goers.

Star Trek Into Darkness' screenplay makes certain choices, goes in certain directions, that feel unnecessary, moments we've faced before in this series and story arcs that have already played out. Quite well, to be precise. The story here, at face value, comes off like Abrams wanting to show the rest of the series, the one that came before all the lens flares, up. But played out, particularly in Abrams' hands, those moments take on new meaning and those story arcs are allowed to play out in interesting, different ways.

Star Trek Into Darkness

There's fan service at work to be sure. Lines of dialogue are dropped almost as if they have to be. Spock's life seems to depend on him uttering something about "the needs of the many," but it all ends up playing as tribute. It's really only Into Darkness' third act that the familiarity of everything begins wearing on one's patience, especially if that person is a Star Trek fan.

Whether the story works for you or not, there's little denying Abrams' ability to catch exceptional action. Space battles and ground shoot-outs alike whip back and forth before our eyes. Green and red laser blasts dot the screen, making one really wonder what an epic, sci-fi, war movie from Abrams would be like. It's no wonder he's the man slated to bring Star Wars back onto the big screen, a series that's probably more his speed. Star Trek has been good for him, and he's been good for revitalizing the franchise, but it is time for him to move off, and up, to a galaxy far, far away…

As for Star Trek Into Darkness, in the end it works in spite of itself. It's a blockbuster Summer movie from the get-go, the pace of the action and the comedy alike hitting a very comfortable stride. Emotional and energetic, the film ends up being every bit the crowd-pleaser that 2009's Star Trek reboot was, a lot of that credit going to Abrams and his team of writers.

Star Trek Into Darkness

The rest of the credit goes to this new crew, though, every one of them a stand-out from moment to moment. Even the secondary characters playing those single notes play their part of bringing this warm blanket of a cast back for another adventure. It's fun watching all the action play out. It's even more fun watching the action play out around this cast. Pine and Quinto particularly click, much better than in the 2009 film, though that may be deliberate. Urban continues channeling DeForest Kelley flawlessly.

Cumberbatch slides into his role effortlessly. He builds tension in every scene he's in, not just because of who he is in the grander scheme of the Star Trek universe, but because of the power he's able to express in every look. You even find yourself falling towards his character's side when he plays the emotional card, another nice trick Star Trek Into Darkness plays. It plays many.

The paramount of which brining such a solid cast together to fill some pretty big shoes. They are a main reason that future Star Trek films, regardless of whose vision the film ultimately is, will work or fail. With Abrams possibly trading up for a universe more his ilk, it's nice to know the Star Trek franchise is resting comfortably with a fine, Enterprise crew of actors. They certainly make Star Trek Into Darkness all the more satisfying.

Jeremy's Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Find more posts: Review, Sci-Fi



Thanks Jeremy. I am pumped to see this tomorrow.

DAVIDPD on May 16, 2013


Ill check it out this weekend but this is actually one of the first positive reviews I read

Brandon V. Fletcher on May 16, 2013


Seeing it soon.

Xerxexx on May 16, 2013


If characterization and charisma of Benedict Cumberbatch in screen was as much as Philip Seymour Hoffman in previous work of JJ (MI3) , that would be enough for me

Ehsan Davodi on May 16, 2013


I enjoyed only a few key scenes in it, but overall I found it entirely dumb and lacking in both action and story. Cumberbatch somehow beams up from earth and onto the Klingon planet, but the guys need to take three different ship journeys just to get to the same place to catch him? PLEASE. All the action on the Klingon planet is incredible and was the highlight of the film for me, but it takes an hour to get to that point even though it felt like that's when the second act should begin.

George Caltsoudas on May 16, 2013


@ George 'Cumberbatch somehow beams up from earth?' WTF? Somehow? Haha obviously u didnt understand the movie. Just relax & wait for it to hit 'Netflix', maybe by then you'll get it.

Jonny Ringo on May 16, 2013


I meant as in, he's able to beam up from one planet to another, but the others aren't able to do so. There's also no indication given as to how he can do this and via what ship / or who is beaming him up when he's working alone.

George Caltsoudas on May 16, 2013


Dude either your really slow mentally or you fell asleep during the movie. What you just wrote doesn't make sense. Watch the movie 1 more time & you will answer your own questions.

Jonny Ringo on May 17, 2013


yeah they explained how. just gotta pay better attention bro.

josh on May 17, 2013


Did you even watch the movie? Because by the things you write it sure as hell doesn't seem like it....

IamSlave on May 23, 2013


Hey just hit today and most of us are working during the week and can't see it till the weekend. This isn't a "sound off" article, so if you're gonna drop plot scenes and details, write " ***SPOILER*** " before you say something. It's simple, proper etiquette when talking amongst other movie fans. And your opinion about the movie sucks.

JBrotsis on May 16, 2013


if you're worried about spoilers, WHY read ANTHING about the film? i'd be careful with that "dumbass" talk - you don't sound too bright either.

David Banner on May 16, 2013


I don't sound too bright because I dropped "asshole" and told him to at least add a spoiler warning because writing about plot details?? Excuse me, douche.

JBrotsis on May 16, 2013


no - you don't sound too bright because you're reading comments about a movie you seem to want to see. why not smarten up and go see the movie BEFORE reading other peoples comments?

David Banner on May 16, 2013


Yeah big spoiler, Star Trek characters are able to "beam up". Wow. Sorry I ruined the WHOLE movie for you.

George Caltsoudas on May 16, 2013


the INFERENCE , I got , George , when they were discussing the device , was that Starfleet personnel knew of this device but thought too dangerous to use . and that Benny was smart enough to perfect it for use . Little awe in their voices ...

Dominic on May 17, 2013


a general "Star Trek Universe " spoiler for ya , George : Did you NOT hear the part about " portable WARP transponder " in the dialogue ?? That IS a standard ST technical doo-hickey that was thought up . Not sure if it was in the movies , or the books , but that little toy is in the ST Uni . more of a point-to-point transfer , so it's like interstellar beaming . ....... Hey how ELSE was the villian going to get away ? if u remember his situation ( no spoilers :o) And THANK YOU David Don't come here if you can't handle advance knowledge . I went Wednesday . It was pretty gorgeous in IMAX 3D ...

Dominic on May 17, 2013


I still don't understand it. WHO is using the technology to beam him up and via where when he's shown to be working alone. And WHY don't the others just use the technology to do the same? There are other lame things too, like how a smaller ship like the enterprise needs hundreds and hundreds of crew, yet the big black ship that's 3 times its size only has a crew of three henchmen. And other ridiculous things like that.

George Caltsoudas on May 17, 2013


This guy doesn't get it! End of story, Lol

Jonny Ringo on May 17, 2013


Seeing it this evening didn't read your whole review want to be somewhat surprised when I see it but it is nice to hear some positive feedback!

N. on May 16, 2013


Watched it last night, This review is accurate

Rocklobster on May 16, 2013


*yawn* so Cumberbatch is Khan after all... Kirk dies and comes back too thanks to some healing stuff It won't be as big as the 1st one in terms of box office. If it does,not by a big margin anyway. Maybe the visual effects will bring more asses on the seats and oh...Alice Eve of course...a goddess

Spoilers on May 16, 2013


It will be bigger at the box office than the first one... the 'sequel effect'....

Greg dinskisk on May 17, 2013


This is what great movies are made of, I think Abrams it's a visionary director in many ways. We can feel the future in this movie, we can feel the space, the tension, the action, the emotions. I think He takes alot from "Spielberg school" and magnifies it, this is a prove of a flawless blockbuster, who work for any audience in the world. and if you're a Trekkie you get extra crispy entertainment. Robert and Orci are the new a masters of blockbusters. and Lindeloff it's a guy with very interesting concepts, He need people like Abrams behind him who helping to land those ideas and put it together to get an excellent result.(like this) I am anxious to see a sequel to this movies, but i'll wait whatever it takes, only if they promise to do more pieces like this. Advice: The 3D experience will make love the Enterprise like never before.

toonfed on May 16, 2013


Your post sounds suspiciously like the kind of studio plant garbage frequently seen over at Nikki Finke's Hollywood site.

mistermysteryguest on May 19, 2013


Or... i just really liked. Cause i don't know what are you talking about.

toonfed on May 20, 2013


By the way, if you dont want any spoiler, wich i recomend, don't go to IMDB. And don't spread the spoilers if you saw it already.

toonfed on May 16, 2013


Movie was great fun, amazing visuals and sounds, decent story, 3dImax was intense.. My gripe though; I was always 2 steps ahead, there was no mystery, as soon as they torpedo mystery revealed itself i had it all figured out. It was too easy, and the fact that you always knew if anyone important died they would be brought back to life kinda killed it a bit.

sidus77 on May 16, 2013


A 7/10 at most. A disappointment, since I loved the first... a lot.

Nielsen700 on May 16, 2013


Saw the 8pm Imax showing last night, completely loved it.

Adreth Stark on May 16, 2013


Great Movie I have seen it twice already!!!!

Professor_Bedlam on May 16, 2013


If your a fan of the original series & will love this movie! Can't wait to see what JJ does for Star Wars.

Jonny Ringo on May 16, 2013


What "new direction" do they take Trek into when they rehash old series and movie plots?!!!!

Jack Eaton on May 16, 2013


Loved the movie, thought it was great, fun, action packed, etc. Maybe this is because I was never really a "Trekkie" but all the people complaining about it are being a little to whiny. Again, I know NOTHING of Star Trek besides J.J's movies so maybe I'd be pissed also. Either way, good film. Fun film if you can just shut up and not break every single thing down and just enjoy it.

IamSlave on May 23, 2013

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