Wow! To anybody who feared that JJ Abrams wouldn't meet expectations after the terrific 2009 reboot of the iconic sci-fi series, Star Trek Into Darkness proves the director has plenty left in the tank. But even beyond that, this is one of the rare sequels that actually improves on the previous installment. The characters are more well-rounded and the villain is truly terrifying (something I could never say about Nero from the first film). I saw this film last night at a semi-early screening, and from the opening scenes I was glued to the screen, gripping the armrest of my seat until the credits rolled.
Captain James Kirk is being reprimanded yet again for his refusal to comply with Star Fleet regulations. His incessantly-obedient first officer, Spock, has filed a report admitting serious malfeasance during their most recent mission (and without informing Captain Kirk beforehand). Despite the allegations, Admiral Christopher Pike vouches for Kirk during an official tribunal against the captain, resulting in the demoting of Kirk to first officer on the Enterprise under Pike's command. However, a former Star Fleet agent named John Harrison enacts several acts of terrorism against the peace-keeping armada before promptly beaming himself beyond Star Fleet jurisdiction. Enraged at the personal loss Kirk suffered during the attack, he takes the crew of the Enterprise on a man-hunt for the terrorist, unaware that the fugitive he is attempting to capture is a one-man weapon of mass destruction with a keen intellect and nefarious plans.
This is one of the most spectacular films I've seen in years. The visual effects are off the charts and the grandeur depicted in the action scenes are truly breathtaking. Beyond the mere spectacle of the film, however, the truly captivating parts of this movie are the relationships between the crew members; particularly Kirk and Spock. While both were great in the previous film, the interplay between them and the growth of each character have been upgraded. Zachary Quinto especially nails the character of Spock even better than before, and (though this may be controversial) I might even enjoy his portrayal more than Leonard Nimoy.
As great as these two actors were, the true star of Star Trek Into Darkness is Benedict Cumberbatch. Playing the mysterious John Harrison, Cumberbatch's menace is instantly expressed by subtle facial expressions and body language. His voice is probably the most striking thing about Cumberbatch, which almost sounds digitally altered for maximum intimidation. The antagonistic and yet parallel relationship Harrison shares with Kirk is one of the many joys of this film.
Star Trek Into Darkness holds a lot of surprises that may upset intensely devoted Trekkers, but that I found completely satisfying. It may be good to re-watch the previous film, but also "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" in preparation for this movie. There is so much to enjoy about this film. Not only has JJ Abrams constructed a beautiful and gripping action spectacular, but it's also a compelling drama where characters experience deep, emotional trauma that will surely wet the eyes of many. I absolutely love this movie and have no reservations whatsoever about Abrams' future with the Star Wars series (which is much more important to me). This is by far my favorite film of the year so far and I give it a solid four stars!
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence