Now Playing: Trekkin’ the Night Away

I must admit that when I walked into the crowded theater to watch J.J. Abrams’ second journey into the ‘Star Trek’ universe, I was a bit apprehensive. The studio didn’t hold any press screenings before the film was released on Wednesday. For some reason, the actual press screening was one hour later than the regular screening for paying audiences. Usually, studios do this when they know they have a terrible movie on their hands and don’t want negative reviews published before opening day. Would that be the case here, or did Abrams simply want to keep the film’s many secrets under wraps until it was released?

I’ll avoid specific spoilers in this review, and will try to talk more or less in generalities. First and foremost, know that I loved ‘Star Trek into Darkness’. Abrams has conjured an action-packed thrill ride of a sequel with just enough heart to appease new fans of the franchise as well as old school Trekkies. I have no doubt that this will be one of the most successful films of the year, and won’t be surprised if Paramount announces a third entry in the next few weeks.

‘Star Trek into Darkness’ still takes place in Abrams’ alternate ‘Trek’ timeline, established in his first film, but he continues to link the two continuities here as well. One of the things I love most about this sequel is that it’s a story about how Kirk and Spock’s friendship evolves. In this reboot of the franchise, we haven’t seen Spock and Kirk become the friends that we know they’ll be. Kirk is still young, cocky and brave, while Spock struggles with his half-Vulcan and half-human sides. These two Starfleet officers do not mix.

Things start out with Kirk, McCoy and Spock on a primitive alien planet as a very large volcano is about to annihilate the entire landscape and its inhabitants. With this intense situation, Kirk does what he does best, by acting rogue and unwilling to follow the rules. Spock, of course, uses logic rather than emotion to accomplish the same task. From this, we see what their relationship is and what it could be. Later, Kirk is relieved of his Captain rank due to his insubordination, and is replaced by Commander Pike, who demotes him to First Officer.

Meanwhile, a huge terrorist explosion destroys a bunch of buildings and kills a lot of people on Earth. At a Starfleet meeting led by Admiral Marcus (Peter “RoboCop” Weller), we learn that a man named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) is behind the bombing and has escaped to a far off, supposedly uninhabitable Klingon planet. The Enterprise is sent to capture him. However, there’s much more to this story and Harrison than meets the eye.

Abrams focuses more directly on the duo of Kirk and Spock this time around. While we have some good moments with other characters, they don’t have much screen time and mostly serve for comic relief, which is done flawlessly and works in great references to the original films and TV show. And if you thought that the previous movie had a ton of action sequences and spectacular visual effects, you’re in for a treat with this sequel, which turns the action up to Eleven.

Cumberbatch really shines here. You never know quite what to think about him, but he’s truly a force to be reckoned with. Even though he’s roughly the same size as everyone else in the film, he appears larger-than-life and is very terrifying. Quinto and Pine turn in stellar performances as well. This is maybe some of their best work to date, as we see both men struggle with their flaws and their friendship. I believe that the true core of this sequel is almost a love story, but one between two friends who are destined to do great things.

Simon Pegg as Scotty has his own separate mission and is a key part of the movie. The humor he brings is much-needed and always welcome. Karl Urban never fails to impress as McCoy, the doctor who’s always angry at something. It’s amazing to see him flirt with some of the staff on the ship. Anton Yelchin’s Checkov doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but has a great scene involving his uniform. I believe Sulu (John Cho) will have a bigger role in upcoming films. In his brief time on screen, he demonstrates that he’s capable of leading a starship. Zoe Saldana as Uhura serves as more of a comic relief role this time around. And of course Peter Weller puts his all on the table and is ruthless to a tee.

I saw the movie in IMAX 3D. If you have the option to see this in IMAX, by all means do so. I truly felt like I was on the bridge of the Enterprise for the whole film. The sound was incredible. The 3D, however, is take-it-or-leave it. I didn’t find it to be good or bad, just average. I would have much preferred to see the film in 2D.

I can’t wait until we have ‘Star Trek’ films where the Enterprise does what it’s meant to do, which is go out into the beyond and explore new planets and life forms – to boldly go where no one has gone before. This isn’t that movie, but I expect that the next one will be. ‘Star Trek into Darkness’ has tons of twist and turns and is on the highest level of entertainment. This is a remarkable sequel and I can’t wait to see it again. This might be the most fun I’ll have at the theater all year.

Rating: ★★★★½

[Editor’s Note: We will publish a spoiler post about this movie on Monday. Feel free to discuss whether you liked the picture or not in the Comments to this post, but please refrain from giving away major plot spoilers until everyone has had a decent chance to see the film. Thank you. –JZ]


  1. Drew

    I’ve seen it twice now. I agree with every word written in this review.

    My reaction upon leaving the theater was that it’s going to be a tough chore for any film to beat this and grab the crown of best movie of summer 2013. This is the one to beat. It’s a total riot!

  2. Drew

    I also gave this 4.5 stars. It’s not perfect, but I’ll be damned if it’s not the most fun at the movies any of us has had in quite some time!

  3. Drew

    I thought the 3D was far better than average. It wasn’t reference grade, but it kept me right on the bridge. Part of that was due to the IMAX experience (I haven’t seen it in a non-IMAX theater yet, to compare), but I believe that the use of 3D and the way it was executed, really pulled us in, and put us right there on the Enterprise.

  4. I didn’t realize it was a Thursday release with a Wednesday midnight showing, or I would have seen it already as I had yesterday off. I had prebought my ticket for tomorrow night before I learned. I’ll come back and read the review after I have seen it.

  5. Jon

    I enjoyed it thoroughly. A lot of fun, more balls-to-the-wall action, and Cumberbatch owns the roll. And I agree, I love where the took the characters and their relationships. Can’t wait for the next one!
    I saw it in 3D at the IMAX as well. Coming from someone who actually LIKES 3D, I thought it was ok, but not necessary if you’re on the rocks. And I agree with Drew, the 3D was not reference grade, but it wasn’t bad either.

  6. They do have a terrible movie on their hands, which isn’t to say it won’t make a lot of money. It’s got one of the dumbest scripts I have suffered through in quite a while.

  7. RollTide1017

    I loved this movie and I’ve seen it twice already as well, once in 2D and in non-IMAX 3D. The 3D didn’t add anything to the table but, the new warp effect did look pretty cool in 3D. I’m a huge Trek fan and I know some fans are ripping this movie to shreds but, I thought everything worked in the movie. No, it doesn’t de-thrown STII as the best Trek movie but, I’ll easily place it at #2 in my book. Really want to see it in IMAX, just got to find the time and money to make the hour and a half drive to the closest IMAX theater.

  8. William Henley

    Okay, so I saw this last night, and decided to let some processing sink in before writing.

    First, let me say that I did LOVE the movie. It was fun, high action, amazing visuals. Probably one of my favorite movies.

    However, the movie had substantial flaws.

    Pointing these out may have some spoilers, so avoid if you haven’t seen it yet.

    Pike was not the original commander of the Enterprise, Robert April was.

    In the shot of Kronos, the Klingon moon had already exploded. This didn’t happen until almost 30 years later, when Kirk was getting ready to retire (The Undiscovered Country).

    Where the HECK was Earth’s planetary defenses? NO ship should have been allowed to crash into the planet like that.

    How the heck did Scotty just happen to be able to break into a top-secret starship? Yeah, I get that he flew in with several other ships, but if the ship was that top-secret, they would have checked every single ship coming in.

    Isn’t the transporter supposed to have a confinement beam? There is an episode in season 3 of TNG where Troi starts begging a prisioner not to try to avoid the transport process or he could be killed in the attempt.

    A Federation ship fires on another Federation ship in close proximity to Earth and no one notices?

    A Federation ship sits on the edge of the Neutral Zone, and doesn’t attract any attention – enough that they are able to launch a shuttle through the Neutral Zone, through Klingon space, all the way to Kronos, and not be detected until they start skiming the planet? That’s a little far-fetched.

    Scotty’s communicator is not traced?

    If the five year mission had not started yet, and that was the first Deep Space mission, how was Khan and his crew discovered by Starfleet?

    Really? “Transwarp Transporter?” Who the heck came up with that name? And I don’t care if it was experimental or not, you beamed from Earth to Kronos? Really? Then what do we need starships for? And while I get that its experimental here, um, hello, this puts the entire TNG / DS9 / Voyager Universe to waste.

    What is up with these ship sizes? It’s like we are in the Tardis – why are these ships so much bigger on the inside than the out?

    We don’t have enough power to beam a person up, but we can beam multiple people down?

    “Change out of those redshirts – we don’t want to be affliated with Starfleet”. Yet they are on an Enterprise shuttlecraft.

    Tribbles hadn’t been introduced to the Federation yet in this time period.

    How the HECK did these people pass Starfleet personality exams? The only people who should have been allowed anywhere near a starship should have been Pike, Sulu and Scotty.

    So yeah, great movie, just full of issues.

    • Matt

      Yeah I’m with you on some of those. The lack of other fleet ships (especially after you clearly see one as the Enterprise leaves for the neutral zone) during the big battle is suspect. So, too with the Kingon action taking place on “Kronos.” (Why did it have to be Kronos? Why couldn’t it have been just some random planet near the border?)

      The ship they used to go to Kronos was apparently from the “Mudd Incident.” Someone makes some comment over the shipwide about it. I think Harry Mudd was in one of the comics between movies.

      The one thing I HATE about the new Enterprise is the brewery as Engineering. Just looks terrible.

      I love the reboots for the most part, but the SLOPPY science (Star Trek science, no less) is just so very very dumb. “A supernova that threatened to destroy the galaxy,” “Red Matter,” “Transwarp Beaming”…etc.

      Also, apparently Earth and “Kronos” are only minutes apart at warp.

      • William Henley

        Also, apparently Earth and “Kronos” are only minutes apart at warp.

        I asked a similar question when Enterprise came out, because they sure make it from Earth to Kronos rather fast. Although this also has me thinking that in TNG, if you watch episodes in order, they are gone for months at a time, and can make it back to Earth in a few days? One episode they are at the edge of unexplored space, then suddenly can warp back to Vulcan, Betazed, Earth or Kronos? Makes you wonder why it is taking them so long to explore the galaxy.

        Yeah, engineering bothered me as well, but I could accept that.

      • William Henley

        Sol is in K8, Kronos (Qu’nos)is at P12. Earth is closer to Feraginar, Romulous, Bajor and Cardassia than it is to Kronos.

        Although one of the thing that bothers me is everything is on a 2D plane – although I guess you could claim that it works as the galaxy is more flat and long, except around the galactic core, and we are on the outstretch of our galaxy.

      • You guys are totally losing site of why they rebooted the series in this manner, to avoid having to worry about the baggage of all the previous story lines and the Science etc of them as well. Things are obviously going to be different and they are going to cherry pick what they want and throw away what the don’t. I love the original movies and shows (with the exception of ST5 and Nemesis which are awful) but these new movies are a whole new ballgame and I love the breath of fresh air it brings while bringing the story into the Modern Cinematic era.

        But you just have to let all the old stuff go and just enjoy this for what it is.

        • It would be easier to let the old stuff go if J.J. Abrams could let the old stuff go, instead of constantly regurgitating old characters and storylines.

          • Yes i agree some of the things they insisted on hanging onto weren’t necessary but they weren’t handled as clumsily as say The Mandarin in IM3.

            And what would be the point of doing a Star Trek reboot at all if not to get a chance to retell some of the classic stories on a grander canvas then originally available the first go round.

        • William Henley

          Rebooting – and alternate time lines – is one thing. I am completely on board with that. Stupid science is another – I could probably let go with about 99% of the stuff, but seriously, transporting from Earth to Kronos, and the lack of an Earth defense network, makes no sense whatsoever.

          JJ Abrams is a wonderful director, and you had wonderful performances by every actor involved, they just had a craptastic script to work with.

    • Um, you are wrong. When Kirk asked the security officers to change they were boarding a captured ship that they had acquired the previous month. It’s clearly announced by Sulu when he gets on the intercom after Kirk gives him the Com and he and Spock boards the turbo lift.

      It was not a Shuttle craft and looked NOTHING like the enterprise shuttles at all.

  9. Defshep

    I really enjoyed this. I don’t care, at all, about continuity with TNG, as that show never interested me. In fact, I’m really only a fan of the original series, and characters in the films based upon it. It was a blast in IMAX 3D.

  10. I’d like discussion of the movie’s plot to be directed to our new poll post with spoilers:

    However, I wanted to comment here that I agree with Bryan about the 3D conversion (and it was a conversion, not natively shot in 3D). A few scenes made fairly effective use of 3D (I assume it was an intentional joke when Abrams literally has a character chuck a spear at the audience in the opening scene), but for most of the movie the 3D was just sort of “there” and not used in any purposeful manner. Most scenes have very shallow depth. It doesn’t add much to the movie.

  11. Mark

    Kluger. You are the man. I agree 100%. 4.5 stars. Great movie and i dont care if Abrams changes things up but im not one to look back at older Trek and compare. The older movies all sucked in my opinion and this very stale series needed a reboot