My friends Mike and Tiny saw Star Trek Into Darkness last weekend and couldn’t stop raving about it. Mike is a tough critic, especially when it comes to big tent-pole movies. Tiny and I usually see eye to eye on most movies. So after hearing their praise, I had to see the movie for myself. Before I bought my ticket, an idea struck me. I decided my friends and I should write individual reviews of the movie for this blog. So that’s what we did.
As far as expectations were concerned, the three of us really liked J.J. Abrams’ reboot/sequel hybrid. So we each went “into Darkness” somewhere between “excited” and “extremely excited.” Below you will find all three of our takes on the movie, the fan reactions and Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance. Enjoy and, as always, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and like the blog on Facebook.
Lens Flare 2: Into Blindness – A Review of JJ Abrams’ Star Trek Sequel by Obsessive Friend: Tiny
Anyone worried about JJ Abrams helming the seventh installment of the Star Wars franchise should go see Star Trek: Into Darkness and put their worries at ease. Abrams has proven time and again that he has the ability to tackle Sci-Fi on the grandest scale possible. Though, I would hardly call his foray into Star Trek as just another notch on his belt. Abrams managed to pay respectful homage to Gene Roddenberry’s original ideas while still reinventing the franchise. With this sequel he upped the ante, and surpassed what most people thought Star Trek could be.
Star Trek: Into Darkness brings back the lovable cast of characters from the first film. The crew is sent into the depths of danger as they follow a terrorist into enemy-controlled space to bring him to justice. Upon this trip, the crew learns of a deeper betrayal against Starfleet and must compromise their sincerest oaths to save the world. That’s really all the plot you need. You don’t want to know any more than that, trust me. Let the movie take you on the intended journey.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to be stunned by this movie. Abrams’ first Star Trek was really great. He exceeded my expectations the first go round. In my mind, all he had to do was match the quality of the first, but I don’t think Abrams and his team know how to simply par the course.
I was blown away by this sequel!
The 132-minute run time felt like a tight sixty minutes. The opening sequence was a nice re-introduction to the characters, which threw them into a turmoil they would have to fix before they could succeed in their manhunt across space. Creating this conflict amongst the core group of characters in the beginning act of the film was a wise choice. The problems they face with each other helps them face their true enemies. One of the strengths of this latest Start Trek franchise is the casting. They hit the nail on the head with every character. The actors clearly fell into a comfortable rhythm and chemistry with one another that plays through on the screen. That skill is maintained with this sequel, and the addition of Benedict Cumberbatch provides a serious variable to the equation.
With this role Cumberbatch stepped up to the “over the top” line and laughed at it like it was drawn on a playground with a piece of sidewalk chalk. In my opinion, this is the best villainous performance since Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight (yeah, I stand by it). True villainy is a trait that requires delicate talent. Cumberbatch, playing disgruntled Starfleet commander John Harrison, displayed his talent as only an expert of a craft can do. A lesser actor would’ve taken the character to comic levels.
The only drawback, and calling it a drawback is a disservice to the film, is that Cumberbatch overshadowed the rest of the cast. However, I think that was intentional. John Harrison is supposed to be larger-than-life. The other characters are supposed to be perplexed by a villain of this caliber. Harrison would’ve been forgettable otherwise. I have a feeling that Cumberbatch’s performance in this film will be his vehicle to international movie-stardom.
From the sharpness of the wardrobe, to the mind-bending scope of the “warp speed core” set, every intangible detail of this film was given its due diligence. I feel silly giving an opinion on the special and visual effects of movies. Anymore, visual effects being stunning are just a given. I know they can be laughable at times, but any seasoned movie buff knows that visual effects aren’t going to be a problem for this franchise. For those of you who care, they’re fantastic.
One of the other noteworthy strengths of the film, and there are many, is it’s structure and pacing. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci concocted a potent cocktail of plot, conflict, character development, drama, comedy, and action. Not one frame lacks for anything. Overall the movie reminded me, again, of The Dark Knight (I stand by it!). Just think how mad at yourself you would be if you had never seen The Dark Knight in the theater. Go see Star Trek: Into Darkness so you never have to know the feeling of missing greatness on the silver screen.
A Reaction to the Reactions by Obsessive Friend: Mike
Star Trek Into Darkness has been out for more than a week, so rather than review it in great detail (it’s ridiculously amazing,) I’d rather address some of the complaints I’ve read around the internet. I’ll also leave out a recap of the movie, as most people who read this would have seen the movie already.
So, Trek fans…what’s the problem?
Into Darkness is a worthy addition to the best sci-fi action/adventure movie canon. The action set pieces are incredible, the villain is an instant classic, and the various sci-fi conventions are nerdy and tantalizing as can be. I read one review that called the movie a “Star Trek-flavored action flick, shot in the frenzied, handheld, cut-cut-cut style that’s become Hollywood’s norm.” (Matt Zoller Seitz) I understand the negative connotation of the word “frenzied,” but nothing else in that snippet sounds negative. So why did Seitz give the movie only two and a half stars?
The movie is far from average. An action flick shot in cut-cut-cut style is exactly what Star Trek needed. Fans should be pleased that this is a movie that everyone can enjoy. It will certainly entice newcomers to watch older iterations. When they do, then they can see how philosophical and sci-fi Trek fare can be, but for starters, a near-perfect summer action flick is the Star Trek version 2013 audiences need.
I’ve also read complaints that rather than service the plot of Into Darkness, the references to Trek history are forced and border on dead weight. Again, I must disagree. In particular fans cried foul about an emotionally heavy scene late in the film that paid tribute to Trek history. For the uninitiated, the scene was well played and completely alluded to earlier in the movie. I listen to several podcasts, and on one in particular, the Now Playing Podcast, the reviewers’ main complaint was with this particular scene toward the end of the movie. They said that it made the movie seem hollow. The reviewers argued that the clean slate provided by the first movie should have given the crew of the Enterprise new and interesting adventures. As a fan of multiple timelines, I think the idea of having a past event happen again, but with a twist, is brilliant. Why wouldn’t the crew still run into the same villains they ran into in the past? To fight klingons, romulans, and re-awakened super men is their destiny. This alternate reality still has these villains, and our protagonists have the same motivations; to see past Trek scenes recreated was fun and smart.
The fact that the scene I’m referring to was lifted from Trek past only made the moment cooler, and I choose the word cool carefully. Cool scenes in summer blockbusters are a must. I’m not asking for Dark Knight drama every time I watch a blockbuster. If I’m watching Star Trek in the summer of 2013, I want to hear “Bones” McCoy tell Kirk that he’s a doctor, damn it.
J.J. Abrams has made a movie for movie fans that don’t necessarily have to be Star Trek fans. It’s one of the best theater experiences I can remember having in the past few years. It spoke to the sci-fi fan, the adventure fan, and the Easter egg fan in me. I can’t write about Star Trek without mentioning that I am a life-long Star Wars fan. After all the exciting dust has fallen on Star Trek Into Darkness, it’s greatest triumph, as far as I’m concern, is how well it previewed what is in store for my favorite franchise’s universe.
My Wake From Cryosleep by The Obsessive Viewer
I had an interesting viewing experience with Star Trek Into Darkness that serves as a pretty good indicator of my feelings on the movie. I went to the theater when I was very sleep deprived. Despite buying a latte on the way there, I thought about turning back and seeing it another day. I was committed to seeing the movie that day, though, so I soldiered on.
Throughout the trailers that played ahead of the movie, I contemplated indulging in a big cup of soda from the concession stand in the lobby solely because I wanted to stay awake. As the movie started, I remembered seeing the beginning before The Hobbit in January and thought more about ducking out to the concession area.
I didn’t do that, though. About ten minutes into the movie there’s a scene with a panel discussing the danger that Benedict Cumberbatch’s character John Harrison poses to Starfleet and the world. By the end of the scene, I was no longer struggling to stay awake. For the remainder of the movie, my attention fully belonged to J.J. Abrams and the crew of the USS Enterprise.
I won’t betray much of the plot, for fear of spoiling the movie for you. I will say that Into Darkness takes the best parts about its predecessor and expands them into a sequel that is just about the perfect combination of summer blockbuster, sci-fi thriller and special effects spectacle.
I agree with Mike and Tiny when it comes to Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance. I am a big fan of his work in the updated Sherlock TV series. So I already had high hopes that he would deliver. And deliver, he did! Every scene with Cumberbatch is deeply engaging and, at times, terrifying. His villain is a complex soul that could have easily been written as a standard evil villain. But Lindelof, Kurtzman and Orci made sure he has the proper depth for Cumberbatch’s massive talent.
There’s plenty of action for those seeking the blockbuster action element to the movie. The fast paced sequences are hair-raising and a lot of fun to watch. There’s plenty of tribute being paid to the franchise’s past as well. Rather than taking the sequel into wholly new territory and keeping the first movie’s alternate reality storyline as a jumping off point for a new franchise, Star Trek Into Darkness juggles its origins and its horizon beautifully.
There is a balance in the movie’s franchise references that, in theory, should appease the die-hard Trek fans without alienating the newcomers. In fact, the movie is so well put together, I’m sure it will usher in a new generation of Trek fans. Abrams has made a previously niche franchise much more accessible for people to dive into. Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness will prove to be the driving force as fans rush back through Starfleet history and watch all the previous iterations of the franchise. Starting with me.