Star Trek Into Darkness (TheByteScene Review)

Date: May 17th, 2013

TheByteDaily

Star Trek Into Darkness

3.5 Ignored-Federation-Directives out of 4

 

The last time J.J. Abrams had his name attached to a Star Trek movie, he managed to reboot the entire film franchise while finding a way to introduce new viewers to the original series that captivated and entertained audiences for years. He was able to craft a well-written movie that focused on its characters and their relationships to each other, while insuring that cinematography, special effects, sound direction, and editing were all treated with respect and admiration. Utilizing the original series as a framework, Abrams insured that the rebooted film would have its roots planted firmly in the original franchise, meaning that though the film would be exist in its own universe, it still treated its source material with respect, admiration, and honour.

 

This time, with the ironically named Star Trek Into Darkness, he managed to do all of that again, recreating what was amazing about the original series in a fresh, interesting way tying characters, plot, and the original mythos into a single comprehensible and incredibly comprehensive beast of a movie.

 

With Klingons too!

 

The Enterprise crew is tasked with finding and eliminating John Harrison, a man at the heart of a terror attack on a Federation records facility in London who ends up killing Kirk’s mentor and the man who encouraged him to join Starfleet. The plot concerns itself with revenge, and thanks to the presence of Spock, Kirk, and McCoy, there’s quite a bit of discussion regarding the moral and ethical virtues of revenge.

 

What made the original Star Trek series so amazing was the way each character fulfilled a role on the Enterprise, all while existing beyond their titles. Each character received fair treatment, and their characterization did not begin and end with their positions onboard the travelling vessel. The importance of the entire crew of both the Enterprise and the actors starring in the show tied the show’s plot together with the overarching themes of exploration, adventure, and science.

 

In order to insure the new franchise succeeds, Abrams expertly tackles the disjointed unity the crew shares in their infancy by having them constantly bicker, banter, and crack jokes with one another in a realistic and human way. Kirk is Captain of the Federation vessel, but he is still young and naive despite his experiences. Spock, the analytical, logical Vulcan mind shows his humanity with his friendship with Kirk, romance with the ship’s communications officer Uhura, and the relationship he shares with the rest of the crew. The loss of even a single central character marks the loss of a family member in the mind of both the remaining crew, and the audience. This familial importance is central to the second Abrams helmed Star Trek film, with the movie actually beginning in media res with Kirk almost losing Spock at the risk of violating the Federation’s infernal Prime Directive.

 

This mention of the Prime Directive marks the beginning of an onslaught of nods, references, hat tips, homages, and callbacks to the original series and the original films. Which is to say nothing of Leonard Nimoy’s brief cameo as Spock Prime.

 

A common criticism of the original Abrams Star Trek movie was that the film spent too much time stopping mid action to quote the original series in a self-referential way. As a way to insure the audience realizes it’s watching a Star Trek movie, many believed the script was interrupted to bring back a kind of nostalgia. The detractors who felt the first film’s script was weaker because of the Original Series nods will not enjoy this Star Trek movie. The only critical solace I can provide for those detractors is insisting that Abrams does a masterful job of uniting new and old in a single interesting package.

 

I realize that my defence may fall on deaf ears.

 

Star Trek Into Darkness features remarkable performances from each member of its crew, and Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as the rogue Federation officer turned terrorist John Harrison is brutal, terrifying, and, quite simply, fascinating. He plays a character at odds with the Federation (just like literally every Star Trek villain ever) who embodies everything Starfleet stands against. His horrific brutality is fascinating because it invokes a performance that is both the antithesis and a parallel to that of Chris Pine’s James T. Kirk.

 

Suffice it to say, Cumberbatch’s soft spoken terror is played to great effect, and he is a worthy adversary to Kirk, the Enterprise’s crew, and the entire Federation as a whole.

 

Fascinatingly, the latest Star Trek film is everything that a good episode of Star Trek should be. It focuses on the characters, the villain, the Federation, and on the USS Enterprise’s evolving nature as both a peacekeeping vessel and the unifying force that brings together the assortment of personalities that form its crew. Abrams has crafted a sequel that is equal to its original film and the franchise from which it deviates. There’s a kind of consistency that isn’t always afforded to sequels – which many feel should bigger and bolder than the originals. Abrams takes this notion and spins it on its head, creating a sequel that is neither bigger nor bolder, but is, instead, simply amazing Star Trek.

 

As far as Star Trek movies go, that’s an accomplishment all unto itself. As far as movies go, that’s a compliment of the highest magnitude.

 

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

 

-EK

 

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