Star Trek was rebooted by director J.J. Abrams in 2009 to much acclaim, and for good reason. The film was just fantastic sci-fi, and an excellent film in pretty much every way. Even as one who hasn’t seen any of the original films, I found a lot to like about it. Last year’s sequel, Star Trek: Into Darkness, still carries quite a legacy to live up to, and it proves to be one of those rare sequels that’s as good as its predecessor in every way imaginable.
One of the most surprising strengths of Into Darkness, I found, was in its character development. Spock (Zachary Quinto) becomes even more intriguing in this film as we learn more about why and how he chooses not to feel, and how that reflects who he is and how he cares for those he loves. Jim Kirk (Chris Pine) also grows exponentially in this film, changing much of his pride and stubbornness to humility, love, and sacrifice. The rest of the crew is still very well acted and developed as well, and the new characters also weave their way through the narrative very nicely. Villain John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) is also intriguing, unexpectedly complex, and mercilessly brutal. All these character developments work together to make Into Darkness more than just a typical sci-fi flick, and combined with the sharply written script and brilliant acting, they make this movie feel very human and down-to-earth despite its genre and setting.
The film’s plot works very well with all of this as well as it turns a seemingly straightforward revenge quest into something surprising and complex. The plot opens the doors for lots of fantastic action sequences and tense moments of mystery, which keeps the film exciting from start to finish. Into Darkness is also a triumph in many other ways. Visually speaking it is simply amazing, with fantastic special effects and awesome action scenes. Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as John Harrison in particular is also a highlight, bringing a dark, mysterious, and terrifying villain into the picture quite brilliantly. The film could have easily done without its two brief scenes of suggestive content; not only are they inappropriate, but they really do feel needlessly tacked on just for their own sake and do absolutely nothing for the film’s plot or character development.
Those two scenes are really the only mark I can find against this otherwise excellent film, though; Star Trek: Into Darkness is just darned good sci-fi through and through. It’s thrilling, well-written and directed, and surprisingly deep in terms of plot and characters. If you’re a diehard Trekkie I really don’t know what to tell you since I haven’t seen anything Star Trek other than these two new films, but at the very least it stands as a fantastic film on its own merit. Now let’s hope J.J. Abrams can bring this incredible level of quality with him into Star Wars…