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Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, Peter Weller, Simon Pegg

Written By: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof

Directed By: JJ Abrams

The Short Version

The Final Frontier gets a strong sequel, but don’t worry: there’s still lens flare.

Once again, the familiar gets turned on its ear to good – and tighter – effect.

The villain is and isn’t who you’re expecting.

Quick pacing and high adventure are still the words of the day.

You probably expected Star Trek: Into Darkness to be good; it’s better.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


Comfort food, dressed well.

Pairs Well With...


No, not the nasty malt liquor; rather, the reintroduced 1960s formula beer that’s found new life in a new century!  It’s the beer that made Starfleet famous… or something like that.

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

“An Arabic proverb attributed to a prince who was betrayed and decapitated by his own subjects.”

“Well, it’s still a hell of a quote.”

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been four years since JJ Abrams and company first breathed new life into the Star Trek franchise; that’s how vital and fresh that first film still feels.  Though far from perfect, 2009’s Star Trek breathed a sense of fun and adventure into big screen science fiction that had been missing for a very long time.  Fans were willing to give Abrams the time he wanted to make the sequel he wanted to make, but when push came to shove, could he deliver?

Oh, does he ever.

Star Trek: Into Darkness not only lives up to the promise of its predecessor, but it also learns lessons from that film’s sins and makes every effort to avoid repeating them, even though audiences would likely have let them pass anyway.  While the Hollywood cliché is to make flashy but artistically inferior sequels to blockbuster movies, Abrams and company have refused to be lazy and instead have chosen to make a flashy and in many ways superior sequel to their blockbuster movie.  I applaud this turn of events.

Everything that made the first Star Trek spectacular is still there: the boundless sense of adventure, the relentless but still breathable pacing, the sharp dialogue, the wonderful balance between reverence and modernization when approaching both the characters and the universe, the dead-on performances by the primary and secondary cast, the great production design, and, of course, the lens flare.  (Who would ever have thought that a franchise could make a signature out of lens flare?)  But Star Trek: Into Darkness also delivers two things that the first film lacked: an outstanding villain (a pair of them, actually, which means that the villain both is and isn’t the person you’re expecting him to be), and a plot that comes much closer to the gravity well of “making sense.”

It’s difficult to go into detail on these items while remaining more spoiler-free than the trailer (seriously, folks, filmmakers need to stop allowing trailer cutters access to footage from the third act), though I will say that if you think that the trailer has spoiled things for you, there are still plenty of surprises in store, and Abrams’ direction is more than strong enough to keep your butt in your seat regardless.  If you think you know what’s coming, you’re probably right and certainly not; the script team has once again done a fabulous job of taking the “Star Trek” universe as we know it and turning it on its pointed ear.  This universe is an animal of its own and wants everyone to know it, but it still gives credit where credit is due.  As a lifelong “Star Trek” fan with a particular love of the original series, I remain pleasantly impressed with the deftness displayed by everyone involved with the reimagination of one of the most beloved universes in the history of popular fiction.

Along with bringing their plot and story “A” games, the writers have also done an excellent job with handling the characters.  Having gotten past the introductory phase, they’re savvy enough to understand that full attention cannot be paid to the full ensemble while telling the tight story they want to tell, so inevitably, some characters get more attention than others.  While fans of the previous film’s show-stealer, Karl Urban as Bones, may feel a bit slighted this time around, most should be satisfied with the overall outcome, which focuses primarily on the Kirk-Spock dynamic with a major side order of Uhura.  Chris Pine and Zoe Saldana remain strong as Kirk and Uhura, respectively, but Zachary Quinto takes his performance as Spock – which had already been stellar in the first film – and moves it up to the next level, multiplying the gifts given to him by an excellent script.  Just as impressive is our ‘special guest star,’ Benedict Cumberbatch, who lives up to the challenge of stepping into one of the most iconic spots in all of “Star Trek” lore as though he were born to do so, and not even the ubiquitous lens flare can deny him.

To try and find flaws with Star Trek: Into Darkness is to engage in an exercise of blatant nitpicking.  If I must name one, I’ll say that the presentation of the Klingons feels relatively weak and gimmicky compared to the rest of the film… but I’ll also say that this didn’t bother me in the slightest while I was sitting in a crowded theatre drinking my beer and enjoying the adventure.  So, y’know, nitpicking.

There’s a lot more that I’d like to say about Star Trek: Into Darkness, but unlike certain trailer editors, I prefer not to spoil films wherever possible, and I’d really rather let you experience the fun and adventure for yourself.  With that mind, I encourage you to go see this movie on the biggest screen you can find while it’s still playing in theatres, and to pick it up for your permanent collection on blu ray once that opportunity presents itself.

Bottom line, Star Trek: Into Darkness is a cool sci fi adventure that’s worth the price of big screen admission both for established franchise fans and for casual moviegoers… and, of course, for discerning connoisseurs of lens flare.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, May, 2013

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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