In 2009, acclaimed director and producer J.J. Abrams took over the Star Trek franchise with a successful reboot that introduced an entirely new cast in place of the original series characters. Abrams even weaved Leonard Nimoy's elderly Spock into the story to tie everything in to serve as a prequel/reboot mash-up. It worked largely due to being less cerebral and more of an entertaining sci-fi action/adventure (not to imply there's anything wrong with the cerebral nature of the older series'; these movies are just more accessible to a wider fanbase). Four years have now gone by and the entire cast and crew has returned for another adventure, with Abrams back in the director's chair again. Trekkies around the globe are skeptical as to where Abrams could be taking this new, contemporized Trek next.
Star Trek Into Darkness serves as a direct sequel to the 2009 Star Trek. It picks up shortly after the events of the first film and, surprisingly, before the crew has started their "five year mission" to explore new areas of space. As such, these "explorers" are thrown into a big, loud action-packed story that upsets the balance of the Federation and sends Kirk on a personal vendetta for revenge. It's still a little off the beaten path for a Star Trek tale, but it keeps up with the vibe that Abrams set with the 2009 film.
A couple years ago, IDW released a new comic book series based on these characters from the Abrams film. In it, the characters were given the likenesses of the new movie actors and the story followed the events of the 2009 movie. In that 2009 movie, the villain Nero went back in time and changed the course of history for the crew of the Enterprise. Instead of growing up with a father, Kirk's dad dies when Kirk is born, which also changes Kirk's personality a bit. Furthermore, the planet Vulcan is destroyed by Nero, erasing the future for the entire race as Trek fans have come to know from all of the TV series and films and creating a new timeline. An aged Spock, as originally played by Leonard Nimoy, is forced to watch as his planet is destroyed by Nero and is stuck in the past with his younger self (played by Zachary Quinto), remembering the timeline of his day as well as this new timeline. So, in the comic book series, the characters from Abrams' film relive the stories from the original Star Trek TV episodes, but with different takes on, and outcomes of, these stories. It's a mix of retreading and new territory at the same time.
All of that is to say that Star Trek Into Darkness actually follows this formula similarly. Without divulging too much, there are details and even iconic lines borrowed from a previous classic Star Trek film that are given surprising new twists here. At the same time, as it unfolds (and if you're familiar with the scenes and events of said film), you're likely to feel that it's way too close to the original version, even if the events are mixed up. This alternate take on events sort of makes the point that the Trek characters are destined to meet iconic characters and make certain decisions they once did before, even if they don't realize they are. It feels as brilliant as it does lazy to just revisit these stories and characters. In many ways, Star Trek Into Darkness has a "remake" quality to it.
It's strange because Star Trek Into Darkness is still a Star Trek movie for people who aren't Trek fans. While I did grow up a Trek fan, I can appreciate what Abrams has done here with Star Trek. The 'alternate time line' approach works wonderfully for the reboot, because it keeps these movies more as Star Trek 11 and Star Trek 12 than completely new stories altogether. Still, I understand the qualms that diehard fans have had about the new direction the series has been taking. And Star Trek Into Darkness is likely to only upset those feelings even more.
All that aside, as a film, Star Trek Into Darkness is an exciting sci-fi action/adventure. Benedict Cumberbatch puts his good-guy role as Sherlock from the BBC TV series aside to become the ultimate villain in John Harrison for Star Trek. The only problem that Into Darkness seems to suffer, however, is from some characters being a little underwritten this time around. We may have benefited some from flashbacks of Harrison's past as he relates some of his backstory to Kirk, but ultimately what we have in Harrison is a vengeful brute force that has unleashed its fury upon the Federation. Still, Cumberbatch is an intense actor and he plays Harrison convincingly menacing. Meanwhile, most of the film focuses on Kirk and Spock and their friendship, while giving Karl Ubran's McCoy less to do (and still being a joy to watch when he does show up), but beefing up Simon Pegg's hilarious Scotty. Because Into Darkness's villain is a very violent one, there's an overwhelming amout of destruction and bruality in it. Some scenes of destruction go on for much longer than the Trek fan might expect; it's probably in line with Generations and Nemesis in that department (if not combined). Abrams brings back his ample usage of lens flares, which sometimes are a little distracting but also tend to add to the shiny, sleek futuristic look of the Enterprise and its white interior and exterior. But, like the random scenes in the 2009 film, Abrams also nonsensically throws in some brief sensual scenes that really do feel tossed in for no other reason than to show Kirk as a womanizer with two alien women in bed with him and give the audience a fleeting glimpse of Alice Eve in her underwear. You'd expect it from Michael Bay, but not from a more skilled filmmaker like Abrams. It's silly stuff like that that further removes this film from the established world of Star Trek. In fact, one could continue to argue that Abrams' Star Trek is closer to Star Wars than Trek, which makes him the perfect choice to helm the upcoming 2015 Wars sequel. What's truly odd, too, is at key moments or at very unexpected turns, Abrams will toss a brand new alien that is somehow working on the bridge of the Enterprise that was not previously introduced. That in itself is more Wars than Trek, but it's this randomness that just seems out of place in a more negative way than anything.
The content for Into Darkness is pretty intense. There's an especially violent land battle with the Klingons where characters are shot, beaten, and tossed around. There's also a brutal encounter between Harrison and a victim where he ultimately crushes the skull of his victim in his bare hands. It happens off screen, and we don't see the aftermath, but we hear the gruesome crunch of the victim's skull. There are some other violent moments involving beatings and such, but nothing shown is especially graphic. Language includes a few uses of the "S" word, including an incomplete "Holy Sh--" from Scotty. There's also a lot of "h*ll," "d*mn," and a possible "g*dd*mn," as well as a few uses of "G-d" as exclamations. And as mentioned before, we see two women in their underwear in bed with Kirk (they appear to have tails, so they're obviously aliens) and we see Alice Eve's character in her bra and panties briefly when she changes her clothes. It's completely needless and stupid to have been included.
Overall, Star Trek Into Darkness is a solid summer action movie. It retreads a bit too much territory from the first film and previous Star Trek adventures, but the characters and some intense action sequences make the trip worthwhile. Also, the ending errs on the abrupt side; it's still satisfying, but it feels like that rough jolt when the rollercoaster comes to a halt. As far as where things will go from here, I'd love to see the series take place more during their 'five year mission,' but we'll have to wait for a third outing for that to start. Until then, although it's a bit flawed, Star Trek Into Darkness is a good continuation of the foundation that was poured with the 2009 movie, and an exciting summer movie.
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 5/17/13)
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content
Sex/Nudity: We see a bed in a dimly lit room with upbeat music playing and the covers moving a bit. A girl in just her underwear pops out and then Kirk pops up from under the covers, and then a second girl in her underwear does too. Kirk then jumps out of bed (he's in his underwear too); Carol Marcus changes her clothes with Kirk standing with his back to her. She tells him not to turn around, but then he peeks and we see her in just her bra and panties.
One possible "g*dd*mn," 3 "S" words (plus one that is incomplete, "Holy Sh---"), 5 "a" words, 3 "S.O.B," 11 "d*mn," 11 "h*ll," around 5 derivatives of "G-d," 4 "b*stard"
Alcohol/Drugs: We see Kirk drinking at a bar when Pike comes in to talk to him; Scotty appears drunk while sitting in a club, drinking.
Blood/Gore: A man has a lot of blood on his mouth and clothed chest as he's dying. He then dies with his eyes wide open; A few other characters have blood on them after an explosion; We see a vial filling up with blood as a man takes some from his arm and we later see it emptying into a machine hooked up to a hospital bed; Kirk has varying amounts of scratches and blood on his face throughout the movie; Harrison has a bloody cut on his cheek; Uhura has a little bit of blood on her face; A man's skull is crushed in the hands of another person. We don't see it but we hear the awful crunching sound.
Violence: LOTS of action violence. A bomb goes off, killing a man and everyone in the area. We learn that over 40 people were killed; A small ship opens fire on a room full of unarmed people and many are shot and killed. People are tossed around, hit, etc. Kirk then takes what looks like a fire extinguisher or something and throws it into the jets of the small ship, causing it to go out of control and crash; A woman is held by the throat and threatened, so a man rescues her, shooting her attacker and many of the surrounding Klingons. A battle erupts, involving some of the Enterprise crew with many Klingons being shot, beaten up or thrown around; Kirk meets Harrison and punches him in the face repeatedly and then knees him in the stomach. It's forceful, but Harrison seems unaffected by Kirk's blows; A large ship collides with a smaller ship and then opens fire on it, nearly destroying it; An explosion vastly damages a large ship; Two people examine a bomb and one gets their arm caught inside of it, nearly getting blown up but is saved in time; A man is sucked out of a ship into space; We see some fighting in the hallways of a ship; A man is shot on stun; A man punches another one and then crushes another person's leg with his foot and then kills a man by crushes his head in his hands (we don't see it, but we hear the awful crunching sound). He punches and hits Kirk several times too; A huge ship crash-lands on a planet and slides into a large number of buildings, destroying them; We see another ship plummeting toward Earth with the people inside falling around the ship, some dying in the process; A man sacrifices himself and is exposed to a substance that ultimately leads to his death; Two men fight on moving platforms. It ends with one of them beating the face of the other; And other sci-fi action violence.
** Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not on content. However, if the content
really affects the reviewer's opinion of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's rating.