Four years on from JJ Abrams' action packed Star Trek that redefined the franchise and, most of all, made it cool to like it again, comes the sequel, Into Darkness. Oddly named, maybe but Abrams has claimed the title lacks a colon because that colon portrays all there is people don't like about sequels. Although that doesn't actually stop it being a sequel J.J...
To start off, one of the most important parts of the Star Trek universe is the characters, which have definitely improved since the last installment. There's more depth to them, some characters have brilliant moments (Sulu has a nice one in the captain's chair) and their interactions and relationships have grown, especially between Kirk and Spock. Some characters seem to be shelved for room of new ones, but some seem integral to the plot and it's really great to see this, one of my favourite parts of Star Trek was seeing everyone in the crew doing something and working together in order to achieve something. Karl Urban and Simon Pegg of course play Bones and Scotty respectively, and these characters seem to be balanced perfectly, contributing both to the plot and providing some good comic relief. It gets to the stage after Bones' constant sayings and quips that he has to be told by Kirk to 'Stop it with the metaphors', it's just a nice touch.
Anyway the film starts out with a tense opener on a Class M planet, where the Enterprise attempts to save a primitive species by stopping a volcano explode, thus endangering Spock's life and Kirk has to make a decision, save Spock or go by the Prime Directive which honestly NO-ONE LISTENS TO. That thing gets broken so many times. There's a great moment slightly later on about their mission there, which gives some insight into the motives and whatnot of Kirk.
Personally I have no problem with what they did with his character. They didn't ruin him, Benedict Cumberbatch did a great job so that's fine. The only problem with that character was that his motives were kinda dumb in comparison, although it was a nice set-up for a later plot point. So that's okay.
That later plot point being that thing Kirk does. It's pretty obvious when you see it, and it's also pretty obvious what it's referencing to. I have no problem with that scene and the twist they did on it, it was a great way of showing these characters developments, showing Kirk as logical and Spock as emotional. There were a few added nice references to boot which made it good.
What I didn't like, and this will go over some people's heads but not many, what I didn't like was what Spock said directly after Kirk did the thing he just did. It was dumb. It took away the tension and the rich emotion, which to be fair there definitely was, in that scene. It's no surprise or development that Spock gets angry, hell he almost strangled Kirk in the last one before jettisoning him from the ship. It would have been great to see him cry or something, something we've barely seen Spock do. It' hardly a reference anyway, the original...thing was so brilliant because we didn't take it seriously, it was just pure Star Trek gold. So how are we meant to take it seriously now? I don't have a problem with the justification into why Spock did it, it just didn't work.
SPOILER HINTS OVER NOW
There's no doubt that this film was very well made, technically and dramatically. My favourite sequence was the one on the Klingon homeworld of Kronos, where we got brilliant and funny character development, then a sweet chase scene, then Klingons of course and then a great action scene. It was just brilliant. What's more, one of the reasons why it was so good was that it felt like Star Trek, it wasn't artificial sci-fi, it was these characters and these settings working together in a way we recognized. Which was very nice.
Alas, the curse of the Abrams strikes again. The problem is, JJ Abrams (or JJ Abrams' damn writers more like) cannot do endings. Mission: Impossible III, great movie, ending was just Tom Cruise running to somewhere, which as great as it is, was kinda dull. Star Trek '09, great movie, ending fell apart a lot (why was Nero's shop destroyed in the black hole, surely it was just turn up somewhere else or was it already blown up? Also how did the blast jettison them away, it's a black hole, not even light can escape). Super 8, fantastic movie, as soon as we saw the alien it kinda lost its steam. The same applies to Into Darkness. The 'climax' doesn't feel right, like it's leading to something, we don't see most of the wrapping up of events and it's just explained in exposition, and they fail to mention the outcome of something pretty major. Oh wells.
REFERENCE TIME. There's the more obvious ones, like characters and plot points, and there's the smaller ones, the best prompting brilliant lines such as 'Bones, what are you doing with that Tribble?'. There's also little ones which I'll leave to you to find out. My point is, J.J. succeeds in putting in these little references that make the film all that better, and they are good, they do add to the film.
All in all, Into Darkness is a lot of fun, it's thrilling, emotional and action-packed. Some things will annoy some people, but even they will enjoy it. It may not be as fresh as Star Trek '09 was, but it's definitely as entertaining. As it stands, it's definitely in my top 5 Star Trek movies, maybe only just, but it's still up there. So where next? Well, if you'll remember, The Original Series was about the Enterprise's five year mission, so maybe that's where they boldly go, or maybe we'll see more of the Klingons and their skirmishes. Point is, the possibilities are endless.
Into Darkness may not go where no man has gone before, but it sure as hell goes there boldly.
I give Star Trek Into Darkness 4 stars out of 5