If J.J. Abrams 2009 Star Trek prequel was a brain teaser, then Star Trek Into Darkness is a Mensa admission test.
By LOEY LOCKERBY
Special to The Star
Even more than its predecessor, it ties knots in the original series canon that will no doubt inspire endless heated debate. For the most part, this is a good thing for fans. Everyone else can just enjoy the shiny, fast-moving spectacle, and not worry too much about why the die-hards are freaking out.
Into Darkness picks up shortly after the previous film, as Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) tries to balance his new position of authority aboard the Enterprise with his natural propensity for rule-breaking. Its not going well, and he finds his career prospects in serious jeopardy.
He gets a chance to prove himself again when a strangely calm, confident and physically powerful former officer named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch of TVs Sherlock) starts attacking Starfleet targets. Harrisons campaign leads Kirk and his crew into a conspiracy that throws the integrity of the whole system into question.
Abrams and writers Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof and Roberto Orci dont skimp on the blockbuster battle scenes, throwing in hostile aliens, giant creatures, underwater footage, and even a volcano and thats just in the first scene. But their hearts lie with the characters, who are developing in interesting ways.
Thats the real genius of the decision to establish an alternate time line. This is the same Enterprise crew weve known for 40-plus years, but theyre just different enough to pop a few surprises on you. The actors all get opportunities to shine, and its remarkable how much theyre starting to sound, and even look, like their other selves.
Scotty (Simon Pegg) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin) are actually given something to do this time, and the Spock/Uhura (Zachary Quinto/Zoe Saldana) romance reveals new layers in their individual personalities, as well as showing just how complicated a relationship between a Vulcan and a human can be.
Of course, there are countless references to the original story lines, which are often amusing, sometimes insightful and occasionally annoying. At certain points, its like watching a dog chase its own tail until it gets dizzy. Casual viewers arent likely to mind much, but it might be a good idea to tone this down in future installments.
At least theres no question that Abrams and Co. love Star Trek and are working just as hard to please fans as they are to satisfy mainstream audiences. Its a no-win scenario Trekkers, think of it as the impossible Kobayashi Maru test for Starfleet cadets. But theyve found a way to change the program and achieve their own unique victory.
What others are saying
• Joe Newmaier, New York Daily News: A stunningly nervy sequel that vaporizes any worries that Abrams terrific 2009 reboot was a fluke. The rock-solid cast is up to the challenge, performing the tricky balancing act of recalling iconic pop-culture personas while adding their own stamp.
• David Germain, The Associated Press: An excessively derivative what-if rehash of themes and interactions that came before, most of the characters lesser copies and even caricatures of the originals. The scenarios been hijacked and rejiggered from better Trek plots of decades ago, the best verbal exchanges lifted nearly verbatim from past adventures. In short, the new chiefs of Starfleet arent coming up with much to call their own.
• Roger Moore, McClatchy Tribune: Theres action in abundance and some production design flourishes that are as eye-popping as any science fiction ever to hit the screen. But the movies a muddle, a piece that Abrams seems to want to turn into a Lost puzzle that makes more sense in his head than on the screen.