Sunday, May 19, 2013

Star Trek: Into Darkness Review: Set Phasers to Over-Used Joke

And there it is: Another summer, another blockbuster, and another sequel. Had J.J. Abrams made it under usual circumstances, Star Trek: Into Darkness could have been yet another soulless dip into the pockets of fans. However, being the go-to director of the two arguably biggest science fiction franchises in history, Abrams is not in usual circumstances. Star Wars Episode VII is fast approaching,  so he had to put out the good China. With this in mind, does Into Darkness provide a solid summer space romp while giving a promising peek into the future of Star Wars? This awkward and semi-formal  intro would have me say "kind of."

"It's this decent."
Star Trek: Into Darkness is not some weird VHS you found in your dad's box of "Things that Aren't Porn," but rather the sequel to 2009's reintroduction of the franchise, which I rather enjoyed. As a person who has never seen an episode of any Trek series (I'm sorry! Don't hit me...), I thought the reboot was a fun action movie that did a decent job of making Star Trek "cool," as if that was a thing Trek fans cared about. The sequel is pretty much what you'd expect. The Enterprise crew returns for a new adventure, a new villain, and a new everything else that isn't really all that new - but more on that in a bit.

What struck me the hardest about Into Darkness was its aesthetic. You can really see the amount of detail put into the costumes and sets. And while this isn't something that usually grabs my attention, I found myself staring time and time again at Zoe Saldana - like, you know, the stitching or whatever. The interior of the Enterprise is also pretty cool. There are multiple decks, hallways, and lots of glowy buttons that might do things. While these aspects of the film don't seem like they should be focal points, any other theatre nerds will love the care put in. Unfortunately, many of the scenes with heavy emphasis on CGI negate much of the goodwill earned in this department. And yes, we still have lens flares; but much like high fructose corn syrup and black tar heroin, they're fine in moderation.

Just as harmful to your eyes.
Unfortunately, much of Star Trek: Into Darkness feels pretty "been there, done that," in regards to either the previous Star Trek or other popular action films. The plot has everyone's favorite main points: an attack on a safe haven that kicks everything off, a villain who wanted to be captured, a secondary villain who was hiding in plain sight - you get it. Chris Pinewood Derby is still the cocky-yet-talented Kirk, and Zachary Quiznos is still the dry-yet-sassy Mr. Spock. They play off each other fine, but none of their dialogue reaches the same cleverness as that in last week's Iron Man 3. The same goes for the action sequences. Despite the head-squishing and base-jumping, I was never blown away. I promise I'm not being pretentious; the film isn't boring, but it does feel a little like a retread. And while we're on the subject of flaws, I must say that the cast's screen time is very unevenly distributed. Other than the main duo and the villain, we don't see a whole lot of the cast - everyone ends up feeling a bit underutilized and underdeveloped.

Into Darkness' saving grace for me has to be John Harrison, the film's villain. Eggs Benedict Cummerbund (the name puns keep coming) plays an incredibly pissed off Star Fleet Supersoldier wanted for terrorism or crimes against humanity or something. I don't think I can tell too much about him without spoiling most of the film. However, I loved the twist he throws at the audience. No, not the one that any person following the film's development already knows, but rather a change in the hero/villain dynamic. To reiterate what I said before, it's not really anything new; I just love how Cumberbatch plays with it. At one point in the film, I found him to be the most likable character.

And the most handsome.
Star Trek: Into Darkness is by no means a great sequel, or even a great summer blockbuster. However, it's not bad either. It's...kind of leaning towards the "good" end of decent. If you enjoyed the last one, you'll probably enjoy this one too. But if you aren't a fan of Abrams' work, you could probably do better with your night at the movies. Until next time.

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