It’s common knowledge amongst Star Trek fans that the even numbered films in the franchise are always the best. J.J. Abrams has upheld this tradition with the second movie in his successful reboot, Star Trek: Into Darkness. In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I am a full-blown Trekkie and thus a certified, nit picky nerd. That being said, I was blown away by how great this film was and how Abrams managed to refine his directing style even further from the first movie.
The story line in this new addition is exceptional. It does start off a bit slow but takes off in the middle of the film and doesn't let up. There are tons of little references for fans to pick up on and it there is plenty of comic relief to lighten the somewhat darker tone. The interesting interactions between Kirk and the rest of his crew are kept intact and Abrams doesn't veer too far away from the classic Trek formula. Kirk is still a headstrong, womanizing captain and Spock is still the logical voice of reason. They are friends who have common goals with completely different ideas on how to accomplish them. Benedict Cumberbatch (this is a very fun name to say) is a newcomer to the series and does an outstanding job as the menacing villain of the movie. I was a bit skeptical of him at first but he actually comes off very intimidating and quite frankly, bad-ass.
To answer the burning question in all of your minds, yes, the lens flare that J.J. Abrams is so fond of has been toned down a lot. The look of the movie is sleek but with cool retro callbacks to the original 1960's series. Of note is the excellent sound design. It uses all the iconic sounds you know and love and even has small excerpts of music used in the television series. It’s fun trying to pick them all out and a great nod to the fans. There are tons of Easter eggs and references tucked away and I will enjoy looking for more of them on consecutive viewings. It is refreshing to see a well-loved franchise treated with the respect it deserves.
While Star Trek is known for its cool spaceships, nifty techobabble, and crazy aliens, the heart of the series has always been an examination of human nature. The sci-fi is merely a window dressing surrounding morality plays and questions about humanity and the decisions they make. It’s what keeps the fans coming back for more. J.J. Abrams understands this and masterfully integrates the characterization Star Trek is known for with well-choreographed action sequences—something the older movies have really lacked. He found a way to appease the hardcore fans without alienating the casual moviegoer, which is no small feat. This gives me hope for the future of Star Trek and for that I am eternally grateful. Make it so.
-Review by Michelle Kisner