Rated PG-13 for intense action and violence
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof
Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Benedict Cumberbatch, Anton Yelchin, and more.
The space battles are never the reason people watch “Star Trek.”
No matter how exciting the explosions are, it’s the interactions between Captain James T. Kirk and the rest of his crew that have made the series the cultural presence that it is. It’s that aspect that shines the brightest in J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek Into Darkness,” a thoughtful, clever re-invigoration that delivers plenty of heart along with the requisite number of crashing ships.
The movie continues the re-boot Abrams’ began with his 2009 “Star Trek,” this time incorporating certain elements from “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn.” Saying more than that will spoil a number of surprises for anyone familiar with the original movie, which would be cruel of me. For those who have never seen the other movie, the plot is a fresh, timely look at revenge and the cost of war. A little bit more bravery from the writers might have made it brilliantly original, but as it is the story is still both suspenseful and engrossing.
The crew, however, is the real reason we’re all here. The cast continues their brilliant updating of the classic characters, led by Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock.
Pine cleverly stays well out of William Shatner’s way by keeping his Kirk surprisingly subtle and low-key, successfully capturing the character’s spirit without looking like he’s doing an impression. For this movie, Pine has folded in new layers of maturity and vulnerability into the character, dialing down the cockiness that propelled him through the 2009 movie to expose more of the man beneath.
Quinto is equally brilliant as the new Spock, giving the character a wonderful ability for snark that makes some of his one-liners hilarious. At the same time, Quinto gives Spock a wonderful emotional honesty that makes him one of the most relatable (half) aliens in all of fiction. The movie explores his journey from his early training in pure logic to the more … impulsive world of the Enterprise is both profound and believable.
As the designated antagonist (who shall remain nameless due to plot spoilers), Benedict Cumberbatch brings his inherent dignity and arrogance to bear in equal measure. He makes the character wonderfully complicated enough that all of the plot twists come as equally valid surprises.
I wouldn’t recommend heading into this movie blind – if you haven’t seen the 2009 “Star Trek,” the emotional stakes won’t be nearly as high as they deserve to be. But if you’re familiar with the Enterprise, look forward to a wonderful flight.