Overall Impression – Neither as exhilarating nor satisfying as the reboot from 2009 with a surprisingly unemotional core.
THE FOUR QUESTIONS
Who’s your main character? – Kirk
What’s he trying to accomplish? – Physical: Bring in the terrorist, John Harrison. Emotional: Protect the life of his crew. Spiritual: Learn to respect what it means to be a captain.
Who’s trying to stop him? – John Harrison
What happens if he fails? – He and his crew will die.
THE FOUR ARCHETYPES
Orphan – Kirk is demoted after disobeying orders, however is reinstated and sent on a clandestine manhunt by the Starfleet Commander, Marcus.
Wanderer – Kirk finds Harrison who surrenders, however his surrender is merely part of his plan.
Warrior – Kirk must first battle Harrison’s mind games, and then take on Starfleet’s most advanced ship.
Martyr – Kirk is literally willing to give up his life to save his crew.
AND, IN THE END…
Read my review of 2009’s Star Trek, and you’ll see what I look like when I swoon in all my fanboy glory. While that film breathed a fresh life into an old favorite, Star Trek: Into Darkness tries to pick up emotionally where that one left off but is undercut by characters who seem to have forgotten what they learned in the last adventure. In many ways, Into Darkness isn’t just a sequel to Star Trek (2009) it’s a prequel to the upcoming start of the famous “five year mission.” Its an unnecessary reboot to the reboot.
The emotional, fully realized characters we saw at the end of Star Trek (2009) are largely missing and the crew feels to be a step behind where they were when we last saw them. Kirk hasn’t learned much about responsibility, Spock is still emotionally distant and lifelessly quotes regulations, Uhura is still prickly over Spock’s unwillingness to express his feelings, McCoy spews metaphors and mild vitriol, Scotty quits in a huff, Sulu sits in a few chairs and presses buttons when needed, and Checkov gets promoted to Engineering where he runs around a lot and pronounces “v” like “w”. Everyone seems very busy, yet the thrill of new discovery is missing. Even the big set pieces seemed manageable. We didn’t get a single planet-devouring black hole. Not one!
But perhaps I expected too much. If I close my eyes I can still feel the high I had after seeing Star Trek (2009). Technically, Into Darkness is top notch and the story shoots off in a straight line as fast as Kirk space jumps between two ships. Elevating this very linear story is the excellent Benedict Cumberbatch who plays a menacing and compelling villain. From a story perspective, the film takes a slight jog when the decision making is left to Cuberbatch’s character for a bit towards the end of act 2, but Kirk quickly reasserts himself as the story driver.
The story moves along briskly, yet by the time I got to the final fade out I realized that the next Star Trek movie could have easily been this one, as the crew we came to know and love is no more known nor developed than they were at the end of Star Trek (2009). I just hope that when they finally go seek out new life forms and new civilizations they discover some of the spark they misplaced back in spacedock this trip.
— Jeffrey Alan Schechter