Star Trek is the most popular Science Fiction franchise, aside from Star Wars. It's no surprise that the reboot movie from 2009 did so well. It introduced the series to a whole new generation of fans, plus it somehow managed to be a prequel/alternate timeline for Trekkies. I have quite a few gripes with that obnoxious flick, but I won't deny that it succeeded in being a modern adaption. It's been four years, way overdue for a sequel. In fact, if we're going by two year deals, this should have been the third film. It's just too big of a gap. Was it worth the wait? Directed once again by J.J. Abrams, Into Darkness is not a perfect movie, but definitely better than its predecessor and a step in the right direction for the series.
The story follows James T. Kirk, whom is relieved of his duties after disobeying protocol. This changes when he's put back into the captain's seat to hunt down a Star Fleet traitor by the name of John Harrison. The film opens up with a fast-paced sequence on a planet called Nibiru. The scenery is quite lovely and shows how far special effects have gotten to the point where it can show off an alien planet's beauty. The plot gets going once the assault on the Starfleet commanders happens. Before that two major things happen, Kirk is told he's going back to the Academy and a Starfleet person accepts a deal from Harrison to save his daughter. It's a pretty powerful dynamic when you think about it, the guy blew himself up and the archive building with all the people to save his daughter. It gives the viewer an early impression on just how ruthless Harrison is. But is he the only really good character in the whole thing?
The primary thing I didn't like about the Star Trek reboot was the characters. It looked like Abrams and the team were doing their best to make all of them 'edgy' and 'modern.' Captain Kirk for example was one the most unlikable, arrogant, and obnoxious characters in the last decade. Bones and Scotty brought nothing to the table and Spock was a pale representation of his former self. Thankfully, almost everything wrong there is fixed in the sequel. Kirk (Chris Pine) is arrogant and annoying, but to a much lesser extent. This time we do get the feeling that he genuinely cares about his crew. When he said "I'm sorry" to them, it was one of the most powerful scenes in the movie. Spock (Zachary Quinto) is a highlight, instead of just trying to be a modern take on the classic character, he actually feels like a younger version of the Spock we all know and love. The battle between him and Harrison in the climax was fantastic. And finally, Scotty, Bones, Sulu, and Chekov are all great and actually feel like characters. Even Zoe Saldana as Lieutenant Uhura was pretty solid.
Dr. Carol Marcus got some mild hype in the trailers and such. Alice Eve just did not do quite a believable job. This is one of those cases were eye candy was the primary factor involved. I'm not saying it's Michael Bay bad, but really this character was truly unneeded and added nothing to the table. (To further the eye candy theory, just look at the short scene in the Shuttlecraft with her and Kirk.) Now, let's get on with the main event, the antagonist, John Harrison, or as I like to call him, KHAANN! Abrams and the marketing team did a stellar job hiding the fact that Khan was in this. There were constantly rumors of the egomaniac being in it, but he was hidden until the very end. He's rather different than his previous incarnation which hardcore fans may not like, but I thought he was great. He's definitely villain of the year material, Benedict Cumberbatch was easily the best actor in the whole thing.
One of the greatest parts of the film is the arrival of the USS Vengeance, which is basically a larger, darker version of the Enterprise. The trailers had you believe it was Khan's ship, but it ended up being commanded by Admiral Marcus at first. The second biggest plot twist, (the first obviously about Harrison being Khan) was that the Admiral was a traitor. It's pretty well done since the film has you believe that Khan will actually end up being a misunderstood hero and Marcus the villain. But, it doesn't go that way. First, you really have to admire the Vengeance's design and how it looked in conjunction with the little USS Enterprise. One of the best scenes is when the Enterprise goes into warp and then the Vengeance actually chases them and shoots them out of the warp field. The climax might be disappointing to some since Kirk doesn't get into a fight with Khan, it's Spock. It's definitely disappointing, but the battle between him and the Vulcan was fantastic nonetheless. The soundtrack is pretty solid, no complaints. It was nice to hear a remastered version of the classic theme.
Overall, Into Darkness is an enjoyable second installment in this rebooted series. Kirk is still too arrogant for my taste, but he isn't as grating to watch as the previous film. It's very nice to see the crew having a chemistry that was lacking in the origin, they actually feel like the Star Trek crew we all know and love. John Harrison, or rather Khan, is a fantastic antagonist and easily more memorable than Captain Nero. I look forward to the next installment. (Which hopefully will include antagonists other than the Klingons, because they weren't that impressive here, though their Predator helmets were pretty cool.)