Ding ding ding! Ladies and gentleman, we have a winner! “Star Trek into Darkness” has just become my favorite movie of 2013 so far, and it’s not even close. The latest installment in the “Star Trek” franchise combines nonstop pulse pounding action, the further development of characters we were introduced to in the previous film and also an unforgettably menacing villain.
Taking place soon after the events of the previous film, “Star Trek into Darkness” wastes no time throwing the viewer into the middle of an intense dilemma. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew have been assigned to secretly monitor the volcanic activity of an uncharted planet, but when Spock’s (Zachary Quinto) life is endangered by the lava, Kirk disobeys protocol and saves him despite orders not to allow the planet’s inhabitants to discover them. This establishes yet another layer to the Kirk/Spock relationship, one that will have tremendous emotional resonance for the remainder of the film. After breaking the rules, Kirk is demoted to First Officer, serving under his mentor Commander Pike (Bruce Greenwood). However, a former Starfleet officer named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) has gone rogue and is attacking Starfleet bases and murdering hundreds of innocent people. It’s now up to Kirk and his crew on the Enterprise to capture Harrison and bring him to justice.
Let’s talk about Cumberbatch. I had never heard of this actor prior to this film, but his performance has immediately made me a fan. His cold, piercing eyes, the menacing line delivery, the sheer ruthlessness all make him a memorable movie villain, and it will be difficult for any other performance of an evil character this year to top his. Hats off to Mr. Cumberbatch because a great villain is what truly makes for a great good vs. evil story. The rest of the cast certainly holds their own as well. Being able to play the same character for a second film allowed the actors who played the Enterprise crew members get more comfortable in their roles and explore more of their personalities. We see Sulu and Chekov take on new roles, Spock and Uhura have lovers’ arguments, and this time, Bones and Scotty are given more screen time to shine. It was also very nice to see Peter Weller in a significant role. It’s been too long since we’ve seen him in “Robocop.”
Although writer and director JJ Abrams certainly takes some liberties with Star Trek lore, I loved what he did with them. I’m not a Star Trek fan by any means. I’ve never seen a single episode of the TV show and have only seen “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” out of the original film series. But as a film geek, I’ve gained enough knowledge of Star Trek canon over the years to recognize the key parallels in “Star Trek into Darkness” with previously beloved Star Trek storylines. Much like “Iron Man 3,” liberties were taken with sacred characters and storylines from the past, but it works well here, just as is it did in “Iron Man 3.” There are also a few Easter eggs sprinkled throughout the film that will no doubt please many Trek fans.
Combine a great, complex villain with a compelling storyline and some really fun action sequences and the rest of the summer movie season has a lot to live up to if it wants to compete with this film. My viewing of the film was also greatly enhanced through the amazing new Dolby Atmos sound system at the Consolidated Ward Theater, which I will talk a little about more here.
“Star Trek into Darkness,” 132 minutes, is Rated PG-13 and is currently playing in theaters.