The New Star Trek Film? Well, It's No Wrath of Khan.

Star Trek Into Darkness.
Director:
J.J. Abrams.
Writers: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof.
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch.

When J.J. Abrams was given the keys to the U.S.S. Enterprise for 2009's Star Trek, he fully revived the left-for-dead franchise. And, dare I say, he made it cool, too. Phasers weren't just set to stun. People actually punched each other. Things actually exploded.

Your daddy's Trek, it was not.

Now his highly anticipated sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, aims to boldly go where no man has gone before. Except, well, OK, that's not true at all. Spoiler alert: Aside from a few curve balls that come here and there, Star Trek Into Darkness is essentially a retelling of 1982's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan — a film considered by Trekkies and film nerds alike to be one of the greats of the sci-fi genre.

Needless to say, simply attempting something like this is setting the bar pretty high. And, bold a move as this it may indeed be, that really just means that audiences are almost certain to compare the results of this effort to where they've gone before. Fortunately, Abrams is a more than capable director, a man well on his way to becoming this generation's Spielberg, or at least the closest approximation we're likely to get. And, here, he turns things up to 11, particularly with his film's epic scope, tentpole action sequences and breathtaking special effects, the likes of which are unparalleled, really.

None of this is surprising, of course. Abrams could make the home video of a kid's birthday party look cinematic and epic. But if the birthday cake sucks, then, hey, the birthday cake just sucks. And therein lies Into Darkness' problem: All of these grand visual elements mostly feel like cover-ups aimed at distracting the viewer from the fact that the film's plot is messy at best.

The script, penned by the otherwise dynamic trio of Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof, is stale and uninspired. Its plot holes are so big, you could fit the planet Kronos through them. And, instead of motivated, genuine characters, viewers are simply bombarded with hat tips, head nods and fan-pandering references.

Meanwhile, the man-on-Vulcan bromance Kirk and Spock is really gushing here to an excessive amount — although, granted, Pine and Quinto's respective portrayals of Kirk and Spock continue to be highlights of the franchise. And, to be sure, the chemistry of the Enterprise crew (Pine, Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin and Zoe Saldana) carries a significant amount of the weight here where Abrams can't.

But the true shining star in this galaxy is Benedict Cumberbatch, who stars as the film's vile villain. His performance alone is worth the cost of admission. Ricardo Montalban's Khan — pecs and all — would be proud, and the good-versus-evil dynamic Cumberbatch provides very much makes for an entertaining watch.

That's the thing about Star Trek Into Darkness, though. Even with all of its heroic action sequences and energizing efforts, it never really amounts to anything more than a fun watch.

Which is fine. It's just no Khan, is all.

Score: 6 out of 10 Vulcan death grips.

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