[Spoiler alert for those who haven't seen the film yet, skip paragraph three below]
Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the whole Star Trek idea and series (for TV no less), was known for his cerebral plots, in an age before CG and endless shoot em up bang bang took over the film industry. He, was the proverbial hard act to follow, and so was the strong ensemble cast led by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. Yet still the reboot of the Star Trek series with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto did a fine job in the first re-up of the series, with a little help from the old Spock himself. Could they top that? As it turned out— they could, by throwing into the mix a rising star on the small and big screen– Benedict Cumberbatch (with a name like that, you have to be good or else). It is always a danger to throw another strong actor, and strong character into the mix, when you already have several hogging the screen, but somehow J.J. Abrams manages the juggling act just fine and ‘Into Darkness” turns out to be likely the best of the summer popcorn movies available— here already in early May.
Abrams is properly respectful of the characterizations from the original shows and films, and only the man who plays Bones seems to be over egging the pudding a bit. But Simon Peg is pitch perfect as Scotty, and Zoe Saldana does a fine job of carrying on the legacy of Uhura. The problem with a legacy is that it is a lot to live up to time after time. But this film will be a welcome edition to the canon, and I predict Trekkies will like it, except of course the Klingons amongst them.
Speaking of which, one again there are Klingons involved in this film, but the really bad guy, played to the hilt by Cumberbatch, turns out to be a revival of Khan… as in the Wrath Of. So what did I really like about this film. For one thing, I liked the humor in it. There are some zingers, and some fun exchanges in this film. For another thing, I like the pathos in the film as the bonding (call it a mind meld maybe) between Kirk and Spock continues to intensify, at the same time that the relationship between Spock and Uhura takes a backseat in this film.
I saw this film in Durham in 3D, and in this case, the 3D in outer space was especially effective. The audience was ducking as space debris went by. My favorite scene in the whole film was Khan and Kirk rocketing through space dodging flotsam and jetsam as they try to board the enemy vessel. That was a thrill ride. And when the craft goes to warp speed, you feel yourself being sucked into outer space. An effective use of 3D.
The movie is 2 hours and 3 minutes long, and is without any steamy sex scenes. It does of course have some violence, but surprisingly little. The story is made vital by the exchanges along the way between the characters, the decent plot, and the strong acting. If you are choosing whether to spend your money on Iron Man or Star Trek, I would say– you will live long and prosper if you choose Star Trek