Where This Meets That
In today’s culture of overblown, ever-climaxing summer blockbusters, J.J. Abrams pushes the limits as well as anyone.
In 2009, Abrams brilliantly resurrected the Star Trek franchise with a full-throttle extravaganza that was equal parts tongue-in-cheek homage to and a refreshing departure from the original. With Star Trek Into Darkness, he picks up where he left off, with mixed results.
Events continue to shape our favorite characters into those we know and love, although Abrams frequently teeters on reducing the characters into mere caricatures of their former selves. One bad slip could fatally brand the revamped franchise as mere parody. Fortunately, he holds on by crafting enough emotional depth to keep us rooting for the crew, even when the irony of how he borrows from previous Star Trek films at times can dilute the wallop.
Conversely, Star Trek Into Darkness works a little too hard to keep us on the edge of our seats. The movie’s first act involves an erupting volcano, a primitive humanoid race, and lots of surrealistic foliage, but little more. It’s a hook, but it doesn’t sink very deep. While it stretches to set up some of the story that follows, it unfortunately also initiates a number of fallacies that the film can’t quite outrace.
Abrams’ crew is adept at finding solutions to storyline crises that certainly ratchet up suspense but too frequently fall short of, ahem, “logic”. For instance, when a certain leading character wants to kill the main villain, his hand is stayed by his crew, who insist the villain is required alive because the hyper-regenerative nature of his blood alone can save a certain other leading character. Meanwhile, the crew already has 72 others just like the villain on ice; certainly, those would have made for a more convenient transfusion, while also giving one of our heroes a satisfying final revenge? Alas, such a logical solution would have also shortened the movie and killed a last wink of irony.
While Star Trek Into Darkness suffers some from such superficialities, it also thrives in them. After all, like its predecessor, it is a fun film, great for crunching popcorn to. It is a visual feast, with beautiful special effects. The scene of a massive starship crashing into San Francisco Bay is as gorgeous as it is harrowing, and perhaps the first ever warp speed chase is also a sight to behold.
In the end, Star Trek Into Darkness is a worthy sequel to Abrams’ original but falls well short of the franchise’s high point from three decades ago, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Star Trek Into Darkness score: 3.5 Falcone Rings