With 2009's Star Trek, director J.J. Abrams (Lost) re-imagined the venerable Trek universe with a movie that both respected the past and blazed toward a workable, exciting future. In this new installment, Abrams largely undoes the goodwill engendered by the previous film. The overblown Star Trek Into Darkness recalls the mediocre outings such as Generations and Search For Spock.
While the first film delivered numerous homages and nods to prior Star Trek entities and ideas, the practice practically crushes this iteration under the weight of homage. Combined with a Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindel story that relies far too much on material lifted from superior movies and presented in an inferior fashion, Star Trek Into Darkness offers barely an original scene and scant few surprises. Rather than looking to the future, the movie remains mired in the past, but only the gloss and sheen.
Abrams forgot the most important element of any Trek: philosophical subtext. The underpinnings of lofty ideas and concepts that differentiate Star Trek from other science fiction. The film is littered with numerous avenues for this kind of exploration without slowing the story or really altering the plot, but instead the filmmakers opted for more straight ahead action.
Contrivances for the purpose of plot further degrade the tale and border on the absurd. Answers and solutions are uncovered with little effort and thought. The internal inconsistency of the film's science is maddening, illogical, and often distracting.
The best scenes, as with most of the original series, center around the interactions of the Kirk-Spock-Bones triumvirate. Zachary Quinto as Spock and Karl Urban as Bones thoroughly embrace their roles.
Chris Pine, however, lacks the screen presence to create an engaging Kirk and is always overshadowed by his co-stars.
The movie wastes the talents of the poorly cast Benedict Cumberbatch. His character motives lack clarity or conviction. Either the part or the actor should have been reconsidered.
The continued growth of Uhura's character as far more than a glorified switchboard operator continues to be a pleasant and welcome change. As written, the character demonstrates strength and intelligence through her femininity, not despite it. Sadly, the beautiful Zoe Saldana lacks the charisma of Nichelle Nichols to successfully pull it off.
Despite these numerous flaws, the beautiful picture's opening first act tantalizes and teases with the promise of a great outing. The quality slips as the story progresses, ultimately into a disastrous third act, further feeding the disappointment with the hackneyed Star Trek Into Darkness.
I am . . . and always will be . . . Benedict Cumberbatch.