by Coop Cooper
After the last “Star Trek” film was released in theaters, I saw it numerous times on DVD and cable and with each viewing, it held up less and less. Eventually, I got really down on it and would probably downgrade my original rating if I ever resorted to that kind of thing. “Star Trek: Into Darkness” is an improvement over the last film and although it suffers from many of the same problems, at some point you have to stop counting all the plot holes and enjoy the ride.
While bungling the rescue of a primitive race from extinction, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) breaks Starfleet’s number one rule in an attempt to rescue Spock (Zachary Quinto) from certain death. As a result, Kirk’s command is pulled and he is demoted until an ex-Starfleet intelligence officer, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), pulls off a series of bold terrorist attacks, crippling the fleet. Kirk is reinstated as captain of the Enterprise and given the task to track down Harrison in dangerous Klingon territory. Eventually, Kirk and Spock learn that Harrison and his true motives are not as they seem.
The story starts as a complete mess, much like the first film which had logic flaws and plot holes big enough to drive a truck through. Kirk screws up badly, gets demoted, whines and drinks with the admiral and ends up succeeding due to a lot of dumb luck. When other characters start pointing out what stupid mistakes he is making as he makes them, it makes you wonder why the writers couldn’t hash out a better storyline or a more likable Kirk.
That all changes as the villain emerges and the scenes work harder to propel his agenda forward. There was intense speculation early in the film’s production as to which classic Trek villain Cumberbatch would actually play and producer/director J.J. Abrams intentionally misdirected the public and the media – as he often does – in an attempt to hide that information. Speculation arose across the internet that Cumberbatch’s character might be a henchman for Kirk’s arch nemesis Khan or that something new and unexpected was in the works. The misdirection works for the most part and the payoff is satisfying enough.
The surprising part for me was how exciting the last third of the film plays out. It allows Spock an emotional and action-packed story arc never before attempted with his character and essentially sidelining Kirk to make the pointy-eared Vulcan the main character for awhile. I considered this a welcome development considering I feel Pine had been one of the weaker links in the cast. Pine improves over the course of this film thanks to chemistry with the rest of the leads but Quinto has always had his A-game going as Spock.
The rest of the cast fared as well as expected. Simon Pegg as Scotty gets a meatier part than the character ever got in previous films. Karl Urban is once again criminally underused and present mainly to deliver Dr. McCoy’s infamous one-liners. John Cho is allowed a couple of nice moments that hint at how his character of Mr. Sulu will one day be a formidable starship captain. Anton Yelchin finally dons a red shirt in this film but it’s unsatisfying as he received the least amount of screen time amongst the lead crew. Zoe Saldana as Uhura commanded more screen time than I cared for as Spock’s love interest. I still think she’s a chronic over-actor but once again the chemistry between the actors saved the day.
Cumberbatch owned the movie through and through. I fear he will never be used again in another Trek film but I found the use of his intimidating character one of the more interesting and finely-executed parts of the story. That’s not to say I didn’t have reservations, but I really enjoyed watching him work and chew up the scenery. As an actor, Cumberbatch is certainly a force to be reckoned with and I’ll be looking forward seeing him in A-list movies from now on.
Still there were those plot holes. HUGE ones. The “Star Trek” universe was so complex beforehand, throwing this new timeline in and trying to make the whole thing an action extravaganza must’ve been too much for the writers to lock down. Unlike my issues with “Iron Man 3,” I finally let go and had great fun with this one. Now that this film is done, the crew of the Enterprise gets to go on the five-year exploration mission that kicked off the original series. I’ll be curious to see how this affects future films, but with this installment, the franchise has won me over… for now.
Rating: 3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars