Ironically, Into Darkness is Too Light on Meaningful Ideas
- Christian Hamaker Contributing Film and Culture Writer
- 2013 16 May
DVD Release Date: September 10, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: May 16, 2013
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence
Run Time: 132 min.
Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch, Bruce Greenwood, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Peter Weller, Alice Eve
Four summers ago, J.J. Abrams directed a successful reboot of the Star Trek franchise. With new actors as younger versions of the well-known cast of the original TV show and feature films, the new flick grossed more than $250 million in North America and more than $125 million overseas.
Although that earlier film was a smash, Eric Bana’s role as villain wasn’t compelling. Indeed, much of the film’s enjoyment came in hearing familiar lines from the Star Trek crew uttered from the mouths of the characters’ much younger selves. The film, with its revenge-driven storyline, also lacked a profound message—something the TV series regularly attempted to deliver, albeit it to mixed results.
The main question about Star Trek Into Darkness, Abrams’ next chapter in the rebooted Star Trek franchise, is whether he has addressed the weaknesses of the earlier film while building on its strengths—strong action set pieces and humorous interaction among the crew of the USS Enterprise.
The results are mixed. The new film’s great strength is its villain, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (TV’s Sherlock), and a maturing cast that is growing into its familiar roles. But the action this time is less coherent and more drawn out, and the film’s emotional content is rather cold. Characters cry, joke and even die without generating much emotional response from the viewer.
The film’s opening piece is a chaotic rescue attempt of Spock (Zachary Quinto), who has dropped from an Enterprise shuttle into a live volcano on a distant planet from whose inhabitants Capt. James T. Kirk (Chris Pine, People Like Us) has just escaped. The rest of the crew—including Uhura (Zoe Saldana, Avatar), Scotty (Simon Pegg, Hot Fuzz), Bones (Karl Urban, Dredd), Sulu (John Cho, Identity Thief) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin, From Up On Poppy Hill)—tries desperately to save Spock before the volcano blows.
Abrams goes into overdrive filming Spock during the sequence, his camera swooping down from a high angle to a low angle several times, as lava percolates and flows throughout the frame. It’s overkill for a scene that has inherent drama and uncertainty - more exhausting than exciting - although the film settles soon thereafter into a more measured pace (by summer-movie standards).
When the consequences of Kirk’s efforts to rescue Spock lead to Kirk losing command of the Enterprise (never try to cover up the details of a mission centered on a Vulcan who can’t help but tell the truth), Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood, Dinner for Schmucks) gives him a second chance. Kirk will have to prove himself while serving as First Officer to Pike, who will again captain the Enterprise. Before they can embark, however, all of Starfleet is given an emergency mission: find John Harrison (Cumberbatch), a rogue member of Starfleet who has a score to settle.
Though the storyline of this Trek is again revenge-driven, the screenwriters effectively tack on a point about the futility of vengeance, and they make a less successful stab at communicating a message about the dangers of forgetting "who we are." The dialogue in the film’s closing moments sounds more like talking points left over from the George W. Bush era than a thematic summation that grows organically out of all that’s come before, but it’s to the film’s credit that this Trek chapter at least tries to deliver some sort of moral to its story. Into Darkness feels closer in spirit to the Star Trek TV show and earlier films—something that wasn’t much of a concern in the previous Abrams-helmed Trek.
Quinto’s Spock has the meatiest role here, and his lover’s quarrel with Uhura gives the film some needed laughs, as does Urban’s Bones. Pegg’s Scotty has an important role to play in the story, even though his lines aren’t up to the actor’s notable comedic talents. Greenwood, as he did in the previous film, provides gravitas, as does veteran actor Peter Weller as another Starfleet admiral.
Those who catch Into Darkness likely will find enough to enjoy here, but this new installment in the long-running franchise continues to show unfulfilled promise. But disappointed fans can take heart: there’s little doubt Into Darkness will be a huge hit that leads to additional sequels—and more chances to deliver stronger stories with better integrated themes.
- Language/Profanity: “Dam-”; “a-s”; “b-sta-d”; “oh, my God”; “hell”; “piss you off”; “holy sh…”; “God help me”
- Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: Drinking and drunkenness
- Sex/Nudity: Kissing; Kirk pops up from under some bed sheets, followed by one woman, then another; a woman in her underwear
- Violence/Crime: Deadly explosions, gun fights; punching and fighting; a snapped limb
- Religion/Morals: Alien species bows down before a volcano and are later seen, in awe, drawing a picture of the Enterprise; a character says, “It’s a miracle,” to which Spock responds, “There are no such things”
Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Publication date: April 16, 2013