I’ve seen the best film of the summer – “Star Trek Into Darkness.”
There. That bold statement was easy. Now, reviewing “Into Darkness” without spoiling it? Fairly challenging.
As you should know even after our short time together at “The Cape and Cowl Crowd,” I’m a firm believer in avoiding talking about spoilers — any storyline points that might ruin the experience for my readers, especially those who haven’t watched or read what I’m reviewing.
So, the question remains: How do I review “Into Darkness” without spoiling it for you? Let me tell you, it’s not easy.
OK, here it goes. Director J.J. Abrams and his creative crew hit all the aspects of a great film – blockbuster or otherwise.
First off, I wanted to watch “Into Darkness” again as soon as the credits started rolling. And I did – I saw it twice in about 24 hours, a true rarity. What’s especially cool is I caught some subtleties I didn’t notice the first time; that’s the sign of a great movie.
Secondly, “Into Darkness” hits you with a lot of emotions. Sadness. Surprise. Anger. Joy – well, you get the idea. This “Star Trek” sequel honestly puts you on an emotional roller coaster. There are moments that surprised me, made me pump my fist, chuckle at wink-wink, nudge-nudge homages to classic “Trek” episodes, laugh at clever one-liners and yes, there were times I came close to crying. (I can’t help it — I’m a lifelong Trekkie.) I even found myself sitting on the edge of my seat, wondering how the U.S.S. Enterprise crew was going to survive.
Those of you who wonder if it passes the popcorn film test have nothing to worry about. Abrams grabs you by the throat at the beginning and doesn’t let go.
Most importantly, “Into Darkness” nails the spirit of the “Star Trek” franchise. Abrams and Co. not only “get” that while “Trek” is a science fiction franchise, the creators know the best and most fascinating part — particularly of the U.S.S. Enterprise crew — has always been those relationships. Not only does the script give each of the crew members their time to shine, the film overall reveals what Trekkies (new and old) adore about them.
And when those relationships are truly clicking — as they do in “Into Darkness” — it’s because of two things: 1) The cast chemistry and of course, 2) the dialogue.
When dialogue is at its best and is delivered properly, it reveals a lot about the characters and how they relate to each other.
A prime, non-spoiler example is when Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is in the elevator to the bridge with Lt. Uhura (Zoe Saldana who gets to kick some butt and use her “rusty” skills at speaking Klingon). Kirk gripes his frustrations about Spock – only to learn that his first officer and Uhura are in the middle of a lovers’ spat.
“Are you – are you two fighting? My god. What is that even like?,” Kirk says.
Before anything else can be said, the doors open and there stands Spock (Zachary Quinto once again nails the emotional balance beam of playing the half human and half Vulcan). Uhura walks by him without a word and Kirk quips, “Ears burning?”
In action films, there’s nothing like two alpha males going at it. That’s what you get when Kirk (Pine, who by now truly has made the character his own and plays Kirk much more in touch with his feelings than William Shatner) leads a mission to assassinate terrorist John Harrison (a nasty Benedict Cumberbatch), who planned a bombing of a Starfleet facility. Kirk must face the ethics of leading a mission for which he’s been ordered to wipe Harrison off the face of the universe with newly created proton torpedoes. All of this becomes significantly more complicated when Harrison attacks many of Starfleet’s commanding officers and Kirk learns several people have different identities than what they’ve said and two of those people have vendettas that are much more nefarious than originally expected.
Fans could argue rightly there is a certain amount of retreading of previous “Trek” stories with Abrams’ rebooted continuity. However, I gotta say the results are remarkable.
“Into Darkness” spins the franchise on its head in ways that make audiences feel like they’re experiencing long beloved characters without making it a cliché. Honestly, I could see moments of foreshadowing — but only just before something happened — and that’s only because I’ve seen almost all of the original TV series, all of “The Next Generation” series and the entire film franchise. By the end of the film, this version of “Star Trek” is ready to truly “explore strange new worlds.”
Regardless, Abrams includes provides plenty of surprising twists. Grade: A-