Into Darkness picks up a few years after the end of the previous film Star Trek (2009). Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is in command of the Enterprise on a mission involving a volcano and a primitive culture. Needless to say, Kirk abandons all the rules and completes the mission while saving Spock's (Zachary Quinto) life, very much against the Vulcan's wishes as this would break the big rule known as The Prime Directive.
This idea of them working together despite wildly different views on how to handle sticky situations is a common theme throughout the film. It actually works quite well as the dynamic between these two is fantastic. Pine is clearly sinking his teeth into the Kirk role and Quinto is simply awesome with his deadpan delivery. It's interesting to point out that, in the original series TV show, you had Kirk, Spock and McCoy as the central three cast members with the other four sort of floating around them. In this film, it's really just Kirk and Spock that have the main focus and anyone they place in the scene with them gets immediately elevated by their seamless bickering.
That's not to say Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy isn't great in the role. Out of all the cast members, he's the one doing his best to emulate the original cast member's performance (in this case, the late DeForest Kelley) and he does so quite well. His role is a little different in this sequel, though. In the first film, he was Kirk's best friend and closest confidant. That spot is being filled by Spock in this film, so the good doctor plays a more supporting role and adds some laughs.
Zoe Saldana gets some serious screen time as Uhura, largely due to her relationship with Spock. In fact, it's this relationship that provides the majority of the truly funny moments in the movie, of which there are several. Saldana is able to bring some much needed emotion to the film to help break up some of the action pieces.
John Cho has a great turn as Sulu. Again, another cast member who's clearly getting comfortable in the role and starting to have fun with it. Cho even gets to sit in the big chair and deliver some kick ass lines, which he does superbly.
Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty, is used rather shabbily, in my oh so humble opinion. It's like someone on set said "Hey, this guy is hilarious, let's make every scene he's in have him cracking wise and acting like a goofball". Pegg gets very few truly human moments in the film and, even when he does, it's hard to take him seriously since he's been goofing off for the other 2 hours. I get that he's a funny guy and I even get that he's expected to provide some comic relief. I just don't think it needs to happen in every single scene he's in.
I'm not sure if Anton Yelchin pissed someone off or if he had another project on the go and just couldn't spare much time for the production, but his Chekov character is relegated to the bowels of the ship early in the film and is barely heard from again.
The supporting cast of this film is pretty great. Bruce Greenwood returns as Admiral Pike and turns in a great, emotional performance. He continues to act as Kirk's mentor much like he did in the first film but, this time, he's clearly acting as a father figure as well.
Peter Weller as Admiral Marcus just chews up the screen when he's on it. He makes the best of a shaky plot line and runs with it. It was late in the production before I'd even heard he was in the movie. I'm very glad they added him in.
The real scene-stealer in this one, though, is Benedict Cumberbatch. Right after I watched this movie, my friend turned to me and said "Cumberbatch just commands the screen in every scene he's in" and I couldn't agree more. His John Harrison character is one for the books. One of the best turns as a villain I've seen recently. Not all campy and over the top, in spite of some rather corny dialogue. He kept his villain reserved and calculating throughout. He was the Hannibal Lecter of this film.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the visuals. They are stunning. Truly stunning. Easily the single most gorgeous film I've seen this year. The space scenes in particular are rendered so beautifully it may take you a moment or two to realize these folks aren't actually in space.
And I can't talk about the visuals without mentioning the Klingons. Yes, our boney-foreheaded friends make an appearance in this one, if only briefly. Their look gets updated (I won't go into details) and there's clearly a promise of more to come with these guys. Expect big things from them in future installments.
The movie has some plot issues that I can't really go into without giving away some major spoilers, which I've tried to stay away from this time around. The story itself is the weakest part of the film, but it's still far better than the last film's shaky plot.
I think it's fairly important to know what you're going to get from a movie based on the trailers and the source material to come before. In this case, based on the trailers I saw and the 2009 reboot, I was expecting a romping good action/fantasy film with some character moments, some decent humour and a villain that was going to steal the show. I have to say, I got exactly what I expected.
4 out of 5 stars.