Published May 16, 2013Afforded all the freedom in the 'verse to create their own take on the Star Trek mythos, thanks to the alternate timeline established by 2009's broad but reasonably clever reboot-quel, team Abrams almost immediately sets about squandering all of that potential on superficial, nostalgic fan-service thinly spread between layers of typical, mindless action entertainment.
When Trekkies see where J.J. Abrams and company have taken their beloved franchise, they're likely to explode in fury over the lightweight comedy (ha, ha, Vulcans are different!) and illogical plot points (did you know that Spock is tougher than a full platoon of Klingon warriors?). Or, contrarily, perhaps they'll swoon in nerdgasmic ecstasy over shined-up, dumbed-down versions of iconic story elements from days gone by that have been trotted out to trick the faithful into believing that this is anything other than crass, brand-aware, mass market entertainment.
Everyone involved has gone to great lengths to keep the film's secrets, but the movie tips its hand fairly early on (and IMDB seems fine with spoilers), so the big "surprise" at the heart of the embarrassingly titled Into Darkness is hardly that. Even so, the writers half-heartedly try to throw expectant viewers off the scent with an internal terrorist plot and a looming Klingon war MacGuffin.
To start things off, after a colourful, kinetic opening sequence on a random M-class planet that resets the adversarial logic-versus-gut-instinct side of Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Kirk's (Chris Pine) relationship, we spend too much time being reminded that Kirk is a cocky rule breaker in need of discipline. The mentor/mentee dynamic between Colonel Pike (Bruce Greenwood) and our brash, young captain is dusted off when Kirk is relieved of command for violating the Prime Directive to save a crewmember.
This order is rendered moot almost as soon as it's handed down; tracking a deadly murderer into Klingon territory is far more important than following rules of non-interference with primitive cultures. Admiral Marcus and a comely young science officer by the name of Carol (Alice Eve, proving that she actually has a bit of range) have important parts to play in the mechanical and frequently silly plot. However, the motivations of their characters are even less developed than those of the mysterious John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch, who steals every scene he's in with his rich, booming voice and commanding presence).
Don't expect any intriguing science, mind games or thought experiments from Into Darkness — this is Star Trek as pure action spectacle, where every side character exists solely to sling bon mots intended to satiate audience members hungry for the comfortable familiarity of repetition. The movie looks fantastic, as long as you love lens flare, and has enough pointless, large-scale destruction to compete with any Transformers film.
However, anyone looking for more than a modern military paranoia twist on a pre-existing story — one that's overflowing with the most basic populist humour imaginable — will be left feeling colder than a Vulcan in a cryo-tube. (Paramount)