I’ve always been a Star Wars guy, and with that comes the unwritten rule that you’re just not really supposed to like Star Trek as well. Of course, in 2009 all that changed when J.J. Abrams took Star Trek in a whole new direction – a direction that was all but impossible not to love. So while I wouldn’t consider myself a Trekkie on even the most minute level, I will say that this new direction the franchise is going in is definitely something I can get on board with.
Star Trek Into Darkness is the second film aboard the Enterprise for Abrams and it’s just as good as his first time out – which isn’t an easy task considering! In fact, just about everything is bigger, and in most cases better this time around, with many nods to fans who know all aspects of the Star Trek mythos inside and out. This time around Abrams is able to play in the Star Trek sandbox a little bit more, as he doesn’t have to worry about creating an alternate timeline and reintroducing characters that many already knew and loved. Now it’s all been established, we know that this crew will experience new, fresh adventures together and not just rehash what’s been done before – even if Into Darkness somewhat rehashes what’s done before.
But while it does revisit familiar territory (especially with most of it coming from the second film in the original franchise), it does so brilliantly, and it works on every level imaginable. By this point everyone knows that Kahn is back, and if you don’t, well, the movie obviously wasn’t that important to you to make that a big deal regardless. While Abrams was nervous about casting Benedict Cumberbatch in the role – seeing as he doesn’t resemble the original interpretation of Kahn whatsoever – he stuck to his guns and let the actor prove himself to any naysayers. And prove himself he does. Cumberbatch makes Kahn an extremely memorable villain, with a mix of absolutely dastardly deeds and a shocking ability to get audiences to actually sympathize with why he’s doing them. It’s fantastic to watch play out, and he’s a character that really steals pretty much every scene he’s in.
While the last film focused on everyone being introduced and growing as a crew, Into Darkness focuses more on the hardships that sometimes come from decision making, and how those choices can affect friendships and alter the course of many a lives. This namely has to do with Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto), and how Spock just can’t seem to grasp the concept of lying to protect a friend, or bending the truth in order to keep the family functioning happily. No, Spock is by the book, and after a mission goes awry, he tells it like it is to Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) who ends up taking back his ship from Kirk and sending him back to training for reckless behaviour.
Of course, that’d be a pretty boring movie – okay, maybe not boring, but it would really be a retelling of the first film, so it’s a good thing Kahn comes in to shake things up. Aside from Kirk and Spock, everyone’s favourites are back: Uhura, played by Zoe Saldana, who is excellent in the film, especially during a scene where she gets to test her linguistic skills; Bones, played by Karl Urban, who gets some really great moments this time out; Scotty, played by Simon Pegg, who plays up the comedic side of things, which is always welcome; and Sulu and Checkov, played by John Cho and Anton Yelchin respectively, both of whom have some bigger parts to play this time around.
Other newcomers alongside Cumberbatch are Peter Weller and Alice Eve. Weller plays Starfleet Admiral Marcus, who is quite an interesting character. Weller knocks it out of the park and really takes the character up a notch against some other fine actors. Eve has been called eye-candy for her role in the film, and while that’s true to some extent, her character also has some interesting aspects to her. And while beauty is definitely an asset for Eve, she’s also got some solid acting chops to help her stand toe to toe with her onscreen comrades as well.
It’s clear to see that Abrams has only grown more comfortable in the Star Trek universe in the four years since the first film came out. He touches on a variety of things that the old series did in terms of crazy planetary travels to kick the film off, as well as really capturing the epic feel that a film like this needs – lens flares and all! While his future with the franchise is uncertain after he took on the role of director for Star Wars: Episode VII, he really showed what a true visionary he is with Into Darkness; though that’s something you could pretty much say about anything he’s worked on for quite a while now.
Star Trek Into Darkness pays homage to many classic Star Wars moments while also making them unique in their own way to fit into this new universe. While it will be great to get some fresh new adventures for the crew of the Starship Enterprise, revisiting a character like Kahn was a welcome one — especially to someone who really never got introduced to him the first time around and only knew of him through the infamous “KAAAAAHN!” scream that’s blasted throughout the ages. For fans of the series, this is a must own; and for anyone who enjoys spending a little over two hours simply soaking in awesomeness? Well, this is a must own for you too.
The Blu-ray transfer looks spectacular, with beautiful tones, crisp lines and fantastic all around colour and images. The special effects are stunning, and they blend right into the natural sets so that even with the clean look of Blu-ray, it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s CGI. The sound mixes are also spot on, with the dialogue coming through strong, and the soundtrack accentuating everything perfectly.
On the special features front there’s a “Play All” button that will allow you to watch all seven of the featurettes at once, making it one giant 42-minute behind-the-scenes feature. I highly recommend doing this, as it’s just an engrossing piece of work that will be done in the blink of an eye (and by blink of the eye I mean 42 minutes). The featurettes are as follows:
Creating the Red Planet – This piece takes a look at the extensive process of creating the opening scene of the film. It’s always amazing to see just how much work, and how many people it takes to create a moment that’s over in just a few moments. Really an interesting watch.
Attack on Starfleet – This featurette gives you a bit more of a look at just how hands on Abrams is, and how much he likes to work with things that are on the actual set and not just added in post.
The Klingon Home World – Another great little piece about a scene that’s quite explosive in the film. We also get to see just how amazing Zoe Saldana is when it comes to memorizing languages.
The Enemy of My Enemy – This piece talks about bringing Kahn back, and how Cumberbatch didn’t even know who he’d be playing for the longest time. It’s a great look at why Abrams was hesitant, yet excited about bringing back this classic Trek character, and how it paid off in the end.
Ship to Ship – Remember the scene where Kirk and Kahn are flying from the Enterprise to the enemy ship? Well, here we get to see how that’s actually created. It’s quite fun to see Chris Pine standing on a platform surrounded by a green screen simply being told when to move left and right because there’s actually nothing around them. It looks incredibly intense on screen, but anything but during the creation process. That’s not to say things don’t get more action packed for the actors near the end of that scene!
Brawl by the Bay – This piece takes a look at the battle between Kahn and Spock on the futuristic garbage truck. Again, a quick, but fun watch with great inside information from both Quinto and Cumberbatch.
Continuing the Mission – This is a brief piece about a great cause, where those who have served in the armed forces in one way or another return home and continue serving by helping out around various communities.
Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions Present Star Trek Into Darkness. Directed by: J.J. Abrams. Written by: Damon Lindelof, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci. Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Peter Weller, Bruce Greenwood, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin. Running time: 131 minutes. Rating: PG. Released: September 10, 2013.