‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ turns out to be quite the Enterprise
BY RICHARD ROEPER Sun-Times Columnistfirstname.lastname@example.org May 15, 2013 2:54PM
‘STAR TREK INTO
Kirk | Chris Pine
Spock | Zachary Quinto
Khan | Benedict Cumberbatch
Scotty | Simon Pegg
Bones | Karl Urban
Spock Prime | Leonard Nimoy
Uhura | Zoe Saldana
Pike | Bruce Greenwood
Paramount Pictures presents a film directed by J.J. Abrams. Written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof, based on the TV series created by Gene Roddenberry. Running time: 2 hours and 12 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence). Now at local theaters.
Updated: June 18, 2013 7:24AM
The following is a condensed version of a review that was printed May 15 in the Chicago Sun-Times.
Critic’s note: Attention, hard-core Trekkers and non-Trekkers alike: Multiple but mild spoiler alerts just ahead! Trust me, I’m holding back on the big surprises.
At times “Star Trek Into Darkness” plays like a buddy cop movie set in the intergalactic future.
Rousing opening sequence in which the rogue antihero (one Capt. James Tiberius Kirk) disobeys directives and breaks the law in order to save lives? Check.
Subsequent scene where the superior chews out the hero and tells him he thinks the rules are for everyone else, and even though our hero has the potential for greatness, he’s been given the equivalent of a desk job? Check.
Maddeningly straitlaced, by-the-book good guy (Spock) constantly butts heads with his rebellious partner? Check.
Psychopathic but ever-stylish villain who possesses far superior strength and firepower than our heroes? Check.
Of course, this being the second entry in the “Star Trek” film series that got such a rousing reboot in 2009, we also get state-of-the art visual effects, some amusingly weird alien beings, at least a half-dozen references to touchstones from previous “Star Trek” movies and TV episodes — and 3-D glasses for the audience if you’re so inclined to pay the extra freight.
My advice: As was the case with “Iron Man 3,” the 3-D in “Star Trek Into Darkness” is at best 2½-D, and you’ll be just fine watching this in a regular old theater.
One of the numerous strengths of “Star Trek Into Darkness” is that it works as a stand-alone film. Director J.J. Abrams is a true talent, and he’s also a pop-culture savant who has great respect for the legacy of this franchise as well as a keen understanding of the mega-importance of box-office figures. There’s no better choice to make the best, the purest and the most accessible big-budget “Star Trek” movie possible.
Looking a bit like an aging boy band lead singer, Chris Pine is once again solid as Kirk, who’s still serial-womanizing (at one point he has a threesome with two beautiful creatures with great tails, and I mean they literally have tails) and still at odds with the ever-logical Spock (Zachary Quinto), who’s having a rocky romantic go of things with Uhura (Zoe Saldana).
Kudos to Quinto for pulling off a legitimately moving performance even though he’s sporting those ridiculous bangs and those pointy ears — and most of the time he’s not conveying anything resembling human emotion.
After the aforementioned opening sequence leads to Kirk’s demotion and Spock’s reassignment, Starfleet is rocked when one of their own turns on them in a big way. Benedict Cumberbatch delivers a near-campy but effective performance as that rogue officer who goes by the name of John Harrison. At first he seems like an off-the-rack sci-fi villain, but the more we see of this guy, the more interesting he becomes.
Abrams and his visual-effects wizards create a 23rd century version of London that’s so arresting that I wish they’d spent more time on Earth. It looks like a really cool place, what with all the flying machines and fun toys and the seeming prosperity.
Not to say the scenes aboard the Enterprise or in the vast spaces of the great unknown are lacking in splendor. This is one great-looking film, yet there’s still time for the likes of Scotty (Simon Pegg), Bones (Karl Urban) and Hikaru Sulu (John Cho) to have their moments.
Even if you’re a “Star Trek” newbie, there’s enough exposition explaining the rules of this universe and the players occupying key roles. If you are a Trekker, there’s plenty of inside baseball as well. Some of the references are so obvious even I got them; I’m sure I missed others that will have hard-core fans either chuckling or groaning (or pointing out perceived injustices).
Yet with all the futuristic splendor and the suitably majestic score and the fine performances, “Into Darkness” only occasionally soars, mostly settling for being a solid but unspectacular effort that sets the stage for the next chapter(s).
I’ll leave it to the lifelong Trekkers to rank this movie in the canon of a franchise that may last so long that it’ll eventually be set in the present day. What we’re doing here is talking about this movie, and of all the stars in the galaxy, it deserves three.