Star Trek Into Darkness lives up to the hype. J.J. Abrams, in many ways a Steven Spielberg 2.0, has managed to do the near-impossible by securing pivotal roles in two of the biggest franchises in Star Trek and now Star Wars, with Star Wars VII in the pipeline. The director and producer is a forerunner for the next Hollywood juggernaut with a collection of noteworthy blockbusters in Mission Impossible III, Super 8 and Star Trek with many more to come.
Star Trek reinvented the series sporting a bold, up-and-coming cast with an international flavour. The spectacular mix of buckle up action and deep space science fiction peril exceeded expectations after a long run of middling-to-good Star Trek sequels. It was time for a shake up and Abrams gave the eleventh film epic Trekkie credibility with a slick modern finish - all in all, it was just what Dr. Spock prescribed.
While there's been plenty of speculation on Star Trek Into Darkness, the sequel is every bit as good as the first installation, if not better. The story picks up after the first Star Trek reboot as the crew of the Enterprise become aware of an unstoppable force of terror, which leads them on a mission to capture a one man army. The story cleverly leverages the war on terror with some inferences to key players.
At the core of Star Trek Into Darkness is a bromance between Kirk and Spock. Chris Pine returns as the hot-headed yet charming Kirk, whose never-say-die attitude and ballsy risk-taking make the adventure exhilarating as the crew learn to roll with it. This creates great tension, internal friction and buddy chemistry with his second-in-command, Spock, played by Zachary Quinto, whose cold, calculated Vulcan precision brings gravity to each do-or-die situation.
If Kirk and Spock's relationship is the heart of the story, Khan's scheming is the mind, with Benedict Cumberbatch delivering an excellent performance as the complex 'superhuman' character with a personal vendetta that renders him an unknown entity. We're already convinced of the actor's intellectual capabilities with a fine performance as Sherlock Holmes in the new BBC television production and Cumberbatch's scene-stealing screen presence in Star Trek Into Darkness is every bit as palpable, comparable with Loki in The Avengers.
Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho and Anton Yelchin reprise their integral roles from Star Trek with the same level of enthusiasm, getting more screen time this time around, and welcoming rising starlet, Alice Eve, to the fray. Each character has been given more responsibility and importance in terms of plotting with their own personal quests playing out.
The action-adventure is beautifully balanced, interspersing a performance showcase for the up-and-coming ensemble amongst slick, beautiful and realistic production design and visuals. From epic warp speed duels to urban terrorism, the film's CGI holds strong and creates an electric and immersive atmosphere. Star Trek Into Darkness kicks off with a climax and then gradually builds again and again, surprising and entertaining for the more than two hour duration.
J.J. Abrams has crafted an epic sequel to Star Trek that builds on the foundation of the reboot. While the novelty of the reinvention gave the previous film great momentum, the writers have managed to go deeper with the characters by making this adventure more introspective. Instead of having a clear enemy like in Star Trek, the fog of war has blurred the lines of good and evil, to create a treacherous and unpredictable environment.