Star Trek Into Darkness

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This is not your father’s Star Trek. That’s how the 2009 reboot was marketed, and it could have been the same for “Star Trek Into Darkness”. J.J. Abrams has hit gold again.  I’m no trekkie, and I barely saw all the films before 2009. I barely watched the TV show growing up because it was boring to me. This well paced, balance of action and heart is not my father’s Star Trek! It’s mine.

If you’re a Trekkie looking for answers and geeked out conclusions, I can’t give them to you. Maybe if I interviewed the guy I sat next to, who clapped and figured out who Commander John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) was way before the film made it clear, I’d have the history and knowledge of the franchise. So all I can do is talk about the stand alone film. 

From the beginning we have Abrams homage to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” with Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) running through the planet Nibiru. Kirk runs through a forest with arrows being shot at him just like Indy. This stealth mission to save the indigenous people puts Spock (Zachary Quinto) in the middle of a volatile volcano that the Enterprise crew wants to make inactive. While this may be a great opening sequence for any film, it sets up the moral conundrums for the rest of the film. Kirk makes a risky decision to save Spock from dying in the volcano, one that Bones (Karl Urban) admits Spock would not make for Kirk if the choice was his. This is the set up for both Spock and Kirk’s character arch for the rest of the film. 

After once again making a risky decision on Nibiru, Kirk is demoted to serve as first officer on the Enterprise. This is short lived though, as the mysterious Commander Harrison defects from the Star Fleet to go on a one man terrorism spree killing many of the Star Fleet leadership. From there the Star Fleet reinstates Kirk as Captain and the Enterprise team goes on a mission to obliterate Harrison.

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On the villain side of the film, the movie excels and misses an opportunity at the same time. Eric Bana’s Romulan miner Nero served as a nice foil for Kirk and the Enterprise crew in the previous film, but his character never managed to rise above the plot lines. The opposite is true for Cumberbatch’s role as Harrison, who commands your attention every moment he’s on the screen. In fact, the “Sherlock” actor is such a powerful presence in the film that it feels like a little steam is let out of the movie when his character’s true identity – a classic character from the original television series – is finally revealed.

Once the Enterprise crew captures Harrison (a sign of maturity by Kirk) in Klingon territory, the real drama begins. From then on, there are the usual questions of who’s telling the truth? Who’s the real villain? Etc. Even though these are common movie themes, it’s still fun to watch. 

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You have to give credit to the writers first (Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof). Without a great script, you don’t have a great movie. The next step is J.J. Abrams. I sat in the film wondering, "is he the Spielberg of this generation"? He’s obviously a student of Lucas and Spielberg. He has a wonderful pacing and blend of comedy, action, and heart in this film. His body of work is really starting to heat up. You heard it here first!

Overall, “Star Trek Into Darkness” is not only what a summer blockbuster should be, but what a good film looks like. The rebooted franchise is really hitting its stride. Which makes me wonder what will happen when Abrams takes over the Star Wars franchise? The camaraderie between the crew is so real, funny, and the love for one another is there. This film was so good that it makes me want to watch the original films to see why they were so successful! That is the sign of a great story, and great direction. 

Rating: B+

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Kevin Sampson

The fact that Kevin Sampson is not just a film critic, but a writer, producer, and director as well makes his understanding of cinema even better. Coming from a theoretical and hands on approach, he understands both sides of the struggle of viewing and creating great works. After receiving an MFA in Film & Electronic Media from American University in Washington, D.C in 2011, Kevin took his love for film to the next level by creating and producing Picture Lock, an entertainment website, podcast, and hour long film review TV show that runs on Arlington Independent Media’s public access station in Arlington, VA. The show covers new releases, classic films, and interviews with local filmmakers in the DMV area. He is also a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association and African American Film Critics Association. He is currently looking forward to filming his first feature film in the near future. He believes that film is one of the most powerful art forms in the world, and he hopes that he can use the craft to inspire others and make a difference in it.