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Star Trek Into the Darkness (2013)

May 20, 2013

star_trek_into_darkness_poster3-610x904J.J. Abrams is the reason I’ve been meaning to delve into the Star Trek universe. Out of the multiple incarnations the franchise has had over the years, my only time spent with it was watching “Star Trek: The Next Generation” as a child at my grandmother’s house due to her lack of cable. The show never grabbed me, but it was a great passive watch considering my slight crush on Scott Bakula at the time, who stole my heart in “Quantum Leap.” As time passed and television shows I watched made references to Star Trek, elements and moments of the franchise became singed in my brain.

Therefore, by the time J.J. Abrams took hold of the franchise in 2009, I was more than aquatinted with the USS Enterprise’s crew and villains of the past. Abrams’ spin on Star Trek floored me. After seeing his original, I swore to myself that I’d invest my energy into watching the original series and all the films. Well, of course that didn’t happen, as sometimes it’s hard to find the time to implement the big ideas in my head. Yet, Star Trek Into the Darkness was so thrilling and downright enjoyable that I’m adding the task of getting into the franchise to the top of my list all over again.

Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew on the Starship Enterprise are back boldly going where no man has gone before and exploring the depths of the universe. However, during a routine mission, Kirk breaks protocol to save Spock’s life causing the staunch Spock (Zachary Quinto) to report the mission’s failure, resulting in Kirk being demoted to 1st officer and Spock reassigned. The mishap causes a slight rift between the two friends. Meanwhile a homicidal villain, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), is terrorizing the Starfleet Command by blowing up government buildings, then killing officers in command. When a close friend is killed, Kirk and Spock give up their peaceful mission of exploration to go on a manhunt to find the ruthless fugitive and take him out, during which Kirk and his crew’s loyalty to each other are tested.

Fans of Abrams’ first Star Trek installment won’t be disappointed with Star Trek Into the Darkness. All the lovable characters are back and there’s an impressive amount of development that makes viewers actually care about the fate of the crew. The action is plentiful and there are enough laughs to balance out the serious overtones of the film. However, the newest, and arguably best, addition to the film is Benedict Cumberbatch as the evil, superhuman antagonist, known by his alias, Kahn. Cumberbatch is simply phenomenal to watch as his mere presence on screen demands the utmost attention. He captures the complexities of Kahn brilliantly; his bitter anger, his inner pride and arrogance, his loyalty to fellow comrades, and his superior intelligence.

Hailing from London, Cumberbatch’s fame spawned from numerous films and television shows, most notably the BBC miniseries “Sherlock,” a phenomenally directed show that for whatever reason I can’t seem to make it past the first 30 minutes of despite trying on at least six different occasions. While Cumberbatch’s previous roles and stage performances has proven that he is a remarkable actor, evil villain just suits him so well. Almost to the point that I was kind of, sort of attracted to his icy menace.

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Now with that being said, can we just talk about the editing for a second? Kudos to the masterful editing work done by Maryann Brandon and Mary Jane Markey that had me geeking out in pleasure at how effortlessly amazing the film’s camera work and transitions are. Abrams keeps the camera in a near constant state of motion allowing viewers to explore and see nearly every crevice and idea of the environment we are thrown in to. We are only stationary at times during conversation which takes place in tight close ups keeping viewers focused in moments of dialogue. Scenes transition in perfectly timed, concise moments to move the action forward on to the next scene or sequence. Objects are focused on in order to cleverly utilize match cuts, and Abrams’ use of great framing devices like Dutch and rotating angles are accentuated by the masterful editing.

In spite of all this, Star Trek Into the Darkness is far from immaculate. A good half hour of the film’s third act should have shaved off to save us from the tedious, melodramatic moments that take place. Also Abrams’ desire to be Stephen Spielberg is starting to get old. We get it J.J., you know the conventions of making a good blockbuster film, but just the same we know those conventions too. We don’t need them flamboyantly displayed to us. The music swells loudly at all the right moments to let audiences know that someone evil is on screen or something sad is taking place, or that we should care for this person for said reason. We know Kahn is evil upon first meeting him in a close up, we don’t need all the sirens and hoopla to tell us. Moreover, there are a few nods to franchise that are commendable, but pretty cheesy causing me to laugh instead of being emotionally invested in the moment.

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Regardless, Star Trek Into the Darkness is a damn good film that evokes both laughs and edge of your seat tension. Sure J.J. Abrams and his auteuristic light flares are in full display, but so is his progression as a filmmaker. The vision of space and the future are highly impressive and the cast pulls their weight and holds their own despite many of them having minuscule parts. I’m serious this time around, I’m going to delve into the Star Trek franchise so that I can hold up the Vulcan symbol of live long and prosper in earnestness and shout “Khaaaaaannnn” at the top of my lungs with fierce determination and true understanding of why.

SEE IT. The perfect type of film to see in theaters.

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