Before making either “Star Trek” movie, J.J. Abrams considered himself a non-fan, an outsider to a universe so many have become a part of. Some faithful fans were slightly appalled that a newcomer to this sacred universe was being asked to helm this enormous project and shoulder such immense responsibility with one of the most beloved and popular series of all time. Surprisingly (and now himself a Trekkie convert), Abrams did a pretty great job directing and bringing the first “Star Trek” to new generations. “Star Trek Into Darkness,” I’m happy to report, is a wonderful addition to the “Star Trek” universe as well as a more than worthy sequel to its 2009 predecessor.

The crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise has been busy going on missions, exploring new worlds, and most importantly, bonding. After a successful mission, a falsified report to cover up a breached Star Fleet code lands Captain James Kirk (Chris Pine) back as Pike’s (Bruce Greenwood) first officer and his team scattered. But after a massive explosion at the Star

Fleet archives in London, Kirk is reinstated as captain, Spock (Zachary Quinto) as First Officer, and given back command of the U.S.S. Enterprise in order to go after one of Star Fleet’s own, a man named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch).

The crew warp speed themselves to the edge of a neutral zone of an alien planet in order to kill Harrison on direct orders from Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller). A series of events catapults the crew into situations they’ve never faced before. It also begs the question: is the Enterprise an explorer of new worlds or a militaristic ship facing combat?
Before delving into detail about the film, it’s safe to say that Abrams can direct the hell out of pretty much anything. The man’s creative vision is impressive. Although he has plenty of stories from the franchise’s past to work with, he infuses the film with a new era feel without insulting the most die-hard fans (this is to say that there will always be unhappy fans, but I digress).
“Into Darkness” is fun, fast-paced, and fresh with a mixture of old thrown in for good measure. Most importantly though, it uses the strengths of its predecessor to maximum capacity and this makes the sequel much stronger and better balances the action, story, and character relationships.
Benedict Cumberbatch is so good in his role that it was slightly disappointing when he wasn’t given more of the movie’s screen time to flesh out his character. Cumberbatch’s delivery was eerie and powerful. You want to hate him and bow down to his brilliance all at the same time. It should be noted that if they do make a sequel, he should be one of the first people they bring back.
The performances are spectacular all around. The cast, much like the crew of the Enterprise, work seamlessly together. No one actor rises above the other to steal the spotlight, which is refreshing. The entire ensemble is top notch and the cast interactions and spot on comedic timing are certainly some of the best parts of the film.
Of course, since “Into Darkness” is also an action film, this aspect can’t go unmentioned. The film jumps between action sequences, plot development, and character moments effortlessly. The action is not over the top and constantly bears a sense of urgency. An early fight on a well-known planet is especially memorable as are the chase and fight scenes at the end.
One of the main themes is of the crew being a family, a team of people you trust to watch your back if something goes awry. This theme is simple and powerful and Abrams doesn’t beat us over the head with it just to get his point across. In fact, one of the most powerful scenes is between Spock and Kirk in the last fifteen minutes of the film.  The friendship between these two characters is solidified and makes one pretty great bromance moment.
The varying themes, the story, action, and cast ensemble make “Into Darkness” a movie worth watching and a sequel worth remembering. The movie is infused with energy, comedy, drama, and action-packed scenes and moments that keep you glued to your seat. It’s one of the best films of the summer so far and the only thing to truly be unhappy about is the fact that, even at a running time of over two hours, it ended too soon.
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About Author

Mae is a Washington, DC-based film critic, entertainment journalist and Weekend Editor at Heroic Hollywood. A member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), she's a geek who loves discussing movies and TV. She is also a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. If she's not at the movies, she's catching up on her superhero TV-watching, usually with a glass of wine in hand.

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