Star Trek Into Darkness – The Monocle
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Written by: Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman & Damon Lindelof
Released: May 16th, 2013
Theatre watched at: AMC Universal City Walk, Los Angeles

Alright, I’m going to start this one off fairly oddly only because there apparently exists a stagnant thought in the cosmos that has just now reached my consciousness, but hang with me for a second! Would it not be the most amazing thing…if the third installment to the new “Star Trek” franchise were to include Neil deGrasse Tyson as some sort of “Yoda” character type to grace the Trek fictional universe with wise and ordinarily incomprehensible quantum banter that would ultimately force the crew of the Enterprise to reshape their laws of intergalactic travel both physically and mentally?! Think about that! Picture a frustrated Captain Kirk having the most mind-blowing conversation with a Trek’d-out Neil deGrasse Tyson with all of his commanding, silly gesticulations and eloquent speech pattern–just epic. Anyways, I diGrasse (you see what I did there).

We are here to discuss the sequel to the highly acclaimed, both with critics and Trekkies alike, Star Trek (2009), the J.J. Abrams film that did not technically reboot the franchise, but rather slung the course of the previous 10 movies into an alternate reality (brilliant creative move there J.J.). Star Trek Into Darkness carries on within this continuity and pits the crew of the Enterprise against one of their own Starfleet agents, the mysterious yet dangerous John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). After Harrison detonates a bomb within a secret subterranean Starfleet sector as well as ambushing an emergency Starfleet meeting with a small gunship killing a number of high ranking officers, Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), and the rest of the USS Enterprise crew must chase after this rogue agent and capture him in order to have him answer for his crimes…but not until of course he reveals the true nature of his actions.

The summer hasn’t ended, but Star Trek Into Darkness is this summer’s best blockbuster so far–yes, even better than Iron Man 3. The visuals are sleek and breathtaking as ever, Benedict Cumberbatch makes everything in general better, and the action is exhilarating as well as intelligently integrated into the narrative (an aspect of summer actions films that is usually thrown out the window). The film may not reach the same magic of wonder and creative vastness as its predecessor, but the success is largely in its superb script that is both smart and witty; carrying from first film is the constant awareness and examination of all the characters, which has always been a strength of the sci-fi-trifecta writing powerhouse that is Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof.  Along with these brilliant writers, J.J.’s strong point as a director is his attention to balancing lovable and meaningful characters within a story that is meant to test them not only as individuals but as a union as well, and along the way having them deal with themes of betrayal, redemption, and loyalty. Iron Man 3  was fortunate to have a Shane Black script, a script that was brilliant and fresh but one that was largely centric on Tony Stark and making sure the character had been preserved. However, what Trek does to a much more impressive extent, is preserve the entirety of the franchise and all of its components.

Again, the strength in the film is in the characters and the way they’re written, and they’re all back! The cocky Kirk, the overly logical Spock, the anxiety ridden Bones (Karl Urban), the thousand-miles-a-minute Chekov (Anton Yelchin), the largely underestimated and frustrated Scotty (Simon Pegg), the silent, closeted wild horse of a man Sulu (John Cho), and of course the beautiful and strong willed Uhura (Zoe Saldana). Every single one of these actors are in top form in their roles (especially Quinto as Spock), I no longer can imagine others in their place. I am however slightly disappointed with Uhura and the fact that she is noticeably a bit more sidelined in this one, she definitely had a stronger presence in the first film. Here, where she is revealed to be having some boyfriend issues with Spock, Uhura has an overhanging occupation with this problem, which is fine however it becomes quite her “Prime Directive” over the course of the film by worrying about Spock; it dies down near the climax, but at that point she becomes less integral to the end game and becomes more of a “Worry Wendy.”

Now I may get some hate for this, but speaking of underused characters, I honestly feel Cumberbatch’s John Harrison as a villain ends up a bit static for a man of his evilness. Okay, let me clarify something, Benedict Cumberbatch is as amazing and dreamy of an actor as they get and his portrayal of Harrison is absolutely chilling: he has such screen presence that it could make Santa jealous, an expression that could make Zoolander turn left, and a voice that has convinced me to want to hear it when I’m taking bubble baths–it is not Cumberbatch that is the problem. Really I just expected Harrison to have many more punctual moments that would establish him as not just a deranged and unstoppable adversary, but the adversary for the rest of the films. I sadly didn’t get that here, but I’m hoping it’s just me.

Other than that, all I really want to touch on is the beautiful cinematography that contains the J.J. flavor of smooth glides and tracking shots, the occasional axis tilt, and absolutely breathtaking wide shots from the exterior of the ships, both when floating in space and when crashing down to earth, and let me tell you, like always, the IMAX is just made for it. I also didn’t find the signature flares to be so prominent this time around, which may either be good or bad news depending on the individual, but I don’t mind them usually so perhaps my perception contains somewhat of a bias. There is also a standout out sequence where the Enterprise is in danger of crash landing to Earth and has started rotating off center, the gravitational system is damaged and so all of the crew is now having to deal with a gradually tilting ship, thus forcing them to have to walk on walls and sides of railings; it’s a sequence that calls back to the hallway fight in Inception (2010) and really showcases the technical ambitiousness and skill the filmmakers took on to achieve the thrill.

Final thought: if you are a Trekkie fan you will love it, if you are a J.J. Abrams Star Trek fan you will love it, if you are looking for some summer fun you’ll probably like it–go watch this film! It’s not only a great Star Trek film, it’s a great sci-fi film in itself just like its predecessor. Neil deGrasse Tyson for president!

Bow Tie Approved

Bow Tie Score - 4.0