I’ll lead off this review by just saying it: JJ Abrams and crew should have just rebooted Star Trek without the silly time travel element in the first film. They should have just started over without needing to set up an alternate timeline, and they could have cast Leonard Nimoy as a Vulcan elder (or better yet, a Romulan elder).
I realize they felt the need to mollify long-time Trekkies, but as someone weaned on classic Star Trek TV episodes during the early ‘70s, I never felt that was very important. Sure, I still love the old TV series (never got into Next Generation or the others that much), and the second through fourth films form a nice little trilogy that I still enjoy (the sixth entry in the series was good too, but I will be happy if I never see the fifth one again; it’s not even a guilty pleasure), but all the fuss over continuity gets silly.
There’s no definitive Robin Hood or King Arthur story, and there doesn’t have to be a definitive Star Trek, either. Just give us a new take on the series, like Ronald D. Moore and company did with Battlestar Galactica—the old stuff is still there and can’t be magically erased just because something new came along.
Okay, with that out of the way, let’s dig into the second entry in this new series. I mostly enjoyed the first film, although it had some plot holes and, as the dead horse next to me shows, I wasn’t a fan of the way it was set up. Star Trek: Into Darkness, however, doesn’t suffer from those things, although Nimoy’s throwaway cameo lent nothing to the plot and only served to remind me why the time travel setup was unnecessary. In addition, I wasn’t a big fan of a climax featuring a role reversal from Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan—again, Abrams and company should have remade this franchise in their own image without feeling the need to slavishly nod to what came before.
However, the film opens with a great sequence that demonstrates Abrams’ imprint on Star Trek: Kirk and McCoy desperately run through a forest of trees with red leaves, trying to get away from some primitive aliens while Spock tries to deliver a device that will stop a volcano from erupting. Kirk, in his usual brash way, ignores Starfleet protocol to save Spock from certain death, and his willingness to break the rules earns him a demotion from the captain’s seat. He finds out that Spock sold him out by writing a factual report of the incident, rather than following Kirk’s lead and creating a false narrative, and that sets up a nice tension between the two. Unlike in their earlier incarnations, Kirk and Spock aren’t BFFs, and that’s okay, because like I said, I want to see this franchise head in a fresh direction.
I don’t think I’m spoiling anything for anyone by revealing that the villain in this film is Khan, whose attacks on Starfleet lead to some key deaths that force Kirk into command of the Enterprise again. Thus begins a cat-and-mouse game between Kirk and Khan that is much different from its earlier version, in which they never shared the same physical space and instead dueled from the bridges of starships—this time, they must work together to further their own ends while pursuing a mutual enemy, knowing that eventually one will have to go against the other. It’s much more exhilarating and wide-open this time, with many opportunities for Kirk to kick some butt and watch stuff explode.
This may not be your father’s Star Trek, and that’s okay.
Unfortunately, the bonus features on this Blu-ray don’t live up to the film. They consist of six very short featurettes that briefly cover the action scenes, the creation of the Klingon home world, the decision to use Khan for this film, and so forth, but none of them really dig deep into the movie, which is a shame. There’s so much that could have been discussed when it came to the history of Star Trek and how Abrams was trying to nod to it while creating something new.
A digital copy for UltraViolet or iTunes (I always opt for the latter if I can; UV is kind of a mess to deal with) and a DVD copy of the film round out this release.