The Star Trek franchise, ever since The Original Series aired, has always been entertainment ahead of its time. It tackles complex moral issues while also envisioning a better world. What it was not, however, was well-written or massively popular to the public. The great achievement of JJ Abrams has been to compellingly tell a tale that resonates both with the die-hard fans and with the regular moviegoing public looking for the next great big blockbuster.
He does so in a number of ways. Abrams brings back a number of familiar characters, others being more well-known than some. He keeps the core of the relationships between the bridge crew intact, even bolstering it in some areas. He maintains the basic tenet of good versus evil but manages to add complexity to it that was absent from the original series. At the same time, he is not afraid to infuse the film with the more modern, pop-culture, one-liner comedy style of this time. In this way, Star Trek, while still remaining true to its core, is able to compete story-wise with such successes as The Avengers.
Visually, Star Trek is stunning. The 3D is used in a meaningful way – something I find to be very rarely done. The Enterprise is shiny, sparkly and futuristic – a ship that you would want to travel space in. Scenes shot to look like space did not seem kitschy or green-screened (even if they obviously were).
The acting, as well, is fantastic across the board. Chris Pine is quite good as Kirk, being able to play the brash playboy and the selfless leader equally well. Simon Pegg was one of the best parts of the film playing Scotty – the rare comic relief who added to the story rather than annoyed the audience. But the two standouts have to be Zachary Quinto, reprising his role as Spock, and Benedict Cumberbatch, the (unnamed for this post) villain in Into Darkness. Quinto always manages to portray the emotionless Spock as someone to empathize with and understand, not a small task given the required limit to his emotional range. Meanwhile, Cumberbatch is one of the more fearsome, complex and indestructible characters in the Trek universe. It would be difficult to find anyone who could play that better than Cumberbatch did.
In remaining true to its roots while also appealing to the larger audience, in being able to poke fun at itself while still keeping the honesty and earnestness so rife in the Trek universe, in embracing the old and the new alike, Star Trek: Into Darkness is the rare masterpiece that avoids becoming a conundrum. JJ Abrams’ second instalment in the Trek universe is aesthetically pleasing, well-plotted and broadly appealing. It is also the most cohesive and entertaining film of the year thus far.