When J.J. Abrams relaunched the Star Trek franchise on the big screen back in 2009, he needed to broaden the appeal of the franchise to entice a younger audience who didn’t grow up obsessing over years of preexisting materials. At the same time he wanted to give those loyal fans something they could be excited about too, and the result was popular and successful enough to warrant the beginning of a new franchise, which was wisely set up so that it ran on an alternate timeline making it so the existing Star Trek canon wasn’t touched or altered. Fans had fun when Leonard Nimoy reprised the role of Mr. Spock in order to assist the new version of his old crew in their ongoing adventures, relishing in the little winks, nods and nudges to everything that came before.
Now with character origin stories out of the way, Star Trek Into Darkness is allowed to stretch its massive franchise wings and deliver one dynamite action sequence after another. From the opening Raiders of the Lost Ark-esque chase scene to a ridiculously tense Star Wars-esque moment where Kirk (Chris Pine) and his nemesis (Benedict Cumberbatch) fly through space in an attempt to reach a very small opening in another ship, this sequel definitely delivers the best action moments we’ve seen in a Star Trek movie to date. They’re exhilarating and constantly evolving, feeling both fresh and familiar, which plays well to what Abrams and his crew have been trying to deliver throughout the two movies.
Will that be enough to satisfy everyone? No, it never is. Appealing to everyone and satisfying everyone are two completely different ball games. But what I like about Abrams is that he’s a master at delivering those big moments — the ones kids try to reenact in their schoolyard; those moments we geek out about with our friends at the local diner after a midnight screening on opening night. These are the moments that forever define the “summer movie,” and they are the moments Abrams emphatically celebrates in his own films. Much like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas turned to old serials when crafting their biggest blockbusters, Abrams turns to Spielberg and Lucas for inspiration during his biggest big-screen moments, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing since the outcome is almost always fun to watch.
And that’s where Star Trek Into Darkness truly succeeds, in that it’s just a damn fun time out at the movies. If you’re an old-school Star Trek nut with an incredible amount of devotion to those older movies, then at times Into Darkness may feel like it lacks emotional resonance, partly because you’ve already experienced the sorts of emotions this sequel is rehashing, but in a different — shall we say, alternate timeline-ish — way. I sort of hope the next Star Trek movie is called Star Trek III: The Search for a Plot That Has Nothing to Do with Previous Star Trek Movies because after two films it’s time we see this crew truly (and boldly) go where no other Star Trek movie has gone before.
Star Trek Into Darkness is a movie that tries so very hard to appeal to everyone (and should satisfy most) during a summer season that knows how to bring the noise and the funk and the big-budget special effects. It wows and it pows, and while the gang is still having some issues balancing fan service with the growth of something new and fresh, the sequel is exciting, thrilling, funny, emotional and everything you’d want from a summer blockbuster.
Remember, this is the summer movie season, where spectacle trumps all, and boy does this movie know how to show off its more specacular moments. Trust me, you’ll have a good time.
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