Star Trek Into Darkness (J.J. Abrams, 2013)

As sometimes opposing sects of sci-fi fandom, the Star Trek and Star Wars universes have birthed a considerable number of die hard and subsequently hard-to-please fans when it comes to handling their respective, longstanding mythologies. While the latter’s prequel trilogy still remains of notoriously questionable quality, J.J. Abrams’ initial Star Trek reboot wowed fans and non-fans alike, tapping into the more accessible side of Gene Roddenberry’s brainchild while offering up enough of a modernistic visceral spectacle for all to enjoy. Needless to say, Mr. Abrams has hopped on the predictably lucrative sequel bandwagon, sating our appetites following a four-year wait with Star Trek Into Darkness – a technically competent moreover highly enjoyable endeavor that capitalizes on the first film’s strengths and then some.

Having already firmly established his and his crew’s sterling if amiably reckless reputation, Captain Jim Kirk (Chris Pine) and Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) find themselves demoted, mildly disgraced and redistributed among Starfleet’s best following a disastrous near-death experience prior to a mission’s shoddy completion. Morale remains low and sinks even lower when acts of blatant premeditated terrorism are committed by the mysterious John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a supposed rogue agent of sorts whose motives are as muddled as his true identity. Promptly reinstated as captain of the USS Enterprise on behalf of unforeseen tragedy, it’s up to Kirk and his crew to wrangle the coldblooded son-of-a-bitch before more harm is done.

Picking back up where the first film (more or less) left off, Into Darkness is immediately and thoroughly engrossing based on its predecessor’s not-so-surprising success story, even if the original television series’ mythos is tapped into a bit more frequently, but not in a wholly alienating sense. As to be expected, there are subtle and not-so-subtle nods to the franchise’s origins, the most noticeable being a quite startling reveal involving Cumberbatch’s ambiguously intentioned if enthralling central villain, of which may or may (probably) not be a surprise for hardcore Trekkies. Even still, the action remains full throttle and more than serviceable in between bouts of spoken – moreover shouted – deliberation between opposing and non-opposing factions on the Enterprise’s quest to bring their man to justice.

As to be expected, the film’s somewhat sprawling narrative sports its fair share of twists and turns, illustrating textbook double crossing and traitorship amid bits of pre-established galaxy-building involving the existence of the Klingons as the civilized beings’ ultimate adversary. Furthermore, it’s these nail-biting instances and Abrams’ apt handling of them that benchmark the proceedings considerably, thanks to both the film’s inherently captivating sci-fi trappings and stellar performances from an all-around dedicated and exceedingly talented cast. After all, who can deny the appeal of a fully suspense-driven sequel that so adequately ups the stakes for literally all involved?

Star Trek Into Darkness, in summary, is a genuinely fine sequel to an equally fine reboot of a beloved franchise. Suspense galore and appropriate series-centric lore do wonders in complementing Abrams’ gorgeous contemporary re-envisioning, thoroughly proving that the first film was far from a fluke. Throw in a generous smattering of emotional gratification, frequently evocative sci-fi imagery and a competently tasteful knack for storytelling of this caliber and you have yourselves one hell of a follow-up effort, plain and simple.

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