I have never been a fan of Star Trek. Ever. I didn’t like the original series with William Shatner, I didn’t enjoy Deep Space Nine. I could have cared less about Voyager and/or The Next Generation. …I don’t think anyone liked Enterprise. However, when JJ Abrams took over the franchise with his version of Star Trek in 2009 I was very impressed. Gone was the boring old bouncing-back-and-forth special effects and annoying techno-babble and instead we got competent storylines, inspired performances and awesome visual effects. I have not been able to watch Star Trek Into Darkness as of yet but I am told it is a rather moody film as opposed to the first one that was just plain fun.
The story is this: the crew of the Starship Enterprise touches down in Yorktown for supplies and encounters a strange being in an escape pod. This female creature named Kalara informs them that her ship is stranded and damaged. As they attempt to restore it, they are bombarded by a swarm of ships and boarded by a team of alien soldiers led by the unrelenting Krall (Idris Elba). They soon discover that Krall is looking for an artifact that is part of a grand weapon that he plans on using on the innocent victims of Yorktown. The crew all end up stranded on a strange planet and have to find each other and survive long enough to stop Krall and save the universe.
The acting is on point much like it was in the first film. Chris Pine is part Indiana Jones and part Han Solo in his performance but it never feels like he’s ripping anyone off and the character feels like a genuine creation on his part. There are some very strong scenes that he shares with Zachary Quinto-as-Spock that serve as the highlights of the film acting-wise. Quinto is once again a great addition as Spock as well and does something that is very difficult: play someone that is almost emotionless but doing it with emotion. He also has some great chemistry with Karl Urban, who returns once again as Leonard McCoy (or “Bones”) and they steal a lot of scenes with their love-to-hate relationship and their hilarious banter. Look out for a scene in which Bones removes an item from Spock’s stomach and another one where he must team up with him in a dire situation. Simon Pegg returns as Scotty and lights up the screen with his brand of humour and also co-wrote the film as well, which is another accomplishment in itself. We don’t see a whole lot of Zoe Saldana, John Cho or the late Anton Yelchin but they are each quite palpable in their roles. Idris Elba plays the villainous Krall and while at first I dismissed him as a bit under-developed, he does bloom late in the film and you see some more character depth. It’s with great credit that Idris shines here too because he does so under several pounds of makeup.
I should also make a big deal about the new character of Jaylah played by Sofia Boutella, who is probably most well-known for her fairly large role in Kingsmen released in 2014. She is still a relative unknown but portrays a brand-new character and is quite welcome in the Star Trek universe due to her unique personality. You could almost say she is similar to Spock in a way but doesn’t take everything quite as literal as he does. She has some fun moments with Pegg though and is a well-written character. I can only hope Sofia continues to get great parts like this.
This is a very fun film that never takes itself too seriously for more than a short while and it’s the kind of film that accomplishes everything so well that you even stop and appreciate the somber moments as well. The storytelling is pretty straight-forward but don’t let that prevent you from going to see the film. It’s the kind of adaptation that obviously loves its source material (unlike yours truly) but actually does something different with it and makes it appeal to non-Star Trek fans as well like myself. It has elements of Star Wars and Indiana Jones most obviously but also traits from other entertaining action movies without being too much of a cliche.
The special effects are quite stunning as they often are with these films as everything looks and feels realistic and never too CGI-heavy (even though it’s mostly CGI). The scenery is lush and beautiful when we visit the distant planets but there are also parts that are empty and desolate and the film accomplishes showing that side of the world too. The action paired with the effects is intense and occurs frequently but not too much so that it takes away from the acting or pathos within the film. The opening scene is very entertaining with Pine being attacked by a number of small creatures, there is another really strong one involving a motorcycle, one with the best use of a modern song I have ever seen and the climactic battle sends it home in a big way.
I think it’s safe to say that the film has a little bit of everything for everybody. Looking for high-octane action? Check. Nods to the source material? Check. Great acting? Check. Should you see it even if you don’t like Star Trek in general? CHECK.
* (Brutal; the worst rating)
** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)
*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)
**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)
***** (Flawless; a true achievement)