star trekI feel that I must begin with a simple disclaimer: while I certainly fall into many avenues of geekdom, one thing I cannot call myself is a Trekkie. This is not to say that I have any dislike or bias against Star Trek, but simply that I do not know the full history and guidelines of this particular universe. I put this information out there simply to apologize any advance for anything I might say that may offend any die hard Trekkies. If you have any advice on what parts of the series, whether television or previous films, that I should check out, please comment below and I’ll take a look. Who knows, perhaps by the inevitable third installment of the current iteration I will be able to count myself among the experts of the Star Trek galaxy.

All that being said, Star Trek: Into Darkness picks up a seemingly short time after 2009’s Star Trek with our favorite Star Fleet crew rip-roaring across the universe. What makes this film and its predecessor successful is that the focus is not on the futuristic technology or fantastic settings, but the characters and their adventures, at their most basic levels. By changing “distant planet” to “dusty saloon,” you could easily transform this film into a western that would work just as well.  One of director J.J. Abrams’ strengths has always been forming relationships between characters that are both organic and fluid, whether between two people or between two species. Though each main character has strong defining character traits, their emotions and interactions are never watered down or one dimensional.

Of course, Star Trek: Into Darkness does have it’s fair share of exotic locations and action set pieces. The basic story is simple enough: the crew of the USS Enterprise is on a manhunt for a man responsible for a terrorist act in order to bring him to justice. Their adversary, played by an incredibly menacing Benedict Cumberbatch, is of course more than meets the eye, as is their challenge.

Thankfully, this simple story structure is played both smartly and unexpectedly, without being predictable, and without having twists for twists’ sake. Toeing this line of simplicity and intelligence is truly the strength of the film. By relying on a strong story rather than an elaborate one, we are able to connect with the characters instead of just doing our best to keep up.

Standing out as the focal point of the film is the relationship between Kirk and Spock. What could have easily been a run-of-the-mill “unlikely friendship” between two over-the-top characters is made into a natural and believable bond between two people who represent such an elementary part of all of us — the desire to be logical, and the desire to be fearless. While they may be larger than life characters, their relationship still grows and moves as naturally as a friendship between two common, contemporary earthlings.

Star Trek: Into Darkness is still of course a science fiction film, and it most certainly does not disappoint as a fantastic action movie. J.J. Abrams is well known as an admirer of Steven Spielberg, and this is most certainly evident in the several well crafted action scenes throughout the film. Even when the action is personal and intimate, it is no less exciting or powerful, adding even further to the development of the characters and the film itself.

In addition, the production design, cinematography, and all of the other little details have the same gorgeous slickness that we’ve come to expect from a film by Mr. Abrams (and of course there are the lens flares as well). Even with my limited knowledge of Star Trek history, I managed to catch a handful of references and tributes to past works, including a very interesting, shall we call it a “cameo.” This new incarnation of Star Trek has done a great job of making this franchise accessible, without ‘dumbing’ things down or taking away from the true sci-fi nature of the series, and this remains true with Star Trek: Into Darkness. I’m sure some liberties have been taken with the history and dogma of Star Trek, but if you’re able to look past those, or simple are unaware of them like me, Star Trek: Into Darkness proves to be a well crafted and most entertaining film.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars