Director: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Alice Eve
Rating: 3 out of 5 Starship Enterprises. I thought the first portion of the film was a prologue of sorts, important for everything to follow but unfortunately filled with uneven pacing and silly dialogue, making for a boring and hollow-feeling lead up to what is, eventually, an otherwise entertaining and visually exciting sequel packed with satisfying enough action and good performances all around.
This sequel tells the story of Captain Kirk being demoted for his reckless behavior, and being reinstated as part of a slightly too convoluted (but for objectivity’s sake I’ll instead say elaborate) plan to torpedo Cumberbatch’s criminal, John Harrison, hiding out on a Klingon planet. This not only threatens war with the Klingons but also opens up the can of dramatic worms of who truly is the bad guy– a can of worms which, as messy and complex as it may have been, I really wish would have been opened up a lot sooner.
I know a lot of people really liked this movie. And to be fair, I did too, but not at first. The opening scene (trying to save a species from their own volcano) was filled with humor and suspense and the energy level from there just plummeted significantly. When the film finally got its footing, and by this I mean it finally stopped giving us necessary but dryly presented exposition and finally warp-sped towards its actual plot, I really enjoyed it. It found a rhythm and a steady pace that was severely lacking for me during all those scenes of set up.
Now, I’m the first to defend those kinds of scenes in movies, because they foreground the rest of the film’s narratives and themes. But something about the script and the speed of these scenes felt like the film was dragging its weight and seeking direction for too long, finally gaining momentum but not soon enough for me to say I loved it.
All that being said, Benedict Cumberbatch was amazing, the thickening plot was, once I understood it anyway, enthralling and the action was shot with Abrams’ typical visual mastery, turning everything to electric reds and icy blues. I did think the writing was weak, as I mentioned; the overly sentimentalized bromance between Spock and Kirk was almost mockingly overdone at times. The opening sequence at least foregrounded it nicely though, as sprawling as it was in doing so and as cheesy as it continued to be. Overall, I think the strengths of this sequel do outweigh the weaknesses, but I couldn’t forget the weaknesses even once they did become fewer and farther between.