Matt's Rating: B+
*Note: I saw this with a couple of my buddies and without Nicole. So she will not be partaking in this review. If you want a woman's take on the movie you're going to have to wait.
Matt's Review: This is one of the few films I have seen recently that I can say was well worth the price of admission. I have said it once, and I'll say it again: JJ Abrams is the new master of the action genre. He makes action movies that do more than show you explosions and gun fights. In his films, you find yourself caring about the characters and in constant legitimate suspense. No matter how many times Kirk makes a rash decision, and even though we have seen him get out of them a million times, we still get nervous about him and his crew. Even the cheesy moments fit. Only Abrams and Whedon have been able to truly master the art of cheese. When Kirk thinks the battle is lost he turns to his crew and says "I'm sorry." Now, you know he is going to say it and we've seen that moment numerous times but for whatever reason it seems genuine. That is due to nothing more than good solid direction.
The writing in Into Darkness is just as clever as the first Abrams' Star Trek and it remains relatively faithful to the original source material. Every single character is fleshed out and serves an important role in the film, which is something most action films lack. The cast is not there to simply act as foils to Kirk, rather they progress the plot and have actual depth.
All the actors excel. Chris Pine is a great Kirk, Zachary Quinto is a perfect Spock, and I think Simon Pegg might be better than any of them. His performance will be dismissed because of his comedic background but he really stands out here. He never seems like he is trying to act. Benedict Cumberbatch is also fantastic (if you haven't watched him in the BBC's "Sherlock".....what are you doing?) and he fit the role perfectly. However, his character is my one complaint. I felt like his character's original motivation (pardon the vagueness, I'm trying to not give away any spoilers) was not as intense as I thought it would be. His initial actions seem more evil than his initial rationale for doing them. As the movie progresses, and he has more wrongdoings done to him, his motivation becomes stronger but up to that point we have a seemingly evil terrorist who's motivation appears to be simply "I don't like how you do things." But as I said, as the plot develops his story and reasons gets stronger until I finally felt like his actions equaled his reasons.
I can't give it an A because the film lacks other feelings beside tremendous suspense and thrill. The film pins you to your seat and never lets go but it is missing that emotional thread that the first one had. The "Kirk loves his crew" theme seems a little over done and the Spock/Kirk friendship thread is only kept fresh by the twist later in the film. The introduction of Benedict Cumberbatch's character seems to be the only shot of truly fresh material that fuels the movie. Still, for a film titled Into Darkness I expected it to be a little, well, darker. Cumberbatch's story allows the film to teeter on dark territories but I'm not sure it ever quite goes the whole 9 yards.
I can't sit here and tell you it's better than the first one. Maybe it's because I felt the first one was so fresh and new that any sequel wouldn't be able to recreate that feeling of rebirth that the first one had. That being said, Into Darkness is probably the best action film you will see this year. While I don't think it is quite as good as the first Abrams' film, I think it is as good of a sequel as can be made.