Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are not very colorful in "Star Trek Into Darkness" (PHOTO CREDIT: Paramount Pictures) Chris Pine (Captain Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (Spock) are not very colorful in "Star Trek Into Darkness."
Credit: Paramount Pictures

‘Star Trek Into Darkness'
Director: J.J. Abrams
Stars: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch
Rated: PG-13
2 (out of 5) Globes

The summer of 2009’s most unexpected delight, director J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek,” revived the moribund franchise, exploiting a canny time-travel loophole so a fresh-faced cast could take on familiar roles unburdened by a half-century’s worth of sci-fi mythology. The film’s great pleasure was watching these flinty Starfleet cadets gradually assume their rightful positions on the bridge of the Enterprise, finally blasting off for adventures unknown. It was terrific pop entertainment.

 

“Star Trek Into Darkness” is as glum and mechanical as its predecessor was buoyant. After spending an entire movie getting the band together, Abrams — along with returning screenwriters Damon Lindelof, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci — promptly bust them up and drag the action back down to Earth, ditching the space exploration for a joyless, been-there-done-that revenge plot. Demoted to First Officer for violating the Prime Directive, Chris Pine’s blustery James T. Kirk finds himself investigating an act of domestic terrorism by Benedict Cumberbatch’s rogue officer John Harrison — but he might go by another, more familiar name. An assassination sequence heavily indebted to — of all things — “The Godfather III” follows. A close friend is among the dead: This time, it’s personal.

An itchy admiral, played by Peter Weller, turns the Enterprise into a warship, much to the displeasure of peacenik Chief Engineer Scotty (Simon Pegg), who resigns from his post in protest. Kirk and crew are dispatched on an illegal mission of vengeance, accompanied by Alice Eve’s mysterious Carol Marcus, whose name might raise an eyebrow for “Wrath of Khan” fans.

In fact, there’s a lot that deliberately stokes memories of “Trek”’s 1982 high-water mark first sequel, including a mid-movie reveal that’s probably the worst-kept secret in the history of franchise marketing.

“Darkness” eventually replays an entire sequence from the beloved “Wrath of Kahn” film, except with a couple of key roles swapped. (Here it’s worth mentioning that with those original “Trek” movies, the even-numbered films delivered while the odd-numbered installments were notoriously lousy. Nifty of Abrams to keep the reversal theme going by inverting that particular axiom.)

Shot on film and then post-converted to digital 3-D, “Star Trek Into Darkness” is the muddiest-looking movie you’ll find in theaters right now. (Perhaps the title refers to the cinematography?) The vibrant colors of the crew uniforms and Abrams’ beloved fluorescent lens flares appear to have been submerged in murk.

The charming supporting cast is sidelined, and Michael Giacchino’s rousing score can only feign excitement for so long. This sorry sequel feels rote and hopelessly derivative, timidly going where we all have already gone before.

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