Into Darkness Capsule Review

Pre-release screening in Japan

Finally we're just one week away from the opening of Star Trek Into Darkness here in Japan. For reasons unknown, Paramount chose to make Japan the very last market to get the latest J.J. Abrams Star Trek film despite having what I recall as the world's first Into Darkness press event, held in Tokyo.

The first Abrams Star Trek was released in the United States on May 8, 2009, and in Japan on May 29, 2009—a reasonable gap. As that film brought in only $5.8 million at the Japanese box office, I'm not sure waiting until the entire world knows the story and its twist is the best path to better success this time around. Especially in an age dominated by Twitter and the constant buzz of social media.

Fortunately for me, I was able to screen the film at Paramount's offices in Tokyo back in June. It was wonderful to be able to see Into Darkness just over a month after its US and UK openings, but since then I've had to quietly bite my tongue here on home soil while I discuss the plot with others on The Ready Room and my other weekly podcasts.

But now the time has come to promote Star Trek Into Darkness in Japan, and to that end I wrote a capsule review for EL Magazine, an English-language entertainment publication in Tokyo. I'm not allowed—at the request of Paramount—to reveal the identity of Benedict Cumberbatch at this point, but for your enjoyment here is the review. I'll be writing a full analysis once I see the film again following its premiere on August 23 (this time in IMAX).

Star Trek Into Darkness

It took four years but finally the second installment in J.J. Abrams’s reboot of Star Trek has arrived. While the first Starfleet voyage for Bad Robot raked in the box office dough, it left long-time Trekkies wanting more. More of a story, more than just an action flick. With all of the characters now reintroduced—a task that took up a large portion of the 2009 film—Orci, Kurtzman, and Lindelof have the full 132 minutes at their disposal to tell a deeper story worthy of Star Trek’s 47-year history. Just what that story would be was the subject of more than two years of debate after a failed attempt to cast Benicio Del Toro as the villain. After telling fans that the foe was a familiar character from Star Trek’s past, J.J. instead turned to Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch who does a fine job playing the role of John Harrison. As a Starfleet officer with a bone to pick with Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller), Harrison puts a dark spin on Roddenberry’s utopian future. Ultimately though Cumberbatch is upstaged by Chris Pine, who carries the film in the iconic role of Captain James T. Kirk. The action is turned up to eleven—perhaps too much so for the Star Trek universe—and the film fits well into the classic mold of summer blockbuster. Artistically the film is well crafted and there’s plenty to excite the general audience—with more than a few cleverly chosen threads from The Original Series and even Deep Space Nine. And while this shows the depth of Trek knowledge Orci, Kurtzman, and Lindelof possess, it also works against them. If Star Trek Into Darkness has a fault it’s that the borrowing runs too deep and some attempts to connect with Star Trek’s past bely a creative shallowness that moves this incarnation of Star Trek one step closer to irrelevance in the eyes of many die-hard fans. The first half of the film crafts a fascinating story that combines the flavor of the Original Series movies with the shadowy Section 31 of the later television series. The plot of Into Darkness has been carefully set up over the past two years in the IDW comics overseen by Orci, and while the movie works fine without that knowledge those who have read the background will get more out of the story. Ultimately whether or not this film is a hit or a miss comes down to your own connection to Star Trek. If you’re looking for an action adventure and aren’t too tied to the past you’ll find it a satisfying experience. If you’re a lifelong Trekkie though, you may find yourself growing fatigued.