J.J. Abrams doesn't seem to be clear on what he's doing with the new Trek movies.
After the 2009 "Star Trek" movie – which was both a remake and a reboot of sorts – it seemed like he was ready to venture into uncharted territory. But newly released "Trek 2: Into Darkness" turned out to be nothing more than an entertaining, beautifully jumbled mess that, once again, is part new and part reinvention that pays too much homage to the original series.
"Trek 2" tries to cover several different objectives to varying degrees of success. You know the phrase "greater than the sum of its parts"? Well, "Trek 2" was the opposite of that. There were a lot of great pieces, but they didn't quite come together, which honestly can be more frustrating, especially after thinking about what "Trek 2" could have been.
Early on, Abrams delves into character development, especially with hot-headed Captain Kirk, who still hasn't learned to follow the rulebook. Kirk makes rash decisions without considering consequences, which, of course, gets him in hot water. Mr. Spock takes his own journey on the path of enlightenment to learn when to act on emotion and not always be so cold, calculated and logical.
The opening sequence is the perfect example. It throws the audience right in the middle of an intense expedition as the Enterprise crew attempts to freeze an erupting volcano to protect a primitive people. The scenario renders Spock facing certain death as he makes the sacrificial play. Of course, Kirk isn't about to give up on his friend, even if that means breaking certain mandates (something Kirk does frequently). But Spock—a Vulcan who won't acknowledge emotions nor understands the dynamics of friendship—doesn't appreciate Kirk breaking the rules and undermining what he was attempting to do, even if it does mean his life was saved. And thus continues their conflicting styles.
Uhura and Dr. McCoy are among others who have their own personal issues that have become all-too-familiar. The problem with this is most of these ideas are rehashed. At times, Abrams tries to establish behavioral patterns, but other times he assumes the audience understands already or gives rather blatant nods of recognition to the original series as an ode to the fans, a terrible risk when dealing with an already well-established franchise like Star Trek.
About midway through the movie, a big reveal is made about the film's main villain, one that any Trekkie can predict and probably see coming a mile away. This moment changes the entire psychology of the movie, as all of a sudden, "Trek 2" became a full-on remake. There are even a couple cheesy moments directly referencing some of the original films' most memorable scenes or lines. It didn't have quite the staying power this time around.
¬Abrams certainly doesn't skimp on the visuals, which are stunning (that is, if you can focus on them, a task that isn't easy with the choppy editing and shaky camerawork). And he brings that fast-paced flare that packs in the action as dire situations continually arise.
But the crux of the main story is underdeveloped and completely forgettable as "Trek 2" became more about what it was trying to be and not about what it was. Too bad, because there was a lot of potential to lift this saga to new heights.