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‘Star Trek Into Darkness': What the Critics Think of the Sequel

The sequel to 2009's reboot is getting high praise, though J.J. Abrams may be taking too much a page out of Michael Bay's playbook

"Star Trek Into Darkness" was released on Thursday to mostly strong reviews.


Let's begin with A.O. Scott of the New York Times, who completely destroys the aforementioned generality, saying, "It’s hard to emerge from “Into Darkness” without a feeling of disappointment, even betrayal. Maybe it is too late to lament the militarization of 'Star Trek,' but in his pursuit of blockbuster currency, Mr. (director J.J.) Abrams has sacrificed a lot of its idiosyncrasy and, worse, the large-spirited humanism that sustained it." Scott calls the climax scene, "uninspired hackwork" and says Abrams "prefers to cautiously follow and skillfully pander."

Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times says that "Into Darkness" doesn't quite match its 2009 predecessor. Sharkey mimics some of Scott's comparisons to Abrams as a poor man's Michael Bay, but she does say, "So many things are done right that even with the bombast, 'Into Darkness' is the best of this summer's biggies thus far. It's a great deal of brash fun, and it should satisfy all those basic Trekkie cravings."

TheWrap's Alonso Duralde agreed, but went even further. Commenting on the film's post-9/11 sensibility, pointing out the destruction of a building in London and attacks on skyscrapers in San Francisco.

Those are only a few of the massive set pieces in the film," Duralde says, "and the movie is by no means a dreary and mournful examination of the effects of terror in the homeland. But they happen, and they’re key to the story that Abrams and his writers are telling. It’s a sign of Abrams’ skill as a filmmaker that the movie can travel to such dark places and still feel like an upbeat, energizing and often very funny adventure."

Also read: 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Review: Thrilling Sequel Balances Fun with a Post-9/11 Sensibility

John Anderson of the Wall Street Journal appreciated the film for what it is — and what it implied. "It may lack the existential dread of a bona-fide sci-fi classic," he wrote, "but 'Star Trek Into Darkness,'…is certainly one lavish pop confection. Noisy, frenetic, grandiose and essentially a soap opera, director J.J. Abrams' second contribution to the franchise has everything, including romance: Never before have Capt. James T. Kirk and his Vulcan antagonist, Mr. Spock, seemed so very much in love."

Matt Zoller Seitz of the Chicago Sun-Times gives it two-and-a-half stars on RogerEbert.com, calling the film, "Less a classic 'Star Trek' adventure than a 'Star Trek'-flavored action flick, shot in the frenzied, handheld, cut-cut-cut style that’s become Hollywood’s norm. Director J.J. Abrams‘ latest could have been titled 'The Bourne Federation.'"

"Abrams and his screenwriters (Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof) are so obsessed with acknowledging and then futzing around with what we already know about Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Scotty and company that the movie doesn’t breathe," he added.

Mick LaSalle of Hearst Newspapers published on timesunion.com, "It's written and conceived in full awareness of everything people liked about the previous movie and with a determination to make everything even bigger and better this time. Here and there, that becomes bigger and worse."

LaSalle continued, "Yet every time 'Star Trek Into Darkness' looks as though it's about to retreat behind the wall of silly, something happens that surprises, or delights, or demonstrates the filmmaker's genuine knowledge of and affection for these characters." He added, "The film is, for whatever else it might be, one of the funniest of the 'Star Trek' entries."

Tom Long of the Detroit News was far more clear in his enjoyment of the film, giving it a B+ while saying, "'Star Trek Into Darkness' is out of this world." (Expect that one on the Blu-Ray/DVD case.) Long goes on to say, "It's a spectacular action film. And if it leans on a few too many familiar devices – let's call for a moratorium on flying vehicles fitting through tight spaces – it has wit and energy to spare."

He concludes with, "Beam yourself up for this one." Yup, total movie poster material.

Dana Stevens of Slate urges her readers to "Boldly go." Stevens said that director J.J. Abrams has "caught some of the spark of the first 'Star Trek' without either mimicking or desecrating the original."

Stevens praises Chris Pine's Kirk and Zachary Quinto's Spock, saying, "But Abrams’ film succeeds where many recent big-budget ransackings of the pop-culture archive have failed: It takes familiar, beloved characters who are strongly associated with very distinctive actors and somehow makes us not mind imagining them in the body of someone else."