Friday Flicks: Star Trek Into Darkness Boldly Goes Where No Film Has Gone Before

TIME breaks down which films to see and which to avoid this weekend.

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Paramount Pictures / Skydance Productions

"Star Trek Into Darkness"

Star Trek Into Darkness

Though he’d already established himself as a name to watch in television terms, as the creator of Lost and Alias, it’s only since J.J. Abrams stepped up to making movies that he’s been anointed by some as the next Steven Spielberg. But while his work on Mission: Impossible III and, to a far greater extent, Super 8, has been praised, it’s surely the 2009 reboot of Star Trek that thrust him into the premier league of directors.

Abrams’ fun, action-packed take on Gene Roddenberry’s original 1960s vision (which had already inspired countless spin-off series and films) grossed nearly $400 million worldwide, which is why expectations are just as high the second time around for Abrams and his crew.

His cast is all back – including Chris Pine as Captain Kirk, Zachary Quinto playing Spock and Karl Urban as Bones – but this big screen version of Trek (the 12th!) gets a serious upgrade in the bad guy department with Britain’s Benedict Cumberbatch as John Harrison. He’s a cold and calculating terrorist who sets off a bomb at a Starfleet archive in 23rd century England. Revenge is on the mind of Kirk, who is able to forgo a fair trial and try to track him down. Coming to the movies just weeks after the events of the Boston Marathon bombing, and the subsequent manhunt for the suspects, the instruction to, “run this bastard down,” has an eerie resonance.

Once again, the critics are mainly of the opinion that what Abrams has created should live long and prosper. And the supposed theory surrounding Trek movies – that the even-numbered ones are better than the odd – is holding up too. “Abrams has a gift for making us feel as if Star Trek Into Darkness vaulted from our own Trek-ish daydreams,” notes New York magazine. “In some sense, the title is misleading. Into Darkness is a blast, fun, funny, spectacular and exhilarating,” concludes Empire. And the Guardian reserves special praise for Cumberbatch: “As the supervillain, in closeup, Cumberbatch really … does a lot of impassive and charismatic gazing, indicative of infinitesimally amused unconcern. With that expression of his, he is in danger of becoming the Joseph Fiennes of his generation.” But the bad guy, when it comes to delivering a negative review, must be the New York Post’s Lou Lumenick, who snaps that “the only darkness here – besides the dingy-looking images dimmed by 3-D glasses – is the murky plot, which is as silly as it is arbitrary.”


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