Reason Senior Editor Peter Suderman reviews director J.J. Abrams' latest outing with the gang of the Starship Enterprise, Star Trek Into Darkness, in today's Washington Times:
"Star Trek Into Darkness" is an apt title for a movie as empty as the vastness of space. The movie moves as if through a vacuum — fast and frictionless, from one scene to another, with a lot of nothing along the way. The warp-speed pacing only barely hides the fact that it never really goes anywhere at all, and doesn't aim to either. The final frontier? Forget it. This soulless sequel to a reboot is only too happy to go where every generic sci-fi blockbuster has gone before, and not so boldly either.
The fill-in-the-blanks plot — which hits every beat in Hollywood's current favorite screenplay formula — is little more than a collection of starship-sized distractions. (If I see another movie in which the villain's clever plan is to surrender to the hero, I too will be ready to give up, but only as part of a secret plan to destroy the formula itself.) The action sequences are predictably unpredictable, the sort of spectacles I forgot before they were over. The dialogue consists entirely of quippy expository details and trailer-ready ultimatums — none of which make sense.
Not that dialogue is the focus here. No one ever conducts a conversation, or has a thought, without something interrupting: an explosion, a crash, a shoot-out or some other meaningless reveal. This is a movie that lives in terror of boredom, and projects a deep-rooted anxiety about its own ability to hold an audience's attention. Watching it is like talking to a salesman who stops every 40 seconds to ask if you're still with him, and then slaps you in the face just to make sure.
For that, you can thank director J.J. Abrams and his frequent collaborators, screenwriters Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof, all veterans of the similarly vacuous TV show "Lost." For several years now, the quartet have been waging an increasingly aggressive war on narrative coherence, favoring speed and shock over sense, or even suspense. "Star Trek Into Darkness" is breathless and every once in a while even breathtaking, but it lacks any self-control. It speeds along at such a rapid, punchy clip that nothing much registers at all. It is a movie that is so insistently exciting that it eventually becomes boring.
Suderman reviewed the first Abrams Trek for Reason back in 2009.