Benedict rising

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J.J. Abrams will make a Trekkie out of you yet.

In his 2009 Star Trek reboot, Abrams introduced audiences to an alternate timeline for Captain Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the original crew. With the sequel, “Into Darkness,” Abrams tasked himself with developing an ensemble cast in a limited time while presenting and developing a quality villain.

Enter Benedict Cumberbatch. He plays John Harrison, a character who is very clever and ruthless. From his first moment on screen, he is a compelling character who rapidly advances the plot. Cumberbatch is best known for his role in the BBC’s Sherlock as the titular character. His cold demeanor translates well from distant intellectual to the coldly charismatic and screen-dominating Harrison.

“Into Darkness” isn’t just the Benedict Cumberbatch variety hour, though. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) clash and develop as characters over the course of the movie. Though the interactions are fun, the character arcs feel a little simple. Kirk learns about taking responsibility for his own actions, and Spock learns about the importance of friendship. Sounds a little too Saturday morning when I put it that way. It’s an oversimplification, but with the time needed to introduce a handful of vital new characters and develop the rest of the main crew, there isn’t enough movie left for a complex main character arc. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with simple when it’s done well.

Speaking of done well, Simon Pegg is playing Scottie even more strongly than in the first film. He blended some of the dramatic acting chops he showed in “Shaun of the Dead” with his generally lighter role. Bones, Uhura, Chekov and Sulu are played quite well, so those who don’t prefer Scottie have a nice selection.

Of course, there are some flaws with the film. The pacing is back-loaded. The resolution is caught between seeming rushed and not having much to do. It almost feels like the film has two climactic action sequences interrupted by a dramatic climax.

Still, the rest of the ride is marvelous, and even with the slightly-wonky ending, “Into Darkness” is a top-notch blockbuster. The visuals are stunning. And of course, Benedict Cumberbatch steals the whole thing.

Nerd Star

Speaking of Cumberbatch, he is shaping up to be the next big nerd idol. “Sherlock” has secured him a strong fandom already, which will only grow as a result of “Into Darkness.” This winter, he will play both the Necromancer and Smaug in the second Hobbit film. “With Star Wars Episode VII” coming out in 2015, Cumberbatch has a chance of holding the geek flick triple crown.

But Cumberbatch is going to be a busy man. According to IMDB, he will appear in a total of five films this year, as well as starring in the third season of Sherlock. Common wisdom says rising stars shouldn’t rest on their successes, but this man is ridiculous.

August: “Osage County” has Cumberbatch acting alongside a smorgasbord of stars – Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Ewan MacGregor, to name a few. “The Fifth Estate” stars Cumberbatch as the controversial “Julian Assange” in a biopic about the growth of the site and Assange’s now-broken friendship with colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg. Lastly, he will act in Steve McQueen’s Twelve Years a Slave, a dramatic historical piece about a man from New York kidnapped and sold into slavery.

Cumberbatch has three films that, at this stage, make it look like he’s chasing down a nod at the 86th Academy Awards. He’s blatantly ambitious and quite skilled. If he keeps this up, he’ll be a household name before too long.

So get out and see “Into Darkness” when the time allows. Benedict Cumberbatch is going to be invading theaters in force soon. This early point isn’t to be missed.