Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Directed by: J.J.Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch
There is much to be expected from a JJ Abram’s Star Trek sequel after the original managed to rejuvenate an extensive piece of science fiction geekery into a science fantasy on such an attractive scale that even a regular human being could enjoy it. 4 years later and we are offered a sequel that it is to both effects, much the same. (It’s probably important to note first that I am no avid Trekkie and that while Abram’s first deep space voyage impressed with breath-taking visuals, I was never hugely able to invest in it’s story.) In short, Into Darkness boldly goes over much of the same ground.
Benedict Cumberbatch plays mega mind and super villain John Harrison who coolly enacts a vendetta against Star Fleet. Initially exploiting a doting father (Mickey off Doctor Who) to commence his wrath, Sherlock is on excellent form as the menacing villain. His growling prose is enough to instil a strong sense of terror in what becomes a captivating portrayal and he commands the screen despite the character being surrounded by the same sense of inevitability that weakened Marion Cotillard in Dark Knight Rises.
Meanwhile aboard the Enterprise the ensemble cast are reintroduced in a slightly superfluous opening scene. Entertaining enough, if lacking on tension, it is here that the film mis-steps. Due to what can only have been a nightmare piece of paper work for Star Fleet, Kirk (Chris Pine) is fired and then rehired as First Officer and Spock reassigned somewhere else. Here the film begins to explore the same bits of space as its predecessor. In sequences we feel like we’ve already seen, Kirk becomes Captain again and Spock is reinstated causing much of the character ‘development’ to wear predictably thin.
Anton Yelchin , Karl Urban and Simon Pegg meanwhile do battle in a competition of dubious accents. Their characters offer welcome relief amid blink and you’ll miss it exposition, even if Urban’s funny bones occasionally wane. Alice Eve (I have no idea, either) also joins the crew both to no impact and for little reason, existing purely to stall the greater villain for a few seconds. However, the real star of the show is Zachary Quinto’s Spock who brings heart and heroism to the half-Vulcan. The rivalry/bromance between Kirk here still endures and despite there being no real sense of the wider stakes, this grounded, humanistic core gives something in the way of emotional investment.
Anchoring the ship to Earth however, is the parallel universe jargon that sees Spock from the original series interacting with Spock from this one. A nice post-modernist idea, it is a little pointless and sees the writers cement their own series in the shadow of the original. With lines even a non-Trekkie can scream, the unuttered word ‘remake’ soon becomes the elephant in the…er…spaceship.
Perhaps I am out of my Vulcan mind as there’s much to enjoy in this film. Visually resplendent, finessed by lens flare and with well paced action scenes this is an entertaining film and part of what could be a new era for science fiction, perhaps even making the uncool cool. A primary villain with little motivation continues a disappointing Hollywood trend to be light on plot or motivation, and it is this that incurs a mild feeling of “who cares?” but one that is outshone by the Spock/Kirk dynamic at the story’s heart.
Into Darkness then is respectable sci-fi fare for fan and non-fan alike and is noted like its predecessor for flairs in performance and lens. With an overwhelming sense of familiarity, some bland exposition and a neglected villain it does temporarily disable the warp drive, but one prominent message rings out – just you wait for Star Wars.