Monday 6 May 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness review

Star Trek Into Darkness (12A/PG-13, 132 mins)
Director: J.J. Abrams
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Most expectations were surpassed with the release four years ago of Star Trek, J.J. Abrams’ ambitious reboot of the original series that recast all the iconic parts with new actors.

With the groundwork done, the opportunity was there for this first sequel to blast us into the cosmos, all the while further whetting appetites for two years from now, when Abrams will turn his attention to that other sci-fi juggernaut, Star Wars.

But while expectations may be sky-high, the reality doesn’t quite live up to them, and the result is a solid and very enjoyable adventure rather than an unqualified home run.

An all-action prologue finds the Starship Enterprise and her crew on an alien planet, where they're attempting to save the primitive inhabitants from an erupting volcano without revealing themselves and breaking Starfleet’s prime directive about interfering with undeveloped civilisations.

As well as being stirringly executed, this sequence sets up the major themes of what’s to come, found in the relationship between hothead James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and his seat-of-the-pants, wiseass captaincy versus seemingly emotionless half-Vulcan first officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) and his cold and logical approach to everything.

All the crew are present and all signs point to this being the jumping off point for a proper mission for them. But this proves to be a false start, and the pace stalls a little when Kirk gets busted for his antics on the alien world (“They saw us, big deal”), with he and Spock still railing against each other.

The central story kicks in with the arrival of John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a former Starfleet officer who plots a series of attacks on earth against his former employers. The Enterprise is sent on an off-the-books revenge mission to shut him down, even though that may mean antagonising the Klingons.

So first, the stuff that doesn’t quite work: a firefight on the Klingon homeworld is chaotic and incomprehensible. A midsection that cranks the plot in to place is often gibberish. Any attempt to summarise it would be futile, partly because it’s badly written, partly because of the twists involved as it progresses.

So it’s left to the characters for what works, which really is how it should be. Not everyone gets a chance to shine right enough. Does Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban) do anything other than chuck out grumpy, albeit very amusing one-liners? Not really.

Simon Pegg has improved his accent no end since first time out, and his Scotty is a laugh, but Uhura, Chekov and Sulu are window dressing, even if the actors playing them (Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin, John Cho) are perfectly decent. Pine and Quinto are good too, but Cumberbatch is amazing, a calm and steely presence who anchors the whole thing, blowing Pine off the screen whenever they face off in scenes which are among the best in the film.

A now familiar score is an absolute blast, and vast, stunning sets combine with glorious visuals to make this an adventure that’s epic on most levels, packed with breathtaking individual moments. But, truth be told, much of its success is due to smoke and mirrors, with enough flare and energy to paper over the gaping holes in the plot and the fact that it’s a film aimed first and foremost at pre-programmed audiences.

It really is a geek’s delight, with nods and references to past glories likely to leave newcomers scratching their heads as to what the fuss is about. As betrayals and reversals abound and Kirk is outmatched by Harrison at every turn, the bigger picture is outlandish and impenetrable.

Hopefully there will be more fully developed blockbusters this summer, but there may not be too many that are this much fun. Just don’t spend too much time thinking about it.


  1. Another classic. A good follow through of the Star Trek genre. Awesome 3D sequence and solid performance from Cumberbatch. I have seen his acting skills in Sherlock series. And he has done fabulous acting.

  2. One of the best movies I have seen since Avengers.