Starring: Chris Pine (Unstoppable), Zachary Quinto (Heroes), Benedict Cumberbatch (War Horse), Zoe Saldana (Avatar), Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead), Peter Weller (RoboCop)
Director: JJ Abrams (Super 8)
Writer: Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman (Transformers) & Damon Lindelof (Prometheus)
Runtime: 2 hours 15 minutes
Release Date: 9 May (UK), 17 May (US)
Back in 2009, JJ Abrams’ Star Trek made the franchise cool again, and converted many such as myself from novices to casual fans. And they did it by paying respect to the original material; they modernised it but they never for just the purpose of making it as modern and marketable as possible (AKA The Bay Method). Now before Abrams jets off to revitalise the OTHER major sci-fi franchise, he has brought us Star Trek Into Darkness. Does this adventure take the Enterprise to heights where no Trek film has gone before, or is it just an illogical disaster?
Abrams is one to always shroud his films in mystery until release, and with this one he has very good reason to. In keeping with that, I will avoid revealing the many, many twists and spoilers. All you need to know is that the plot, while simple, is incredibly well paced, full of great action set pieces and bursting with wit. Once the pieces fall into place, the second half of this movie is a non-stop roller coaster. But the film also makes plenty of time for character too, with plenty of development and intrigue for the major players. The relationship between Kirk and Spock, whilst touching on territory explored in previous Trek films, is wonderfully played out here and anyone even vaguely familiar with the franchise will get a kick out of how they twist with their relationship. The film’s main advantage over the original, though, is the presence of a memorable and effective villain: Cumberbatch’s John Harrison. I can’t say much more without getting into spoiler territory, but this is one adventure you must experience for yourself.
Recasting these iconic roles for the first film was a difficult task, but they managed to pull it off flawlessly and they only get better in this film. Those who felt Chris Pine didn’t quite fit the shoes once worn by William Shatner should be convinced by his performance here; he has the charisma, the swagger and the authority all nailed without losing that roguish charm. Quinto is still awesome as Spock and his chemistry with Pine is through the roof. The rest of the crew all get their moments to shine (though Anton Yelchin’s Chekov does draw the short straw on screen time), with Karl Urban’s Bones and Simon Pegg’s Scotty being my personal standouts. In terms of new blood, Peter Weller and Alice Eve are good additions to the cast but I feel they should have had a bit more screen time, especially Eve as Carol Marcus. For such an important character in Trek history, I felt she didn’t quite do enough to fully justify her presence. I guess they’ll hopefully expand her role in future tales, but for now she does impress with the little time she has. But the true stand out is Cumberbatch. Not since Ricardo Montalban’s legendary portrayal of Khan has the Enterprise faced such a difficult threat, and Cumberbatch owns every moment with a villain who is both ruthless but also sympathetic.
JJ Abrams’ style is divisive, but one that is at least original. Those who found his overuse of lens flares in the first movie are unlikely to be swayed, but those who enjoy his visual flare will find Into Darkness a beautiful piece of work. The scale is so large and grand with constant camera movement and incredible design work, but it manages to never distract from the emotion of the story. Michael Giacchino’s score continues to impress with both the original compositions and the updates of old themes, and the special effects are seamlessly integrated into the action.
I didn’t think I’d see a summer blockbuster this good after Iron Man 3 blew me away, but Star Trek Into Darkness is another winner. Whilst it lacks the surprise and innovation of the first outing, it more than makes up for it with larger stakes, better-defined characters and a great memorable villain. Only a slight imbalance in screen time for smaller characters stop this from being a perfect summer film, but this is still one to watch for sure. Mr Abrams, you’ve served the Enterprise well. Your transfer to the Rebel Alliance better be at least as good as this.
FINAL VERDICT: 9/10