Thursday, 30 May 2013
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof
Produced by J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Bryan Burk
Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg
Running time 133 minutes
For ten years Star Trek was a franchise in decline. From the dizzying heights of the 1990s which saw three TV shows airing simultaneously on the back of nine films in 20 years, the rapid freefall was dramatic and the franchise appeared to be on the verge of oblivion.
Then in 2009, the final throes of the decade, Star Trek returned in a big way. Guided by the midas touch of Geek Deity J.J. Abrams, the newly rebooted franchise managed to throw off the stigma and become "cool" again. Star Trek (2009) was a huge success, grossing just shy of $400 milllion and becoming the first Star Trek film ever to win an Oscar.
Star Trek: Into Darkness is the direct sequel to this reboot, directed once again by Abrams and starring the same rebooted original series crew of Kirk and Spock et al. The same cast you loved before, the same aesthetic and yes, the lens flare all return.
As the middle film of a planned J.J. Abrams trilogy, Into Darkness ramps up the stakes and appropriately the level of drama follows. As the name suggests events take a more serious tone; more lives are at stake, deception is around every turn, and ethical dilemmas are raised. In stylistic terms, consider this the Dark Knight of Star Trek. Unfortunately it's when the film attempts to delve into these weightier, serious subjects that it falls most flat. Mild spoilers may follow.
Into Darkness opens with one such ethical premise: a terrorist attack is perpetrated on Earth and the Enterprise is dispatched to assassinate the alleged perpetrator via a targeted long range missile strike, an obvious reference to the practice of targeted killings of real world terror suspects without trial. Of course Star Trek has always been highly political as a franchise, but unfortunately the issue here is given such hackneyed and confused address that it serves little use other than to pander. It's a real missed opportunity for the film makers to tackle some real issues and add a bit of deeper context.
Elsewhere Into Darkness is far more successful. Despite its darker tone the film still finds a place for the series' trademark sense of humour to cut through the more serious plot points. Much like its predecessor this wit is ever present throughout Into Darkness and brings these classic characters to life very effectively. This is fortunate as it is the characters that make the film.
The writing here is as tight as ever, building on the events of the prequel with real progression in the Kirk/Spock friendship as well as the other relationships on the Enterprise. The performances in these roles are also excellent, reminding us how spot on the casting has been. Pine, Quinto and Pegg are all great, while the smaller roles of Anton Yelchin's Chekhov and John Cho's Sulu are fleshed out further. In addition Karl Urban is once again a highlight of the piece with his irreverent portrayal of Dr. McCoy. However it is the villain of the piece played by Benedict Cumberbatch who undoubtedly steals the show. Cumberbatch's star has been on the rise of late, and his chilling performance here should see him finally become a household name in the States. One of the finest Hollywood villains in many years.
Abrams himself brings his usual directing flair to the picture, and Into Darkness maintains the same level of energy and fun as its predecessor. The action sequences are at times stunning to look at, and the stirring film score from Oscar winner Michael Giacchino completes the sensory treat. It may not have the mass market appeal of Iron Man 3, but this a summer blockbuster that stands alongside any other in terms of spectacle.
For any weaknesses Star Trek: Into Darkness may have, this is still a rock solid piece of film making. It is fun, funny and exhilarating, and a spectacular summer film.