Film Review: Star Trek: Into Darkness
We are welcomed with open arms back in to the J.J Abrams brand of Star Trek within three seconds of the opening scene of Star Trek: Into Darkness. Abrams does Star Trek with a bonkers blend of action, humour, romance and darkness that makes this an easily recognisable franchise – though perhaps a step too far away from Roddenberry’s vision for the purists. But whether you’ve been a Trekkie for years, or this is a new experience for you, Abrams manages to drag familiar characters to the forefront and give them the bounce and pizazz they need to survive in the high-octane competition of the modern day action movie business.
Michael Giacchino’s reimagined score adds depth to the ambitious scenes – pop-art colours and sweeping backdrops of huge scale are given brassy realism with an uplifting and familiar soundtrack. We see London in the far future – spires of blue-grey high rise and gleaming glass, curved edges and ringing with those whining robotic sounds that accompany any sci-fi attempt.
But the film itself begins with our cocky Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) losing the Enterprise after a hare-brained mission gets out of hand and his usual luck backfires. In the meantime, we come across Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch), whose first appearance is clearly not what it seems. You would have had to be living under a rock to realise that Cumberbatch’s character is anything BUT the bad guy in this story – even before the film was released early last year. And we’re not left wondering what he’s up to for long, with a suitably futuristic explosion and Kirk’s reinstating as Captain of the Enterprise.
Our favourite blue-eyed otter impersonator is transfixing as the psychotic Khan, with more layers than an onion (parfait?*) and with a cold anger that may be familiar to Sherlock viewers but somehow feels much better applied here. He leaves Kirk floundering in his wake as the captain struggles to keep up with the fast-moving revenge mission Khan has embarked upon, and even Spock’s (Zachary Quinto) logic and Vulcan intellect is left behind.
You spend your time second-guessing every move and feeling frustrated and overwhelmed with every step towards the dramatic finish. I can’t give away any more here, as that would ruin the whole film, but suffice to say: holy cow.
The first Star Trek was entertaining enough, but this foray is an intense and thrilling race through the Star Trek universe, with cameos from tribbles (purr purr) and even a nod to the original series with lines directly lifted from them. The purists have been disappointed with Abrams’ vision in comparison to the original series, but I can’t help but feel he has stepped Star Trek in to an environment that needs the spectacular show that he provides. The TV series will always remain a classic, but it is in a different category to the modern Trek of the big screen, and Abrams has been pivotal in this.
Having said all this; his eagerness to use clever technology is hard-going sometimes (the bright blue lens flares will drive you nuts, though they are much improved from the last time) and the characterisation is a little caricature-like at times – enough to make you cringe. Marcus (Peter Weller) is weak overall, with barely an introduction, and a shaky entrance as a key player to the Khan mystery. It feels shoe-horned, although I know it wasn’t. And some of the large-scale fight scenes in space are too shaky to get a handle on what is going on, and risks making you feel seasick at the swinging, swaying speed of it all. I’m glad I didn’t watch this in the cinema, as it’s quite an ambitious fling in to sci-fi action films, and the action can leave the sci-fi overwhelmed, making it a bewildering watch.
If you watch it for nothing else, watch it for Cumberbatch’s performance. Unsurprisingly, the fans and the critics are all agreed on that point.
*Shrek reference, don’t shoot me