When the crew of the Enterprise is called back home, they find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization has detonated the fleet and everything it stands for, leaving our world in a state of crisis. With a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction. As our heroes are propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart…
To be fair, I’m not a trekkie, and I’m not well versed in the trek universe, however I’ve seen all the films and a few episodes here and there so I’m not completely out of the loop either. To give this review context, it’s very much on the basis of my experience watching ‘Into Darkness’ in isolation of everything else. Discussion on whether the current franchise truly personifies what trek should be, or whether it’s being reinvented to something that is contrary to its roots has been left aside, though I’d be more than happy to engage in such a conversation. For now however, here are my thoughts on this latest film.
Four years ago Star Trek re-launched itself with the quasi-spinoff alternate timeline version of itself to a welcome reception, it was both critically well received and a solid financial performer ensuring that this crew would return to screens. The only real surprise is that it took longer than expected, but JJ’s sequel is just a few days away from wide release.
With ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’ Abrams has delivered an exciting, action adventure film set against the backdrop of space. The sequel successfully duplicates enough elements of the previous film to play off well with audience familiarity, while expanding the setting and introducing new elements to explore.
Script wise Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof have delivered a solid film, while not complex or comprised of as much depth as it could have, the story services everything going on in the film effectively. There are a number of plot payoffs throughout that are handled skilfully by Abrams, with reveals that leave you thinking you should have seen it coming, and dramatic moments at all the right times.
The films main villain ‘John Harrison’ as portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch is a memorable high point, and in this aspect ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’ easily surpasses its predecessor. In Harrison the film produces a villain that is formidable, engaging and worthy of facing off against the heroes, he will be thoroughly discussed and debated by Trek fans in the future, the sign of a worthy addition to the franchise.
With so much going on visually and to a lesser degree narratively, it’s just somewhat disappointing that there wasn’t more emphasis on Harrison, in terms of fleshing out the character and really justifying the motivations driving his actions in greater detail.
‘Into Darkness’ is an excellently paced film, it certainly won’t leave any audiences bored with a nice amount of variety and even distribution of action set pieces over the entire film. With a production budget of approximately $185 million this is also a great looking film, the production values are a pleasure to watch with both engaging sets and gorgeous visual effects.
Managing such a large cast of characters in a two hour (plus change) film is a tricky proposal, naturally there will be some relegated to smaller roles however a well-managed cast will still all be given a moment to shine. The film manages to do exactly that, with a handful of characters becoming the main focus, a number are left with smaller roles but every character is utilised to some extent and able to leave an impact.
This balance is capitalised on by an excellent cast that collectively surpass their performances in the previous film. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto have settled into a natural onscreen chemistry, Karl Urban makes the most of his excellent dialogue, and special mention should be given to Benedict Cumberbatch who delivers a memorable performance and reminds us of the importance of rounding out a film with a great villain.
The most disappointing part of this film however, is impossible to discuss without venturing into spoiler territory, and while it’s not so much a disappointing element of this film it feels like an enormous missed opportunity that ultimately on reflection, feels more a product of the modern era of cinema, then a real failing of this specific film.
Having said that, when all is said and done ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’ is a hugely entertaining and exciting film that in many cases surpasses the previous film and leaves the audience wanting more. Where things go from here Trek fans will have to wait and see as Abrams famously moves across from Star Trek to Star Wars for his next film (in a directing capacity at least), but for now, any fan of either franchise owe it to themselves to see this film.
I’m giving ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’ 8 out of 10 stars, it’s in cinemas around Australia from Thursday 9th May 2013.