Dir: J.J. Abrams, 2013
Reckless and disobedient, Captain Kirk of the starship Enterprise is displeasing Starfleet left and right with his arrogant yet benevolent methods. But when John Harrison, a terrorist with ties to Starfleet, attacks London and wages war against the Federation, Kirk and his crew are charged with hunting him down. This dangerous mission will force Kirk to question everything he knows about Starfleet, about friendship and about himself.
It’s been a long four years since J.J. Abrams made Star Trek cool again. Evidently not, though, for James Tiberius Kirk who is still the same brash, young captain that we loved in 2009’s reboot. However, Kirk has been proving his inaptitude at helming the Federation’s finest vessel by violating prime directives and snubbing authority as he does what he believes to be right. Chris Pine continues to juggle that perfect level of cockiness and charm in a role destined to prove that keeping the chair is harder than getting it. Still being brought to school by lovable father-figure Admiral Pike, Kirk’s level of growth this time around just isn’t considerable enough for another story, unless including his blossoming bromance with Mr Spock.
While Abrams brings more of the dazzling, smack-bang-wallop action set pieces that we saw in the first film, they seem more of a beautiful distraction – like a Michael Bay film with finesse – yearning to lure our focus away from a plot that involves cryogenics, nuclear reactors and a government’s unexplained desire for warfare. The film jumps in and out of characterisation briefly but overall adds little to anything we’ve seen before. The relationship between Spock and Uhura is almost forgotten and the former’s embracing of his mixed heritage jumps into warp along the way. Abrams’ time-travel manoeuvre in the previous outing allowed any and all manipulation of the Star Trek canon but here Abrams chooses to replicate entire scenes including lines of dialogue from the Shatner film series, albeit with minor tweaks.
The tender notion of crew/family that Star Trek left us with is revisited upon in name only, as many members of the cast are pushed to the back (literally for Anton Yelchin) with one or two amplified. Simon Pegg’s Scotty is expanded upon in an unwelcome, Ghost Protocol-like manner and Urban’s Bones is humorously beefed up as Doctor Metaphor. Sadly the likes of Zoe Saldana, John Cho and the previously-mentioned Yelchin are left by the wayside, making room for additional eye-candy Alice Eve, a deliciously dubious Peter Weller and of course, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Big Bad.
On that note, Cumberbatch owns the film as one of the most sinister, intense villains we’ve seen since Heath Ledger drove a man’s head through a pencil. Harrison’s cold and calculative nature paired with his undeniable strength and volatility makes Cumberbatch’s upcoming CGI appearance as The Hobbit’s fire-breathing antagonist Smaug suddenly look a little less daunting. In response to minor criticisms, Abrams follows up the tongue-in-cheek baddy Nero with a character that emanates menace whether he’s on-screen or not. Unfortunately in the last act, just when Harrison is at his most threatening, Abrams abandons the character in favour of gravitational difficulties and Trekkie nostalgia.
Abrams glitters the screen with remarkable actors, pristine special effects and a thankful reduction of lens flare. Funny, explosive and never a dull moment, Star Trek Into Darkness is indeed an entertaining space romp and by no means a failure. Into Darkness simply disappoints after its magnificent predecessor by lacking enough to enthrall new audiences and can’t help but leave you with the taste of filler in your mouth between that of Star Trek and Star Wars, the latter of which should prove to be more of the same.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆