Star Trek Into Darkness isn’t quite aptly named. Bright, exciting and fast-paced, the new entry into the Star Trek franchise launches us into adventure at a blistering speed right off the bat, making sure it grabs the audience by the short and curlies from the get-go and doesn’t let up until the end credits start rolling. While exhilarating, J.J. Abrams has managed to craft a flawed summer blockbuster that improves on its predecessor, but, for better or worse, doesn’t quite manage to capture the Star Trek that most Trekkies would want to see. While I’m going to try and remain spoiler free, I do apologise for a few minor ones that might creep in.
As I sat in the cinema, waiting for Star Trek Into Darkness to begin, it dawned on me that I can’t remember much regarding J.J. Abrams’ first foray into the world created by geek god Gene Roddenberry, and it worried me. I remembered what was neccesary – that the new Star Trek films take place in a new timeline, conveniently set up in the first film by the appearance of Leonard Nimoy himself, reprising his original role of Mr. Spock.
As it would be, my worry was quickly washed away as the film started and immediately launched the audience into the tail-end of what seemed like a grand adventure on an alien world, culminating in a mad dash through a scarlet jungle. This adventure sets the tone for the entire film as it shows us a Kirk (Chris Pine) embracing his rebellious nature as he breaks the Prime Directive to save the life of his friend and First Officer, Spock (Zachary Quinto). The fallout of this misadventure finds Kirk in hot water with his superiors, but then Starfleet is targeted for attack by one of their own officers, John Harrison, (Benedict Cumberbatch).
With most of the crew back together, Kirk’s sins are all but forgiven as he is sent on a top secret mission to confront Harrison by Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller), who arms the Enterprise with an arsenal of experimental photon torpedoes. Once again, the action doesn’t let up till the very end of the film, but very luckily for us we are entitled to a breather once or twice in the film as characters actually get a chance to connect, which brings a welcome human (or sometimes, humanoid) touch to an otherwise balls-to-the-wall sci-fi action flick.
That might be one of my main complaints regarding Star Trek Into Darkness. As with the first film, J.J. Abrams managed to build a exciting and fresh take on the Star Trek universe, but seems to forget the main ingredient that has made Star Trek so popular, and it’s all in the name. The sense of adventure and exploration that we have all come to know and love seems all but forgotten as we are thrown from one action scene into the next with hardly any time to breath. While it makes for a fantastic blockbuster, it does embrace a Star Trek that is a lot more brawn than brains, especially considering that it is most likely screening to a cinema full of us geeks. This does, however, make the film more approachable to newbies in the franchise and it definitely delivers a Star Trek film that is a lot more memorable than the first installment.
I found myself quite surprised by one aspect of the film: I didn’t hate the 3D. I’ve been quite vocal about my dislike for the 3D trend and while I’ll be hard-pressed to change my mind, I found myself quite captivated by some of the spectacular effects and intelligent use of a format that could so easily make or break a cinema-goer’s experience. The film is breathtaking to behold, and while Mr. Abrams nearly blinded me with lens flares it was definitely not distracting enough to draw attention away from the exciting and visually appealing world created he created.
The cast, while strong, is severely underwritten for the most part and I can’t help but feel that they are all merely trying to impersonate their prior incarnations, instead of trying to cover new ground. Now, while Alice Eve appearing in her underwear is definitely nothing to complain about, her role doesn’t really stretch much further than trying to balance out what is mostly a boys club. Benedict Cumberbatch definitely deserves a mention though as the mysterious and charismatic terrorist John Harrison, as he manages to ooze charisma into every single scene he’s in.
As I said, this is definitely a great blockbuster but sadly, I have to admit that I don’t consider it a great a Star Trek film, and I’ll tell you why: Fan-fare. Jabbing us in the ribs every few minutes and going “Pssst, remember this?” does not a great movie make and it only convinces me more that Hollywood has turned Star Trek into an action sci-fi franchise, trying to disguise it with a non-stop series of references to the older Star Trek films and series that we know and love.
Let me just say, issues aside, I had a lot of fun watching Star Trek Into Darkness and I hope that, by the third installment, we can sit back and enjoy a more classic adventure, true to the Star Trek we all want to see. Perhaps a young, but strangely bald ensign can join the ranks? Who knows. All that said, one of the things I take away from Star Trek Into Darkness is excitement for what J.J. Abrams is going to do with the Star Wars franchise, as his style of world-building is definitely a lot more suited to that universe. Only time will tell.
Last Updated: May 31, 2013