DIR: J.J. Abrams • WRI: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof • PRO: J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Roberto Orci • DOP: Daniel Mindel • ED: Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey • DES: Scott Chambliss • Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, Zachary Quinto
JJ Abrams’ name is swiftly becoming synonymous with a different sort of Star franchise, but for the moment it’s the Trek that occupies his, and our, time. Finally reaching our screens after what seems a never-ending onslaught of hype, Star Trek: Into Darkness follows on from where his wildly successful 2009 entry left off. The crew of the Enterprise are present and correct, from Kirk to Spock and all the token nods in between – and a fairly standard Star Fleet storyline means this Trek won’t be breaking a huge amount of new ground. BUT (and it’s a pretty large ‘but’), if you enjoyed the first one, then by Vulcan will you love its sequel!
From the second it hits the ground (running), Into Darkness reaches for the stars in terms of narrative, acting, exposition and flow. Largely hitting the mark on all counts, its pace is perhaps the most impressive thing about the movie. Considering the lengthy running time – it comes in at 132 minutes – the story moves from set-piece to set-piece with a seamless energy that means the final credits leave you wanting more. While the narrative itself may be slightly prosaic…wild despot wants to destroy everything Star Fleet holds dear, but is it all as black and white as it appears?…the villain who drives it is anything but. Hype aside, Benedict Cumberbatch was always the one to watch in this instalment, and he does not disappoint. He brings thespian finesse to an otherwise hammy acting ensemble – and I say that with full love for the essential, and irreplaceable, hamminess of Star Trek. There have been fan-led suspicions about his iconic possibilities, at least one of which is confirmed in classic theatrical fashion – a moment to really set the hairs on the back of your Trekkie neck on end!
Chris Pine’s Jim Kirk is as vacuous as ever, though he adds a layer of emotion to his performance this time that makes you almost forgive his doe-eyed interpretation of the schmaltzy captain. Zachary Quinto moves from impression of Leonard Nimoy to interpreting Spock in his own right – largely helped by the subtle love-story with Lieutenant Uhura (Zoe Saldana). Simon Pegg manages the impossible as Scotty, becoming less annoying as the series continues rather than – as the first movie suggested – lazily making Scotty into an overblown caricature of himself. He’s still remarkably irritating in full Scottish brogue, though Karl Urban has taken up the theatrical mantle with Bones, delivering catchphrases rather than lines and allowing his eyebrows to do the majority of his acting.
An added character to the entire movie is the 3D and IMAX experience itself. Though the 3D has been added post production, it has little of the rough edges you might expect from this patchwork approach. Expensive and exclusive, the IMAX does also offer an extra layer to the visuals by enclosing the audience in a full ‘cave of dreams’ experience – there are no edges to your vision, as the movie fills every available visual space. Adding to his sparkly-space tricks from the first outing, Abrams has also gleaned some cues from Joss Whedon’s Avengers escapade – some tell-tale zooms and pans liken his direction to Whedon’s favourite way of seamlessly suturing CGI into the landscape.
What we have, in the end, is as good an addition to the Star Trek franchise as might be hoped. Amid accusations of mechanical storytelling, it nonetheless stands as an able expansion – there might be formula, there might be rote, but under it all is a devotion to the beloved characters of the Federation and a motion picture event that manages to retain the Star Trek audience, whilst adding new devotees all the time. An entertaining and visually splendid Star Trek experience rooted in one of the finest Trek-villian performances of all time…boldly going where many have gone before, but taking us willingly along for the voyage.
12A (see IFCO website for details)
Star Trek: Into Darkness is released on 9th May 2013