Star Trek into Darkness (*****)
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Runtime: 133 minutes
Starring- Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Salmanda, Simon Pegg, Benedict Cumberbatch and Peter Weller
(Movie House Dublin Road 02/05/2013)
SET phasers to fun as the crew of the USS Enterprise warp back on to the big screen, as J.J. Abrams follows up his wonderful 2009 reboot with the ominously entitled, Star Trek Into Darkness. Unquestionably Abrams breathed new life into the franchise, the 2002 instalment Nemesis was the lowest grossing feature in the franchise’s history and many believed the series had finally reached its final frontier.
Not only did Abrams make Star Trek a summer blockbusting event movie again but he also made the franchise sexy. His clever reboot managed to bring new fans to the series but also kept seasoned Trekkies on-board, by inventively using time travel within the feature’s narrative it gave him a clean slate within the existing trek universe.
The film proved such a success at the box-office that a sequel was always inevitable. Now two years later we return to Kirk and Spock’s formative years within Starfleet. Kirk (Chris Pine) is now the captain of the Enterprise but failing to adapt to his responsibilities, still seen as too reckless and head strong by his superiors.
Zachary Quinto’s Spock is struggling to comprehend with his emotions, the half human, half vulcan first officer is still troubled by the loss of his home planet of Vulcan and more so the death of his human mother. His inability to express his true feelings worries both his captain and girlfriend Uhura (Zoe Salmanda).
But when they face the threat of a one-man crusade by Benedict Cumberbatch’s mysterious character John Harrison, the Enterprise is sent on a covert mission by Peter Weller’s Admiral Marcus deep into Klingon space to bring the rogue agent to justice. The incursion will test the crew’s loyalty to Starfleet and teach Kirk the true responsibility of captaincy.
The film starts at warp factor 9 and never really slows through its 133 minute runtime, barely giving viewers a moment to pause and reflect upon what’s going on onscreen. Abrams’ is the master of popcorn blockbusters and this feature firmly builds upon its predecessor, ramping up the action, with stunning visuals and some truly breath-taking set-pieces.
The film focusses on the growing friendship between Kirk and Spock, whose very different characteristics make them an effect unit. Unlike the days of Shatner and Nimoy much more screen-time is given to Quinto’s Spock, delving into his character’s complexities and inner turmoil. But all the cast get their little moments onscreen, particularly Simon Pegg’s Scotty who provides much of the film’s comic relief, especially as the film’s tone becomes increasingly darker.
While many of the accolades will be bestowed upon Pine and Quinto for their performances, personally I loved Karl Urban’s portrayal of the Enterprise’s resident physician Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy. He has many of the film’s best one-liners, delivered with in the same dead-pan style of the late DeForest Kelley.
My biggest criticism with the previous instalment was that it lacked a great antagonist in Eric Bana’s Nero. But this time round Cumberbatch gives viewers an adversary that they can really root for, stealing the show with his performance. Evoking memories of Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber in Die Hard his character waltzes through this feature owning the screen in every scene he’s in and out shining his co-stars. While his character’s true identity remains cloaked in shadows through most of the movie, hardcore Trek fans will have no problem guessing which iconic Star Trek villain he really is.
It’s interesting that the film’s writers have chosen so early within this reboot to revisit past adversaries from old films, but it’s handled very well here with a few welcome twists to keep fans on their toes. Personally I’d have preferred the writers to come up with a new villain or build upon the much hyped inevitable war between the federation and Klingon Empire. On the subject of the Klingons, I’m not keen on their new look within this movie.
It’s true that this feature plays out much more like a summer blockbuster than the fan focused Star Trek movies of the past, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Despite being heavily inspired by computer games like Mass Effect and Dead Space, it still carries the essence of Roddenberry’s original TV series.
Review by William McClean