The last four years have been a long wait for the follow-up to the hugely successful and critically acclaimed JJ Abrams Star Trek prequel/reboot. Thankfully, Star Trek Into Darkness is well worth the wait. The more I think about it, and especially in the light of the events of Into the Darkness, the 2009 film isn’t really a reboot and actually does flow on from the previous 10 movies that came before it. That said, Star Trek did it’s job very well and gathered legions of new fans, set up a nifty alternate timeline concept so that the character’s fates are not predetermined, and most importantly, made Star Trek very cool again.
You think you world is safe? It is an illusion. A comforting lie told to protect you. Enjoy these final moments of peace. For I have returned to have my vengeance. So, shall we begin? – John Harrison
Star Trek Into Darkness is a blast of a movie and cements Abrams as a showman for the era. The Raiders of the Lost Ark style opening is the perfect example of him strutting his stuff in an exciting set piece that has Kirk and Bones fleeing from natives through a fantastic world as Spock attempts to deactivate a nearby volcano. Everything that you want is in the scene – an exciting chase full of humour, death-defying stunts, awesome effects and outrageous concepts, as well as the beginnings of key character arcs, especially for Kirk and Spock. The sequence also ends with a neat little gag that serves as great shot transition as Michael Giacchino’s triumphant score comes into full fruition.
It’s so hard to write this review properly and avoid spoilers. Many of the things that make this film great for casual fans and hardcore Trekkies are wrapped up in the story telling and character moments.
Do you know what a pain you are? You think the rules don’t apply to you. There’s greatness in you, but there’s not an ounce of humility. You think that you can’t make mistakes, but there’s going to come a moment when you realize you’re wrong about that, and you’re going to get yourself and everyone under your command killed. – Christopher Pike
Like the first film, Star Trek Into Darkness focuses its emotional story around the friendship of Kirk and Spock and the individual lessons the characters have to learn, affecting their friendship and working relationship. Kirk was promoted very quickly in the first movie and he is still very much the hothead who needs to learn humility and respect for the captain’s chair. Spock is conflicted once more between his emotion and his logic. This time, however, it affects his now established friendship with Kirk and his relationship with Uhura. A stand out dialogue scene between Spock and Uhura expertly conveys Spock’s inner conflict as well as Uhura’s frustrations with him. Kirk is present the entire time and the lover’s spat also serves as a great example of the skills of Abrams, as well as writers Orci and Kurtzmann. They can swiftly switch between a hilarious couples argument and an emotionally vulnerable moment without any of it feeling forced. In general, the smooth flowing story really works. Never once do you really feel like the movie is super sign posted (except perhaps in the Tribble cameo) and you’re never sure how far along in the movie you actually are because it seems like one, smooth, orchestrated ride. There is no padding to this film either – everything feels very lean and intentional.
Your commanders have committed a crime I cannot forgive. None of you are safe. Have I got your attention now? – John Harrison
Both Pine and Quinto are at the top of their game, and the rest of the crew all get their moments here and there. Bones, in particular, stands out with his over-use of metaphors which Kirk calls him out on. Sulu gets a killer speech when he temporarily takes the captain’s chair in a scene and Scotty gets several stand out moments of comedic genius. The newcomers are all very good. Firstly, Peter Weller, who portrays Admiral Marcus is extremely solid, as is his daughter portrayed by Alice Eve. Several criticisms have been directed at Eve’s role in the film, but she does well considering her rather pointless character. Fans of the original series and the older films will also remember her role in that timeline as a love interest for Kirk and the eventual mother of his son. The writers are clearly setting up this relationship for future installments.
The towering performance of Star Trek Into Darkness is definitely Benedict Cumberbatch’s villain, John Harrison, who is unbelievably good. Every single moment he is on-screen he chews up the scenery, overshadowing the other actors considerably. It makes his threat that much greater and you really feel that the crew are in for something massive and unpredictable. The brilliance of his character both physically and mentally is what makes this film work. He is cunning and unreadable and one of the most formidable villains in recent years.
James T. Kirk: Wait, are you guys… are you guys fighting?
Nyota Uhura: I’d rather not talk about it, sir…
James T. Kirk: Oh my God, what is that even like?
Star Trek Into Darkness may come to a bit of an abrupt end, and the final climactic scene may not be as over the top as earlier scenes, but it still works. Again, as I said earlier, it is so tough to chat about some of the highlights of this film without spoiling them. There is an emotional climax towards the end of the film that may not work as well as it should on its own terms, but for long-term Star Trek fans, it at least brings echoes and nostalgia to the heart. Technically, this film is a marvel, with expert cinematography, visual effects, and production design. It cannot be faltered. Like the first movie, there are expert uses of sound and the rousing score puts a spring in your step as you leave the cinema.
If you liked the first film then you’ll definitely enjoy Star Trek Into Darkness. It’s not as fresh and groundbreaking as the first one, so in that vein, you may not leave the cinema with the same mind-blown experience you did last time around. Abrams’ has played this one a little safer but has set up the franchise and the Star Trek universe, ready for many more adventures on the final frontier.