The early trailers for Star Trek Into Darkness made it look as if the film would be a slog through the generic grimness of all too many 21st century franchise films. In reality, the sequel to the 2009 Star Trek reboot is as breezy and likeable as its predecessor, a film that is hard to hate and even harder to remember once you’ve walked out the theatre.
Director JJ Abrams showed great commercial instincts with the 2009 Star Trek, which reinvented the venerable science-fiction franchise as a sleek tent-pole action movie. Though fans of Gene Roddenberry’s vision had their qualms about it, Abrams’ take on the Star Trek universe was affectionate, witty and crisp.
Four years later, Into Darkness doesn’t feel as fresh as its predecessor, though it shares many of its strengths. Opening soon after the events of Star Trek 2009, Into Darkness pits Captain James T Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew against a dangerous new adversary in the form of the traitorous Starfleet operative John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). After Harrison attacks a meeting of Starfleet brass, Kirk pursues him into Klingon territory to bring him to justice.
Into Darkness brings back most of the cast that Abrams recruited to stand in for Enterprise’s original crew in 2009. This should not be a problem since the casting choices for Star Trek 2009 were so inspired, but the script doesn’t give the actors much to work with. Simon Pegg’s Scotty and Karl Urban’s Bones this time feel like lazy, hammy caricatures of the original TV series characters.
Pine’s gung-ho, hot-headed Kirk and Zachary Quinto as his polar opposite, the detached rationalist Mr Spock, are given most of the running time. They’re both quite settled in the roles now, and spar with the practiced comfort of a bickering couple. There’s not much here in the way of fireworks, though the bromance is developed well enough.
Cumberbatch, best known for the BBC’s Sherlock, is a marvellous villain, bringing a depth, intelligence and charisma to his character lacking in most of the good guys. Ambiguous, complex and taunting, Cumberbatch’s Harrison is not given the screen time he needs to give Kirk the nemesis he deserves.
Into Darkness is the typical summer blockbuster bag of thrills and laughs, and it delivers both competently. The jokes feel a little stale, since they’re recycled from the last film, and the action is usually stylish and mostly perfunctory. There are plenty of generic explosions, lots of lens flare and some clichéd dialogue (“Evasive manoeuvres!”). The 3D treatment adds absolutely nothing to the film, so save your money and see a 2D print if you can.
Star Trek Into Darkness trailer (via YouTube):
Star Trek Into Darkness is an agreeable enough way to spend two hours, delivering exactly the sort of entertainment it promises. But is it too much to wish that it still had some of the social subtext and sense of exploratory wonder that were always the hallmarks of vintage Star Trek? Or that Abrams had really been brave enough to really have taken his characters to strange new worlds? — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media