Star Trek Into Darkness (PG-13)
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban and Benedict Cumberbatch
Running time: 132 min
Oh, this is a thorny one. Not since the whole ‘did Han shoot first’ debacle has there been such a kerfuffle in a movie. Well, with Star in the title anyway. Just who is John Harrison? Well, you’ll not find the answer here friends…
Into Darkness is a confident movie that wastes no time in set up and kicks off mid-adventure, starting with a great action scene where Kirk, Spock and Bones must save a still-developing race on a planet called, wait for it conspiracy heads, Niburu, while sticking with the Prime-Directive and not interfering with the alien race, it hits the ground running and rarely comes up for breath.
And perhaps this is one of the first issues the hardcore Trek fans will have with this – and the previous – movie from JJ Abrams. Rather than stick to the rules of classic Trek, once again Abrams is making a movie that will appeal to a wide audience. You don’t need to know your Romulans from you Tribbles to have a blast here, the story is self-contained and has a tidy beginning middle and end, it’s two hours in the Star Trek mythology – the NEW Trek mythology – and it sets up a much bigger universe than the last movie and leaves in no doubt that, should there be follow ups, anything can – and probably will – happen next time.
Continuing on from the first movie, this time out the focus is very much on the relationship on Kirk and Spock and how Spock is dealing with his human half, this leads to more thorny encounters with Bones and struggles with love interest Uhura. It is the core of the movie and it works well, especially when Kirk and Spock lock horns as it develops part of Spock that has so far in this new franchise gone untapped.
But let’s cut to the chase: from early on in development fans have been chewing the bit as early rumours suggested that Benedict Cumberbatch’s, John Harrison, was actually Kahn, despite JJ Abrahm’s denial and while I now know the answer, I’m saying nothing except this: This movie is much more of a love letter to Trek of yesteryear than a remake, so while some things in here will annoy some – not all – of the core fans, there is much to love too.
It is important during this movie, even more so than before, to keep telling yourself that this is not the Trek of Shatner and Nimoy. It is firmly its own creature, some things stay the same, some things are tweaked and some things… well, let’s just say not everything is constant.
Providing you aren’t the sort of fan that gets rabid over the smallest detail – I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that by the way – there will be much for you to get your teeth into here.
It’s fast-paced, noisy, fun and exciting but it’s clever, has a heart and in Pine, Quinto and the delightfully scene-chewing Cumberbatch it has three actors who are channeling what has gone before but making it fresh, yet familiar, exciting, yet clever and fun, yet serious.
However, there are downsides too. Many of the characters, especially Karl Urban – who owned the first movie channeling DeForrest Kelley – are merely set dressing, with Kirk, Spock, Uhura and Scotty getting the choice lines and screen time. That said, they all get a minute in the sun with some forshadowing of where the characters may eventually go – or, in this case, where they have already gone years ago. My brain hurts.
Another issue is that some of the writing is a bit, let’s just say, predictable with the true villain of the piece’s reveal being more of a ‘yeah, saw that coming’ than a ‘wow, that was unexpected’ and the inclusive of another familiar Trek species in a throwaway line means that a seriously dramatic piece near the end of the movie is undermined, but that said, overall the movie doesn’t suffer for it.
In conclusion, it’s a better movie than Abrams’ first venture into the Star Trek universe. It does seem to pander to the popcorn crowd a little too much, but when there’s this much energy and fun on the screen it’s hard to care… at least until after the credits.
Abrams too seems to have relaxed the camera flair a little, meaning the movie still looks and feels like his, but also feels a little more classic Trek. So it ticks a lot of boxes. And yes, unticks a few too, but you can’t make an omelette…
I have heard some people say that he’s ruined Star Trek and he’ll ruin Star Wars but as a casual Trek fan and a total Star Wars nut, I’ll just say this – if the next time we see the words ‘A JJ Abrams Movie’ is in the end credits of Star Wars Episode VII then I’ll be a happy man.
Live long and prosper…