Star Trek Into Darkness, 2013.
Directed by J.J. Abrams.
Starring Chris Pine, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, and Peter Weller.
After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a warzone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.
The Jedi Knight Rises. Or is that Jedi King? Whatever name gets bestowed upon him from now until Star Wars: Episode VII, J.J. Abrams has acquired the force. The force to not only direct superlative blockbuster fare, but to create some of the most iconic images, film and TV shows in the last 10 years. Now he descends into darkness, re-boarding the USS Enterprise for his sequel to his “new” Star Trek universe. And what a re-board it is.
Picking up almost straight away from its predecessor, Star Trek Into Darkness starts as it means to go on: running, jumping and screaming until utterly breathless. And then the sprint begins. We rejoin our beloved Captain Kirk (Pine, growing on me) as he races away from a civilisation intent on killing both him and Bones (Urban, ever brilliant) as they try to save it from impending disaster courtesy of an erupting volcano. And while Kirk and Bones dodge the tribesman, Spock (Quinto, sensational), Uhura (Saldana, underused) and Sulu (Cho, you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry) try desperately to stop it, and with some rule breaking from Kirk, they do. Some “you’re grounded” talk with Commanders Pike and Marcus (Greenwood and Weller, consummate pros) and a wee spat with Scotty (Pegg, effortlessly funny) later, we move from pre-season friendly to cup final against the big dog.
Sherlock’s own towering giant Benedict Cumberbatch arrives as John Harrison, ex-Starfleet member with a grudge, and the true baton-receiver of Heath Ledger’s mould-breaking Joker; as cunning, conniving and controlled as said King of the Clowns, but with the same combat brilliance as any of our super heroes. He’s a thunderbolt of both energy and malevolence, and like the film’s thunderous story, he is simply breathtaking. So breathtaking that it wouldn’t be too much of stretch to predict big things come awards season, as he is that astounding here. Ably supported by the superb double-act of Pine and Quinto and the comic brilliance of Simon Pegg (accent spot on this time), Star Trek Into Darkness is a blockbuster that has acting of the highest level.
Scripted superbly by regular Abrams’ cohorts Damon Lindelof, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, Into Darkness is more light grey than pitch black. Sure it revolves around terrorism and modern-day fear with a vicious son-of-a-gun leading the naughtiness, but it’s much more exuberant than that. Its humour is spot on, the dialogue is snappy, and its soul and heart is both surprising and profound. In addition, Abrams’ crack team combine beats from the canon (watch out for a breathtaking doozy of a moment, brilliant yet subtle) to please fanboys, as well as bringing their own take on the universe to the fore.
But the real star here is Abrams. Since bursting onto the Hollywood scene with the underrated Mission: Impossible III, Abrams has evolved and sharpened his directing nous. Now maturing into one of Hollywood’s best and most powerful, Star Trek Into Darkness is his masterpiece, combining of all his traits: thrilling action, stunning visuals mixed perfectly with all the romance, comedy and warmth of its script. The way Abrams juggles it all is nothing short of amazing, echoing Steven Spielberg in his prime. How Abrams tops this will be interesting – Star Wars is next up, and expectations are sky high – but what will really be the making of the man will be when he jettisons what has made his name, and does something unexpected, something truly Spielbergian.
Into Darkness isn’t perfect mind; some of the cast too are left a little short-changed as the film motors along, with the emphasis firmly on Kirk/Spock/Harrison. Cho and Saldana make great impressions and deserved more screen time, while Alice Eve, a breath of fresh air, is stuck in a defunct role with one purpose: eye-candy. But what eye-candy. And poor Anton Yelchin – his Chekhov is now reduced to nothing more than comedy fodder throughout proceedings. The same can be said of Pegg of course, but he never feels uncomfortable in the role, whereas Yelchin looks ill at ease. In addition, the love story brought to the fore between Spock and Uhura seems tacked on this time, with no real emotion between them as in the first – merely a few meaningless spats that end up distracting.
But even its minor niggles will do nothing to derail your enjoyment of this warp-speed adventure. Full of everything you could ever want from a summer blockbuster and then some, as well as one the best villain turns of recent times, Star Trek Into Darkness is an unmitigated joy from beginning to end: breathless, energetic, mesmerising and huge fun, it is this summer’s film to beat.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★ ★