Thursday, 9 May 2013
FILM REVIEW: STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS
While not exactly going boldly where no man has gone before, director J.J. Abrams returns to the U.S.S. Enterprise with as much energy and fun as displayed in his 2009 reboot of the Star Trek franchise, making for an entertaining if not quite as equally thrilling sequel with Into Darkness.
After a prologue set on the primitive planet of Nibiru, involving angry natives and a Vulcan in a volcano, Into Darkness returns to Earth where Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and First Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) are immediately demoted for their breaches of the Star Fleet charter. But before you can set your phasers to stun, a terrorist attack in London sees both men recalled to their former posts and sent into deep space to, not retrieve but kill -- another Star Fleet no-no -- the man responsible.
That man is John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), who's no ordinary man. Nor is he the rogue Star Fleet officer the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise had been led to believe, and it's when the impulsive Kirk is persuaded by the logical Spock not kill Harrison but return him to Earth to face trial that dark secrets are revealed and things go from bad to worse for our spunky space explorers as danger arrives from an unexpected quarter.
Tweaking Star Trek lore and, as one knowledgeable colleague noted, reworking the second of the 12 Star Trek feature films, Into Darkness only slightly extends the characters (re)introduced in the 2009 origins film with the focus very much remaining on the odd couple pairing of Kirk and Spock; Pine and Quinto reprising their undeniable chemistry as mismatched BFF's.
Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Bones (Karl Urban), and Scotty (the seemingly even more Scottish, Simon Pegg) have their moments, while Sulu (John Cho) shines in his brief moment in the Captain's Chair (seriously, that seat sees more bums than a proctologist); Anton Yelchin's Chekov, however, is sidelined below deck for the most part.
But stealing the film, of course, is Cumberbatch. The British actor best known for playing Sherlock Holmes in the modern day re-jigging of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's infamous detective, brings a menacing gravitas to proceedings. Cool and calculating and just plain better at everything, Harrison is the kind of villain who requires both the brawn of Kirk and the brains of Spock just to bring him down to a level playing field. If you're only as good as your opposition, than Cumberbatch's Harrison lifts the game of the U.S.S. Enterprise crew.
It's these characters and the human moments which provide the real spark in Star Trek: Into Darkness. Battle sequences and action set pieces, along with Abrams' fondness for lens flaring, may warp drive us from Point A to Galaxy B (and in unnecessary 3D), but it's the humour and, yes, emotion invested in these people (particularly Kirk, Spock and Harrison) which sustains our interest.
There's already a third Star Trek film slated for a 2016 release (to their credit, Paramount and Abrams don't rush these sequels), and it will be interesting to see if the director relinquishes the reins given his selection to helm the first of the new Star Wars sequels for Disney.
I'm not sure I mind either way. So long as Star Trek 3 is a little bolder intellectually whilst remaining as entertaining as its predecessors, I'll happily ride along on another mission aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise.