DIRECTOR: J.J. Abrams
Contains MASSIVE Spoilers!
Will we be adding this to our collection? YES
The 2009 reboot had established the relationship between Kirk (Chris Pine) and Scotty (Simon Pegg) and then ruined it by having a stupid sequence in which Mr. Scott is sucked up into a plumbing system. This is a recurring theme with J.J. Abrams Star Trek franchise, with a lack of faith or respect showing through, time after time.
But that’s not to say that Into Darkness is not a fantastic and entertaining movie, because it most defiantly is. The tone is of the sci-fi adventures of old, with action taking the lead but bolstered with the typical moral dilemmas which made Star Trek what is was. This was missing from the first feature, though I’m told that it was there…
The cast have a much better handle of their characters in this film, which is set a year after the events of the first, with some reference to that but not so many that it distracts. Pegg’s Scotty is probably the best judged of the lot and is thoroughly likeble, with Karl Urban’s “Bones” possibly over doing it a little with Kirk even commented on his overuse of the metaphors at one point. But this is Abrams’ problem yet again. He seemed to be mocking the series, directing a character only to be have him laughed AT for playing him.
He seems to feel that Star Trek is a laughing-stock, a cult joke in which the fans are weirdos who dress up and have no lives, well it takes all sort and if he feels this way about the franchise, which he clearly does, from two outing now, he is not then right man for the job.
He sets a good tone though, with top-notch action, fast pacing which is pretty effective and a decent screenplay. All in all this was better than Star Trek (2009), building nicely on the proto-characters established there, whilst having enough to play with now to set up the five-year mission, which was a nice touch.
*** MAJOR SPOILERS!***
As were a lot of the Trek references, such as Harry Mudd, Tribbles, Gorns, the new Klingon Bird Of Preys, Section 31 and so on… But what about Khaaaaaaaaaan! The homage to Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982) was expected and the second half of the film moves clearly to that territory but actually TOO close. It was clever, with Kirk sacrificing himself instead of Spock (Zachary Quinto) and staging a reversal of the classic scene from Star Trek II, but it was hollow somehow.
In the Trek timeline, Star Trek II was set about 15 years after the events of the series, with Kirk (William Shatner) going through a mid-life crisis at 50, so when Spock (Leonard Nimoy) dies, its to old friends saying goodbye, though many would argue that they were a little more, but let’s not get into that!
But here we’re expected to believe that Kirk and Spock have this depth of relationship, but after a year I don’t feel it. But why copy this scene so closely and get the tone so wrong. It actually felt like a pastiche rather than an homage. But what about the man who killed Captain Kirk? No, not Soran (Star Trek: Generations), but Khan Noonian Sing.
This film had three villains. The first were the Klingons, but they were only really guest stars and decent enough, whilst setting up potential sequels perhaps? The second was John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbach) who had already established himself as a terrorist and the murderer of some of Starfleet’s top brass. Finally we have the “surprise” villain, Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller), who has built the U.S.S. Vengeance in order to usher in a new era of a militarised Starfleet and was using Harrison to help him achieve this.
But guess what, Harrison isn’t who he appears to be. He is or course Khaaaaaaaan! Now this film makes a big deal about setting him up as the bad guy but in many ways, though he is portrayed as a brutal and evil mass murderer, it’s Marcus who comes across as the most vile of the bunch. But Cumberbach does steal the show, as he is simply brilliant, if not a little hammy…
But it’s not really until the last act that Khan is let loose and when he is it was worth the wait and seeing him working with Kirk is cool. I did like the threat which Khan made to starve the Enterprise of oxygen which was a nod to the original episode “Space Seed”, nice touch. But I could have seen Cumberbach for the full 135 minutes, though Weller was entertaining and the plot worked, Cumberbach and Khan seemed almost wasted in a role which he had little to do in the grand scheme of things.
And what about the introduction of Carol Marcus, the future mother of Kirk’s son, David? Alice Eve as good in the role but why did she have a pronounced British accent whilst her dad sounded like Robocop? Made no sense but still, it worked.
The narrative is simply a relentless selection of set-pieces, some original others lifted, poorly, from previous outings, namely the afore-mentioned Star Trek II and all of this is hung together with a decent plot, balancing some slightly complex issues but managing to do so in a very entertaining way.
But is this Star Trek? Is this substantial? It is the closest that we’ve come to Star Trek since Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) because even though it was dull, it was basically an episode of The Next Generation and even though I like Star Trek: Nemesis (2002), I like it because it was more theatrical than televisual, but this does seem to capture the feel of seventies sci-fi which many of us have grown up with.
The moral and ethical debates rage on, as does the bickering and the bonding between the crew, all of which is integral to Star Trek. The 3D post-conversion is okay, with some good shots, particularly one of the opening scenes in which an arrow is through directly at the audience and the new warp effect but seriously, it was unnecessary. The film looked great at it was and the 3D added nothing but an ounce of novelty to the whole experience.
In summation, J.J. Abrams and his team have done a great job with this one, producing a solid four start or 8/10 popcorn movie. Going to see Star Trek Into Darkness will entertain you whether you’re a Trek fan-boy or not and there’s enough to please everyone but the moment that an almost literal interpretation of Spock’s death scene from Star Trek II, which is one of Trek’s most famous moments, was recreated, it was a mistake which will grate on me every time that I watch the film in the future, the same way that the scene in which Scotty is swimming through a ludicrous water system on the Enterprise is still doing to this day.
Serious action can and should still be fun but taking a moment to just have some pointless fun is just damaging to your narrative. And having Zachary Quinto’s Spock seem to parody the famous “Khaaaaaaaaan!” line was also a misjudgment in my opinion. The scene itself wasn’t that bad but it was just too close to the original and therefore open to comparison.
But Khan’s acts in the film solidify him as a classic villain, though his motives were one-dimensional as he wasn’t given enough time to develop as a fully rounded character, as Ricardo Montalban was allowed to in his to two appearances in Trek. But as we leave Star Trek 12 behind, we’ve now come full circle, as Kirk and his crew are now embarking on their “five-year mission to explore strange new worlds” and with any luck, the next time we meet them, They will be in deep space and saving Earth will be up to someone else.
Let’s see if they can actually start doing some exploring and finally give them a chance to have an exiting time doing what Star Trek was all about. This was a roller coaster ride from start to finish and I’m left wanting to see it again, which is not common for me so it definitely did something right, that’s for sure. In the end, Into Darkness has exorcised many of the demons of the Star Trek (2009) but not all of them. There is at least some hope for the future. Personally, I would much rather see someone else direct the next one and finally see if they can take us beyond the final frontier…
Star Trek Into Darkness (3D) is out in U.S. Theatres today!