Monday 13 May 2013

Film Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

Spock always hated the way Kirk stared at his pointy ears
This review does contain some mild spoilers. Beware.

Prepare to journey into the final frontier once again with J.J Abrams' second entry into the new Star Trek canon. Kirk, Spock, Uhura and co. are back in action and this time their facing off against menacing villain John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). This is Star Trek Into Darkness and it's life, but not as we know it.

Now, let me be heard that I am not a Trekkie. I've never seen any of the original film series (other than 1996's pretty good First Contact and 2002's forgettable Nemesis). I've always been a Star Wars fan but I've never gotten into Star Trek. This however changed when the series was given a kick up the backside in the form of 2009's reboot, Star Trek.

The Enterprise looks a little worse for wear.
Helmed by Spielberg-wannabe J.J Abrams (of Mission Impossible III and Lost fame), the series was given a  complete new lease of life with a young spunky cast and a healthy dose of action and adventure.

With Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto cast in the lead roles of Kirk and Spock respectively, Star Trek was a surprise hit with fans of the show and complete newbies alike.

Fast forward to 2013 and here we have the sequel, Into Darkness warping into cinemas. So what's the verdict? Well I'm glad you asked, because oh boy is it good.

After opening with a fun jaunt through a colourful rainforest populated with extras from Apocolypto, Kirk is faced with breaking the 'Prime Directive' to save the life of his first officer, Spock. They return to Earth where Kirk is removed as Captain and the duo are separated to different ships.

This however doesn't last as before long, Benedict Cumberbatch is on hand to catch Moriarty, sorry, I mean start 'a one-man war' by bombing Starfleet. One of the most notable things from Into Darkness is the breakneck speed at which the plot zooms by. It doesn't sit still, with twists and turns hitting you thick and fast from the off. This is a good thing at first but after an hour and thirty, it felt as though the film could have done with a brief pause to draw breath. It really does race by, the 133 minutes feeling like half the time.

Elementary, my dear Watson: Benedict Cumberbatch
as ex-Starfleet officer John Harrison.
Into Darkness certainly has it's own fair share of rug-pulls and double bluffs that'll have you teetering on the edge of your seat. It's really fun, popcorn-munching summer blockbuster stuff that should give Star Wars fans the world over a new-found sense of hope.

Minor plot pacing niggles aside, Into Darkness really is a brilliant science-fiction caper. First off, Chris Pine is great as the impetuous and headstrong Captain Kirk; Pine has the whole 'arrogant ladies man' act down pat in the first half of the film before his heroic heart kicks in near the end.

Likewise, Zachary Quinto and Zoe Saldana were great as Spock and Uhura. They didn't grow that much as a couple this time around, the focus very much on Cumberbatch's villain (more on that later) as well as Kirk and Spock's blossoming bromance.

Simon Pegg naturally brings the biggest laughs as Scottie but so does Karl Urban's delightfully cynical wise-cracking science officer Bones. Put together, these two add a much needed sense of levity to Into Darkness which is otherwise a fairly dark film (funny that).

Alice Eve plays a surprisingly bigger part than I had her pegged for; her role as deputy science officer Carol Marcus was more well-rounded than simply being the eye-candy for Kirk to oggle at. I mean, he still does oggle her but she's there for more than that. Kind of.

The biggest standout performance was without a doubt Benedict Cumberbatch as disgruntled ex-Starfleet officer John Harrison. I'm treading carefully around his character given the spoilers involved but, put simply, he was fantastic. His performance is truly memorable one that will see him added to the pantheon of great British baddies alongside Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber and Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin.

"What? I misplaced my regulation Starfleet uniform"
The film also manages to keep the reins on it's own ambition. Whilst most sequels aim bigger and bolder, Into Darkness keeps thing relatively close and personal. Sure, the final third sees some serious destruction in down-town San Francisco but for the duration, the action is confined the dark corridors and even darker ruins on the Klingon home-world, Kronos. Yep, you read that right, the Klingons are back. Well, kind of.

There are also plenty of nods, winks and nudges for fans of the original series to enjoy. A cameo reprisal for Leonard Nimoy was pleasing as it showed that Abrams didn't ignore the alternate timeline premise the first film set-up.

As for the direction, it's two thumbs up for J.J Abrams. The film is gorgeously shot and the aesthetics are a far cry from the camp 1960's show. Again, the Klingon home-world is a particularly gloomy and murky visual treat. A dizzying action set piece where the Enterprise is inverted up-ways, side-ways and every-ways in between was particularly impressive.

So is Into Darkness an improvement on its predecessor? Yes, and then some. And if every blockbuster this year is as fun, exciting and genuinely good as Into Darkness, then we're in for one stonking good summer; first Iron Man 3 and now this. 2013 is really shaping up well if you ask me.

I give Star Trek Into Darkness: 8/10

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