Movie Review: Star Trek Into Darkness
Director: JJ Abrams
Writers: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Benedict Cumberbatch, Simon Pegg, Peter Weller, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin
In 2009, JJ Abrams resurrected the failing Star Trek film franchise to the trumpets of audiences and the bitching of Trekkies worldwide. Now to be clear, I am one who could be called a Trekkie. I’ve been watching the franchise since I was eight (introduced by my mother), have a favourite captain (Janeway) and think TNG was better than TOS simply because of the inclusion of Data. I’m not at the point in my life where I can tell you the floorplans of the various Enterprise ships, nor do I know every excrutiating detail of the Trek universe (the same cannot, it is sad to say, be said about Star Wars but that’s a topic for a future article) but I’m a fan.
I’m also a fan of the revival, because what I always felt the movie series was lacking was action. The diplomatic, often quite placid, generally non-confrontational thing worked for the series on the small screen but when it came to cinema audiences a lot was missing. I guess JJ thought much the same as his New-Trek steered away from the slow and steady and threw itself at you head first, phasers firing and set to PEW PEW PEW.
Minor spoilers below.
Star Trek Into Darkness, released this week, is the continuation of that new series in every possible way. The high-gloss, fast paced action of the previous film is right there, and in many ways hits even higher notes, and the plot itself is very much driven by the events of Star Trek – specifically the alteration of the timeline. Things that happen in this film are clear diversions from that altered future Nemo created, and events from other, pre-timeline-clusterfuck series are referenced often.
At the end of Star Trek, an aged Leonard Nemoy gives us a voice over. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise, he says as we are given a close up look at NCC-1701. Cut to credits.
It was strange then that a rookie fresh out of the academy was promoted to Captain after his first trip out and you’d not be alone had you thought maybe they could have done a little further training before handing him the keys to the fleets newest, shiniest ship, however at the start of Star Trek Into Darkness we find Kirk, Scotty, Spock, Uhura and Sulu on an M Class planet of strange red foliage and stranger white savages. These painted men pursue two of our heroes as Spock hangs around an active volcano that threatens to wipe out all life on this little world.
Hiding the Enterprise at the bottom of an ocean to keep it out of view (because apparently space wasn’t hidden quite enough) the group are attempting to distract the native aliens while Spock attempts to disable said volcano. Shit hits the fan and Spock needs to be rescued. Of course he won’t let them, because to allow the native aliens to see the ship would be a violation of the Prime Directive – Starfleet’s number one rule, under which their officers are prohibited from interfering in the natural development of any alien cultures.
Ignore for a moment that messing with the volcano in the first place is just as much a violation of the Prime Directive as Kirk letting the white-painted tribesmen see their big flying spacecraft. Spock is only a stickler for the rules when he is the one being a stickler for the rules, apparently. Also I’m pretty sure the shuttle he just dropped out of is equipped with transporter capabilities and had the line of sight they are seeking.
Back at Starfleet, Admiral Pike realises what we all thought all along and takes the Enterprise away from a Kirk promoted far too early and pretty much this is where the story actually starts. Although admittedly being stripped of his rank serves only as the briefest of setbacks as he spends the majority of the film right back there in the Captain’s chair.
The plot itself involves John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is a former agent of Starfleet with a large grudge against them. He’s pretty pissed, kills a ton of people and then Kirk volunteers to chase him down. For some reason Kirk can go where he is, even though Starfleet can’t. Even though Kirk is Starfleet, and would be representing Starlfeet on a Starfleet vessel. At this point we’re about thirty minutes into the film.
I’m going to end the talk about the plot there because from here on in I can’t really say anything without spoilers. The returning cast are brilliant and the casting of Cumberbatch and Weller is truly superb. Alice Eve may have been showcased purely for her sex appeal (and even I can tell you she fulfils this role with ease, see image above) but she does a damn good job in the role and brings a great deal more to it than I expected. The dialogue between Kirk and Spock, Bones and Kirk, Bones and Spock, Uhura and Spock and Spock and everyone else is snappy as always and the film is actually quite funny, which it should be. In the cinema last night the audience regularly erupted into bursts of genuine laughter, followed by silence as tension filled the room.
It’s a delicate balance to hold and credit to them, everyone involved has done a good job here.
The Enterprise is shiny as always with the updated look continuing almost seamlessly from the previous film. We see a few more sections this time round, including a longer look at sickbay, a great central column with walkways I can only assume is the spine of the ship, and some nice exterior shots. The bridge crew have a few nice additions – while the majority seem to be human, occasionally you get golden faced alien lady or is that guy a cyborg, I’m not sure? to add a bit of extra-terrestrial flavour.
It would have been nice to see a little more of that particular Star Trek race, but what we did see I enjoyed a lot. You’ll know it when you get there. They did well. I liked it. I believe my cinema-buddy did too.
(Actually while I am talking about it could somebody do me a favour? In the scene in the brig, when we’re viewing from inside the cell the desk is staffed by a blonde woman. When we then see it from a different perspective, the desk is staffed by a large headed green alien of some kind. I’m not sure. Maybe she was always green alien, and my brain just thought she was a woman with short blonde hair. Can somebody confirm for me in the comments one way or the other? Thanks.)
Much of the film is set on or very near Earth, and we don’t get to see a great number of alien planets but with the final monologue this time round it looks like future films could very well be set in the vastness of the cosmos which would be very welcome indeed.
Sure there are things that don’t make sense, and parts of it where the laws of physics are brushed aside for the sake of a good story but Star Trek Into Darkness is fun, action-filled, spacey and has a truly climactic end sequence that had me glued to the screen and enjoying every second of it. I saw it in IMAX 3D and while I don’t think the 3D added anything at all to the experience (I rarely do) I think seeing it in the highest definition you can manage is worth it. JJs Trek world is truly gorgeous and I cannot wait to see it again on Sunday with my mother.
Like I said. She’s the one who got me into all this.
Live long, and prosper.