Star Trek: Into Darkness
2013, 132mins, 12
Director: J.J Abrams
Writer (s): Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof
Cast includes: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, Alice Eve, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg
UK Release Date: 9th May 2013
It could be argued that in 2009 J.J Abrams achieved the impossible; he made “Star Trek” cool. His reboot of the popular sci-fi franchise was everything punters hoped for, a slick, emotive and incredibly accessible blockbuster, laced with just the right amounts of heart, bombast and wit. As a result its sequel was always going to much anticipated, and after four years of waiting it arrives in the form of “Star Trek: Into Darkness”. “Into Darkness” reunites Abrams with his previously stunning cast, but something is missing here, that crucial sense of zippy fun that underlined the initial foray as such a delightful summertime confection. Instead “Into Darkness” becomes bogged down in repetitive (albeit lavish) set-pieces, underwritten characters and a need to make the whole enterprise feel darker. The latter complaint isn’t necessarily a new problem with sophomore franchise flicks, but it’s an adjustment Kirk and company simply didn’t need to endure. It’s wholly polished, but “Into Darkness” is a broody, charmless heartbreaker.
After a standard recognisance mission spirals out of control, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine, much less dashing than he was in 2009) and First-Mate Spock (Zachary Quinto) are stripped of the Enterprise, demoted and shamed by the authorities of Starfleet. However when mysterious criminal John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) begins an assault on the academy, leaving Kirk’s mentor Pike (Bruce Greenwood) dead, he reclaims his position as Captain and vows vengeance. With the unexpected support of Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller), Kirk and his crew plan to capture Harrison and bring him to justice, travelling to the fugitive’s hideaway in Klingon territory. Upon arrival they locate their man, but it transpires his identity and Starfleet’s motives for dispatching of him are hazier than first anticipated.
“Star Trek” was a blockbuster packed to the rafters with attitude, explosive action and a tremendous ensemble performance. In contrast “Into Darkness” merely feels perfunctory, a rudimentary spinning of the sequel-wheel which depressingly dictates nearly everything Hollywood attempts. The screenplay is a watery and unfocused piece of work, attempting to stuff new characters and ideas into the mix without fleshing out a single one satisfactorily. It’s legitimately difficult to begin dissecting the movie’s fumbled character dynamics. The film wants to essay the burgeoning bond between Kirk and Spock but devotes little energy into formulating the relationship, relying on surface level tiffs and a treacly ending to communicate their affection. Similarly Spock and Uhura (a steely but criminally underused Zoe Saldana) find the former’s lack of obvious emotion a romantic roadblock. This promising notion is settled over one shallow, spiky exchange, before Abrams loses interest and moves onto the next round of pyrotechnics. Adding to the unappetizing taste is a pointless new female character with daddy issues (Alice Eve, existing only to look good in underwear) and Harrison himself. British thespian Benedict Cumberbatch nails a sense of pervading menace and classes up every scene within which he features, but ultimately he’s left grappling with a rote and at times illogical role. His actions are lacking in consistency, and whilst his performance grips, Cumberbatch adds to the icky dourness that dominates this entry.
Michael Giacchino’s music is still an utter joy (please let him have a pop at the “Star Wars” theme) infusing the soundscape with a dependable urgency and sense of adventure, but the action rarely matches up, at least in terms of imagination. Abrams envisions stunning worlds with ace special effects, but the larger scale set-pieces underwhelm, chiefly because they’re often reduced to CGI spaceships firing lasers at each other. It’s not suspenseful or engaging, and by the time “Into Darkness” offers something with a little edge (the hand to hand combat moments have genuine oomph) it is unlikely audiences will particularly care. Spectacle is one thing, but infusing it with tension, excitement and audacity is quite another. Abrams achieved that quite flawlessly in 2009, but can’t even approach such blockbusting standards with “Into Darkness”.
“Into Darkness” doesn’t have much of an identity, it looks great, but ultimately it’s a hollow, surface level beauty that fails to penetrate the clunky, humourless script. After Abrams’ recent work I had every faith that this picture would amount to one of the season’s strongest offerings, but alas it actually jumps at the opportunity to be summer 2013’s first major disappointment. It’s a puddle of mega-budgeted mediocrity that even purists and uber-nerds will struggle to fully embrace.
A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2013