Film reviews

Star Trek Into Darkness.

'John Harrison' presents the Enterprise crew with their biggest challenge yet.
‘John Harrison’ presents the Enterprise crew with their biggest challenge yet.

Four years is quite a long time to wait for a Hollywood sequel by modern day standards. After the success of the Star Trek reboot in 2009, one could have forgiven Paramount Pictures for rushing ahead a second film for release in 2011, but it says much for that very success and the continuing durability of this franchise (and also, possibly, the pressure that comes with sustaining it) that, four years worth of patience later, we’ve finally been given Star Trek Into Darkness; a movie certainly not short of hype.

All of the preceding film’s principal cast return, complete with the emotional baggage their characters’ have been left with through their previously altered experiences. That means you can look forward to more of those sometimes humourous, more times heartfelt interactions between Kirk and Spock, Scotty’s fast talking quips, and Dr Leonard McCoy’s entertaining metaphors, but it also means something more. In saying altered I am of course referring to the fact that in their last outing, this likable crew were involved in changing the course of the timeline – and it has opened up countless possibilities for this new iteration of the Star Trek series. However much you knew about these characters before, prepare to be surprised all over again.

Having said that, the most memorable character in this film isn’t one you’ll remember from before, but in fact a mysterious renegade Starfleet officer named John Harrison. The name sounds unassuming enough, but Benedict Cumberbatch surpasses himself to bring to life a magnetic villain that makes Star Trek’s Nero look like a generic, bland tough guy by comparison.

When Harrison crosses the Enterprise crew, you get the sense that there’s more to him, and to this vendetta he appears to have against Starfleet, than meets the eye. The plot gradually thickens into a satisfying soup for both newcomers to Star Trek mythology (like myself; someone who’s barely watched the original series) and seasoned ‘trekkies’ alike. Although we are on a separate timeline here, outside of the old rules, there is plenty on offer for those who feared director J. J. Abrams would go too far in his desire to please a new generation by not honouring those precious memories. Any doubts long-term fans have will be lessened with the opening scene, and completely extinguished as you reach the half way point of the movie. A certain fan favourite also gets another cameo later on; one that arguably feels more like fan service than before, but if ever there was a good – not to mention quite appropriate – way to do fan service, this is it.

Other aspects of the film’s production are more fine-tuned than they were four years ago (and back then, they were pretty damn good too). The soundtrack is perfect – although I had admittedly made that decision as soon as the iconic theme kicked in, before any of the actors had even appeared on screen. Special effects outclass most other science fiction movies I’ve seen (the scene that has one of the movie’s primary ships crashing into the Federation’s New York headquarters is a prime example) but never feel like a character in their own right. How could they? With Cumberbatch, Chris Pine (Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (Spock) around, they barely get a look-in, instead complimenting the performances of their film’s leading actors.

Very, very few films know how to cover old and new ground simultaneously; help us discover fresh things about well-known characters while retaining their familiarity; provide history lessons while creating their own version of it; break the set rules while remaining true to the source material. Star Trek Into Darkness does all of these things in a thoroughly entertaining manner. Since watching the Lost pilot almost nine years ago, I’ve had an inclination for J. J. Abrams and his gift of visionary storytelling: with this he appears set to become this generations Steven Spielberg. He may already have surpassed even that.

However, he has a further opportunity now to make this new Star Trek he’s created into the perfect trilogy. Because we’ve established that this is, of course, a great film. But that doesn’t really cover the elephant in the room, does it? This movie, following its brave predecessor, has changed the timeline of the entire Star Trek universe (that’s not a spoiler, just a statement you already knew). We’ve observed certain differences brought about as a result of that change. What we haven’t seen is a reaction to the change itself. Surely there is someone, a certain someone, in this universe who may have taken exception to it.

Over to you, Kirk and co. Engines primed…

10 / 10.

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