J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot of the Star Trek film franchise is widely regarded as a great sci-fi action film and introduced a whole new generation to the iconic crew of the USS Enterprise. Abrams’ inspired casting of then unknown actors worked wonderfully, as did his fun and energetic direction. The script was also faithful enough to keep hardcore fans happy, working separate from the existing universe whilst also referencing the past. Now 4 years later we finally get a sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, but was it worth the wait?
Without spoilers, the fairly light plot goes something like this. After interfering with another planet, Kirk and Spock are split up. Kirk has his captaincy removed and has to work second in charge under Pike. However, Kirk and Spock are thrown back together when the mysterious villain Commander John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) starts blowing up Starfleet buildings across the globe. Now, with the entire crew back together, the USS Enterprise start an epic cat and mouse game across the universe.
Abrams isn’t without his detractors, but if there is one thing I think everybody can agree on is that he knows how to shoot action. Star Trek Into Darkness is non-stop, the plot is kept light and because of it the film moves at warp speed. Thankfully the action isn’t all explosions, as the audience is served up an array of different action. The film opens with a colourful chase through another planets red soaked jungle and it just gets better from there. My favourite, and the most intense, would have to be the Dead Space-esque flying through space with Kirk and John Harrison. No two sequences are the same, with each leaving the audience jaw-dropped wanting more.
Action comes at a price though, it is at the expense of plot. As I’ve mentioned, the plot is light. It often feels like the writers and Abrams storyboarded amazing action sequences and then built a plot around them. The writers retread a lot of ground that the previous film. Plot devices and lines are copied and it can be frustrating to sit through. The writers also seem to be preoccupied with referencing as many old Star Trek films and episodes as they can, resulting in a film that feels more like a homage than another franchise entry. It suffers from the sequel curse, the film becomes a carbon copy of Star Trek in an attempt to please all the fans of the previous film. Those wanting more are left wanting.
One thing the writers did nail in Star Trek Into Darkness was the further development of Kirk and Spock. The pair have some fantastic moments, as both must look deep within themselves and change to save the day. The film neatly twists the two characters, with Kirk needing to use his head and Spock needing to use his heart. It is very touching and the characters bond in unexpected ways. The duo are becoming cinemas best bromance. With the exception of Scotty and Carol Marcus, the rest of the characters do feel like cardboard cut-outs and are never given enough screen-time. It is a shame, but expected from such a large ensemble.
Through its superb character development and a variety of epic action scenes, Star Trek Into Darkness manages to be an exciting and thrilling entry into the franchise. Cumberbatch is an excellent addition to the cast and will prove to be one of the year’s most menacing villains. Abrams yet again shows he is comfortable with big budgets, his approach to action is, frankly, awesome. The film has been engineered for a mainstream audience, with the end result playing it safe, which is likely to result in backlash from fans. However, those not attached to the brand will likely come out buzzing for more.