Star Trek Into Darkness strikes back

Star Trek Into Darkness really ups the emotional ante and strikes back with a thrilling and dynamic sequel.

Star Trek Into Darkness_Chris Pine as Captain Kirk“I have no idea what I’m supposed to do. I only know what I can do.”

James T. Kirk has returned, with his own kind of reckless heroism that leaves you and his fellow crew members of the U.S.S. Enterprise, shaken and stirred in equal measure. But the sequel to the dazzlingly enjoyable Star Trek reboot from 2009, is a somewhat different beast – here director J.J. Abrams pulls us back into the future universe and shows a world not all that different from our own present, where an act of terrorism can destroy the people that you hold dear and spur you on to avenge their memory. Watching Star Trek Into Darkness I was reminded on more than one occasion of another great sequel in its tone, excitement and emotional depth and I can pay it no higher compliment than to say it on the first viewing, I thought it as good as The Empire Strikes Back.

Star Trek Into Darkness_Benedict CumberbatchStarting with the glorious, pounding score from Michael Giacchino, that since the first film gives me goosebumps, we’re off at breakneck pace with Chris Pine’s Kirk and Karl Urban’s Dr. McCoy being chased by a lot of pretty annoyed natives, having failed to adhere to the Starfleet’s Prime Directive of no intervention on alien planets. And whilst Zachary Quinto’s Spock is lowered into a nearby volcano to hopefully prevent it from exploding, you feel on familiar thrilling territory from the first film.

Although by the end of this prologue, events ultimately work out, that’s only a brief moment for everyone to catch their breath because all too soon Kirk has lost command of the Enterprise, Spock has been assigned to another ship and a rogue Starfleet officer John Harrison has committed 2 unspeakable acts of terrorism and left tragedy in his wake. As Harrison (or perhaps he’s really someone else?) is played by the extraordinary Benedict Cumberbatch, you know that there’s more to him than meets the eye and when he eventually encounters Kirk, Spock and the rest of the Enterprise crew, we’ll have a hell of a battle on our hands all the way to the hard-fought conclusion.

Star Trek Into Darkness_Kirk and SpockAnd so the new movie begins to explore weightier issues, harder choices and more emotional decisions in its pursuit of Harrison and some kind of vengeance for his actions. “Let’s go get this son of a bitch” says Kirk and through Chris Pine’s nuanced performance of a man struggling to keep his emotion in check, we see it’s counterpointed with Zachary Quinto’s quite beautiful portrayal of Spock, as someone who is discovering the true cost of what it’s like to feel. These 2 performances drive the picture and their ever-changing relationship (or bromance as some people have called it) is built on very effectively from the first movie.

Cumberbatch is totally their equal and a brilliant casting choice by Abrams. He shows not only Harrison’s devilish cruelty but then his poignant motive for what he’s done and that duality is gripping to watch. The rest of the cast are on top form – Simon Pegg has a larger role this time as the ever-inventive engineer Scotty, Zoe Saldana displays a grit and fragility as Uhura whenever she’s on screen and John Cho steps into the Captain’s chair at one point with a very commanding presence. Alice Eve is a bright, new addition to the series, along with the steely Peter Weller as the Head of Starfleet and although Anton Yelchin’s sparky Chekov wasn’t given more to do, I was glad to see Bruce Greenwood return as the estimable Captain Pike and father-figure for Kirk.

Star Trek Into Darkness_the EnterpriseWhat I also loved was how detailed Abrams made the film – some blink and you may miss them moments but I caught a lovely background shot of the Kelvin Memorial Library early on and the return of Officer “Cupcake” and some other familiar faces on the Enterprise crew – nice touches. Dan Mindel’s cinematography once again sees the glorious lens reflection in evidence (nice flare!) and Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof’s script balances the wit from the first movie with a darker, grittier edge signified by Kirk’s declaration at pursuing Harrison that I mentioned earlier.

But it’s ultimately Abrams who shows what a truly gifted storyteller he is once again with this movie – he cleverly didn’t try to repeat the dizzying excitement of the first film but as Empire followed Star Wars, he’s chosen to take the characters in another, deeper direction and I applaud him for that. I’ve admired his work since the TV show Alias and although I watched the previous Star Trek films not as a fan but as just a viewer, now he’s made me a fan of this version – of the actors he’s brought to inhabit these famous characters and the fresh and exciting vision he’s shown for this voyage to new worlds and new civilisations. I so look forward to the next instalment of this (and his) 5-year mission.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *