Seizing a priceless opportunity to rid the Science Fiction genre of the stench left by the underwhelming nature of George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels, 2009 saw Trekkies and the franchise alike re-emerge from the cinematic wilderness full of youthful exuberance and wit. Warp speed four years later, the leader of this particular enterprise is now saddled with the responsibility of plotting how to rejuvenate Lucasfilm’s most prized asset in the near future with Episode VII. In the meantime, ‘Into Darkness’ is J.J Abrams’ latest ‘mission’ with his objective being to build on the foundations of a well received reboot, whilst avoiding any potential alienation of its hardcore fanbase as this modern incarnation continues to establish its own identity.
Opening in thrilling fashion, Chris Pine’s Captain James Tiberius Kirk and his cocksure nature shows no signs of abating. Still eager to live up to his father’s legacy, his disregard for the rules in a high stakes moment of peril leaves his rank within Starfleet increasingly under threat. His persona juxtaposed once again by the intelligent and headstrong Spock (Zachary Quinto), their separation from fulfilling collective duties is short lived, prompted by an impromptu attack at the heart of futuristic London.
With important Starfleet archives the initial target for such a merciless act, we’re immediately made aware the threat is a begrudging terrorist called John Harrison played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Formerly of the organisation he now vows to destroy, Kirk and his eclectic crew are left with no choice but to relentlessly hunt down this villainous antagonist and prevent further atrocities. Even, if their pursuit risks the beginning of warfare amongst other races..
Complimented by Michael Giacchino’s wonderous score, Abrams’ ups the stakes both narratively and by fulfilling the obligation of a Summer blockbuster, the bombast of its set pieces. Setting the tone right from the word ‘go’, the pace of this latest installment will likely leaving you gasping for a breather, as Abrams’ executes such sequences that whilst occasionally familiar in their set-up, in stunning and enthusiastic fashion. In a clear bid to keep the older contingent satisified, the Roberto Orci/Alex Kurtzman/Damon Lindelof script sprinkles its potentially convoluted plot with self aware nostalgia and intertextuality that thankfully doesn’t detract too much from the film’s primary focus.
‘Into Darkness’ may be the declaration and whilst the film is more assured than its predecessor in the serious stakes, Abrams thankfully retains the playful nature of the character dynamics whilst ploughing deeper into their dysfunctional relationships. Inevitably at its heart, Pine’s Kirk and Quinto’s Spock’s peculiar bromance remains the most compelling element. Many of the plaudits will likely be heading Cumberbatch’s way with a performance brimming with steely-eyed theatricality and menace, however it is our wonderfully played half human half Vulcan who stands out. Almost oblivious when exchanging verbal zingers with Zoe Saldana’s love interest Uhura. Forever tormented by his ever present struggles to convey emotion, his terrific performance anchors the film.
The minor gripes, consisting of characters inevitably shortchanged by the material (the attractive addition of Alice Eve a mere example) and Abrams’ heavy reliance on his beloved visual ‘lens flare’ trick are unfortunate yet forgivable. As ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’ is a superior and exhilarating sequel that undoubtedly deserves to ‘live long and prosper’ this Summer.
‘Beam Me Up, JJ.’