Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013) Review

Star Trek: Into Darkness
Director: J.J. Abrams
Plot: A savage terrorist is found to be from within the USS Enterprise’s own organisation, initiating a manhunt in to hostile territory for Captain Kirk, Spock, and company.
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch.

J.J. Abrams had undoubted success in rebooting the Star Trek franchise with the first of the new Star Trek films in 2009; but with 4 years passed and a much greater expectation from its audience, was Into Darkness able to surpass its predecessor or was it too big of a hurdle to jump?

The short answer to that question would be; yes. Because Star Trek: Into Darkness not only lived up to its predecessor but it may well have just surpassed it.

What Into Darkness does so well is integrate the character driven sci-fi formula which featured in its predecessor and adds a credible multi-layered antagonist as a cherry on the top of its already bigger and better explosions and graphics. Benedict Cumberbatch’s lead bad-guy is so diverse and charismatic that the British actor could go down in history as one of the greatest blockbuster bad guys of all time. Trust me, that is not an exaggeration – There’s a reason he’s on the poster. The calm and composed vengeful threat wrapped around his delivery of each and every line demands attention and the belief of his danger to our favourite space voyagers. He’s smart, perhaps too smart for Kirk and co. And that’s a scary proposition which anchors the film beautifully from a storyline perspective.

Into Darkness, as referenced above, is a largely character driven sci-fi which pays tribute to the franchises early days as a TV series and the budgetary limitations that were placed on it at the time. What this allows the modern day Blockbuster sci-fi to do is offer the audience an emotional balance board on which Abrams andco. can tip from side to side to make even the more hardened Star Trek fan feel a little emotional and fearful from time to time. But the real pleasure found within its story comes from little quirks which are so often used to lighten the mood and pay fitting tribute to the characters which were portrayed by different actors in the past. Without these, no character would mean nearly as much and thus the actorsperformances wouldn’t be received to the level they are, and the story would seem less meaningful. Such a self-conscious story may give the odd reminder that you’re watching a film and therefore remove you from your involvement, but it also allows for the geek in each of us to gather a level of excitement as the film goes on. Unfortunately for the viewer the said excitement is drained by a dramatic ending which utilises every trick in the book to get a tear out of you. But this isn’t a knock on the picture, more a highlighting of its power to stir emotions – Something way too many scifi’s and Blockbusters are missing.

What such a story enables is good acting, and with Star Trek: Into Darkness I was personally surprised by the quality of performance from Chris Pine in particular. Of course, Captain Kirk is no slouch in the acting stakes but a notably better performance from Zachary Quinto as Spock in the first film led me to believe the latter to be the much better actor, until now. While I believe Quinto’s performance as Spock in this film was a sensational delivery of emotion through very little facial movement or tone of voice change, Pine’s Captain Kirk was, rightfully as the lead character, a shining light in the films flare filled run time. Vengeful, conscientious, and dumb-foundedbravery were  needed staples of the actorsperformance and Chris Pine accurately obliged. It’s of true testament to both Pine’s and Quinto’s abilities as actors that Benedict Cumberbatch’s superb performance didn’t run away with the film, rendering the chief protagonists as unwanted distractions.

Typically, the sci-fi genre has always offered up a series of CGI wonders for us to feast our eyes upon and this was no different. Despite how character-centric the screenplay may have been and how highlighted the interaction of characterswas, there was still enough room for Abrams to truly open up some CGI magic to create such locations as a futuristic London or San Francisco, and gift the film some sensational set-pieces, ultimately fulfilling the film’s goal of overcoming its expectation and warping in to one of the better sci-fi blockbusters in a long time.

Verdict: If you like Star Trek you have to see it, but I’d suggest everyone at least gives it a go along the way. Cumberbatch is too good to miss and the small tributes to its old-school namesake are worth the admission alone even to someone with limited knowledge of the product. It’s not all explosions and lens flares like some may have expected, but that is definitely not a bad thing. A must see spectacle in the realm of all-time blockbuster greats.

8/10