Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

12, 2013, Directed by JJ Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Qunito, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch


Whereas JJ Abrams’ reboot of Gene Rodenberry’s mammoth classic sci-fi took its time in introducing just which actor had been tasked with playing which famous character, whilst carefully explaining potentially complex elements (with success, it should be added,) the sequel Star Trek Into Darkness begins mid-mission, with the engine revved as far as it can go; Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Doc ‘Bones’ McCoy (Karl Urban) are legging it away from a pursuing alien race, as Zachary Quinto’s Spock is being lowered into a volcano to prevent eruption - as it is erupting. It's as if the crew have been enacting missions every day since we left them back in '09.
It is this noble, yet under-assuming way of storytelling that JJ Abrams can nail. Together with his writing team of Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and LOST alumni Damon Lindelof, characters interact during different strands of simultaneous action so fluently that it's a wonder confusion is not induced. And let’s not forget, this can be mind-bending material. 

Into Darkness’ plot aptly revolves around Benedict Cumberbatch’s John Harrison, a terrorist who declares war on Starfleet, which forces James T. Kirk on a mission to apprehend him. It is Abrams’ casting of Britain’s man-of-the-moment Cumberbatch that best encapsulates the hugely talented filmmaker’s style; glorifying the oddball and making it cool. In John Harrison, we have a malevolent villain whose strange motives don’t make for confused questions, but chilling illogic.
The real film-winner though comes in Zachary Quinto's Spock. The lack of emotion running through his half human-half Vulcan character provides fellow crew members with many an issue, whether it be the anger Zoe Saldana’s love interest Uhura feels over his apparent willingness to die (touchingly, in order to prevent a planet’s devestation) or Kirk’s confusion at Spock’s unthankful reaction to having his life saved when it meant breaching protocol. It is these character moments that provide the film’s highlights; namely a hilarious bickering match during a life-threatening exploration that turns into a throat-choker within 30 seconds. It is Quinto’s precisely-played performance, and his core relationship with Kirk – thankfully at the forefront of these films - that ironically injects the film with the emotional investment necessary to make something of this stature work.
Time to give Chris Pine his credit; this time around, Kirk is an immensely likeable and reliable leader, despite his many confessions he has no clue what is the right thing to do… a very human trait. Simon Pegg returns in a brilliantly larger role as engineer Scotty, and although John Cho and Anton Yelchin are massively sidelined (as Sulu and Chekhov, respectively,) it is Karl Urban’s Doc Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy who manages to steal scenes with his one metaphor too many. And yep, all Alice Eve’s addition as Dr. Carol Marcus generically adds to the fore is red herring status, promise not quite grasped and flesh.
It’s safe to say that this is one film you won’t find yourself checking your watch in. With ambitiously crafted action set-pieces, more than one attempt to blind side the audience with narrative rug-pulls and simply enjoyable fun interaction between all members of the cast, if this is Abrams' trek into darkness then sign up now for future treks to come.
Not before he visits a galaxy far far away, mind.