Ror Reviews: STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (IMAX 3D)
I always try my best to avoid spoilers but I do reveal something about the film towards the end of the review. I'll give you plenty of notice beforehand though so feel free to keep reading till you hit the SPOILER WARNING!
I think it's fair to say J.J. Abrams' first Star Trek surprised us all with just how great it turned out to be, so there was definitely pressure on him to deliver with this highly anticipated sequel. Does he pull it off? Click for my take..
Star Trek Into Darkness is a bit of a misnomer. Although J.J Abrams' follow up to his excellent 2009 reboot does have its grim moments, for the most part it's actually a pretty light, fun affair. The difference between this and other recent movies that rely too heavily on humor though is that Abrams balances things out very well -- when things get serious there is real tension, and as a result the comedic elements act as levity instead of taking over the tone of the film completely.
Right from the get-go all of this is evident in an incredibly exciting chase sequence involving Kirk and McCoy attempting to escape from a hostile planet, and rescue Spock from a volcano while they're at it. It's one of the better pre-credit scenes we've had in quite some time, and sets up the rest of the movie brilliantly. The story is pretty straight forward: Bad guy kills a bunch of people, Kirk and his crew set out to bring him to justice. Now there are a few twists and turns along the way (more on that later) but basically that's yer lot. Trek fans hoping for more of a cerebral tale this time around might be disappointed, but there is so much spectacularly executed action and visual mastery (yes, lens flares and all) on display here that it's hard to feel too hard done by -- although even I must admit that it might be a good idea to slow things down and give us a bit more to think about if we get a third film.
The returning cast are all on top of their game, with -- thankfully -- Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto once again the standouts as Kirk and Spock. When we first rejoin them, these two haven't actually progressed that much as characters since the last movie. There is a new-found respect, but the events of Into Darkness are what really cements their friendship. Zoe Saldana is solid as Uhura, this time getting to flex her action chops and Karl Urban again threatens to steal the show as Dr. "Bones" McCoy. It's a shame he doesn't get a bit more to do, but unfortunately with such a large cast that was always going to be an issue (the real casualties are Jon Cho and Anton Yelchin as Sulu and Chekov) and we even have some -- arguably unnecessary -- additions this time.
Alice Eve is a more than capable actress and does her best with the role, but her character Carol Marcus is pretty pointless beyond some eye candy for Kirk (and Bones) to flirt with. She's involved in a couple of great scenes to be fair, but one can't help but feel leaving her out and focusing more time on some of the crew members we already know and like would have been a better idea. One new addition who is most definitely not superfluous though is Benedict Cumberbatch's John Harrison. There is a slight bit of scenery chewing going on it must be said, but he's too good an actor to ever allow it to go too far, and he emerges as a complex and pretty damn terrifying villain.
So, any problems? Yep..
I'm not going to go too deep into spoiler territory as far as what actually happens with the characters etc, but basically Abrams and his writers take a page (or 10) out of the Wrath Of Khan playbook for their final act. I don't have a problem with this in theory, but the issues arise from the fact that we had not only a full movie to explain the story behind Khan and his people with Star Trek 2, but the Original Series episode "Space Seed" to set things up too. Here everything is crammed into one scene between Kirk and "Harrison" as the latter hisses the big reveal in a very forced seeming moment. A last-minute plot point involving Harrison's blood brings us very close to deus ex machina territory too. I guess I just think that if you're going to borrow from the best, you better make sure that you at least match up to it, and Abrams' attempt to replicate (imo) one of the greatest endings in not only Star Trek, but film history just doesn't quite cut it.
All that being said though, the film does pack an emotional wallop -- although some may think the very end is a bit of a cop-out, overall it works well enough. Not without some flaws, but pretty great sequel all-in-all, boasting terrific performances and the stunning visuals we've come to expect from this team. Hardcore Trekkies may find themselves screaming ABRAAAAAAAAMS!, but everyone else will have tribble (sorry!) finding a more purely entertaining movie out there this Summer.
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