Three years ago JJ Abrams took on possibly the bravest undertaking of his meteoric rise to prominence by agreeing to direct the Star Trek reboot / reimagining / re….whatever you want to call it. Fan boys and geeks everywhere went into meltdown and feared the worst. However, what followed was ludicrously good fun.
Few would deny that 2009’s Star Trek was exactly what a summer blockbuster should be. It was exciting, loud, brash and unashamedly geeky. It wasn’t without its faults of course, most notably a gaping plot hole that we still can’t quite understand how it escaped everyone’s notice. (If Nero had traveled back in time why didn’t he just go and warn Romulus before it was destroyed instead of waiting 30 years for Spock?) That aside, though it was a joy.
For the most part Abrams steered clear of shoehorning in references to the original series or the films, which we think was hugely to his credit. It allowed viewers who may not have previously been fans to access this Star Trek universe without needing any knowledge of Shatner, Nimoy et al.
And it’s here that Into Darkness really falls down. There are just too many references and overt nods to both the series and the films. So much so that my companion was left feeling completely alienated by the in jokes and references to what has gone before. We assumed that after cleverly creating an alternate universe in the first film that we would avoid this, sadly not. A lot of the time we caught ourselves thinking “Really? Did they need to do that? Is this just a reboot of another of the films? That makes no sense.” And finally “WHAT!!!!! YOU CAN’T SAY THAT……THAT’S NOT EVEN YOUR LINE”.
Abrams also seems to struggle to know what to do with any of his female characters. For the most part they are just used as exposition or are just shown in their underwear.
The film itself delivers plenty of bang for your buck in the effects and wow factor stakes. There are a couple of scenes that are draw droppingly good, especially the opening. We are reintroduced to the crew of the Enterprise as they are chased by a primitive tribe on a faraway planet as they try to avoid breaking the prime directive, (you can’t interfere with the development of another species – I’m not sure that Kirk’s libido got that memo in the original series though) with limited success almost resulting in one crew members death.
Meanwhile back on earth we meet the film’s big bad – JOHN HARRISON. Hardly a name that strikes fear into your heart. As it turns out he is formerly of Star Fleet and has turned terrorist against his former employers. Benedict Cumberbatch is clearly having a whale of a time, he chews his way through scenery while still sounding like he has plums in his mouth. (Steady) He commits an act of horror against the Star Fleet big wigs and then promptly scarpers to Kronos, (the Klingon home world) where he cannot be followed. We get to see some of the old Cornish Pasty faced warriors as they get their arses handed to them by Sherlock himself.
We won’t go into too much detail after that as it would be difficult to do so without giving away vital plot points. Needless to say the brown stuff hits the fan and Kirk and Co are thrust into a variety of perilous situations. These just seemed to be a procession of fights and chases which seemed to go on, and on, and on ad nauseam.
We were left feeling a little short changed by Into Darkness. Yes the villain was an improvement from the first film and yes it looks great, particularly if you like lens flare, but like many Vulcans it lacked emotion.
One real positive however is Zachary Quinto as Spock. He is the beating heart of this franchise. Although others perform admirably, (even with the dodgy accent, Simon Pegg is again on good form) it is he who performs the films heavy lifting. Kirk feels strangely redundant in this film and Cumberbatch although good is woefully underused.
The 12 year old in me enjoyed the explosions but the adult in me just couldn’t help but feel like they could have done much, much better. It’s a shame that they couldn’t capitalise on the start they made three years ago, this feels like a step in the wrong direction.
This was less Wrath of Kahn and more Trouble with Tribbles. Let’s hope he does a better job with Star Wars.