Star Trek Into Darkness Review

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There is a general pattern many hold with the Star Trek movies: The even-numbered movies are superior to the odd-numbered ones. While fans acknowledged this rule of sorts, later instalments such as Star Trek: Nemesis (the tenth movie) didn’t entirely support the notion. Then came 2009’s reboot to the Star Trek motion picture franchise, which could be seen as either the eleventh or the first in the line of new Star Trek movies. And it was brilliant.

A theory potentially disproved and that may no longer be relevant.

Warp forwards to the present day and the release of Star Trek Into Darkness, the second in the line of rebooted Star Trek movies. Would it be superior to 2009’s Star Trek? Could it continue in the supposed odd vs. even Star Trek film quality disconnect?

Pattern or not, one can safely say this: It. Is. Amazing.

Visionary director J. J. Abrams certainly outdid himself after his previous effort with the 2009 film. Everything has been turned up to 11 on a film that had already stepped up in scale from the original franchise in the first place. The effects are grander, the story is more detailed, the world is fleshed out, the characters are explored, everything and everything is bigger, and it’s better. 

Star Trek Into Darkness (Quinto, Cumberbatch, Pine)Star Trek Into Darkness follows Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto), and the rest of the crew of the USS Enterprise following where their adventures left off in the previous outing. Time has passed, Captain Kirk and his crew have suffered no losses, and the Enterprise has enjoyed a moderately successful mission to observe and not interfere with cultures on extra-terrestrial planets.

Of course, with Kirk’s maverick nature and keen abandon of the rules where sometimes the needs of the few outweigh the many at times, the young captain finds himself in trouble with the higher ranks at Starfleet. That’s only the least of his worries however, for after a couple of grave attacks on Earth masterminded by the mysterious John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), Kirk takes it upon himself to lead a mission to capture the antagonist and bring him to justice. It’s not as easy as he thinks. 

Star Trek Into Darkness is a science-fiction action-adventure thrill-ride, where space battles, firefights, and even fist fights are around every corner. Not only that, but it is a brilliant character-piece. From Kirk’s hero’s journey to Spock’s development in behaviour to the unravelling story behind John Harrison and his motives, Into Darkness does well to build and develop many characters across the runtime. Not every character however.

Chekov (Anton Yelchin) is criminally underused; Dr. Carol Marcus – Alice Eve’s character – is not used as effectively as she could have been, and while Uhura (Zoe Saldana) does have her relationship with Spock, outside of that she might as well fade into the background. In a series that prides itself with diversity, there are no strong female characters with worthwhile screen-time in this movie.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s villain in John Harrison however is masterful. Definitely a memorable villain of cinema this year. Cumberbatch’s dialogue is rich and menacing, and the way in which he possesses a superior intellect and physicality to Kirk and everyone else on the Enterprise makes him a force to be reckoned with. He establishes his menace very early on in the movie, and never plays any more cards then he has to, lest he give the game away. Harrison and Kirk play a brilliant game of chess with each other, forcing Kirk to constantly second guess and be cautious of Harrison, lest he do anything to jeopardise any more lives.

The film certainly keeps up the pace with the conflict and the action, and the script is full of enough twists and turns that it never feel flat, but instead keeps at a constant speed. There is also the nice injection of humour where its needed, whether that be with life on Earth, following Scotty’s (Simon Pegg) antics on and off the Enterprise, Bones’ (Karl Urban) overt love of metaphor and sarcasm, or otherwise.

Star Trek Into Darkness (Pine, Eve Quinto)What is probably best about the film however is how it is a king in the details. Whether it’s the narrative, shots, or objects seen on screen, Star Trek Into Darkness is a treat to even the most casual of Star Trek fans. If you are even vaguely aware of Star Trek’s massive lore, this movie delivers on the continuity, in-jokes, and references. It’s not so much a hat tip as it is a sheer love of the source material, creating genius parallels and wonderful narrative fiction that feels much like a classic Star Trek movie while also being a completely fresh revival at the same time.

Technically, the film is highly impressive, especially in IMAX. The striking visuals in IMAX 3D help immerse you in the highly detailed world. The production design is just beautiful, from the glory shots of the Enterprise, to outer space, to the Earth of the future, and to planets unknown, each new location looks wonderfully unique and more detailed than you can possibly imagine.

The sound design is also brilliant. Explosions and gunfire punctuate conflicts while punches smack and vehicles crash. Into Darkness’ soundtrack is so engaging one must tip their hat to Michael Giacchino. Giacchino has created a score that hits every single beat of the film perfectly; raising the tension when needed and bringing an epic backing to the scenes that really need it. Star Trek Into Darkness is just a pitch perfect technical masterpiece. 

While it’s not the perfect Star Trek movie, it comes very, very close. Some moments are a bit too convenient and some reveals aren’t going to blow your mind, but the film is up there. It celebrates the Star Trek formula, gives it an upgrade, and possibly even remakes a few strong Star Trek beats from the past, too. Benedict Cumberbatch is definitely one of the strongest points of the movie, giving a masterclass in how to play a great bad guy that will no doubt be on some critics’ list of favourite villains one day. The film is a straight-up hero’s journey, and it works very well for Star Trek Into Darkness. There is no need to complicate things, just some good old-fashioned sci-fi fun. Who knows where the next movie will take things. The bar has certainly been raised. I do hope they continue to boldly go where no Star Trek movie has gone before.

Star Trek Into Darkness is out in cinemas now. It stars Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Benedict Cumberbatch. J. J. Abrams directs, and while Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof write the screenplay.

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