I must admit that I don’t know as much about Star Trek as several of my friends do. I keep up when I’m told about it, but I don’t have the same base knowledge of the subject as many fans. I did, however, enjoy JJ Abrams’ 2009 blockbuster reboot, and so I think I can fairly assess the film through the eyes of the average cinema-goer, and further down I will consult someone with more expert knowledge (yes, the mighty Frazer Foskett returns to the blog once more!).
Star Trek Into Darkness restarts our journey with the Enterprise crew in the middle of an exploration mission gone wrong, in which they end up breaking lots of rules and Spock is stranded on an erupting volcano. After this, Kirk is mad at Spock because he stabbed him in the back by filing a regrettable report, Admiral Pike makes a touching reappearance and then Benedict Cumberbatch’s John Harrison strikes and everything else must be put to one side.
I won’t reveal the Benedict Cumberbatch “twist” here in case you don’t know (although Frazer will later on), but most people are aware of it by now and it doesn’t really mean anything in advance if you’re not a Trekkie anyway. Cumberbatch is magnetic throughout the film though, and it is great fun to see him as the villain- he plays it with some similar mannerisms to Sherlock but is malicious instead of just socially unaware, giving a new edge to the actor’s icy stares. His slow, drawn-out and well-plotted drawl is perfect, especially during the time when we have no idea of his motives.
Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are also just as good as Kirk and Spock as they were in the previous outing, with the subject of their friendship causing some emotional highs and lows whilst both proving their worth as brilliant leaders too. However, Scotty was easily the character highlight of the film, with Simon Pegg getting the chance to storm off, get drunk, chastise his buddy Keenser and then turn out to be an unlikely hero, a lot of which he does whilst sprinting around.
Annoyingly, there were absolutely no strong female figures in the film. Zoe Saldana as Uhura has an empowering moment when she uses her Klingon instead of letting the men launch straight into combat, but this is almost negated by the amount of the film she spends being passive aggressive or 100% concerned with her “boyfriend”, Spock (although this does lead to an extremely amusing scene in a shuttle with Kirk stuck in the middle of the two of them). Equally, Alice Eve as Dr. Carol Marcus should have been a strong role model, especially as she tricks her way onto the Enterprise so she can use her skills to help and she deals with the photon torpedoes but when she changes in front of Kirk just so we can glimpse her in her underwear through his eyes, it adds a totally unnecessary element to her character. Even if she and Kirk get together in a future film, it is doubtful that this one look at her body will have any particular bearing on that relationship (from the split in opinion about this between the two girls and guys in our group, I’m guessing this was purely there to please the male target audience).
The oddest parts of the film were the segments near the beginning in which Noel Clarke meets Benedict Cumberbatch who can save his daughter: while this makes sense in the storyline, as obviously Harrison needs a first move tactic and this father has a strong motive to help, there are two sections in which there is little to no dialogue and the first of these in particular is too long, seeming out of place and unstable in this otherwise loud and fast-paced film. Despite this and a few other confusing plot points, the film is very enjoyable, it is hard not to get caught up in it (and I only consciously noticed the lens flare a couple of times!) but unfortunately there are some sections that let it down.
Over to Frazer for a different perspective on the film from someone familiar with the originals (beware of spoilers below!):
A lot of hardcore Star Trek fans were worried about the darker atmosphere the trailers seemed to suggest the film was going for, which is a common trend in, for want of a better word, nerd films nowadays. Star Trek was always meant to be about exploration and seeing the best in humanity, a hopeful outlook on the future of mankind, but in JJ Abrams’ reboot/alternate universe, events sent the Federation down a more war-like path. This comes to a head in Into Darkness as forces unknown seem set to ignite a war between the Federation and the Klingons.
Even though a few days have passed since I watched the film, I still don’t know how I really feel about it. Effectively, Into Darkness is a remake of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan with Benedict Cumberbatch playing, as many suspected and as those involved with promoting the film heavily denied, the titular Khan. Lots of dialogue is lifted from the original film, sometimes with characters voicing them changed, which can lead to nostalgic overloads, especially in a scene involving the engine room, which those who have seen the original can guess the importance of. However, at other times it can leave you feeling like you’re watching a film you have already seen, which many would argue did some elements better.
Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto work well as modern day Kirk and Spock, but to so many people Shatner and Nimoy are Kirk and Spock, so watching iconic scenes re-enacted by Pine and Quinto have an odd sensation to them. Granted, twists are made so as to avoid completely ripping off TWOK, but in my mind any emotional pay off from the characters’ relationships in the reboot can never quite compare to the original cast. The originals had seasons of a TV show to help establish relationships whereas the Abrams cast have had just one film. This is not to say emotions are not effectively portrayed by the cast, with Quinto and Pine demonstrating the much lauded friendship between Kirk and Spock in the aforementioned engine room, but knowing how modern films work, and with hints as to a ‘get out of jail free’ card planted in the film from an early point, no sense of peril was ever felt.
Karl Urban as Bones rounds out the Trek power trio, and whilst I felt at times they had based the reboot character on a pastiche of the original, making him something of a walking catchphrase dispenser- something Pegg’s Scotty was in the first Abrams Trek– he often had the funniest lines in the film and I wished we could have seen more of him.
Cumberbatch plays Cumberbatch as Kahn, with the deep bass voice crawling across every scene he is in, oozing intelligence and subtlety. Hollywood is known for casting the British as villains, and with a new generation of British actors making their way into Hollywood (Hiddleston, I’m looking at you) it is obvious why. Playing a long game with Kirk and the deranged Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller, AKA bloody Robocop) he embodies in some ways the man Kirk has to become, a captain totally devoted to his crew. After a thrilling battle with the Klingons (which was brilliant to see the Klingons on the big screen once again, with Birds-of-Prey disruptors making the right noises and Bat’leths swinging) he has a Silence of the Lambs-esque scene as he worms his way into Kirk’s head. His villainous breakdown is also expertly handled, spitting his words at Kirk with utter malice. But in the end, I fear he never needed to be Kahn. The film could have worked just as well without that little “twist”. In fact all it seemed to do was bring in Nimoy for a cameo to effectively nod to the camera and say ‘Yes, this all happened before’.
On the whole I think I enjoyed Into Darkness. It was big, pretty and bombastic (and reminded me of Star Wars in many ways, perhaps Abrams used this as warming up for Star Wars VII?) and at the end addressed the issue many had with the new direction the Federation was taking by setting the Enterprise off on its famous 5 year mission in uncharted space. I think many will enjoy this film, and whilst the most ardent Star Trek fan may be offended by the rehash of a classic, I enjoyed the ride whilst I watched it.