Should I Watch..? Star Trek Into Darkness
What's the big deal?
Star Trek Into Darkness is an action sci-fi film released in 2013 and is the twelfth film in the Star Trek film franchise. It is directed by J.J. Abrams and is a sequel to the 2009 reboot Star Trek (1) - the film's cast includes Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin and John Cho. The film sees Kirk and his crew sent to the Klingon homeworld Kronos to intercept a former Starfleet officer-turned-terrorist. The film also features Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Peter Weller and Leonard Nimoy in his final filmed appearance. The film was released to a warm reception from critics and it became a hit at the box office as well with global takings in excess of $467 million - making it the most successful movie in the series so far.
What's it about?
Kirk is stripped of the captaincy of the USS Enterprise after breaking the Prime Directive by saving the lives of primitive inhabitants on the planet Nibiru. Finding himself First Officer to the Enterprise's previous captain Admiral Pike, Kirk is called to a top level meeting after a terrorist bombing of a Starfleet archive in London. The man responsible is renegade Starfleet operative John Harrison who hijacks the meeting with his own vessel and opens fire, killing a number of Starfleet personnel including Admiral Pike.
With Kirk now filling the role of Captain of the Enterprise, he approaches Admiral Marcus and begs to be allowed to pursue Harrison to the Klingon homeworld of Kronos. Knowing that a Starfleet team in Klingon space could be considered an act of war, Marcus agrees but only if the Enterprise use a prototype long-range torpedo developed by Starfleet's shadowy Section 31. Setting off after Harrison, Kirk and his crew are about to discover that not everything they've been told is true...
Captain James T. Kirk
Lieutenant Nyota Uhura
Lt. Comm. Montgomery "Scotty" Scott
Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy
Dr Carol Wallace
Fleet Admiral Alexander Marcus
Admiral Christopher Pike
Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman & Damon Lindelof *
Release Date (UK)
9th May, 2013
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Academy Award Nomination
Best Visual Effects
What's to like?
Anyone familiar with Abrams' reboot will know what to expect here - lots of fancy CG, plenty of in-jokes and references and a cast struggling to shake off the portrayals of the original TV crew. Sure enough, the film has plenty of the first two but the cast actually acquit themselves pretty well. Cumberbatch is superb as Harrison, combining the chilling calmness of Hannibal Lecter with the more violent aspects of The Joker. Quinto also does well as Spock, which isn't easy considering how iconic Leonard Nimoy's portrayal was (and how much this "alternate timeline" harks back to it). Others such as Pine and Pegg aren't there just yet but there are signs of progress.
The big budget CG fills every inch of the screen with explosions, phaser fire, sprawling cities of the future and distant worlds and star systems. I like the look of the new Enterprise which contains plenty of nods to the original show from the Sixties (like I say, Abrams loves a reference) while still feeling contemporary enough for younger viewers. And the action, which has so upset traditional Trekkers, isn't just about gun fights and fisticuffs - there is a thrilling sequence featuring characters drifting at high speed through speed loaded with shattered debris while the opening volcano sequence is also exciting as well.
- Cumberbatch recorded his screen-test on an iPhone in the kitchen of a friend of his. His character wasn't revealed to him until a week after he was cast - security was so tight that the studio rep had the script handcuffed to him between Los Angeles and London.
- Paramount wanted the film shot in 3D while Abrams preferred to shoot in IMAX. The two compromised and as a result, this is the first feature film in history to be shot in IMAX and converted to 3D in post-production.
- Amazingly, this marked the first time in the franchise's history that shooting took place outside of the US. The crew went to Iceland for certain special effects sequences.
What's not to like?
I've always said that Star Wars (2) is for action lovers while Star Trek is for more serious fans of sci-fi. And here's where the problem with this film lurks like a Cardassian sniper - Abrams is now in charge of both sci-fi franchises and this almost feels like a trial run for The Force Awakens (3). And seeing as that film basically is a remake of A New Hope (oh yes, it is), this is essentially a remake of another Star Trek movie - one which is both fondly remembered and also much better. I won't spoil it for anyone (although the Internet has plenty to say on this) but ripping off a film many fans will be familiar with isn't that smart an idea. It definitely didn't fool me, anyway.
Some of the effects are almost overpowering at times while at others, the film manages to underwhelm - something no sci-fi film should ever do. Take the final sequence in San Francisco which provides the viewer with more destruction than Independence Day (4) ever managed before having characters conduct a chase sequence on a couple of random flying vehicles. It lacks that crucial spark of imagination that typified much of Roddenberry's output - although it did manage to shoehorn in the most pointless underwear shot I can ever recall seeing in a film so the old man would have approved of that! But generally, the film is a dark and depressing film that stomps over the traditional exploration of deep space and settles for being a standard sci-fi shooter. Shame.
Should I watch it?
Depends on your point of view. If you're new to the series or prefer your sci-fi films to be about battling spaceships then you'll probably get a real kick out of this. Long-time fans, however, will feel like they've been kicked in the teeth - Star Trek Into Darkness has none of the charm or smarts of the original series, instead concentrating on being a rough-and-tumble exercise in CG violence and inexplicable sequences. A poor script doesn't help while some of the cast still can't quite make the roles their own. A missed opportunity.
Great For: people bored of endless Star Wars episodes, casual sci-fi fans, Internet perverts
Not So Great For: fans of the Star Trek TV show, plot-hole spotters, convention debates
What else should I watch?
Abrams' reverence for the original series is fully understood - the likes of Shatner, Nimoy and the rest reunited for six films after the cancellation of the TV show. Blasting back onto our screens in 1979 with the slightly odd Star Trek: The Motion Picture (5), the original crew had the most success with the second, third and sixth films. The Wrath Of Khan (6) is a superb thriller with arguably the series' most iconic villain, The Search For Spock (7) combined mystery, action and Christopher Lloyd as another classic baddie but the best of the lot was The Undiscovered Country (8). The last full outing was a brilliant and exciting piece of cinema with quality visuals, performances and a story befitting of the retiring cast.
For whatever reason, the season seemed to stall once the crew from The Next Generation took over. Despite the likes of Patrick Stewart heading the crew against perennial bad guy Malcolm McDowell in Star Trek Generations (9), the film was a mess of ideas and things never really improved afterwards. The death-knell was Star Trek: Nemesis (10) in 2002 which signalled the end of the series as we knew it and left the way open for Abrams to pitch his reboot.
© 2016 Benjamin Cox