Star Trek Into Darkness

Two films into the re-booted franchise and Star Trek is starting to act like any other action franchise.

You’d imagine the point of re-starting a popular franchise was because there was something new to say about the characters or the idea but if the sophomore offering of JJ Abrams’ Star Trek is any indication the more references to the old Trek the better. The increasingly detailed mythology built up over the original series and films is seemingly being re-created here with a few modern touches. Of course it looks amazing and thanks to CGI pretty much anything that they want to do can be done on screen. Yet all this seems to do is imbue superhuman qualities to the crew several of whom perform the sort of physical feats that no person, however well trained, could manage without a little digital help. Surely the whole point of Trek is that these are not superheroes, but ordinary clever people who need guile as well as strength to overcome the odds?

Warning- Medium spoilers beyond this point

Abrams has assembled quite a cast and pleasingly everyone gets ample screen time unlike the original cast’s strictly delineated portions. So there’s plenty for Simon Pegg, who despite his outrageous accent, is the most identifiable human character. There’s a sequence where he is sneaking around the enemy ship that hits just the right note.  Benedict Cumberbatch is yet another posh English villain (not sure what this says about American film makers) though without the pithy one liners gifted Avengers Assemble’s Loki or the wonderful twist to Iron Man 3’s Mandarin. Cumberbatch’s character has dubious moral reasons for his violent actions but the film is not as interested in the dichotomy between these and the Federation’s approach as it should be. What’s more he is joined by another villain whose motives are less than convincing. Spoke and Uhura remain a couple though have their share of difficult moments, notably during a danger filled mission to the Klingon planet where they start bickering with danger on all sides. Zachary Quinto makes an engaging Spock whom the script serves well highlighting his differences in approach to Kirk who in the hands of Chris Pine remains as dependably heroic as the character always was.

The movie is over cluttered with fan pleasing references and a plot spin that turns an initially promising scenario into a virtual remake. Any debate over the rights and wrongs of Harrison’s dilemma is soon shoved aside for some dazzling action for the last half hour though the breathless opening sequence remains unbeaten. There are thrills aplenty though; a head to head fight on top of a flying vehicle, Kirk and Harrison’s daredevil flight through space and a tense sequence where the Enterprise is crashing towards Earth.

You’ll love this film in the moment especially if you see it on IMAX 3D where Abrams’ trademark motif lens flares and slightly out of focus distant shots of spacecraft really do make you feel you’re there. Later, however, your head will remain unchallenged by a film that makes the Enterprise crew seem like just another set of militarily minded actioneers. At the end the franchise seems to be rebooting again, with the suggestion that Abrams and co are handing the baton on, hopefully to someone who’ll inject something more cerebral to distinguish Trek from all the other blockbusters of the day.

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