12 – 132mins – 2013
Written by: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzland, Damon Lindelof
Based on the series created by: Gene Roddenberry
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Peter Weller, Alice Eve
REMEMBER THE PRIME
Before engaging hyperspace and departing for a galaxy far, far away, J.J. Abrams returned to the other behemoth sci-fi franchise with “Star” in the title. No, not Stargate, you know… the one he successfully rebooted with 2009’s continuity-dodging reinvention of the USS Enterprise’s original crew.
And this terribly-titled follow-up (they were adverse to using a colon) is once again a bright, fun and action-packed adventure for the youthful Kirk (Pine), Spock (Quinto) and gang. A gorgeous looking popcorn film, then, but Gene Roddenberry’s expansive future-verse comes with a rich history and an enormous level of responsibility. It is in keeping up with this that Star Trek into Darkness falls short.
For a sequel perfectly primed to forge its own path in an alternative timeline, STID feels remarkably samey and all-too-often constricted by countless shoehorned fan-servicing references. Did Spock Prime (Leonard Nimoy, RIP) need to return? Did the horrendously-redesigned Klingons need to make a cameo? It’s almost as if J.J. saw what worked well last time around and stalled on reinvention.
A number of scenes – particularly those involving rebel Kirk in bed with aliens, losing command of the Enterprise and receiving a pep-talk from father-figure Admiral Pike (Greenwood) in a bar – could easily have been lifted straight from the 2009 film, while the plot concerning Benedict Cumberbatch’s fugitive “John Harrison” is an unashamed rehash of the series’ most popular movie.
Cumberbatch is deliciously cold, ruthless and steely-eyed as the genetically-engineered superman raging a one-man war on Starfleet, but so much else feels contrived, overly-convenient and deliberate to the point it feels unnatural; you can almost hear the well-orchestrated cogs turning and the scrape of JJ’s pencil on his script ticking off a checklist of required plot points:
Find an excuse to get Scotty (Pegg) off the Enterprise? Tick. Find an excuse to put a Tribble in the medibay? Tick. Find an excuse to put Spock in peril so he can utter an iconic quote? Tick. Find an excuse to see Carole Marcus (Eve) in a bra? Tick.
That last point raises another bone of contention: the sexualisation and grittiness of this parallel universe – blood, violence, flesh and swearing – may be “modern” but just does not feel like classic Trek. When Shatner’s Kirk uttered “bastard” at his son’s killer in The Search for Spock (1984) it was so unexpected his hatred was palpable. Here, “shit” is flung around like it’s a prime directive!!
I may sound resoundingly negative, but Star Trek into Darkness isn’t a complete pile of —- (quite); the effects are superb, the dialogue punchy and the action bubbles along wonderfully to reach a dramatic – tragic – conclusion. But it doesn’t hold up to repeat viewings; a real problem with a fanbase as passionate and detail-savvy as Trekkies. Let’s just hope that Justin Lin injects fresh-blood in the director’s chair to put next year’s …Beyond back on course as the Enterprise finally embarks on its famous five year mission.