Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

The much-hyped second entry into J.J. Abram’s Star Trek saga, titled Star Trek Into Darkness hits cinemas worldwide later this week. Whilst delivering heap loads of throwaway fun, Abram’s sequel ultimately proves to be a somewhat forgettable addition to the Star Trek saga.

Star Trek Into Darkness sees Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and the crew of the USS Enterprise on a manhunt through an intergalactic warzone, seeking out a terrorist within their very own ranks.

Viewers looking for a wholly original and inventive Trek adventure are out of luck here with Into Darkness serving as a brash, lively rehash of some of the series’ finer moments. There are no great changes from the film’s direct 2009 predecessor – which is fine, Abrams sticks to a formula that mostly works – centring on banter between the characters and action sequences of varying success.

Into Darkness is at its most entertaining when exploring more diverse territory – seen in the opening when Kirk and Bones explore a primitive alien planet. Here the wonder and spirit of adventure that was so prevalent in classic Star Trek is present in full force, alongside Abram’s comic edge. However, after this most of the action reverts back to the Enterprise – taking us back to a narrative structure reminiscent of Abram’s 2009 feature.

What Into Darkness promised was spectacle – seen through the blistering explosions and looming shots of Cumberbatch in the film’s multitude of trailers and posters. These are present in the final feature but unfortunately do not have the ‘epic’ feel that these promotional materials suggest. Instead these action scenes feel flat and lacking in momentum – there is no real investment or spectacle in seeing Spock jump from hover cars in pursuit of Cumberbatch’s villain or the crew partake in spacecraft shoot-outs – these are bog standard set-pieces that one would expect from any generic sci-fi feature, not something with the rich heritage of Star Trek. It’s loud, energetic and fast-paced, but ultimately unoriginal and underwhelming.

Whilst the cast of Abram’s films will perhaps always be compared to their predecessors from the classic Gene Roddenberry series and feature films, the modern Enterprise crew are perhaps the finest asset of the rebooted series. Chris Pine leads with a sense of Shatner-like confidence and vitality, whilst Zachary Quinto and Zoe Saldana put a more youthful spin on Spock and Uhura – although the romance established between the pair fails to convinc. The other crew members may pale in comparison to their iconic original portrayals – Simon Pegg irritates as Scotty and John Cho lacks the camp charm of George Takei’s Mr. Sulu. Fortunately, several in-jokes and banter between the crew helps establish an atmosphere of fun and joviality in Into Darkness which entertains when the action scenes may fail to quicken your pulse.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s villain, John Harrison, is perhaps the most over-hyped addition to the sequel. Cumberbatch does callous sophistication well, but this verges on caricatured and hammy despite the actor boasting a formidable screen presence in the early sections of the feature. Cumberbatch fails to have the lasting impact of such much-loved series villains like Ricardo Montalban’s Khan or Christopher Plummer’s Shakespeare loving Klingon, Chang.

Star Trek Into Darkness is perfectly enjoyable addition to the Star Trek saga. What it lacks in originality and spectacle, Abrams makes up for in fun atmosphere and moderately enjoyable action. Now if you excuse us, we’re off to listen to this.


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