Set phasers to lens flare! After an extended delay, J.J. Abrams and co have returned to the world of Star Trek with this strangely titled sequel.
As the movie kicks off, in true Star Trek tradition, the crew are fumbling with the concept of the Prime Directive. However, after a terrorist attack on a Starfleet building in London, Kirk (Chris Pine) et al are on the trail of the mysterious John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a journey which will take them deep into enemy territory.
The entire cast is back and, like the first film, it’s the performances that are the most enjoyable aspect of the whole, um, enterprise. All of them are reminiscent of their earlier incarnations and a joy to watch. The film is reasonably good at giving everyone something to do, although I couldn’t shake the feeling that some cast members, such as John Cho (Sulu) or Anton Yelchin (Chekov), only spent a couple of weeks on set, so fleeting are their appearances.
The first hour of the film felt a little… awkward? Cheesy? Several times the screenplay had the actors dialling it up 11 in a ridiculously short time. Thankfully, from about the halfway point the film gets a lot better, as we see Kirk have to make some wonderfully tough decisions. Moral dilemmas are something that Star Trek does well, and Into Darkness certainly features its fair share. It’s no coincidence that this is about the same time that Cumberbatch takes centre stage, and his performance is near legendary – managing to be gloriously over the top yet never feeling pantomimic.
What bothered me most about the 2009 reboot was the amount of time it spent differentiating itself from the original timeline. In many ways it felt like it existed solely to lay the groundwork for the new adventures that were to come. At the time, I took solace in the idea that any sequels would really be able to cut loose. Unfortunately, Into Darkness has the annoying habit of straddling both the old and the new, so all those prior efforts seem to have been for nothing. I really don’t understand why this new series of films isn’t boldly going where none have gone before, and whilst it’s moderately successful in its aim, it feels like a wasted opportunity.
Whilst I felt the need to mention them in the opening line, Abrams has dialled down the lens flares somewhat. The film is as visually rich as you would have hoped, and the visual effects are top notch. Because this is a Hollywood blockbuster and not a TV show, it’s filled to the brim with action sequences. A lot of them fail the realism test, unfortunately, but it’s the kind of thing you can blissfully ignore if you’re in the right frame of mind.
Overall, this is perhaps slightly better than the first film, but it really frustrates me that the screenplay is just as constrained by what has come before as that 2009 reboot was.Rating: