Hollywood’s reigning sci-geek super-genius, J.J. Abrams, certainly aced his Starfleet exam four year’s back with his reboot of the moribund Star Trek movie franchise. A rollickingly good-humoured but also dramatic storyline introduced us to young, just-graduated versions of all the series stalwarts, and fanboys and newbies alike fervently embraced this savvy prequel. They should certainly be pleased with Abrams’ sophomore effort, Star Trek Into Darkness, which has similar flair if not great originality.
Young and studly Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), he of the chiseled cheeks and piercing blue eyes, isn’t at the helm of the USS Enterprise very long before his recklessness and arrogance get him censured by his superiors and booted off his beloved ship. He barely has time to brood before a much bigger disaster strikes: a rogue Star Fleet officer (Benedict Cumberbatch, most famous for his portrayal of a sociopathic, modern-day Sherlock Holmes on PBS) has murderously blown up a busy Star Fleet facility before fleeing to the edge of Klingon territory, where Star Fleet dare not go for fear of provoking war.
Quicker than you can say “a shot at redemption,” Kirk, Spock (Zachary Quinto), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Sulu (John Cho) et al. receive the admiral’s blessing to launch a covert mission to assassinate the ruthless villain who has killed so many fellow officers. Things are far from what they appear to be, and what follows is a twisty and exciting plot full of surprise betrayals, unexpected alliances, and touching reconciliations (Kirk and Spock’s bromance is as rocky as ever, mostly due to the huge misunderstanding that causes Kirk to lose his command at the beginning of the film). And, given that that this is two centuries in the future, it is surprising how many brutal fights there are that rely on fists rather than phasers.
Notwithstanding the use of “darkness” in the title, a notable body count, and some epic scenes of terrestrial and interstellar destruction, this is far from the sci-fi equivalent of The Dark Knight. The script is light on its feet as it balances action and emotion, pathos and comedy. It is also deft and clever at imagining the series’ iconic characters as much-younger people. Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) is particularly effective in this regard as he creates an endearingly crusty and droll Scotty. And then there is the lesser-known Cumberbatch, a gifted English thespian who makes for a tasty and tightly-coiled villain, mostly thanks to his mockingly precise diction and quiet sense of menace. In all, this is an engaging and entertaining Trek, one very much worth taking. M
Star Trek Into Darkness ★★★
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto
PG 13 – 132 minutes • Continues at The Odeon,
Empire Uni 4, SilverCity and West Shore