Previously on Star Trek… James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine) was born during an attack upon the spaceship his father, Thor, was briefly captaining. His Dad gave his life so James and his mother (House‘s Jennifer Morrison) could survive. James grew up to be a reckless, rebellious dropout with a way for the ladies but not much else going for him, until a bar fight saw him catch the eye of Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), a Starfleet captain, who recommended Kirk sign up. Kirk does so, and eventually ends up captaining Pike’s ship, the Starship Enterprise, along the way compiling a trusty crew including emotionless half Vulcan Spock (Zachary Qunito), frenetic engineer Scotty (Simon Pegg), ship’s doctor Bones (Karl Urban), communications officer Uhura (Zoe Saldana), helmsman Sulu (John Cho) and navigator Chekov (Anton Yelchin).
Now, Kirk is still captaining the Enterprise and investigating other planet’s life forms. On a routine reconnaissance mission to observe the primitive planet of Nibiru, things do not necessarily go to plan when an active volcano threatens to wipe out the indigenous species. Kirk’s solution to the predicament is frowned upon back at Starfleet, and his ship is taken away from him and returned to its former captain, Pike. Meanwhile, a former member of Starfleet, the necessarily tediously named John Harrison (played by the incredibly un-tediously named Benedict Cumberbatch), begins to wage a one-man war against Starfleet, beginning by blowing up a data archive. Kirk takes it upon himself to, along with the rest of his crew, track Harrison down and bring him to justice.Hear’s the thing; I nearly didn’t write this review. I started it a few days ago but stopped and trashed it, because I don’t know the first thing about Star Trek. Seriously, prior to seeing Into Darkness I’ve seen 2009’s Star Trek maybe three times, and that’s it. I’ve not seen a single one of the previous films, or a single episode of the many TV shows. If you ask me, it’s all just a giant inferior rip-off of Galaxy Quest. However, knowing next to nothing about a source material has hardly prevented me from writing a review in the past, so why should now be any different? Plus, I think one of the aims of the new Star Trek franchise is to reboot it and entice new viewers, which is a demographic that I’m sat fairly comfortably in. So, whilst I’m sure there were a great deal of in-jokes and references to previous Star Trek films and episodes, chances are I missed the majority of them, although I did pick up on some. I’m still not entirely sure what that furry thing McCoy was injecting was though.
So, Into Darkness. Ensemble casts are wonderful things, aren’t they? I do love a team of people working together, where everyone within that team is a recognisable actor, good at their craft but with an individual role to do that they do well, and the new Star Trek series is a prime example of this. I’m a big fan of Simon Pegg (potential future Film-Makers contender), and going in I was absolutely certain that his Scotty would remain my favourite character. However he has stiff competition from Chris Pine as Kirk, who seems to have nailed just the right level of cocksure without being annoying, and Karl Urban as Bones. In fact, yes, Bones is my favourite. His brow is permanently set to furrowed, he has some of the best lines (“Dammit man, I’m a doctor, not a torpedo technician!”) and is just generally a joy to behold. Yelchin and Cho also do great jobs, and whilst I’m not a huge Zoe Saldana fan, she has one or two acknowledgeable moments here, although she is more of a foil for Kirk and Spock to play off than a substantial character in her own right. Alice Eve also joins the crew as scientist Carol Marcus, and as much as I love Alice Eve (I’ve mentioned it before, but go see Starter For 10, and she owns the only things worth watching in Sex and the City 2) I felt her character was a bit bland and seemed to be added just to give Kirk someone to flirt with, and to get her kit off in an entirely unnecessary but mildly appreciated scene.
Zachary Quinto’s Spock, on the other hand, seems a bit one-note to me. Everything he does seems to stem from his lack of emotion, and this is a well drawn from too often within the film. The acting is fine, but the character annoys me a little. Plus, he has one of the sillier scenes in the film that reminded me of the bit in Spaceballs where they play the tape of the film they’re in, to see what they should do next. The scene works in a spoof film, but it felt out of place here.
Story-wise I was thoroughly gripped, and I think not having seen previous Trek installments may have helped here, as I had literally no clue where things could go or what technology was available. Well, up until near the end, at which point I could see everything coming for the last half hour or so. It was still enjoyable to see it all play out though, and as always I do love being right. Cumberbatch (or Benny Batch as I’ve recently discovered he’s informally known) is decent as the villain, a bulked up figure from what we’re used to, but retaining those perfectly crisp syllables. The cast saw something of a British invasion, something I’ve no issue with whatsoever, what with the inclusion of Cumberbatch, Alice Eve and Doctor Who‘s Noel Clarke, even if he’s barely in it. Now I think about it I’m pretty sure he doesn’t actually have any lines. Anyway, more Brits in films please, Hollywood.
The cinematography was beautiful, although sometimes distractingly so. The opening scene sees Kirk and Bones clothes in light blue robes, running through a field of bright red plants, being chased by white-faces creatures clothed in luminous yellow garb, which looked stunning but felt a little over-engineered in terms of what colours would look best against others. I was pleased to note that director J. J. Abrams still knows how to use lens flare, as for some reason in space I allow for that kind of thing to happen without it annoying me. So, if you’re not a huge Star Trek fan this is still a good film to see, you just might miss out on some stuff. Apologies for a bit of a ramshackle review, but it’s late and I want to post something tonight, so this’ll have to do. All being well I’ll have arranged my thoughts into a slightly more cohesive order before this Sunday, when I’ll be recording a Lambcast (I know, another one!) all about Star Trek Into Darkness, presumably with people who actually know what a Klingon is for.
Choose film 8/10