Star Trek Into Darkness lacks the zippy chatter of Joss Whedon’s Avengers but delivers on the action…
“Noel Clarke got big,” says the guy sitting next to thatfilmthing, and he’s right in both senses of the term. The actor has bulked up from his Doctor Who and Kidulthood days but he’s also in one of the most high-profile releases of summer 2013, albeit briefly.
Given that Star Trek has always been ‘the franchise’ on TV, it’s genuinely exciting to have such a major mover and shaker back in the mix when it comes to movies. JJ Abrams’ 2009 reboot may not have been to everyone’s tastes, but it brought an ailing series back to life and turned something incredibly nerdy into a mainstream movie. You can see why they handed him the Star Wars gig.
It’s an attractive premise going into this film that there’s so much material to work with within a Star Trek universe. The fledgling Federation has yet to tangle with Klingons – who make an appearance – be overrun by Tribbles or even begin their first five-year mission. If Abrams can mine those touchstones for action and adventure without getting his geek on too much, this sequel could deliver more than the $366m worldwide box office of his first Trek movie.
However, a second film presents its own problems for the director. Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan has long been held as the greatest entry in Star Trek’s big screen outings. Abrams’ first movie may have reset the Trek timeline to start things afresh but this is still the same universe and there is the possibility to rehash Khan if he wants to. Yet it takes a brave man to mess with a ‘classic’…
Instead, we get a Bond-style adventure in the vein of Skyfall. Benedict Cumberbatch plays the disgruntled Section 31 agent looking to get back at his former masters, just as Javier Bardem’s Silva turned terrorist against M in that film. Cumberbatch is pretty much perfect as the ruthless John Harrison, his deep, bassy voice carrying the weight of his character’s words. He’s also both fast and furious in a way Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and The Rock could only hope for.
Action and adventure seems guaranteed when Kirk is assigned to track Harrison down in his bolt hole beyond Federation space and Abrams confidently and competently delivers the set pieces. Having such a well-defined set of characters to play with, the hope is that this Star Trek sequel will also pull off the chatty, zippy kind of ensemble movie that Joss Whedon did with Avengers Assemble.
And while it does draw elements from the whole crew – Simon Pegg’s light relief, Zoe Saldana’s emotional needs, Sulu’s command ambitions – the real story here is still the bromance between Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk and Zachary Quinto’s Spock. The interspecies fun as they butt heads and misunderstand each other’s actions is entertaining, yet it falls short of Iron Man and company’s efforts. Anton Yelchin’s Chekov, for one, is woefully underused, although newcomer Alice Eve (as Doctor Carol Marcus) makes a good first impression.
Watching this in Imax 3D summed up the film’s overall performance in general. The technology can’t keep up with JJ’s frantic camera swooshes, and you’re likely to see ghosts. And while there are moments where the audience emits genuine oohs and ahhs as debris hangs in the air or a star ship’s vapour trail leads into infinity, these are farther apart than we’d have liked.