by Barry Morgan
First thing’s first, I’m not a Trekkie, not in the conventional sense; I’ve never seen any of the TV shows, never seen any movies Pre-JJ and I’ve never been to any conventions. I am however quite the Cumberbitch, Pine-Nut, Pegghead and… A fan of JJ Abrams’ work (we’ve got to come up with something catchier than that) and after the terrific reinvention/invitation of the first film, I was more than happy to join the Enterprise on this Star Trek Into Darkness.
We join our crew a few years after the events of the first film and they are doing exactly as they said they would, boldly going where no one has gone before and having lots of banter along the way. However when London is hit by a vicious terrorist attack, a manhunt begins. Benedict Cumberbatch plays John Harrison, a member of Star Fleet who has gone renegade. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) wants Harrison’s head on a stick but Spock (Zachary Quinto) would rather capture, question and give this terrorist a fair trail before the law.
What the screenwriters have done for this second installment (Which is actually the twelfth film in the franchise) is split up our merry band while having them all work toward the same goal, this gives each separate character a little more room to breathe even if their screen time is a little on the short side. Kirk’s Daddy issues are still there, always just below the surface. It’s a performance that’s crafted very well by Pine and captured with class by JJ. Kirk’s Bromance with Mr. Spock is at it’s most bromantic and it’s refreshing to see a deep friendship between two men being handled with sincerity. We see new depths to Spock while still using his placid Vulcan tone for some great dry comic beats with his love interest Uhura (Zoe Saldana). Karl Urban is having great craic as the metaphor slinging Dr. “Bones” McCoy. Simon Pegg returns as Scotty, who was mainly just comic relief in the first movie, but here gets his moment to show that while he is one of the finest comic actors around today, within the blink of an eye he can show real subtle emotional depth. Eagle eyed viewers will spot (or perhaps recognise the voice of) Nolan North, who’s better know for his work on computer games such as Uncharted, Assassin’s Creed and Batman; great to see him making the jump to the big screen. And Alice Eve does more that just stand around half in the nip!
The man on all the posters this time around is Cumberbatch, and deservedly so. The character is very well written but it’s Cumberbatch’s performance that makes Harrison into something remarkable. One scene shows him literally kicking all of the ass and in the very next scene he tells us exactly why he is doing it, the difference maker is that Harrison doesn’t want our sympathy but in truth I haven’t rooted for a bad guy this much since The Joker was ripping up Gotham City a few years ago. It’s a side to Cumberbatch that we haven’t seen before and his vocal work is chillingly good.
The musical score, from JJ’s good luck charm Michael Giacchino, is a great extension of what was done on the first picture. Unfortunately, I feel, nothing quite reaches the peek of the opening of the first movie when Chris Hemsworth’s character sacrifices himself to save the crew and his family (Seriously, watch that again and just listen to how staggeringly good the music is). This time around keep an ear open for a gorgeous piano piece through the second scene just after the title card.
The film runs at a smooth two hours, never once dragged and could easily have gone on longer. JJ manages to navigate the main plot line and juggle all the different small character arcs, while giving us plenty of big blockbustery action. Watching this movie, I couldn’t help myself but wonder about JJ’s next big movie set in space. With Star Trek he has proven he can take a passionately loved franchise, reinvent it and make it accessible for non Trek-Heads (like yours truly) and also give devotees something new. With Star Trek Into Darkness he has upped his game. You could easily switch off and enjoy the romp through space but there are depths to be found thanks, to a good script, great actors and a director on flying form. Plus the fact that he’s not even a fan of the original Star Trek gives me great confidence in his work on a franchise he is obsessed about. For that, however, we will have to venture to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but for now, I have enjoyed every moment of this Trek.