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Star Trek Into Darkness - Review

Star Trek Into Darkness

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

FOUR years after boldly rebooting Star Trek for a new generation, while pleasing the life-long fans, JJ Abrams now hits warp speed with a sometimes exhilarating sequel that hits the ground running and seldom lets up.

Following the bigger, faster, more spectacular rule of sequel movie-making Star Trek Into Darkness is a thrill-ride that opens in high stakes fashion and continually piles on the pressure.

But crucially, Abrams and his writing team of Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof never lose sight of the elements that made Gene Roddenberry’s series become such a long-term success in the first place, or the winning components from their own first outing.

Hence, the chemistry between James T Kirk and Spock (played once again by Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto respectively) remains intact and gives heart and soul to a movie that could, in lesser hands, have got a little too carried away with the fireworks.

There’s also a terrific villain in British actor Benedict Cumerbatch, a nice mix of light and dark and some genuinely impressive set pieces.

The story finds Starfleet under attack from a one-man army known as John Harrison (Cumberbatch), a former colleague gone rogue who is responsible for a bombing in London at a Starfleet storage facility.

When the intensity of his campaign against his former allies steps up with a second attack on San Francisco, James T. Kirk (Pine) leads a Federation mission to apprehend the criminal and put a definitive stop to his activities.

But the mission is shrouded in a dubious morality and carries the risk of war with the Klingons. And as Kirk becomes further drawn into the dark secrets behind Harrison’s past, the question of who to trust becomes less obvious.

Abrams’ film thrives on the ambiguous nature of the story-telling which, for long periods, deals in shades of grey rather than black and white. In that regard, it’s a Star Trek movie that is truly reflective of contemporary attitudes towards combating terrorism, albeit one that inevitably gives way to the sort of hope and positivity that has long been a series benchmark.

As such, it gives rise to some wonderful interplay between the three central protagonists – Kirk, Spock and Harrison – and their differing ideologies. Cumberbatch, for his part, is a mesmerising presence – cool, calculated, dangerous and unstoppable. Yet his motives aren’t always clear.

A minor criticism could be that by opting to maintain such a heightened pace, Abrams doesn’t give Cumberbatch more opportunity to really get beneath the skin of his character. But it’s a measure of the Sherlock stars ability that he makes the most of the scenes that he has to create a genuinely worthy adversary.

Pine and Quinto, meanwhile, continue to create a memorable on-screen double act of their own, bouncing between light-hearted exchanges and something more meaningful with casual aplomb and really giving the film its emotional complexity.

Spock’s perceived lack of emotion and Kirk’s reckless disregard for the rules are both addressed as each man gets to find out more about his own make-up and the value of loyalty, friendship and respect.

There’s winning support, too, from the likes of Karl Urban as Bones, Simon Pegg (dolling out the witticisms) as Scotty, and Peter Weir and Bruce Greenwood as Federation officials, even if the women – Zoe Saldana and Alice Eve – are slightly under-used and just occasionally (in Eve’s shapely case) exploited as part of the eye-candy.

Of the set pieces, all register in some way with an opening chase on a volcanic planet setting the early standard. The confrontations between the Enterprise crew and Cumberbatch’s Harrison also deliver the goods, as do the occasional moments when the two become unlikely allies.

All told, this is an excellent sequel that if not quite surpassing the achievements of Abrams’ original, capably matches it on many levels. It’s a great ride that thrills from start to finish.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 130mins
UK Release Date: May 10, 2013