Review - Star Trek Into Darkness

Bigger and better. That is what is expected from sequels to Hollywood blockbusters these days. Star Trek Into Darkness does exactly that, and more. Following on from Star Trek in 2009, we are taken on a 132 minute non-stop thrill-ride that will have audiences well and truly glued to their seats.

J.J. Abrams is quickly becoming one of my favourite directors and his latest offering may just be my favourite work of his so far. He has created a film that delivers massively on the action but also remembers to bring the right amounts of drama and comedy, making this one of the more intelligent Summer blockbusters in recent years.

I saw this film in the IMAX 3D format and was expecting a possible slow start to build up to an action set-piece. I was wrong. We are thrown straight into the action with Kirk (Chris Pine) and Bones (Karl Urban) running from the natives of a planet in the Nibiru system and Spock (Zachary Quinto) being dropped into the middle of a volcano to detonate a device that will stabilise it and save the native population. This is just a sign of things to come for the rest of the film.

We are then introduced to the villain of the film John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). We first hear his sinister voice offering a father (Noel Clarke) the chance to save his little girl's life in return for his services. The camera then switches to a close-up of Harrison with an extremely menacing piece from Michael Giacchino's score breaking out from just being background noise.

Returning to Kirk and Spock we find that Kirk will lose the USS Enterprise as he has once again broken the rules by straying away from Starfleet's prime directive, to observe and survey a planet, rather than interfering with its destiny and exposing its population to their advanced technology. The exchanges between Kirk and Spock are in full flow here and they go on to provide many comical moments throughout the film with one unable to break the rules and the other more than happy to rewrite the rulebook for himself.

The mystery surrounding what exactly Harrison has requested Noel Clarke's character to do is revealed next as he enters a Starfleet archive in London and blows it sky-high. That particular attack leads to an emergency counsel at Starfleet where all the Captains and First Officers meet to discuss the attack and the whereabouts of Harrison. Something in a few moments they won't have to worry about as he turns up at the window in a small aircraft and fires shot after shot into the counsel. The consequences of this attack lead to Kirk being reunited with his ship and crew and sent on a manhunt across space to capture Harrison.

The rest of the film follows Kirk and his crew on their dangerous mission to capture Harrison. I can't explain any further what happens as there are a few twists and surprises that happen along the way.

One of the standout features of this film for me was the characters and the way Abrams handled them in terms of making sure that each and every one of them had their moment to shine. 

Kirk and Spock once again share many scenes together and it is their on-screen chemistry that makes the friendship between the two so believable. Chris Pine does a fantastic job playing the bombastic Captain Kirk, who in making his instinctive choices puts his crew in severe danger. He has to learn from the mistakes he makes and ultimately has to mature in his role as Captain, thinking about others as well as himself. Zachary Quinto was great in the role of Spock in the first film and he is perfect in Star Trek Into Darkness. It's almost as if he was born to play the role. He gets the mixture of trying to both hide and show his emotions spot on which really does show in some of the more dramatic scenes.

Benedict Cumberbatch also impresses as John Harrison. He has a dominant presence and delivers every line with a sense of terror that matches his intentions. Where Star Trek was lacking in the villain department, Star Trek Into Darkness brings us an impressive villain who can literally crush bones with his bare hands. His voice is so suited for the sinister villain of the piece and will be heard again later this year when he voices the villain Smaug in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Much of the comic-relief is provided by Karl Urban as Bones and Simon Pegg as Scotty. Urban spits out so many metaphors as Bones that it must be hard for him to stop doing them on a day-to-day basis. There is one particularly funny moment where Kirk begs him to stop using the metaphors to describe the situations they find themselves in. Pegg revels in the role of Scotty and looks as though he feels right at home aboard the Enterprise, no real surprise there as he is a major Star Trek fan. He does a lot of running but I'm sure he had no issues with that as he got to be in a Star Trek film.

The rest of the cast are on form too. Zoe Saldana as Uhura gets to develop her relationship with Spock, leading to some snappy exchanges between the two and John Cho as Sulu manages a brief stint in the Captain's chair, providing another one of the films more comical moments.

IMAX is a format that wants to immerse the audience in the film and I think it is fair to say that it had a major impact on this film. The action is so thrilling that the audience will feel a part of it, whether that takes them inside a volcano or aboard the Enterprise hurtling towards earth. I urge everyone to see this on the biggest screen possible. 

There are lots of negative comments being made about the use of 3D in films, some of which I agree with. However, in the case of Star Trek Into Darkness, I thought it was the best use of 3D I have seen in a while. Yes, in some cases it is a novelty but I think with someone like Abrams at the helm, the choice to have the film in 3D means the audience will benefit.

If there is one part of filmmaking that I think gets overlooked easily it is the soundtrack. Michael Giacchino is the man behind the score in what is his fourth collaboration with Abrams. The soundtrack adds emotion to the action, comedy or drama that we see in front of us and Giacchino does that so well here. He has written the scores for films including Up and Super 8, each of which knew when to keep up the pace in an action sequence or pull on the heart strings in a more dramatic moment. 

It is a collaboration that I think we will see more of and I possibly think that we have another working relationship along the lines of Steven Spielberg and John Williams on our hands.

It is not known whether Abrams will return to direct the next Star Trek film due to his busy schedule. He will next be seen bringing Star Wars back to our screens. All I can say is that fans of Star Wars should be excited for what he will bring. Back when he was brought in to reboot Star Trek, he said of how he was never a massive fan. He is however, a huge Star Wars fan so if he can produce something like this for Star Trek imagine what he will be able to produce for a franchise he is really passionate about.

Overall I would say that Star Trek Into Darkness is very close to perfection in terms of Summer blockbusters. It's got the action but it's also got the smarts to go with it. G.I. Joe: Retaliation began blockbuster season with a bit of a clumsy mess whereas Star Trek Into Darkness makes you believe that there are people out there in Hollywood who actually care about their audiences. That's why I would say it's my favourite film so far this year.

Verdict: 4.5/5


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