Beyond The Darkness, Lies Greatness
Star Trek the show was always about exploration and the unknown, Star Trek the films, on the other hand, were about conflict and instability. For this reason, the films have never really been on a Star Wars scale, never found that kind of box office audience and provided sporadic results. And as much as Trek purists argue that Trek films should be like the show, doing this usually produces things like bloody Star Trek: Insurrection, which is by far the worst Star Trek film. Into Darkness picks up where Star Trek left off and really elevates the entire franchise to the heights of exceptional science fiction action. Could there have been more drama, character development, substantial original material and a little less predictability? Of course but that would compromise this new formula that works incredibly well for contemporary audiences.
Trying to keep this spoiler free is going to be taxing but I’ll give it a go. The story opens with a simple mission gone awry which highlights Kirk’s [Pine] disregard for crew safety and Spock’s [Quinto] inability to express his concerns and (for lack of a better word) feelings to and about the crew. The fallout of this leads to Kirk’s demotion and Spock reassigned to another starship. At the same, an underground Starfleet base in London suffers a terrorist attack at the hands of rogue operative John Harrison [Cumberbatch] and an emergency meeting of high ranking officials is convened to discuss how best to proceed. This too suffers a monstrous attack and Kirk is reinstated by Admiral Marcus [Peter Weller] to pursue Harrison deep into Klingon space. The actions Kirk undertakes in order to seek vengeance distance him from his shipmates and put everyone’s lives in jeopardy. Things become even more unclear for Kirk when he decides to follow Spock’s advice and take Harrison prisoner, rather than simply killing him as per Starfleet’s controversial orders.
When Serenity was released, I had severe problems writing my review. For hours I agonised and scrutinised over my lavish praise before I realised that it wasn’t a mere fanboy outpouring but a genuinely avid commendation. And I find myself in the same mindset, not wanting to appear biased or overly praiseworthy in case my critical integrity comes off as compromised. Well fuck that! Star Trek Into Darkness is perfect in almost every regard. The calibre of acting still strikes that perfect chord of homage and unique reimagining and the chemistry between the cast is just as solid and engrossing. The inclusion of Alice Eve, Benedict Cumberbatch and Peter Weller are welcome additions and serve a genuine purpose, rather than mere disposable cameos. The visuals (in terms of CGI effects and production design) are beyond spectacular, really nailing the scope and scale of space travel. One of the elements that irritated many fans but I found a nice touch was the visual design of the Enterprise’s engineering sections. Giving the ship a look and feel of actual human construction, rather than sleek, plasticy, glowing cylinders really adds to the weight of realism. The epic (and now familiar) score returns to remind us that reinventing a popular theme is so risky but when done well, goes a long way to establishing new territory. Jerry Goldsmith performed the same mastery 34 years ago and Michael Giacchino has really made a mark on how Star Trek sounds [insert Uhura joke here] – can you imagine if and how he would reinvent the Star Wars theme? Just wondrous potential. Yes, there is still an obscene amount of forced lens flares bouncing off every single fucking surface but I’ve now surrendered myself to this and it’s actually becoming a synonymous Trek thing; to the degree that if the next Star Trek film doesn’t have lens flare, I’ll be a little uncomfortable. One could argue that the plot is merely circling itself, revisiting tried and tested plots as fan-service and lazy writing. If I’m honest, I largely disagree. As a reboot, alternate universe, reimagining, whatever, they have established a new path to forge but that still means that the big threats, villains, encounters and events of the Trek universe are still out there and may or may not happen. Rediscovering them in a new way doesn’t sully the old films, it merely walks hand-in-hand alongside them, much like an elaborate What If story.
**There’s a bit of a spoiler in the first half of this paragraph.. the last sentence is fine though**
While I appreciate any flaws I can find may feel minuscule, there are still a handful of issues that stop this film from being overwhelming perfection. Well, I say handful, there are in fact just two. Firstly, while Into Darkness doesn’t rely on knowledge or experiencing of the previous films, calling up Spock Prime [Leonard Nimoy] was a mistake. Without completely divulging the nature of what transpires, at one point in the story, Spock sends a message to the old Spock and effectively asks him for knowledge pertaining to an individual. While Spock starts out with “Well that would be a violation of the space time blah blah I’ve vowed never to tell you blah blah find your own path blah blah” he eventually changes his mind and adds “But seriously, that guy’s fucking trouble. Sort him out.” Skating on the thinnest of thin ice, the script manages to peak into the ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ territory, at the same time as blatantly running to the all-knowing oracle and retrieving a copout answer. It’s like checking the cards before starting a game of Cluedo and kidding yourself that you’re figuring things out on your own. Secondly, hats? HATS!? Joss Whedon and several others have established that hats are for bad guys. No hats. Never had hats before. I mean, the transition from the beige disco suits in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the submarine/naval duds of Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan is brilliant and a welcome change. But hats? Yeah, not sure about that.
When reviewing Abrams’ first Star Trek film, I decided to divide the review into two separate entities, one as a simple assessment of the film and one as a complete breakdown and comparison between the old and the new. Not the case here, all comparisons with the original Star Trek universe officially need to stop. We’re in new territory now, if Kirk comes across Worf’s grandfather and kills him, so be it. It doesn’t matter. If a probe turns up and threatens to destroy the Earth unless they travel back in time and find a pair of humpback whales (please don’t do that), then that’s what will happen. Have you ever read Marvel’s Ultimates or played Command & Conquer: Red Alert? That’s how you view these sequels. What if Hitler was killed before WWII? Well, the Russians would take over. And what about if the atomic bomb was never created? Then maybe the Empire of Japan would rise up! Really? Of course not you fucking idiot but it’s fun/interesting to think about. Same thing here. These are new films and if they happen to use characters, scenarios or elements from the ‘alternate universe’ then get on board or get out of the way.
9th May 2013
The Scene To Look Out For:
Do I choose something nerdy like the inclusion of Klingons or Tribbles, or do I pick something vast like one of the countless impressive sequences, or perhaps the humour, people seem to forget that one of the vital components in these films is the relatable humour. Tricky. And how can I really touch on any of these without wading hip deep into spoiler territory? Ok, I’ll highlight something obvious if you’ve seen the film but stupidly vague if you haven’t. To quote my fiancée, Spock stands in front of a door and becomes so overwhelmed that his face contorts as if to say “I HAVE ALL THE FEELINGS!” Followed by angry running Spock. All of that. That was my favourite scene. Go watch the film and figure out what I’m talking about.
While the respective crew members return in fine form, all are surpassed by Cumberbatch. The man has proved himself to be a sheer acting force over the last few years and will no doubt be thrown countless pitches and scripts. Rather than giving a subtle performance, everything about his character is big, theatrical and shocking. From the facial expressions, to the hissed deliveries, to the physical prowess, Cumberbatch portrays the peak of human performance. That’s me being clever and funny but I’m also quite serious, of every role I’ve seen him in, he doesn’t exactly doing things by half – and this is no exception.
“If you test me, you will fail”
In A Few Words:
“Big, bold, beautiful, brutal science fiction, rivalling Wrath Of Khan as the greatest Star Trek film”