Star Trek Into Darkness has a lot to live up to. With fifty-odd years of history, including eleven previous films and some truly unforgettable moments, Star Trek is pretty much the godmother of modern science fiction. In 2009, J. J. Abrams pulled off what seemed like the impossible. With the arrival of Star Trek into the cinemas, he managed to successfully reboot this beloved universe, pulling her by her ample nacelles back into the spotlight, and how we loved him for it. So with this shinier, sexier Star Trek now firmly back on the radar, how did they do this time? Has Star Trek Into Darkness boldy gone where no sequel has gone before, or is film number twelve just one too many?
In the far future, Starfleet, Earth’s galaxy-wide peacekeeping organisation, suffers a brutal and unexpected attack from within, instigated by one of their own for unknown reasons. For Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) however, this quickly turns personal and the crew of the Enterprise, including the ever-stoic Mr Spock (Zachary Quinto) and long-suffering doctor, Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) are dispatched to find and destroy the culprit, identified as an Agent John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). However, things are not as they seem and the crew of the Enterprise soon find themselves trapped in a battle bigger and more dangerous than they could have ever imagined. Let’s be honest. I am a bit of a Trek fan. Because of this I know a little too much about Vulcan mating rituals, own at least three Leonard Nimoy albums and believe that one shouldn’t mess with the classics. This is why I was a little disappointed to see that the plot and indeed most of the script relied incredibly heavily on material from the incomparable Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Whilst it was thrilling to those aware to see these new kids spouting references to classic Trek, it made the film feel like recycled goods – as opposed to part of the exciting rewritten timeline I had now come to expect.
The film as a standalone, however, is a beautifully executed thrill ride. The visual effects are stunning, the action fast paced, and the humour bountiful and well timed – and I would not expect anything less from the same team behind the previous instalment. The story, whilst disjointed in places, is gripping – the danger and villainy this time very claustrophobic and intense. The cast play their roles well and bounce lines off each other with the speed of a warp drive, notable examples being the adorable bromance between Captain Kirk and Spock, and Karl Urban managing to make every one of his lines hilarious. Benedict Cumberbatch has a very commanding presence, is suitably English enough to be morally ambiguous and does his actual job as a fangirl magnet with little difficulty – no surprises there then. Alive Eve, as Dr Carol Marcus, however, offends me on most levels. She appears to serve exclusively as an extra pair of breasts in an attempt to make the final frontier seem less homoerotic. Even Lieutenant Uhura (Zoe Saldana), historically a strong character, is left without any major development, her only purpose being Spock’s clingy girlfriend. It is actually a little disconcerting to see how little female influence there is in a universe famous for breaking sexual and racial boundaries – it is absolutely fine to be any alien race you want, but God forbid, don’t ever be a woman.
In other news, there are some exceptionally awesome additions to the Trek universe here. Keep an eye out for rebooted Klingons, the USS Vengeance – a Dreadnought-class Federation warship and Lt Sulu’s (John Cho) glorious leadership skills. The lens flares are beautiful. The wetsuits are very tight. I could go on for a long time about the amazing eyebrows on display but I will spare you that. All in all, the film is mostly a success. Yes, I complain about rehashing classic material and disjointed plots, but it was so exciting and polished and heart-wrenching that I couldn’t help but enjoy myself. Go in wanting brand new voyages and perfect scripts, and you will find it underwhelming. Go in expecting epic moments, explosions and warp speed, and I can guarantee you will not be disappointed.