Director J.J. Abrams returns to continue what he started in 2009 with Star Trek Into Darkness, the sequel to the reboot of the iconic TV show. This time round, the stakes are higher and the scope is larger, but it’s a far more conventional adventure then its predecessor.
When the crew of the Enterprise is called back home, they find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization has detonated the fleet and everything it stands for, leaving our world in a state of crisis. With a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction. As our heroes are propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart, and sacrifices must be made for the only family Kirk has left: his crew.
Right from the outset, the pace is frenetically fast, and it very rarely lets up. Narratively, Star Trek Into Darkness breaks no new ground, and the outcomes of the majority of dilemmas can easily be predicted if you’ve been paying attention. It takes a small amount of tension and suspense away, because really, you know there’s no real danger posed to the protagonists. Nonetheless, it’s brilliantly entertaining to watch the unfolding events, even if they do get a unnecessarily convoluted; what begins as “good guys against one enemy” quickly turns, and brings in a number of characters with questionable motives.
And that’s one of Into Darkness’ flaws: it has grown in size, but the focus on the core characters has been sacrificed. While Kirk and Spock (Zachary Quinto) get a considerable amount of screen time, the same cannot be said for Chekov (Anton Yelchin), Sulu (John Cho) and, to a lesser extent, Uhura, (Zoe Salanda) Scotty (Simon Pegg) and Bones (Karl Urban). Fortunately, they all make the most of the exposure, and their character traits are enhanced massively: Scotty spews out comic lines with almost every line of dialogue and Bones is as argumentative than ever. But it’s the relationship between Spock and Kirk that really shines, with their banter bringing in the biggest laughs and their actions eventually creating the films most emotional scenes.
As for the antagonist, Benedict Cumberbatch suffices as John Harrison, the Starfleet agent turned villainous. His actions are cold and callous, but the actual character is noticeably absent from most of the first act. The final climax more than makes up for it though, and the crew face off against him in an exhilarating (yet predictable) confrontation.
If you’re a fan of the original series, Star Trek Into Darkness could equally impress and disappoint you: there’s a massive number of references to the show that made these films possible, but it’s arguably missing the themes and morals that captured the hearts of millions in the 60’s. For disposable summer entertainment though, it’s about as great as they come, with no prior Trekkie knowledge necessary.