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07th May 2013

REVIEW: Star Trek Into Darkness Leaves Us In A Grey Area

Audiences will perhaps be expecting more from this Abrams spectacle...

You may have heard about J.J. Abrams, at least Hollywoodland is making sure you hear about him. Abrams wrote the genius series of Lost, directed the much-loved Super 8 and has produced or been involved with many other projects, like the underrated Cloverfield. There is no doubt about it, if Nolan is Hollywood’s current wonderboy, Abrams takes the title of supreme nerd.

But that is not an insult. Abrams has achieved what those before him seem to have been unable to do; he firmly placed Star Trek in the mainstream. Before the release of the 2009 instalment, Trekkies were firmly on the fringes of the film world, the ultimate geeks only outshone by Star Wars but then you cast Chris Pine, you have a snappy script and a great plot and all of a sudden, you have introduced Star Trek to a group of people who have never had any interest in the franchise before.

It became cool to like Star Trek and all of the spin-offs associated with it but the real achievement Abrams made was not only putting the film firmly in the mainstream, but keeping the real fans happy. True fans of films and series like Star Trek and Star Wars are never easy to please; they are fiercely loyal to the characters and subject matter and they will make your life a living hell if you screw with anything. Ask George Lucas. However, Abrams has not only managed to steer Star Trek, he has also now signed on for the seventh episode of Star Wars.

With the pressure clearly pushing down on this particular project, it was not hard to notice that Into Darkness was already beginning to buckle under its own greatness before even hitting a screen. The trailers were everywhere, Benedict Cumberbatch was suddenly a household name, even critics were treated to a 34 minute taster. Trek was always going to struggle to live up to the hype which was constantly following it.

Without giving away too many spoilers, we return to the crew of the Enterprise attempting to prevent a civilization from being destroyed by a threatening volcano. Kirk is of course up to his old antics, taking his missions liberally, living by his own rules, except on this occasion, Spock is in on the action. Taking a chance on either breaking Star Fleet rules or saving Spock’s life, Kirk chooses the latter which inevitably lands him in hot water. His ship is taken away from him, and Spock reassigned. That is until John Harrison shows up to take vengeance for a crime.

This is as much as you would need to know about the plot without entire ruining anything else that occurs. Into Darkness is definitely one of those films that is better viewed with as little knowledge as possible, which will be very difficult to achieve considering the over-saturation in the market of the production.

The cast is, as usual, astonishingly brilliant. It is difficult to consider Chris Pine playing anyone but Kirk, which may be the defining moment in his career but could perhaps also prove to be his downfall. Pine will now forever be Kirk and associated with this franchise, particularly if he continues to work on them. Zachary Quinto is his perfect Spock, a perfect partner in crime. What we see most of in Into Darkness is the development of that wonderful bromance and friendship. Simon Pegg is the comic relief as Scotty in what is actually a very weighty piece and of course, Karl Urban is spectacularly funny as Bones.

But this would be nothing without the onslaught that is Benedict Cumberbatch. Ruthless, evil, untrustworthy, frightening, how much he relishes playing the villain literally leaps off the screen. Thankfully this might prove to be the actor’s big break Stateside.

The main problem Into Darkness suffers is its consistency and timing. The first half an hour is relentless, full of action and drama, introductions to new characters and development of others. However, this does not translate to the rest of the film. The action is diminished in the middle of the film and the whole piece begins to drag slightly, let down by a predictable storyline.

However, this is possibly the best use of 3D we have ever seen for a film, despite the fact that this is post-production. The depth on screen is truly amazing, the special effects brilliant. Even the colouring does not suffer, especially in the first section of the movie.

This is still an excellent sequel, a brilliant and strong follow-up to a great re-introduction to the franchise but it is almost like riding a rollercoaster for half an hour to only be told to get off at the midway point.

And that ending? Disappointing.