WARNING! Unlike most of my past reviews I have written, there will be spoilers in order to fully explain my thoughts on the film. So if you have not yet seen the film, I suggest you go out and do so (unless you REALLY want to know).
Amongst the many sequels 2013 provides; we now have Star Trek Into Darkness, sequel to J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek. The first film was fun but also stayed faithful to the spirit that Gene Roddenberry created back in 1966. Not only did it please the core fan-base but also encouraged to bring new fans to the series. Rather being a straight prequel to the Original Series, they’ve cleverly decided to create a scenario that involves the villain coming from the future and alternating the timeline. Therefore making it rather unpredictable whether Kirk and his crew will come across old characters and having the same outcome.
The film begins in the middle of a mission on a planet inhabited by a tribe and Kirk (Chris Pine) and co. are there to stop a volcano erupting. Though Spock’s (Zachary Quinto) life is in jeopardy and Kirk violates the Prime Directive to save his life. Meanwhile, London gets attacked when a bomb goes off (quite daring seeing the film is released after the tragic Boston Marathon bombings in April) and the prime suspect is former Starfleet agent John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). Kirk’s mission is to find Harrison and bring him to justice. Though the crew later find out they’re in much deeper water they anticipated and reveals there’s a lot more to Harrison than what we just see.
The entire cast of the Enterprise crew are back and are just as you expect them to be. It really does continue to Star Trek tradition of camaraderie, the sense of relying on each to get the job done and acts like they’re a family. Though the bromance between Kirk and Spock causes some genuine amusement, especially Kirk having to deal with Spock’s vulcan personality. Zoë Saldana continues to make Uhura a strong character, being conflicted on dealing with Spock’s inability to feel. Alice Eve plays Dr. Carol Marcus, a science officer who boards the Enterprise upon learning about Kirk’s mission. The character was featured in The Wrath of Khan, which only sets up for one conclusion to be Kirk’s love interest. That particular purpose is mainly the problem, she really doesn’t do a lot apart from being partially naked. The rest of the crew provides support and comedy relief through-out the film. Though nothing seems to have been progressed since the first film; Kirk is still having issues on living up to his father and being responsible for his actions. Spock is apparently still learning on being human, thus making the scene where he beats Kirk to a pulp when Kirk mentions about his mother pointless because we have to see him go through feeling angry again.
The biggest addition is Benedict Cumberbatch, who is actually revealed to be Khan (as in Khan Noonien Singh, played previously by Ricardo Montalbán in an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). Khan’s story-line is very similar that was established in previous incarnations, a superhuman from the Eugenics War has been awakened from being cryogenically frozen 300 years ago. Though this character reveal has been the worst kept secret I can remember, as it had been rumoured Khan would eventually turn up (even IMDb listed Cumberbatch to be rumoured as Khan). Unlike previous worst kept secret character reveals (one recent secret pops into my mind is Naomie Harris as Miss Moneypenny in Skyfall), this character reveal twist doesn’t really serve any purpose than just for fan service. Cumberbatch really does make the character intimidating (more than Eric Bana’s Nero in the first film) but it’s just a waste of talent when he’s playing a character that adds nothing to the movie apart from being the latest addition of bad guy in a trench coat. This is incredibly disappointing from J.J. Abrams and screenwriter’s direction with this sequel, as they could’ve easily created something new rather than rehash scenes from previous movies (huge example being Kirk’s and Spock’s places have been switched from Wrath of Khan; Kirk sacrifices himself to fix the ship and Spock gets to shout “KHAN!!!” for no reason than the filmmakers to say “hey, it happened in the previous movie!”) The whole movie left very few surprises as we’re just going through what we’ve already seen before and done better in other movies (i.e. having the villain surrender himself, get locked up and somehow use this tactic to his advantage like The Dark Knight, Marvel’s The Avengers and Skyfall). Though one would argue being an alternative timeline, events and actions still could happen in the same way but switching characters or situations.
The spectacle in this film is top notch, the visual effects provided by ILM continues to provide stellar action sequences. They all create this sense of awe when the Enterprise come across strange worlds in different galaxies. The final climactic fight between Spock and Khan is fun to watch but isn’t breathtaking as you would expect a final showdown. Michael Giacchino’s score is excellent, even if not too subtle for some parts (Khan’s introduction needs no explanation). The production design all makes the layout of the Enterprise seem vast and plausible on how it all works. However, J.J. Abrams’ trademark lens flare returns and this is where it will divide audiences. For the most part, it gives Abrams’ films a sense of filmmaking identity (we’re already suspecting Star Wars Episode VII to contain his signature lens flares) but they do distract you from concentrating on what’s happening in the film. Not a major flaw but depends how you feel about the idea of lens flares occurring through-out the entire 133 minutes.
Overall; a slight disappointment of a sequel, though the cast make it all sell and the production value is excellent. Despite certain plot and character twists that didn’t serve any purpose, I had a rollicking good time and that’s better than nothing.
3 out of 5