Monday 13 May 2013

Review: Star Trek into Darkness

Year: 2013
Director: JJ Abrams
Screenplay: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman.
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Simon Pegg, Bruce Greenwood, Paul Weller, Alice Eve

Synopsis is here

At least one film academic or critic is bound to be a little perturbed by the opening of JJ Abrams’ space rock opera in which an action sequence involving a tribe of "native" aliens begin to hail praise and worship on the enterprise with its corn fed, all American boy captain. Things only become odder when we delve deeper into this second summer package of the revamped star fleet. Particularly as much of the film relies on concepts of this group of explorers becoming more heavily armed to combat what looks for be an impending war. It's obvious that the filmmakers are not making any profound commentary such moments. Thinking about the 2009 entry, I'm reminded at how well race was displayed. But believe me when I say this, someone will say something.

That aside, I was far too happy to see what would happen to these next to care too much about such moments. Star Trek displayed enough love for the original series that it did not feel like a smash and grab number. It did so with a jazzed up, youthful but well picked cast that really held everything in place. The banter put in place along with the timing of the cast were of course half the fun of such a film. This new Star Trek was less about diplomacy as it was for trying to put a zing in mainstream summer blockbuster viewing. So here comes the difficult second album. Star Trek set the bar quite high as a piece of fluffy fun and now, its sequel "into Darkness" now has the job of either levelling for exceeding expectations.

For me, I found there to be something underwhelming about this recent venture. Something not sitting right as   I sat stuffing popcorn into my face (could be the reason). Four years ago, Star Trek was a shiny and glossy thrill ride. However; while Abrams hasn't changed too much to the proceedings, he doesn't make the evolutionary jump I had expected. The small lull I felt in the first film has expanded here. After a beguiling start which looks set to match the leap into chaos we found with The Dark Knight, I found myself more than a little distracted with the films second act. If it wasn't bogging you down with plot (not all of it feels needed) then it's slapping you around the face with another frustrating to follow action sequence.

Much of the film feels more about its loud bangs than its large characters. If not for the forcefulness of the films villain,  the film could have really lost its way. It's hard not to enjoy Benedict Cumberbatch as he expertly demoralises his foes with the utterance of one word. However, he is nearly lost amidst all the pulling of the strings the script and Abrams must do. An example is Alice Eve, who seems to be rivalling Rebecca Hall as most unfortunate bright young actress in a big blockbuster with little to do. When the film resets its focus upon the couples and groupings which made the 2009 entry what it was, the sparkle comes back.

As I've said before, I'm no TV Star Trek fan so this no fanboy rant or retort. However, it does feel that Abrams has missed a trick slightly, giving us a villain that really ups the stakes but nearly forgetting some of the essence that makes John Harrison such an interesting prospect. There's still some fun stuff here, with Abrams and Co still having fun poking in and around Star Trek lore and the final act having a decent emotional payoff. But all in all, the film feels more than a little overblown. Here's hoping that Abrams regains a bit of composure for the third entry.