Thursday, 9 May 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness, dir. J. J. Abrams, wr. Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, st. John Cho, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Peter Weller, Anton Yelchin

It does seem a shame that after spending so much effort lovingly investing in a newly rebooted crew as Abrams did with Star Trek four years ago, much of them spend an inordinate amount of time relegated to the sidelines in Into Darkness, the obligatory, but rousing sequel. Maybe that's just the nature of the beast, after all, characters introduced, it's off they boldly go. But there's nary a pause here to take a moment and further study them, as Star Trek managed so well with balance between intimacy and relentless narrative. Here, it's like everyone's on the plot clock and there's not a second to spare. However, what we lose in the woefully underwritten Sulu, Chekov and Uhura, we gain in Cumberbatch's Lector-like John Harrison, a worthy entry into the canon of Brit-baddies. To say more of Harrison's backstory and intentions would be highly improper of me, save to say that he proves a vicious foil to Pine's impetuous Kirk. For once, there seems to be something real and fragile at stake. In fact, set phasers to glum as Into Darkness, true to sophomore lore that dictates a darker turn, lacks the frivolity of its younger brother. Yes, Bones is still complaining about everything and the Kirk/Spock bromance is still obfuscated by Spock's inner half-and-half-species conflict and Kirk's recklessness, but amidst the acts of terrorism, failed peace negotiations and starship crash-landings, not many innocents make it out alive. Chris Pine as Kirk is spunky enough though and there's a nice turn from Peter 'Robocop' Weller as Admiral Marcus that nicely echoes Miguel 'Bob Morton in Robocop' Ferrer's appearance as a USS Excelsior helm officer in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. There are a number of call-backs to days of Trek yore actually and these, I suspect, are likely to induce either squeals of delight or blinking blank faces, depending on your geek status. Like the other most recent Summer release Iron Man 3, there's a lot of fun to be had here. However (and this is probably more of a personal existential crisis than anything else) I'm starting to wonder if these types of spectacle don't satisfy in the way they once did; the treat is rich and calorific during ingestion but has surprisingly little aftertaste. I'm not sure if increasingly in Summer Blockbusters' bid for near universal demographic appeal, rough edges have been chamfered smooth, any real element of excitingly orchestrated subversion written out, and the whole experience watered down and dressed up. Star Trek Into Darkness then is undoubtedly a blast, but with no lasting and meaningful damage.