Star Trek Into Darkness – ★★★★

Back in 2009, cinematic visionary J.J Abrams helped to reinvent the Star Trek franchise with his acclaimed reboot which allowed fans to embrace Kirk, Spock and co again after some previous big-screen disappointments. This caught the eye of Star Wars creator George Lucas as he decided to hand over directing duties to the talented filmmaker for Disney’s hugely-anticipated sequel to the ‘other’ sci-fi phenomenon, Star Wars: Episode VII. But while this has caused uproar amongst die-hard Trekkie fans, Abrams is continuing to stay loyal to Star Trek as he helms the reboot’s thrilling follow-up Into Darkness which boldly goes into hostile territory as our heroes come up against a sinister new foe…..

SYNOPSIS: Following a successful yet recklessness mission on the planet Nibiru, Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) are punished by Starfleet Headquarters for their lack of judgement. However their predicament is changed by the arrival of a new threat in the shape of rebellious terrorist John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) as he reins destruction on London as well as causing the death of one of the Enterprise’s own. Seeking revenge, Kirk leads his crew in pursuit of Harrison, armed with 72 proton torpedoes as they land on the Klingon planet of Kronos. The dangerous quest results in the capture of Harrison who soon reveals his reasoning behind the attacks. However it also clear that Starfleet may have had a part to play in his mission as the Enterprise crew find themselves facing a battle to survive when the ship is placed in peril.

Star Wars fans can feel very fortunate that they have a masterful director like J.J Abrams when it comes to making the new installment in 2015. His awareness of the Star Trek legacy and the way he handles it is all played out immaculately in this exhilarating sequel as he keeps us on edge right from the word ‘go’. The opening rescue mission near enough echoes the intensity of the previous film’s dramatic introduction as we find ourselves back in this futuristic universe which is carefully detailed to resemble the classic television series. The makeup remains imaginative despite the absence of the Oscar-winning trio who contributed to the original’s work though composer Michael Giacchino is back with his stirring musical score which conveys the film’s running emotions whether they be the thrills or the subtly of calmer scenes. The blockbuster starts in a flurry of action and cruises through its pacy running time with no shortage of stunning visual effects. The visual effect scenes are choreographed with precision (lens flares intact as well) ranging from the battle on Kronos to the breathless crash sequence that takes place in the film’s dramatic climax. But there are also some old-school references to former Star Trek adventures which will please Trekkie’s including the return of the Klingons as well as one iconic character whose name is shared with one of the franchise’s most famous quotes. Once again though, it is the rich character arcs that work out well here as demonstrated in the previous edition. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are both able to settle back into their respective roles with ease with Pine capturing the true leadership qualities of Kirk especially with the dedication shown towards his crew. Quinto continues to shine as he plays his scenes off nicely with Pine through their humourous exchanges but at the same time their characters share an emotional connection which comes from their reluctance to accept survival. The other supporting individuals are balanced out better in this film with both Karl Urban as the paranoid Bones and Simon Pegg as the witty Scotty given more to do as they function greatly in the plot but still manage to keep their wisecracking roots that bring the laughs. However it is newcomer Benedict Cumberbatch who steals the show as he keeps us in trance with his manipulative role as John Harrison. At times, we are left questioning whether he is actually a bad guy especially when helping Kirk half-way in the film only for him to strike in the most terrifying and gruesome way imaginable for a 12A rated blockbuster. How we could even trust him prior to his burst of ruthlessness when he reveals his real name shows just how wrong-footed we really were.

But while I may not be a proper Trekkie, I have since found out that some of the narrative here is borrowed from one of the previous Trek efforts; Wrath of Khan (1982). Certain scenes from that film are replicated in this one and while it works at times, you could argue that it feels like a rehash of the cult classic. It is even more disappointing that Harrison’s true identity was spoiled in the media prior to the film’s release as it feels anti-climatic once everything is revealed (even though it didn’t stop me enjoying it!). There is also an underwhelming focus on the female characters with Zoe Saldana’s Uhrua merely reduced to the background as she spends her time arguing with Spock and only figures in one important moment at Kronos. Just as unnoticeable is the sweet Alice Eve in her role as newcomer Carol Marcus as she rebels against her corrupted Admiral father (played by Peter ‘Robocop’ Weller) but their relationship lacks any dynamic. And yes, that underwear shot doesn’t have any importance other than to attract more male fans!

VERDICT: The force is strong with J.J Abrams as he manages to better his previous take on Star Trek with this audacious and sublime sequel which proves just why the Star Wars people signed him up. It’s not surprising that the Trekkie’s are concerned….

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