SPOILER ALERT: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SOME STID SPOILERS!
Gene Roddenberry would turn in his grave if he saw this film. The Star Trek creator, who died in 1991, intended his idea as a tense, politically-infused drama that just happened to be set to the backdrop of space. Over the years, the ST shows and films got more and more action-packed, and less and less intelligently written, until 2013, when Jeffrey Jacob Abrams has given us a full-blown action/sci-fi spectacular. And it’s BRILLIANT! Both long-term Trek fans and fans of Abrams’ 2009 reboot couldn’t possibly have asked for more from this sequel, which amps up the stakes from the first film more than any other sequel has before. Everything that was wrong with that film (and that’s a short list) has been fixed completely here, and all the things Abrams and his team (writers Damon Lindelof, Bryan Burk and Alex Kurtzman, composer Michael Giacchino etc) got right have been brought back, for example, the timeline-hopping appearance of Master Leonard Nimoy and the super-awesome space jumps. Honestly, the space-jumping scene in Into Darkness is probably the most visually stunning scene of any film we’ve seen for a few years.
For reasons that I doubt I will ever understand, Benedict Cumberbatch has been put front and centre on all the posters (particularly outside of the US). This is odd for two reasons. Firstly, he’s not THAT AMAZING in the film. I was quite disappointed by what I had expected to be an Oscar-calibre performance from the Sherlock star, when what I got was a fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but a very Loki-in-Avengers-type performance. Scary British villain just isn’t enough any more: you have to have something more, and of all the actors working today, I thought BC would be able to bring it to Into Darkness. He doesn’t fail, he just doesn’t exceed any expectations. The second reason why I was surprised at all the publicity for his role is that, he isn’t really in the film that much. He doesn’t get a full scene of dialogue until past the 1-hour mark, and the film is less than 2-hours long (thank you Mr Abrams for making the shortest bloody blockbuster in a decade. What a relief!). His Khan (spoiler alert) is extremely important to the story of the film from start to finish, and will probably be relevant in future installments, but isn’t the star in any aspect. The writing of Khan in this film is very well planned by all involved, and his motivations are far more believable, and easy to sympathise with, than say, Skyfall‘s Raoul Silva. Khan isn’t the lead of Into Darkness.
The film’s joint leads are most certainly Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto (or should be put ZQ first?) as Kirk and Spock. The two of them have some superb scenes together, both hilarious and heartbreaking, and Into Darkness truly is the Abrams film that explores their ‘bromance’ in the most depth. They are of course, fantastic by themselves, and this film features some great solo Kirk action. The breathtaking final chase around future London involving Cumberbatch’s Khan and Spock is another one of the film’s many, many great action set-pieces.
Have we mentioned the opening yet? Well, in case you haven’t already heard, this film has the best opening scene since The Dark Knight Rises (although, in this case, the film’s villain is nowhere to be seen, and is irrelevant to the plot at this point), with a volcano, a red forest, the Enterprise emerging from underwater, and a planet inhabited by people whose faces look like paper maché masks. If you see one scene in IMAX this year, make it this one.
Alice Eve, the film’s other new face, is a far more engaging presence than she was in Men in Black 3, and gives the viewer who finds Zoe Saldana to be extremely irritating a nice bit of eye candy (come on, the female viewers get, like, 20 hot guys)!
As we all know, Abrams is abandoning us and going over to Lucasfilm to direct, well, our other favourite sci-fi franchise, Star Wars, and honestly, it couldn’t be in better hands. Despite the fact that the whole third act of Into Darkness feels like part of A New Hope or Empire, all the characterisation and action scenes in this film just smell like Wars, and, for better or worse, the film does at times feel just a tiny bit like an audition tape for Kathleen Kennedy and George Lucas. But who cares? Star Trek Into Darkness is without a doubt the best film of 2013 so far, it is without a doubt better than Iron Man 3, and it is without a doubt the best film (not counting the Lost pilot) J.J. Abrams has ever directed. You couldn’t ask for more, unless you can, in which case, start counting the days until Episode VII. 2015, people!