They say that the even-numbered Star Trek films are the best ones; think Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek IV: the Voyage Home. Into Darkness, the second movie in the rebooted series, is no exception. It’s an epic adventure: a tale of revenge, cruelty and double-cross, which leads to the loss of thousands of lives.
As you would expect, the special effects are first class. The alien worlds are cleverly realised, both the ones from within and without the solar system. The set designers have clearly been inspired by the Hubble space telescope to make deep space seem more realistic than ever before.
There has also been a lot of effort put into cranking up the effects of the original series. The best of all is the Enterprise when it goes into warp drive: the power of the engines makes you brace in your seat as the ship blasts off into the unknown.
Now that we have reached the second film in the series, the actors are starting to escape the shadow of the original cast. Zoe Saldana as Uhura and Simon Pegg as Scotty especially are making the roles their own. In this film, Chris Pine is also much more convincing as James T. Kirk. It would be nice to see him given even more freedom in his performance because he could be just as ironic and witty as William Shatner, given half a chance. As a guest star, Benedict Cumberbatch is superb, dominating every scene in which he appears. Cumberbatch does a fine job of keeping up the family tradition of playing Sci-Fi villains (his mother Wanda Ventham played the Fendahl in the 1977 Doctor Who serial, Image of the Fendahl).
Part of the reason why the cast do so well is that they are given such a witty script. The writers have clearly caught the humour of the original series and they use the characters in surprising ways to get the occasional laughs.
Talking of the script, don’t think that if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the whole film. As you watch Into Darkness, you’ll see how cleverly the trailer was constructed. It masks a great deal of the plot and wrong-foots the expectant viewer in several ways.
There are just two quibbles with the movie. The first is minor, but it does seem ridiculous that a story based around high-tech machinery, weapons and starships should solve a lot of its crises with a punch or a kick. This is fun cinematically, but nonsense from the point of view of real science.
Secondly, Into Darkness is missing something from the original Star Trek. Series creator Gene Rodenberry had a vision that science-fiction should teach people something about our world now and in the future. The stories should always have a message, encompassing big themes like racism or environmental degradation. There aren’t any of these big themes in Into Darkness, which loses a lot of the depth that comes from Star Trek at its best. If the movie reboot continues in this way, it runs the risk of becoming just another generic Sc-Fi run around.
Into Darkness is a very enjoyable movie. It was especially nice to see a future London realised by the designers and to get a glimpse of other aspects of the Star Trek universe. Director J.J Abrams also did a neat job of dropping in visual and story elements that are reminiscent of Star Trek adventures past, both on TV and film. This adds an extra level of fun for serious fans without overcomplicating things for the general viewer. It’s definitely worth a trip to the cinema to watch Star Trek: Into Darkness on the big screen.