Thursday, 16 May 2013

Star Trek: Into Darkness is JJ Abrams' follow up to his rebooting, alternate universe version of Star Trek. And where the first film succeeded this follow up attempts to keep up with its predecessor but stumbles and fails.The sequel sees Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise travel to the edges of the federation space to catch super human terrorist, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). Driven by revenge Kirk has to take on a more mature leadership style if he is to survive what he faces. Abrams' first installment did a great job of building up the initial excitement of the Kirk and Spock bromance. The chemistry shared between Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, who plays an uncharismatic character with charisma perfectly, worked perfectly with the conflict and friendship, grating up against each other. But now we see the honeymoon phase fade off and the relationship hasn't exactly flowered into a beautiful marriage. The sequel starts off with all guns blazing with Spock dropped into a active volcano and Kirk and Bones running from a tribe out for their blood.

The pace of the film is set from the opening and does not let up.The film races from one action set piece to another, after the volcano opening we jump to Noel Clarke in London and a terrorist attack. The pace is one of the things that the film gets right, it never really gives you time to stop and think, building and building to a conclusion. Yet when you reach the finale you can't help but feel a little underwhelmed.

Benedict Cumberbatch takes over from Eric Bana's tribal faced Nero from the first one and pretty much gets the job done. Nero was never a deep or meaningful character, simply there to shout a lot and blow things up but this time around they have attempted to add depth and meaning to their big bad. It was never questioned that Cumberbatch could act and that he would take over the role but he spends most of his time on screen gazing into the distance, even when he gets punched repeatedly in the face by Kirk or Spock. Cumberbatch gets all the thespian speeches but apart from that the character is slightly dull. No doubt fans of Sherlock will swoon every time their Holmes comes on screen. The character of Harrison does offer some genuine danger to Kirk and his crew but sometimes you find yourself rooting for him rather then Kirk, seen has both seem to burden with identical vendettas.  

One of the best aspects of the film is it's supporting cast boasting the likes of Karl Urban, Alice Eve and Simon Pegg, who all get their part this time around. It is clear to see Abrams' love of Pegg as he seems to get the best one liners, stealing the show most of the time. Urban reprises his role as Bones, the Enterprises' doctor, spending most of the film being the voice of reason who gets a few one liners here and there. Alice Eve is the new girl who plays weapons specialist Dr Carol Marcus, she gets a fair amount to do it and does it well, it is nice to see her getting bigger roles in these types of films, she has been lingering around Hollywood for a while with nothing to do. Although Zoe Saldana's Uhura is left with little action, her only role being to bicker with her boyfriend Spock and attempt to get him seem a bit more human. Where the first film was burdened with the task of introducing characters, Into Darkness has the freedom to play with character we are already familiar with, something that Abrams seems to enjoy. 

Written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman's, with the help of Abram favourite Damon Lindelof. Like the title may suggest the film attempts to go into some dark places but you never really get that sense of darkness. Harrison crushes a few heads and breaks a leg. Kronos, home of the Klingons, is pretty bleak and some of the subject matter is quite dark, terrorist attacks on London probably the most obvious. But you can't help but get a feeling that they played it safe, sugar coating everything they could. Much like Abrams previous films, it is clear to see he can handle a film on this scale, being probably one of the few directors who aren't the age of Spielberg or Cameron, who could handle this size blockbuster. And it looks as you expect it to look, all glossy and shiny but the film plays out as if a child on a sugar rush has been let loose with the camera as it rarely stays still for more then a minute. And when it does it fills the screen with either Chris Pine's finely sculptured face or Cumberbatch's chizzled jawline. It is also worth mentioning if you are hoping that Abrams has finally dropped the ridiculously pointless lens flare, you will be bitterly disappointed. Everything on screen is sharp and clean cut with the cityscapes gleaming with steel and glass and the film is riddled with gadgets and spacecrafts that will make any kid want to go out and buy them. Abrams clearly knows how he wants his world to look, resembling a city that looks like it was designed by Steve Jobs. And everyone walks around in either black or grey, in the future clearly everyone is colour blind, and wears massive sunglasses.

Star Wars fans will be looking at this as a blueprint for Abrams' take on their beloved universe but it was never in doubt that JJ coulnd't handle a science fiction film on this scale. But his Star Wars film could be the victim of fan boy affection. Abrams confessed that he was never a fan of Trek when he got the job and despite their being things in his Trek that fans will be able to spot and discuss on forums for days, Abrams is a massive Star Wars fan. If he got too bogged down in pleasing the fan boys and pleasing is own childhood dreams, then the film could be in jeopardy.

When it comes down to it Into Darkness is a victim of it's predecessor's success. When Abrams' first installment was released in 2009 it wasn't burdened by massive expectations or a monumental amount of hype but after it's release Abrams had fed the appetite of the Trekkie fans with a perfect reboot of a beloved franchise and he had attracted a new following from people who may never have watched the original films or television shows. But this time around the hype and expectations get the better of this sequel, the action set pieces are bigger and bolder but it doesn't have the likeable qualities of the first one. Spock and Kirk's bromance gets brushed to one side when Harrison comes in and takes over the bulk of the audience's attention. The film is nowhere near perfect, with plot holes you could fly the Enterprise through and at times it is easily predictable but it does entertain. If this is Abrams' last outing with Kirk and the Enterprise he started with a bang that has seemed to have fizzled out.

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