Many eyes in geekdom have been turned on Star Trek Into Darkness for some time now, and it’s easy to see why. Irrespective of the fact that it’s a new Star Trek movie, following up on 2009’s hugely popular and successful series reboot, Into Darkness has had fans chatting in anticipation for a couple of key reasons. The first of these is that returning director J. J. Abrams (Star Trek, Super 8) is officially signed on to direct Star Wars Episode VII which is currently due for release in 2015.
Abrams, a confessed fan of Star Wars but not of Star Trek, ably brought Trek to the masses and so sci-fi fans are hopeful that he can reinvigorate Star Wars, a franchise that he has a much more personal connection with. Success with Into Darkness would prove that Abrams is not just a one-trick pony, putting fanboy fears to rest. Fortunately, Abrams hasn’t just succeeded with Into Darkness, he’s boldly gone and created a superior sequel that simply must be seen on the big screen.
The second reason for all the anticipation is the mystery surrounding the character of John Harrison, who is being played by Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s Sherlock). Many fans have speculated that Harrison is in fact Khan Noonien Singh, the titular villain from Trekkie favourite Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Indeed, ‘Who is John Harrison?’ has been a hot topic – one that I’m not going to spoil here.
Suffice to say that a terrorist act by Harrison helps to set the plot in motion, as Kirk (Chris Pine; Unstoppable), Spock (Zachary Quinto; Margin Call) and the usual suspects pilot the starship USS Enterprise in pursuit of the fleeing fugitive. I won’t reveal any more of the story, as part of the fun is in discovering the adventure for yourself. Still, it was great to see RoboCop himself, Peter Weller, back in a big sci-fi project – appearing here as Starfleet Admiral Marcus. Furthermore, the film boasts plenty of tasteful homages to storied Star Trek lore. Many of these references will go over your head however if you aren’t well versed in some of the more famous Trek moments.
Nevertheless, it’s rousing sci-fi, full of eye-popping special effects and exciting action – although Abrams still hasn’t worked his penchant for lens flares out of his system. The computer effects are simply stunning, and the 3D is flavourful such that I’d recommend seeing the film in that format. The first time the Enterprise launches into warp I caught my breath for a moment. It’s really impressive stuff and the jaw only continues to drop from then. Meanwhile, the phenomenal score by Michael Giacchino challenges even John Williams’ work on the Star Wars movies. Fantastic!
Of course, none of this mentions the stellar acting. The story is equal parts Kirk’s and Spock’s, with both actors delivering exceptional performances that deftly balance the humour with the drama. Their chemistry is one of the best things about Into Darkness. It’s Cumberbatch though who leaves a lasting impression; Harrison is a bona fide larger-than-life character to remember and Sherlock brings him to life with a commanding voice and lithe but powerful physical presence. I’m looking forward to seeing how he pulls off being the dragon, Smaug, in the next Hobbit movie when it releases at the end of the year.
Into Darkness shines thanks to its great cast, effects and balance of action, adventure, humour and drama.