While JJ Abrams’ reinvention of Star Trek has proven very popular with audiences, there are quite a few uber-fans of the TV incarnations who pretty much seem to think Abrams is the anti-Christ. If they’d been hoping that Star Trek Into Darkness would be an olive branch, taking things back to exactly how they’d been before, they were sadly mistaken. Instead the movie forges forward with its parallel reality, doing things that will ensure classic Trek fans who didn’t like the first film will be absolutely spitting feathers at its twisting of earlier stories, while others will love the way it cleverly renews things.
Jim Kirk (Chris Pine) is now the captain of the Enterprise, but after saving Spock (Zachary Quinto) from a volcano – and breaking the Prime Directive in the process – he’s demoted. However he finds himself back in charge after the mysterious John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) emerges and blows up a Starfleet facility in London before launching an attack on its San Francisco headquarters.
When Harrison warps off to the Klingon homeworld, Kirk is given orders to follow him and kill him, even though this could tip the simmering tensions with the Klingons into all-out war with Starfleet. As the crew of the Enterprise learn more about Harrison, they realise the threat may be even bigger than they suspected.
As with most modern blockbusters, Star Trek Into Darkness is built around massive action set-pieces with bits of story in-between. It’s not always clear which came first – the idea of the set-piece or the story that got them there. That’s proven a problem with some other movies but here it’s perfectly fine as the big scenes are so well done and the bits in-between are very entertaining, even if there’s an occasional sense that they’re just marking time.
Indeed it’s a good thing that when the movie works it’s exhilarating, exciting, technically impressive and has some awesome visuals, as there are a few flaws. Not least of these is that while the script understands the essence of each character, in lowering the amount of humour that was present in earlier Star Trek incarnations, they’re in danger of becoming assholes. Kirk was always arrogant, but during early parts of Star Trek Into Darkness he verges of being insufferable. Similarly Spock can come across as being ridiculously contrary, while Bones is less a character than someone who comes on-screen purely to angrily tell the audience what’s at stake.
Luckily they all calm down a bit in the second half, partly because there’s so much action there’s not too much time for the characters to be total dicks. Admittedly the rougher sides of Kirk and co. are part of the plot and the character’s journeys, but they could still all do with a slap. Thankfully there’s also Benedict Cumberbatch, who puts in an excellent performance as Harrison, bringing far more depth and interest to the character than there might otherwise have been. Indeed, when the film starts playing with whether he’s really the villain or not, few other actors could have had us genuinely wondering, considering what we learn about his character.
As you’d hope for a film where the visuals are so beautifully put together, the picture quality on the Blu-ray is excellent, showing off the deep blacks of space, the clinical whiteness of parts of the Enterprise and everything in-between. Perhaps more than anything else it is how complete this new Star Trek world feels that has helped its success, so that while different to earlier incarnations, it’s nevertheless cohesive and expertly designed – and made to look beautiful in HD.
The audio is also impressive, with an almost ridiculous amount of floor-shaking bass. The film’s sound design is rich and complex, really helping to pull you into the world And with some excellent use of the surround elements, that’s definitely true of the Blu-ray.
The special features are okay but not particularly amazing. Essentially what you get are a series of short featurettes, which sort of add together into one 40-minute documentary, but only just. There’s plenty of interesting info though, with the featurettes concentrating on how they created certain sequences, from the opening scene on a volcanic planet, to how a sequence inside an enemy ship was done with few special effects and far less set than you might have thought. It’s all decent to watch, but perhaps not quite as in-depth as you might have hoped.
Overall Verdict: There may be a few issues with the characters being slightly unlikable early on and the set-pieces rather overwhelming the story, but when the set-pieces are this good and the sci-fi world so well put together, it’s still an entertaining and exciting flick.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac