“Into Darkness provides plenty of the spectacular side of adventure that sci-fi deserves.”
Even when J. J. Abrams‘ maybe telling a story about warped space and fusion power, there’s two things all his work can fuse just perfectly – peril and action. Yet once again, his second outing into the Star Trek universe is no different from that mixture that has ran through all his films. Given the success of his 2009 reboot starting from square one of the Trek story, Into Darkness feels almost like Abrams’ finally ridding himself of the shackles that come with a franchise opener and providing a rollicking adventure up among the stars.
Following a surprise attack on Starfleet by the almost-demonic force John Harrison (played by Benedict Cumberbatch), the members of the Starship Enterprise led by Captain Kirk and Spock (Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto), reconvene aboard their ship to hunt down the murderous fugitive. But with distrust and conflict flowing rife, a darker hidden work has been at play that our heroes must overcome.
As with great sci-fi directors of the past, Abrams’ main draw is the scale and spectacle of the worlds he creates. Just like its opening in which we see a gigantic erupting volcano, with the ship streaking across the sky; or the high rise sleek and stylish skyscrapers of 23rd century San Francisco and London – you believe in the grandeur and the sheer weight of its surroundings. To talk about realism in context of Star Trek would be far fetched, but by nailing down the geography and feel of environments, you do get the sense of us being very much a small part of a very big universe.
Whether you always look at Star Trek as being a symbol of multiculturalism and world peace (Chinese, Russian, American, black, white, all working together for the good of mankind), the main idea that’s portrayed centrally is responsibility. The idea of what it means to ultimately confess wrongdoings and the catastrophic consequences they can have on other people plays from start to finish. But don’t let the blame game tone down the surroundings, far from it, it’s played out along a speeding train of a movie that doesn’t let up on the action. Abrams’ edits don’t fall into the pit of action movies throwing everything at the screen and becoming a headache. He ties together huge intense set pieces at just the right times that allows the movie to hold together coherently and goes at some pace. You’ll wonder where the two hours have gone.
Given these characters are based on a TV series almost fifty years-old, and being faithful to the hardened fans, the cast triumphantly feel they’ve taken on their roles with respect and reservedness. Chris Pine picks up his rebellious antics as Kirk, the man in which ‘rules are for other people’, coming into this own and bouncing his personality off of Zachary Quinto‘s Spock, affectionately known as ‘Pointy’, as he’s forced to consider that following cold hearted convention isn’t exactly the best policy in life, and performing together that idea of responsibility coming right to the forefront of their partnership.
But the star man on show is that of Benedict Cumberbatch‘s John Harrison who plays as a one-man wrecking machine, an enigmatic character who we slowly chip away at his personality as the action plays out. Sitting on the fence of good and bad to which Cumberbatch goes to town with, he’s one of only a handful who can carry off the star quality and the grounded severity of a menacing old-school baddie. It’s his performance and his story that not necessarily makes the rest of the cast look weak exactly, but is certainly the main interest. In a sense, when he’s on screen, the film goes up a gear from its already action packed pace.
For the fans, there’s plenty of the recognisable Trek conventions of which many will attempt the whistling sound effects and stellar languages. There is the bizarre, the whacky, the out right bonkers; taking the science with a pinch of salt, but also there is the humour. Not least Zoe Saldana bickering of relationships and Simon Pegg‘s ever reliable comedic presence ensuring it all isn’t so serious working in space. But the film brilliantly glides along setting the right tone of when to be dangerous and when to be playful.
It’s yet another tick against J. J. Abrams‘ name and cements his credentials when he tackles another space adventure. It greatly accompanies its opening film in this rebooted series and in terms of tightly packed action, this definitely hits that. Into Darkness provides plenty of the spectacular side of adventure that sci-fi deserves.