Monday, May 20, 2013

Film Review - Star Trek - Into Darkness

J.J. Abrams and the Bad Robot crew take their second shot at the Star Trek Universe with Star Trek
Into Darkness. The timing of this film is a little different from the normal 2-year sequence of sequels.  Into Darkness appears 4 years after it's 2009 predecessor and gives the impression that Abrams and the Bad Robot team did not want to rush but instead took their time to get the film right.  The good thing about sequels and especially those of an iconic franchise it that the first movie already introduced the characters and their inter relationships therefore it's right to the action.

Opening with the Enterprise crew on an observatory mission of a primitive tribal society. The Enterprise crew decide to help when they realize that the civilization is threatened by it's own environment.  Their decision is contrary to the prime directive on which Star Fleet is based. Upon their return to Star Fleet headquarters in San Francisco Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zackery Quinto) both are disciplined for their actions.

In a bit of a departure we see a Star Trek installation on earth outside of the U.S.  A good part of the first act takes place in London where we are introduced Jonathan Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) a mysterious figure that is willing to assist a Star Fleet officer with his family health issue for a price.

Pacing is a key element to this film. Kurtzman, Lindelof and Orci's script keeps the action coming on a regular basis. The scrip also has a couple of nods to Abrams next project that also has the word Star in the title. In one Kirk, Spock and Uhura ( Zoe Saldana) are in a shuttle that looks suspiciously like the Millennium Falcon being chased by a patrol. In attempt to escape pilot Kirk takes the shuttle towards a narrow passage and debates openly with Spock whether or not the shuttle will fit into the tight space.

Cinematographer Daniel Mindel work is notable on this film. The visuals are sharp and similar to his work on the 2009 reboot the piece has to be one of the brightest out there in recent memory. The first time the Enterprise appears fully on screen then heads into warp leaving the signature trail is stunning. However there are some issues with the 3D version as in some frames the early part of the film the action moves faster than the technology.

The stories main thread centres on the enemy within. The role of villain shifts during the film however the narrative never verges far from this main theme. Distrusting superiors until you dig a little deeper for more information on your own is also prevalent. Michael Kaplan's costume design also picks up on these dark ideas.  Opposed to the iconic yellow, blue and red Start Trek uniforms the cast wears a collection of black and grey totalitarian looking outfits. The dress uniform at Star Fleet headquarters is  charcoal with hats that harken back to armies or secret police of the mid 40's. James Harrison is clothed in a dark cloak in one of the early fighting scenes then continues dressed in black for the rest of the film.

The main actors continue to grow into their roles in this second outing and it's evident that the writing team tried to find at least a moment for each of the main characters to shine.  One of the stronger instants is Sulu's (John Cho) speech while occupying the Captains Chair. The current reboot has created a new triumvirate of Kirk and Spock with Uhura replacing Bones as the third member.  However Bones (Karl Urban) has some memorable moments in the film notably in an away mission with the new science officer (Alice Eve) where they're tasked to diffuse a volatile object. Cumberbatch is an excellent choice as the shadowy Harrison who is equally adept in the lab as he is in battle. The key to any sequel is a strong villain. Harrison is more than a match for Kirk and Spock, an enemy squadron attempting to oppose him or Peter Weller's hawkish head of Star Fleet Admiral Marcus.

Two important elements of an action film are sound and editing. Both are categories are handled well.  Sound is key in many scenes especially during the warp speed chase. Perhaps the best edit in the production in a transition scene from London to San Francisco focused on an item falling into a drinking glass in each location.

Star Trek Into the Darkness has all the elements of a summer popcorn movie excellent pacing, relentless action and images that need to be seen on the big screen. If you're not a trekker or a hard core fan of the original series then this film is aimed at you. However if your niche is the original Star Trek and the traditional roles of the holy trinity of Kirk, Spock and Bones then you may find the film a bit lacking. Overall as someone who really came on board with The Next Generation it's a film that I can recommend.

*** out of 4

Star Trek | Into the Darkness | J.J. Abrams | U.S.A. | 2013 | 132 Minutes.

Tags: Sci-fi, enemy within, Iconic Series, Trekkers, Prime directive, terrorism, totalitarianism.


  1. Nice review Francis. I honestly liked this movie more than the first movie and that says a lot, since Star Trek still ranks as one of my favorite sci-fi movies of the past decade or so.

  2. Thanks for the comment Dtmmr. There were no need for introductions with this film and Benedict Cumberbatch was a superior choice as the villain.