Dir. J.J. Abrams, 2013, 132 min. Rated: PG-13
You might be happy (or at least relieved) to know that I have resolved to write a spoiler-free review. Whether I’ve achieved that is another story (what constitutes a spoiler is at least a little subjective), but at least you know the intention is there. Basically what I’m trying to say is that I won’t be revealing plot points, and I certainly won’t be answering the question that’s on everyone’s mind, namely, who the feck is Benedict Cumberbatch?
I’ll avoid comparing the film with its predecessors, but I will say that the filmmakers clearly created Star Trek Into Darkness with the fans in mind. If the large audience with which I viewed it is any indication, the film’s myriad homages to its predecessors were generally much appreciated, though these occurred so frequently that they risked transforming from charming winks into disconcerting, seemingly uncontrollable twitches.
What balance the film may lack in its homages, it makes up for in its complementary blend of action and sci-fi: sweet fight sequences, cool automobiles and gadgets, hot ladies and hunky guys provide the action, which is rounded out nicely by spaceships, aliens, and the moral philosophizing that has informed Star Trek since its birth. All of this is accomplished with neurotically beautiful cinematography, editing and mise en scene. The visuals of the opening sequence are particularly lovely, and may recall to some the work of director-deity Akira Kurosawa.
The visuals and score are well combined, generally evoking all the right responses at the right times, though admittedly I was a bit grumpy about being manipulated by such devices. A redeeming factor is that the film seems to know when it’s gone too far, adding hints of humour now and then to break the gravity.
Performances on all sides are fantastic, although the intense focus on the evolving bromance between Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Kirk (Chris Pine) comes at the expense of peripheral character development. As a result, I left the film a little unsatisfied, with the feeling that there was still so much more to learn about the other characters—Cumberbatch’s included.
The lack of development extends to the plot, which some might find a little shallow if they’re hoping for anything much beyond the usual standards of Hollywood blockbusters. The story is interesting and coherent enough; I just wish it went a little deeper and innovated a little more on the traditional templates.
In short, Star Trek Into Darkness is a good old-fashioned story told exceedingly well, but for some of us (myself included) that’s not enough. Abrams has yet to go where no one has gone before, but that’s not to say he—or whoever takes over the franchise—never will. My hope is that, much like the Borg, the rebooted Trek will continue to evolve toward a state of perfection.