Star Trek Into Darkness starts off at a run and never really lets up for most of its two hour (-ish) runtime. Well, it certainly feels that way. That’s no bad thing for ninety minutes or so – the pacing is great and the balance of humour, drama and action spectacle is as well mixed as it all was in the preceding 2009 movie – but in the last stretch it all starts to get a bit too much. By the time the end credits rolled, I felt drained. Does the fact that the finale of Star Trek Into Darkness overstays its welcome make it a bad movie? Absolutely not. Sadly, it does stop it from being a great one.
The plot this time around centres on good old fashioned revenge. Sort of. Kirk (Chris Pine) has got himself into trouble once again due to a mission in which he broke the prime directive – remember that thing about not interfering with other worlds that was broken in almost every episode of the TV show? All would have been well if his account had matchd the report filed by First Officer Spock (Zachary Quinto), but Spock is a Vulcan and Vulcans never lie. The U.S.S. Enterprise is to be handed back to Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) and Spock is to be reassigned. Well, that WAS the plan until an act of terrorism gets lots of important people into the same room and then gets them attacked by the extremely dangerous John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). Kirk wants the Enterprise back, he wants his crew back and he wants to pursue Harrison. Luckily, Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) agrees with his course of action. It cannot be seen to be an act endorsed by the Federation so the crew is on their own as they head to a faraway planet to pursue Harrison and put an end to him with some new, long-range torpedoes. This doesn’t sit easily with all of the crew. Spock reminds Kirk that everyone should receive a fair trial, Scotty (Simon Pegg) doesn’t want to sign for torpedoes that he can’t check and everyone else is distinctly on edge as they consider the dangers of their mission.
The first half of Star Trek Into Darkness is superb. Easily on a par with the first movie. The cast are all comfortable in their roles and newcomers fit in nicely. Pine and Quinto bounce off each other brilliantly as Kirk and Spock, Zoe Saldana is strong and beautiful as Uhura, Simon Pegg has improved his Scottish accent for his role as engineer Scotty, Karl Urban remains a highlight as ‘Bones’, John Cho is given less to do this time as Sulu but does fine, and Anton Yelchin is good fun once again as Chekov. Bruce Greenwood does well once more as Pike, Peter Weller is great, Alice Eve is the reason I kept getting clouted by my wife while sitting in the cinema with a big grin on my face and Benedict Cumberbatch immediately puts himself up there with the creme de la creme of cinema villians.
The script by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof is, in some ways, even better than the script for the first film in this effective reboot. It’s just a shame that they throw in too much. The storyline is an interesting one, the villain is stronger and the many fan-pleasing moments WILL make you smile. Even I, as a casual fan of the franchise, loved to hear ‘Bones’ spitting out the line “dammit man, I’m a doctor, not a torpedo technician” and see at least one classic moment recreated, albeit with a little role reversal. Perhaps the most effective aspect of the script is the repercussion of the time travel shenanigans in the preceding movie that allows for a respectful acknowledgement of the past while also enabling the characters and universe to move forward and tread their own path (or warpdrive their own trail or whatever the best expression is).
Abrams handles everything just as he did with his first film in the franchise. There are *surprise, surprise* plenty of lens flares and that overlong, draining end sequence shows him at his worst, but for 3/4 of the movie he balances everything perfectly. The special effects are, as you would expect, pretty fantastic, but the best moments come from the characters and how they interact with one another. The action sequences are good, despite sometimes having too many elements in frame to make for a completely comfortable viewing experience (debris, movement, plumes of steam/smoke, other characters, etc – it all ends up just being a bit too busy).
At 100-110 minutes, this would have been perfect. But it’s 132 minutes (though, to be fair, about 10 minutes of the runtime is made up of the extensive end credits). It may seem like I have gone on and on about this throughout the whole review, but it’s the biggest black mark against the film. I’m still very much looking forward to the next instalment. I just hope that next time they come up with a finale that is as enjoyable as the rest of the film.
DIRECTOR: J. J. ABRAMS
WRITER: ROBERTO ORCI, ALEX KURTZMAN, DAMON LINDELOF
STARS: CHRIS PINE, ZACHARY QUINTO, BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH, ZOE SALDANA, SIMON PEGG, KARL URBAN, JOHN CHO, ANTON YELCHIN, ALICE EVE, PETER WELLER, BRUCE GREENWOOD
RUNTIME: 132 MINS APPROX