CHANNEL 4 4SEVEN E4 MORE4 FILM4 4MUSIC 4oD

Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 12A
  • Adventure, Sci-Fi
  • 2013
  • 132 mins

Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness

Synopsis

Kirk, Spock and the younger, rebooted crew of the Starship Enterprise face a terrorist bent on wiping out Starfleet in JJ Abrams’ sequel to 2009’s blockbuster franchise-saver.

About

JJ Abrams’ 2009 reboot of Star Trek barrelled out of the gate with absolute, unwavering confidence. Its lean, fresh take on the spacefaring series paid off, enchanting a new generation of Trekkies by blowing bloated continuity and Gene Roddenberry’s idealistic themes out of the airlock. Now that the dust has settled, the task is to follow it, to build on its predecessor’s clean slate, and to boldly go where no film has gone before.

But what’s most surprising is that, instead of searching for new life and new civilisations, this follow-up finds its confidence faltering, seeking solace and inspiration in the first batch of cinematic Trek adventures. Where 2009’s Star Trek revelled in the novelty of shearing away the baggage of TV series and ten uneven films, here Abrams and writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof pepper their popcorn-munching spectacle with a crescendo of fan-service references and even direct narrative homages to both Star Trek: The Original Series and franchise high-watermark Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan - key texts that, at 30+ years old, might require footnotes for some of those recent converts.

The ‘darkness’ that the crew are trekking into, though, is a little unclear. Sure, there is a little less swagger throughout, but this is hardly The Dark Knight. From the off, when shady antagonist John Harrison orchestrates a bombing at a Starfleet headquarters in London, the stakes are high, but even in the thick of the film’s action, there’s no sense of peril. The joke the first time around was that JJ Abrams had turned Star Trek into Star Wars and, once again, the thrilling, theme-park ride sequences are all as present as the grand, some would say pretentious sci-fi aspirations are absent.

Furthermore, many of the character relationships and themes are stuck in limbo. Kirk (Chris Pine) is a reckless hero wrestling with the responsibility of being a captain, Spock (Zachary Quinto) is an emotionally-repressed half-Vulcan who relentlessly follows logic and protocol, and the two verbally spar before coming to a mutual, melodramatic compromise that befits their volatile bromance.

What stops In Darkness from being stuck in thematic stasis is Harrison, or more specifically, Benedict Cumberbatch’s bravura performance. Harrison is one of those de rigueur terrorist baddies whose intelligence, power and chaotic lack of motivation know no bounds, but Cumberbatch was clearly destined for the big screen, and his theatrical, larger-than-life presence is the film’s real revelation.

After his rakish take on Sherlock Holmes and minor supporting roles in the likes of Four Lions, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and War Horse, he here enters the pantheon of British stage actors that enliven the Hollywood mainstream with grace and gravitas. At once, he embodies the crawling, reptilian poise of Brian Cox’s Hannibal Lecktor and the deliciously evil, carefully-enunciated control of Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber, but it’s his imposing frame that sets him apart. At numerous points, Kirk and Spock let loose on him with fists and frantic shouting, but Harrison just soaks it up. He’s an undefeatable nemesis, and the jabbering, endlessly-running-about-through-corridors Enterprise crew-members can’t possibly compare.

Harrison is a monolith, a target for all the fast-paced thrills that Abrams can muster, but he reflects back the emptiness of the enterprise with a measured baritone. For fans of 2009’s reboot, Star Trek Into Darkness delivers much of the same, but by invoking The Wrath Of Khan, it not only runs the risk of alienating the audience, it also loses sight of its prime directive of reinvigorating the franchise.

In a nutshell

Abrams’ difficult, second Trek is as brash, spectacular and energetic as its immediate predecessor, but, without novelty on its side, the Star Trek series retreats into the shadow of the very films it once so entertainingly spurned.

by Michael Leader

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    The Day He Arrives

    Comedy-drama from South Korean director Hong Sang-soo. A film director visits a friend in Seoul, but his trip begins to resemble a romantic version of Groundhog Day

    On Film4: 6 Nov 1:30AM

  • Film4

    In Another Country

    South Korean director Hong Sang-soo's drama stars Isabelle Huppert in three separate stories about French women who travel to a Korean seaside town.

    On Film4: 3 Nov 12:00AM

  • Film4

    Tower Heist on Film4

    Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy & Casey Affleck lead an all-star cast in Brett Ratner's heist comedy

  • Film4

    The Debt on Film4

    Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington & Jessica Chastain star in John Madden's Nazi-hunting thriller

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Joe Cunningham's 11 recommendations for LFF 14

    Unfortunately I haven¿t been jet setting around the world this year to the various exciting international film festivals, but that¿s what makes the London Film Festival¿s compilation approach to progr

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Michael Leader's 11 recommendations for LFF 2014

    One of the best things about the London Film Festival¿s smorgasbord approach to programming is that, amongst the world premieres and gala screenings, there¿s an eclectic collection of exciting films o

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Interview

  • JJ Abrams

    JJ Abrams

    on the authenticity, spectacle and character development in his sequel

Tweets @Film4

  • This time next week, we're screening extraordinary, experimental fishing trawler doc Leviathan for the first time. http://t.co/W7ZI1PUVwa

  • Coming up at 11am, it's our weekly world cinema slot. This week, we're off to Strasbourg for low-key Spanish drama In The City Of Sylvia.

  • @Trissy08 @FreeviewTV Hi Tristan. No news on that point yet, I'm afraid. But if anything changes we'll shout about it.

  • RT @GabrielTate1: TV Film of the Day: A man searches for a lost love in the cool, cerebral In the City of Sylvia (11am @Film4) http://t.co/…

  • @ItIsJohnDoe Yep! 'Mother Sky' - what a track! Funnily enough, they're credited as 'The Can'.

Share