Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve
Running Time: 132 minutes
Release Date: May 9
3D: Worth it
From Game of Thrones themed stag nights to Minecraft LAN parties, nerd culture is now so entrenched in the everyday that it’s hard to separate it. To that end, we have a new, shiny Star Trek. Everyone’s very good looking, everything’s very stylish, the plot has a resonance without risking becoming dated and somehow, it’s made rocking the Vulcan salute and admiring William Shatner cool. When Trekkies are irritated that the plot ‘isn’t really Star Trek,’ but are still excited to see the film, you know something’s being done right.
Not just something in fact; pretty much everything. Pine and Quinto have created a friendship for the ages, one that takes up the mantle of Shatner and Nemoy without seeming too much like an imitation. Nearly every shot is beautiful, with the 3D genuinely adding something and J.J. Abrams signature lens flare still failing to irritate, despite being everywhere. Karl Urban scowls like a complete boss and has all the best lines. Even if Star Trek Into Darkness had only delivered on those things it would likely be enough, so good was 2009’s Star Trek. However, what that film lacked was a villain we really cared about. Eric Bana showed up on the communication screen, shouted a bit, and was never really very threatening. We needed a nemesis.
Benedict Cumberbatch is a wonderful actor. Even surrounded by a cast like that of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy he managed to shine. He carried Parade’s End and… well, he’s bloody Sherlock, isn’t he? As rogue Starfleet agent John Harrison he steals the film. Don’t misunderstand, this is an excellent, entertaining movie; Cumberbatch is just unquestionably the best thing about it. He’s gnawing on every piece of scenery around him, and it’s absolutely marvellous. I’d watch him calmly enunciate his desire to murder everyone for hours, followed by a few more hours of him being so convincingly terrifying I’d worry for the safety of all in his vicinity.
Said terror is on the back of Harrison blowing up a Starfleet archive in London, and then murdering the hell out of a lot of the Starfleet high command. Captain Jim Kirk (Pine) doesn’t take kindly to his crap, and requests special permission to go retrieve Harrison. Kirk hasn’t changed from being the brash cowboy he was when we first met him—although it’s nice to hear that he’s still a Beastie Boys fan—and most of the narrative thrust of the film is him realising he can’t act as though ‘some rules shouldn’t’ apply to him. This, added to Spock’s (Quinto) continual pain for the loss of his home-world mean there is a lot of character to get through while everything is exploding, and even with the limited time they have, Pine, Quinto et al do incredibly well. That their motivation for catching Harrison is basically ‘this time it’s personal’ doesn’t even matter, so strong are the performances.
Following the chase for Harrison, the plot twists and turns agreeably, with some backstabbing and a little intrigue, before changing up one too many times in the last twenty minutes and over staying its welcome. Even with that and a few other minor quibbles—obviously with a cast this big it’s hard to do right by everyone, but Anton Yelchin really has nothing here—this is a very fine film, held aloft by the wonderful visuals, a genuinely compelling plot and a fantastic, so-close-to-over-the-top-it-might-be-genius performance from Cumberbatch. There are a handful of twists, only about half of which offer genuine surprises. It’s a good looking film, though, and the final act is satisfying, making for an entertaining, attractive, imperfect sci fi epic.