So the Summer Blockbuster season roles on into JJ Abrams return to the universe he helped reboot to critical and commercial acclaim back in (and something that I liked a lot) 2009 with ‘STAR TREK – INTO DARKNESS‘. Before I begin my thoughts I must tell you I’ve never been a ”Trekkie”, other than a few episodes of Patrick Stewarts ‘The Next Generation’ on BBC 2 & Sky 1 back in the day, I never really got into the whole ‘Star Trek’ thing. This is important as some of you might be thinking with these thoughts that I’m taking the prospective of one of these ”Trekkie” fans. So as Benedict Cumberbatch says “Let us begin……..”
First things first this is hugely enjoyable. The running time flyby’s thanks to its incredible set-pieces (some of the more prevalent Sci-Fi Action I’ve seen in a long time), humour and its synergy between the cast, which are excelled by the, almost old couple dynamics of Kirk and Spock. Also full credit to the fact that the synergy between the Star Fleet, even with a new cast mate of Alice Eve* still works, and even if some of their characters do feel like they disappear, they return later on and all contribute to how the story pan’s out, still making them feel important.
Here’s the thing though, while all this works fine, and as well as the brilliance of the ”first” 2009 film, there is one thing which doesn’t, and that is its balance between not losing old ”Trekkie” fans and to the new generation. The thing with the 2009 film it got this perfect. From personal conversations with ”Trekkie” fans they were happy how it accepted and celebrated the old, while people like myself felt happy to be welcomed by the likability of the new universe, helping break down the ‘geeky’ inertia the series was known for (see the documentary ”Trekkies” for more on this). ‘Into Darkness’ doesn’t seem to do this as well. The plot seems a little tied up at times and seems to lean from one way (being the ”Trekkie” fans) and then to the other for the newer fans, meaning there no perfect mix as with the 2009 film, which both sets of audiences got on a certain tonal level for both. Which considering the fact the plot isn’t really trying anything new or pushing storytelling boundaries feels little strange. This is not the only problem with the plot. A lot of the films undertones (there’s a lot of running themes and discussion about terrorism, military duty and the ideology’s of war), are there but discussion on them just seems to in the middle of a action scene. Which is fine but doesn’t help you flesh out these characters, and makes it harder to ”connect” with them on a emotional level like what the 2009 did. And considering the issues they discuss is relevant to today, you feel like they have missed there opportunity to do something interesting and reach the heights of 2009 film.
This issue on plotting is down to its energy of just (and no pun intended) of ”Trekking” along from one action scene to the next with some energy. This is fine but it does make what happens at the end feel like there no real crescendo moment, which again could help with the connection between characters and audience. Another minor grip is Benedict Cumberbatch’s warrior villain John Harrison. He is a threat but Cumberbatch is given nothing more to do other then do this current Hollywood trend of having these slow speaking articulate (silent but deadly) villain roles, which started back with Javier Barden in ‘No Country For Old Men’. Now don’t get me wrong Cumberbatch is great in it, there’s a good backstory which makes you see and almost understand why he’s doing these thing, but it doesn’t really help with what the character ultimately becomes, which really just underminds his backstory and why he’s doing this.
Now before you think ”WELL DOM YOU’VE SLATED THIS AND COMPLAINING AGAIN”, I really haven’t. This is still very entertaining stuff (even if just like ‘Iron Man 3’ almost, I can imagine fans might not like how the characters are drawn). There is also a scene-stealing (and frankly far more interesting character) by Peter ‘Robocop’ Weller, and even if it’s harder to like, some likeability to it all still, which again adds intrigue with the direction of the franchise might take. I just felt that they didn’t realise how much of a advantage they had with this, and haven’t utilized it to its full potential. In other words making it feels like it lakes depth – maybe another treatment might have addressed these issues. Also before you ask yes the lense-flare is turned down, but actually adds some real depth and scale to the cinematography to it all especially the 3D (yes there’s me speaking highly of the 3D concept of it). And if there is one thing, yes it does leave the franchise in an interesting position and even with its faults, shows that JJ Abrams does had the ability to make big family tentpole film which I believe could be its reasoning for his ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ gig. Enjoyable stuff!
*Yes the underwear scene is rather pointless, but I have seen a lot more worse cases of this, and I think it doesnt help the Alice Eve’s character doesnt seem to register much on screen making feel like she just been put in the film just for that scene.