Film: Star Trek into Darkness
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve and others
Director: J J Abrams
I should perhaps begin with full disclosure: I’m not a Star Trek fan, or even follower. The only thing I know about the enterprise – and Enterprise – is the catchphrase, “to boldly go where no man has gone before.” Also, that it introduced me to Patrick Stewart, whose thespian skills have been somewhat diminished for me from overexposure to that red jumpsuit when I was in kindergarten.
So, I can’t guess at how J J Abrams’ latest will affect fans. But I do know that it is as good a ride through space as I’ve got in years.
Abrams, the man behind Lost and the Steven Spielberg tribute Super 8, opens the film with a set-piece that is reminiscent of the 70s’ adventure films. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Bones (Karl Urban) flee from the gaudily painted natives of the planet Nibiru, through a fantastic forest, even as Spock (Zachary Quinto) is saving the planet. In other words, we’re plunged into conflict even as the film begins. Before we have recovered, we move on to what will form the basis of the film.
Apparently, not even Star Trek can escape terrorism in the new millennium. Again, the villain makes his entry through a terrible bombing. The credit for the attack is claimed by a Starfleet officer gone rogue. What follows is Enterprise vs John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). But the execution of the retaliation makes one think it may as well be America vs Terrorism. Save for the water boarding.
Cumberbatch is easily the best thing about the film – he makes a classic villain, powerful and menacing at times, low and squirming at others, in much the same way as The Joker in the best Batman graphic novels. Quite as skilled his opponents, he manipulates and manoeuvres his way through their onslaught, setting the stage for a climactic battle that will do justice to the scale of the film. One of my favourite scenes in the film showcases his ability to convince everyone of his sincerity, while weaving an outrageous lie.
Another thing Star Trek Into the Darkness does remarkably well is to keep us guessing about who is good and who is bad. Complicating all of this is the rookie on board (Alice Eve), who naturally develops a crush on Kirk of the Blue Eyes. Abrams is able to flesh out the characters, even while building up to the epic adventure. With Zoe Saldanha completing the love quadrangle, the director cleverly chooses to focus on the dynamic between Kirk and Spock (Zachary Quinto).
The sustained lightness of the crew’s conversation, even as the world is endangered, nicely offsets the final catastrophe. As the denouement begins, we find ourselves involved enough with the characters to be moved by their ideals.
Special mention must be made of the tremendously realistic CGI, which makes for a spectacular climax, and the 3D conversion, which doesn’t disrupt the vintage look and feel of the film.