***THIS REVIEW WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED HERE FOR THE HOLLYWOOD NEWS ON MAY 4TH, 2013***
Director: J.J. Abrams.
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Alice Eve, Bruce Greenwood, John Cho, Anton Yelchin.
Running Time: 132 minutes.
Synopsis: When an unstoppable force of terror rises within their own organisation, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) leads a manhunt that will put the lives of the Enterprise’s crew at risk.
After the success of 2009’s space reboot, J.J. Abrams left tongues wagging as to how he would follow his superb Romulan romp. His sequel may contain some brilliant comedy and interesting moments, but it unfortunately suffers due to an unoriginal first half that shares much with the cold and hollow materials that make up the USS Enterprise.
Immediately thrown amongst an active volcano and a chase involving an indigenous papier-mâché-esque tribe, things stall after we are treated to one of the film’s more impressive and stomach-churning gravity defying leaps. The witty repartee between crewmates may be continuously present, but things feel unremarkable and stuck in neutral until Abrams puts his ship into warp speed come the final thirty minutes.
With the questionable foundations of their friendship behind them (even if Spock’s Vulcan nature often makes things a little difficult), Pine and Quinto’s back and forth is an effortless joy. Sharing their own unique E.T. moment, their relationship embodies Starfleet’s brotherhood while allowing Quinto to impress in moments where his human half is most tested. Though Kirk has undoubtedly morphed into an accessible, intergalactic hero, he still has to answer to his superiors, with Pike’s (Bruce Greenwood) stern but fair paternal scoldings brilliantly showcasing the cliché-free script that plays up its cheesy metaphors and one-liners by handing them to Bones (Karl Urban).
Intent on ruining the space party, Benedict Cumberbatch is nothing short of miraculous as mysterious reptilian menace, John Harrison. After an ominously calm introduction sees him putting the wheels into motion with the help of a desperate young father (an effectively edited yarn made all the more chilling by Michael Giacchino’s score), the actor doesn’t put a foot out of place, with his fight scenes both brutal and devilishly electrifying.
Though the action is intermittent, when Abrams delivers, he is hard to beat. With his effortless ability to beam between planets keeping things uncomplicated, his technical prowess is impressive throughout, notably when getting up close and personal with Harrison amidst a scene of devastation. It may relish in the gimmickry of 3D post-conversion, but the choice to occasionally throw things towards us works well alongside the film’s campery, letting the lens flare enshroud you to great effect.
Lacking any real element of surprise, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS’ clever touches can’t prevent the unexpectedly neat ending from leaving things a tad disappointing. It may be unfair to constantly expect Abrams to raise the bar, but his space sequel never quite pushes it into that final frontier. Though its strong ensemble work keeps it afloat until the concluding near perfect assault that will set audiences to stun, it is fun, but rarely thrilling. Cumberbatch may provide a villain for the ages, but we’ve not quite reached big summer blockbuster territory just yet. Here’s looking at you, Snyder.