Decidedly disposable, but resistance is futile
A breathless Indiana Jones-style prologue fires up JJ Abrams’ Star Trek sequel with a gesture of self sacrifice from Spock (Quinto). Finding himself trapped in a volcano, we learn that ‘the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few’ is to be this instalment’s major theme. Antithetically, it is the devastating loss of many lives in 23rd-century London that then sends the Enterprise to the Klingon home world to deal with the one-man terrorist cell responsible: John Harrison (Cumberbatch).
On the whole, Abrams delivers an enjoyable, witty little space romp. He returns with his signature lens flares and proceeds to bestow the film with big-budget bells and whistles and all the emotional clout that could possibly be packed into two hours of mainstream summer cinema. Normally I’d be the first to commend the efforts of a filmmaker to squeeze some humanity into populist entertainment, but here the relentless emoting becomes an overbearing assault on the senses – all the more offensive in 3D. A sobbing Spock, no matter how well justified, is likely to offend Trekkers everywhere. Even the villain has a quick snivel. As such, everything feels calculated – the mechanics of our manipulation all too visible. Whenever there is a rare, merciful interlude, the purpose of the lull is revealed to be little more than a set-up for the inevitable crash-bang-wallop that always interrupts it.
The fact that none of this is enough to fully derail the experience is due largely to the carefully-selected cast that Abrams assembled the first time out. Pine and Quinto excel as Kirk and Spock, managing to give surprisingly nuanced performances, while the writers deserve credit for successfully mining the dynamics of this iconic relationship for all the pathos and comedy that it’s worth. Peter Weller (RoboCop, Naked Lunch) is also of notable mention as Admiral Marcus – only Cumberbatch’s floppy-haired villain occasionally overcooks things. Star Trek Into Darkness is bigger and bolder than most of Star Trek’s recent cinematic outings, but despite (or perhaps because of) cranking everything up to eleven, it feels less substantial and distinctly more disposable than its comparatively modest televisual origins.
Star Trek Into Darkness (11)
Dir: JJ Abrams; US sci-fi, 2013, 132 mins; Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch,
Premiered June 6