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Star Trek Into Darkness

Film Four Stars
I love the original Star Trek films and it was with great surprise that I saw J.J. Abrams pull off the reboot of the franchise. Not only did he change the crew but he changed the entire universe they lived in and set about an entirely new and separate franchise with an audience both old and new.

The first new Star Trek film pulled it off, despite how much fans of the original were voicing their concern beforehand. It captured the feel of the original and started building the love for the new crew that we had for the old.

So the sequel came along with the tagline "Into Darkness", a tagline which could be taken a number of ways. The darkness could be space and the Enterprise was heading off once more or it could mean that the crew were heading towards their own darkness and we would see the second film, like so many second films in a franchise, deliver some darker fare.

Plot.pngStarTrekIntoDarkness.jpgWhen the crew of the Enterprise is called back home, they find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization has detonated the fleet and everything it stands for, leaving our world in a state of crisis. With a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction. As our heroes are propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart, and sacrifices must be made for the only family Kirk has left: his crew.

TheFilm.pngStar Trek Into Darkness is indeed darker than the first film and I think both explanations apply to the tagline. When we first join the crew they are in deep space engaged in the mission that we know Star Fleet to be there for, that of exploration of new worlds and new civilisations. However as the film progresses it does turn out to be much weightier and darker for the crew, and our key characters.

The main things that hit you about the film are the drama and the effects, and with the effects I'm not talking about the 3D. As with so many 3D films the 3D effects are noticeable at just a few points through the film, mainly the opening sequences and the closing titles. For the rest of the film it either leaves you with a slightly blurred, misty view or a few objects in the far and near fields of vision which themselves look rather flat. Really I forgot about it for the most part of the film once the big opening scenes where passed.

No I don't mean the 3D when I talk about the effects, I mean the CG special effects in the film which fill the screen from the beginning. The images of the Enterprise rising out of the water are nigh on stunning and there are other amazing scenes from the epic space battle above Kronos to the scenes of the ships plummeting towards and crashing into Earth. The effects are stunning throughout and thankfully the lens flare is not that noticeable.

To match that there's a strong story with a powerful enemy for the crew to go up against testing them to their limits and beyond. It also doesn't follow the expected routes and often takes a slight sidestep to deliver a surprising moment or direction change which keeps the suspense going and helps raise the drama as the pace keeps you close to the edge of your seat.

It's a long film but I was surprised by how engaged I was and the only reason I was aware of the time or felt pulled out of the film were by the 3D glasses perched precariously over my own. That's a good sign for the film but a bad sign for the 3D. Perhaps that is again a testament to how strong the film and the story were, they made me forget I was trying to watch 3D and just enjoyed the film and the story.

There was plenty of humour in the film too, it wasn't all drama, and the comedy between the crew was at its best in the shuttle down to Kronos with the bickering of Kirk, Spock and Uhuru. It's not just between them either, the other characters have their moments and are drawn into the story well but the focus is really between Spock and Kirk and developing their unusual relationship from the first film and so that's where a lot of the humour and story lies.

There's a strong focus in this film on that relationship between Kirk and Spock and that builds well and delivers nicely near the end in a scene that will no doubt equally anger and excite fans of the original cinematic series. The relationship and the scenes between the two are some of the best to watch in the film and provide a good emotional thread that delivers well later on. Both Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto play their parts very and really do manage to inhabit those well worn characters, as do the other crew members.

It's not just about the development of their relationship but also of Spock's emotional side as we see more of his relationship with Uhuru and how she deals with his logical character. There's another major relationship for Kirk to deal with and that's the building of the family that becomes the well bonded crew. You can see it in many of the interactions with the other crew members. This leads to his own uncertainties which affect those around him and the ship.

Through in another relationship and you can see how much more than the action there is. The villain of the film is played powerfully by Benedict Cumberbatch - don't look at his IMDB profile if you want to remain spoiler free. He's superb in his role and adds a strong layer to the film, one which has you confused and uncertain as to his intentions until the final big sequence.

With his story line, and that of Star Fleet, there's something extra added to the film to make it more than just another action adventure of good versus evil. I shan't give too much away suffice to say that it provides for more twists and turns and there are more reveals than the big one you might be expecting. There were moments where I really didn't know which direction the plot was going to take and that's a great feeling to have in a film, it added extra dramatic tension and suspense especially watching Cumberbatch's character develop.

The ending of the story will annoy some and excite others. It does manage to get to the emotions and make you realise how well you've committed to these characters even if it does seem a little quickly resolved and perhaps a little too neat. Still it also satisfies and reinforces just how well this new behind the camera crew have captured the original Enterprise crew and their connection with the audience.

Okay, so it is a great action adventure, there are a lot of thrills, it's funny and it once again captures the original characters and brings a new dynamic to them. However, I had a couple of issues with it and it goes back to something I've been saying about the film since I began hearing the rumours of this film, the originality of the story.

When I was discussing the film with someone afterwards I realised I was genuinely angry at how these new films have been ripping up the originals, I think I said something about them engaged in a bodily function over my memories of the original films, I was rather miffed. You see we may only be two films into the new franchise but I am getting a little fed up of remakes under the guise of new alternate films. I wouldn't be so annoyed if they were straight remakes but they aren't, they've gone to so much trouble to deliver an alternate universe why aren't they using it and creating their own events and even scenes for the new crew?

I'm not going to enter into spoiler territory but once you've seen the film you'll realise which scenes I'm referring to. One in particular is a blatant copy of the original with the most obvious and superficial of changes to remind us this is an alternate universe. This really annoys me about the series and I could see why it happened in the first film, but we've established the alternate of everything and everyone, why can't we have new stories that don't revisit what's already been done?

Overall.pngThat said Star Trek Into Darkness is an enjoyable film even if there are some key moments and scenes that got my hackles up. The effects are fantastic, the action is kept ramped high but it doesn't forget the story and the characters and that's where the strength of this film, and the previous Star Trek, lies.

While there are amazing effects and action sequences going on there's a strong thread for the developing relationship between Kirk and Spock, building on the combative relationship from the first film and moving towards a closer one, one of friendship, something that is reflected with the rest of the crew. The development of these two characters provides for plenty of humour as well as the more dramatic moments and perhaps one of the most emotional we've seen so far.

The other characters aren't left out. While the story does concentrate on these two there's enough from Uhuru, Bones, Scotty, Sulu and Chekov to keep them, and us, involved. We even have time to introduce a few new characters. One of these is the excellent Benedict Cumberbatch who delivers a powerful performance. I was fascinated at just how well enunciated he was.

All in all Star Trek Into Darkness is a strong sequel and is perhaps better in many ways. I would definitely watch it again in the cinema and for more reasons than just getting to see it in 2D. Yet I can't help but feel frustrated at the connections with the original films, references are great but copying scenes is not. For the third film let's see a truly alternate universe and a completely alternate and new film with no copied scenes.

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