Director: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, Alice Eve and Peter Weller
Review Written by: Michael Dalton (Prime Minister)
J.J. Abrams has frequently been touted as the next Steven Spielberg (A comparison that 2011’s Super 8 only served to accentuate) and with the opening of this film he continues to invite and live up to such comparisons. The opening of this film has the air of an Indiana Jones film as the audience is exhilaratingly shoved right into the action, setting the pace for the rest of the film. For such a futuristic and high-tech production, it is a refreshingly old-fashioned start that captures the spirit and attitude of classic cinematic adventure films. This is then followed by a movement focusing on a sick child in futuristic London which calls to mind moments of Super 8, as the scenes are presented with little to no dialogue, yet contain a significant dramatic and artistic punch. Demonstrating how at times J.J. Abrams can be a very pure, visual storyteller.
A criticism thrown at the 2009 predecessor to this film, was that it lacked the thematic weight that permeated the Gene Rodenberry created television series. Into Darkness appears to respond to such claims with it carrying ideas which could be read as a critique of War on Terror policy, with a Dark Knight-esque ‘We must stop the enemy yet be wary of awakening the very same evil within us in order to do so’ message. While Into Darkness is primarily focused on being summer blockbuster fun, it does have some substance behind the style and is certainly not dumb, with it very much being a blockbuster and Star Trek tale that is reflective and representative of its time.
As well as containing substance this film does have a couple of moments, which aim to evoke an emotional response. One such moment early on is effective due to the aforementioned visual purity of its presentation (As well as the believable performance of the underrated and hard-working Noel Clarke) while one is believed due to the performance of Cumberbatch, yet not felt by the audience the way it could have done had the writers provided more insight. Finally a scene, which aims to re-create and refresh a classic moment in Star Trek history, is incredibly well acted, yet lacked a conclusive emotional punch for me personally due to the knowledge of the conventions that films of this ilk must sadly conform to.
J.J. Abrams infuses the film with energy through his camera angles and it is no surprise watching this that he is the man entrusted with reviving Star Wars. Into Darkness may be one of the fastest paced films I have seen in a while and two hours and ten minutes absolutely flew by. The term ‘rollercoaster ride’ is a cliché, yet a film that is this exciting and contains this many twists and turns is exactly what the now overused term was invented to describe. While the film’s ‘biggest’ surprise may have been guessed by all those who paid any attention to internet speculation, this film still contains plot points that will surprise even the most inquisitive of movie fans. With J.J. Abrams alongside the likes of Christopher Nolan, being one of the few filmmakers within this high budget realm, who wishes to save many of his best tricks for the actual experience itself, rather than the promotional material.
Moving away from the direction, style and approach of J.J. Abrams and towards the actors there is one obvious talking point here, Benedict Cumberbatch. As, ‘John Harrison’ Cumberbatch steals every single scene he is in and is the star of the film. His villain oozes both a psychical and psychological dominance that is concurrently entrancing and intimidating, lending the film in certain moments a much-needed intensity. For all the film’s spectacle, one of the film’s more memorable and effective scenes may be a tear rolling down Cumberbatch’s cheek as he angrily explains his motivations. The rest of the cast all do a great job in inhabiting these well-known characters, with there being a well established chemistry amongst the cast that makes you believe in their relationships and situation the minute you are introduced to them. Zachary Quinto is particularly noteworthy as Mr. Spock, perfectly portraying the emotionless emotion of the character.
While technically the film is a triumph and contains a solid cast, it is in the script where Into Darkness contains its flaws. While containing invention, humour and substance, the plot does not stand up to further inspection. While J.J. and his cast crucially keep you from asking these questions during the tale, they do crop up afterwards. One also cannot help but think that more could have been made out of the motivations of the villain, as certain aspects are rather rushed in the second and third act. This hole ridden plot is not an issue while watching the film and despite certain aspects revealing themself to be bothersome they are not problematic enough to affect my enthusiasm towards the film, yet do prevent it from achieving the greatness it could have done. The writers must be given credit however for being much more creative regarding the inevitable third act copout that all films of this size contain when a significant event happens. Although the inclusion of a Star Trek acting legend into the tale, while welcoming, is rather clumsily handled.
I myself have not watched the Star Trek TV show, however I am assured by those who have that this film contains many rewarding direct references to the canon. Once again Abrams seems to have struck the perfect balance between satisfying long-term fans and creating new ones. Does Into Darkness boldly go where no man has gone before? No. It goes excitingly where many have gone before.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
Disagree with this review? Give us your thoughts in the Your Say section.