(This review was originally published in June 2013)
Whether you think Hollywood is lacking original ideas or not, if done well, sequels are brilliant. Sequels give people the opportunity to revisit characters that they love or watch the next chapter in a thrilling story. Sequels also give a director and writer creative freedom, particularly in established franchises like Star Trek where the first film is forced to reintroduce and reboot the series.
J.J Abrams took advantage of that sequel freedom right from the beginning of the movie. The film opens with a chase, a volcano, death-defying stunts and an amazing reveal for the famous starship. Any doubts that Star Trek wasn’t in the right hands are completely blown away from the moment that rousing score kicks in and the title flashes across the screen.
The rest of the film continues in the same way. There is fantastic action, a much more in-depth and structured story than the previous film and plenty for Star Trek fans to love and enjoy. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a Trekkie (I know enough to get by and catch the odd fan nod) but even for the casual viewer there was enough to raise a smile and we began to see the wider world of Star Trek and were introduced to some of the more recognisable features and aliens of the series.
J.J Abrams has made this series his own though and this comes across even more with the actors and their interpretations of the iconic characters. Zachary Quinto plays Spock fantastically and has much more to do in this movie, helping his character to develop further. Chris Pine has settled much more into the role of Kirk though. You can see the beginning of the character that will become the best known Captain of the Enterprise. More to his credit, Pine isn’t doing a William Shatner impression. He has carved his own version of the Captain and make the character different enough without taking away what makes him “Kirk.” Add to this the brilliant development of the relationship between Kirk and Spock and we get a great central dynamic to the movie and the two actors at the top of their games.
The movie needs a decent villain though. Eric Bana did a good job in the first movie but just had to be the foil, without much more to do than prove a decent enough threat to bring the crew together. Into Darkness would need something more and Benedict Cumberbatch offers that. He has a great sinister, dark manner that plays off the lighter Kirk really well. His story is much more complex than Bana’s in the first movie and the story is so much better for it. He isn’t a straight-forward enemy and it offers great surprises and twists than some may guess early on but I think most will be just as shocked by.
It’s a shame, with three great central characters, that the rest of the crew began to feel redundant. It was always going to be difficult to juggle a large cast and unfortunately, some of the more memorable players from the first film begin to feel marginalised. Simon Pegg’s Scotty and Karl Urban’s Bones get some great moments but I had to feel for both John Cho’s Sulu and more so for Anton Yelchin’s Chekov, who feel like bit-players in the movie rather than proper members of the crew and cast.
Any sequel is always going to bring those comparisons with the first movie and I’m glad that I have taken a bit of time between watching the movie and reviewing it. Coming out of the cinema, I was excited and of the opinion that this film was as good, or even better, than the first. Now I look back on it, that’s not the case. It definitely manages to continue to bring the quality, action and excitement of the first. The story is great, the pace never lets up and I was never bored or feeling tired of the two-hour plus runtime. It lacked the “wow” element of the first film though.
I was like many others after the first film, hugely excited as I left the cinema, shocked, surprised but really excited about what I’d seen. The first Star Trek shocked many people but now we expect that level and although Abrams doesn’t disappoint, giving us a fantastic Star Trek movie, it never excels on the first. It’s as good as the first movie but lacks any new punch or different aspect that moves it apart from the first movie.
Overall, I loved Star Trek into Darkness. It’s a great example of how to do a sequel, building on the great base the first movie gave us with a much better developed story, great character development and a brand new, much better villain. Some characters are left at the wayside as the focus shifts to Kirk, Spock and Cumberbatch’s villain and it never matches the excitement I felt for the first but it’s still one of the best movies I’ve watched this year.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)