Why Star Trek: Into Darkness is Awesome

KHHHHHHHAAAAAN this sequel live up to its predecessor’s greatness?”

I’ll start this reflection on the (semi) recently released Blu Ray of Star Trek Into Darkness by gently clipping my lightsaber hilt onto my Jedi belt. The essential point I’m making, should my clumsy intro have been too subtle for you, is that I am staunchly entrenched in the Star Wars camp of Sci-fi fandom. Star Trek has always been on the periphery of my view, and despite the odd episode of Next Generation after the Simpsons on BBC2 as a child, I’ve just never been that fussed with the world of Trekkies.

This then, is the reason behind my writing a ‘review’ of Into Darkness some five months after its cinematic release: I didn’t go see it. The same was true of J.J Abrams’ first Trek film and his reboot of the series (released in 2009), and it was a film I finally watched quite some time after its initial release. Much like its predecessor, Into Darkness was a film which I was very impressed by.

I was once again struck by Abrams’ comfort in dealing with the Sci-fi genre, and his ability to deal with the unenviable and troublesome canon that comes when re-treading material so revered by many. The film was visually incredible with some fantastic space battles and fight sequences; however, for me, the stand-out scene came at the beginning of the film as Kirk and Spock attempt to save a primitive planet from its inevitable destruction. This lush and vibrant world burst from the screen, and the moment the Enterprise surged from under the ocean in order to save Spock from an erupting Volcano he’d found his way inside was a genuinely beautiful piece of cinematography (or green screen).

‘Damn I hope that things seaworthy’

Away from its aesthetic appeals, the film also benefits from some top class acting, most notably in the form of Benedict Cumberbatch. If you have somehow managed to survive this long without knowing who Cumberbatch plays, then I’d recommend you stop reading and return to living under your rock (also ignore this articles tagline). His turn as quintessential Trek villain Kahn is a great performance and one which only helps further his already very high stock in the thespian world. If ever you need a man to play an intellectually superior and menacingly cold being, then surely Benedict is your go to guy.

All the expected members of the Enterprise are present and correct here, with the only new addition being crew member Carol Marcus, played by Alice Eve. Her character, while having an important plot twist, is largely forgettable - aside from a much criticised scene involving her being in a state of severe undress. Such voyeurism drew strong criticism from reviewers, however the twelve year old boy within me found the scene completely justified artistically… 

‘I have nothing more to add…’

While the film is undoubtedly an action packed romp from start to finish, where the film really flourishes is in its consistent use of humour. Abrams’ light handed treatment of the dialogue allows for many laugh out loud moments, some of these coming unexpectedly during scenes between Cumberbatch and Chris Pine, and more expectedly during interactions between the aforementioned Enterprise crew. It’s the ability to write, and act, such scenes which endear these new incarnations of  well known characters to the seasoned Trekkies and newbies, such as myself, alike.

I think what impresses me most about both this film, and the one before it, is Abrams’ ability to deal with such a well-known and oft trodden source material. He manages to take characters and we’ve seen portrayed before, but puts a new spin on them. His decision to create an alternate timeline for these new films was a stroke of genius and allows them to exist alongside the original series without constantly having to align them. This is best demonstrated during Into the Darkness by Abrams’ timeline Spock seeking original series Spock (Nimoy) for advice on how to deal with Khan. This is a moment that gives Trekkies a knowing glance back at their heritage, with Nimoy telling Spock that their ability to defeat Khan came ‘at great, great cost’ - a reference to to the death of Nimoy's Spock in Wrath of Khan. We then see this outcome reversed as it is instead Kirk who lays down his life for his crew at the end of this film. The nods to the past don’t end there, however, as we are reintroduced to the long-time nemesis of the Enterprise crew, and humanity alike, the Klingons! Even for a generally green behind the ears Trek viewer such as me this was a big deal, as the mere mention of them (and their eventual reveal) left me excited.

Ultimately, why this film - and its predecessor for that matter - are awesome is that it represents hope for the future of my favourite Sci-fi film series, Star Wars. Abrams’ expert treatment of the Trek universe gives me renewed confidence that he is the man to take the series that best defined my childhood forward. I can fully appreciate why many diehard Trekkies are so disappointed he won’t be helming the next instalment. Hell, Abrams is even stretching his wings in anticipation of directing Episode VII by indulging in Revenge of the Sith style Darth Vader overacting, as Spock screamed his heartfelt ‘KHHHHHHHHAAAAAN’! Can lightning strike twice with J.J repeating his sublime reboot of the Star Trek franchise? I truly hope so, and if Into the Darkness is anything to go by, I won’t be disappointed.

This has been Tomby writing for the Awesome Update.

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