WARNING – SPOILERS
In the build-up to the release of Star Trek Into Darkness, I’ve been reading the comic book adventures of this new Enterprise crew and there were clues in those of the nature of this fantastic second film from JJ Abrams.
I’ll state again at this point, this review is full of spoilers, so unless you’ve seen it or have an insatiable desire to ruin it for yourself, stop reading.
The comics mostly place the new crew in stories from The Original Series, with twists to make the events fit the dynamic of this Kirk, Spock, Bones, etc. And that’s pretty much what happens in Into Darkness, with brilliant results.
There was a lot of speculation as soon as the second film was announced that it would feature Khan Noonien Singh, the remarkable villain from the original second movie, so despite Benedict Cumberbatch’s character being given the name John Harrison, we all expected there to be a twist. Possibly a Khan-shaped one.
And so it was, with the relevation of his true identity partway through, but this isn’t simply Wrath Of Khan again, because this all takes place long before he would have had a reason to want revenge on Kirk. Indeed, they even team up at one stage, albeit temporarily.
That said, there are plenty of echoes of Wrath Of Khan, including its most famous moments, but brilliantly flipped to have Kirk and Spock on opposite sides of the glass. And, like the first Abrams film, even if none of that has significance for you, it still works on its own merits.
From the Indiana Jones-esque opener to the Godfather III-style meeting room massacre to a chase scene across (the skies of) San Francisco, Into Darkness is full of thrilling moments of great cinema action, but manages to balance them with enough character development to keep it feeling like a Star Trek film, not a generic action flick.
All of the principal cast build on their initial success as the famous old characters, with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto both excellent as the leads, while Karl Urban gets a lot more to do as Bones, including an ‘I’m a doctor, not a…’ scene and a Tribble.
Simon Pegg as Scotty was one of the few that failed to convince me first time out, but he plays a larger role this time out and is excellent both in the humorous moments and the more serious ones (particularly the scene where his resignation is accepted).
One of the things Into Darkness did especially well was to seemingly give away too much in its trailers, only to reveal that it was a sleight of hand, particularly the shots of what looked like the Enterprise falling out of the skies and crashing into San Francisco.
The makers also managed to sneak Leonard Nimoy in for a cameo as the original Spock, offering some sage, if necessarily vague, warnings about Khan’s true motivations to his young counterpart. He can keep popping up in these films as long as possible, as far as I’m concerned, and the same goes for the use of Alexander Courage’s theme at the end.
It’s hard to find any fault with Star Trek Into Darkness, which succeeds as both a thrilling sci-fi action film and a Star Trek story, better than any since Wrath Of Khan. Where the franchise goes from here, with Abrams committed to Star Wars for the near future, remains to be seen, but it’s certainly been brought back to life better than anyone could ever have imagined.