For those expecting Star Trek Into Darkness to be a big screen action blockbuster, director J.J. Abrams does not disappoint. From the opening scenes until the credits roll, impressive visuals flash past at break-neck speed accompanied by a suitably grandiose soundtrack. While the performances match the visuals, an over-complicated plot and poor dialogue corral the film into a tangled net of mediocrity.
The opening scene is a good example of the film’s best and worst parts; vivid colours flood the screen as we are introduced to the crew on a foreign planet attempting to save the indigenous population by putting a stop to a catastrophic volcanic eruption. In the ensuing action we are treated to the battle of morality and authority between Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto), which also establishs their strong bond with one another. The scene introduces a lot about the themes in the film but on reflection you wonder why the Enterprise is under water, and why they were stealing a sacred scroll from the natives that instigates the action in the first place. Despite the somewhat confused reasoning behind these set-pieces, they are impressively realised in the film; the shot of the USS Enterprise rising out of the ocean is perhaps impressive enough to merit its inclusion.
Perhaps it is unfair to give the script equal responsibility for jeopardising the film’s final outcome. Though often predictable, the dialogue does deliver a few laugh out loud moments. The sheer scale of the plot, however, necessitates awkward descriptions of the “backstory” in order to explain technology and plot-points. Nonetheless these doesn’t wholly cripple the film’s development and Star Trek Into Darkness hops quite happily along providing plenty of other impressive set-pieces to keep us enthralled.
Perhaps sprint is a more suitable term; the plot’s path is more reminiscent of a soldier avoiding sniper fire, erratically zig-zagging from shocking twist to not-so-shocking twist. It might be that there was just too much that Abrams wanted to fit in, and this affects anticipation or understanding of the developing plot: the Enterprise crew and their “familial” relationships with another; the “freedom fighter versus terrorist” debates and storylines; the grand discussions of how power corrupts. Including such a host of serious issues so very briefly makes it difficult for the audience to respond to even one such debate fully.
Scenes outwith the mission’s parameters lack a sense of reality and when we join the characters in the bar or the bedroom, for example, a sense of artificiality emphasises how uncomfortable the plot and dialogue are when detached from the action-oriented scenes. Amidst the maelstrom of action as we saw in the opening scenes, characters do develop relationships with one another. While these could have become overly reliant on ‘buddy’ gestures Abrams keeps the cheese content low enough so much so that it only becomes mildly annoying towards the end of the film. However, in the final scenes, the exhausting amount of twists and turns leave the audience’s interest behind and I began to wonder whether the film should have finished five minutes earlier.
On a positive note, despite the issues outlined above, Star Trek Into Darkness takes the audience on an entertaining journey through the stars and back, with enough references to older TV and film renditions to satisfy original fans while remaining accessible to new fans of the developing Star Trek world.
Overall, the film was an enjoyable experience but not one that will keep me thinking about it for the next week. I won’t be likely to rush to re-watch it, but I was happy to have spent 127 minutes in the company of the crew of the USS Enterprise.