Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) dispels the general misconception that Sci-fi is, on the whole, the domain of geeks and teenagers. Here is a thinking man’s blockbuster combining intellect and spectacle, stimulating the mind and eye in equal measure.
Faced with a threat from within their own organisation Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and First Officer Spock (Zachary Quinto), along with the crew of the Starship Enterprise, must stop an enemy hellbent on death and destruction on not just a global, but a cosmic, scale.
Transferring a television show with iconic status successfully to the big screen, is fraught with difficulties. Fans of the original programme may resent the way their beloved characters are manipulated (frequently through necessity) for the different format. Newcomers to the mythos, which can include cast and production crew as well as viewers, on-the-other-hand don’t always understand the true essence or that illusive secret ingredient, which made the show so special. Countless television programmes (often with an ‘otherworldly’ element) have tried the transition with little success, as could be seen when producer Jerry Weintraub’s usual golden touch failed to bring John Steed and his sparing partner Mrs Peel alive in The Avengers (1998).
With this in mind one imagines that it would be a brave (or foolhardy) man who would attempt to transpose a programme of the calibre of Star Trek, to the big screen. After the original hit series it was inevitable that some studio would take up the challenge, which Paramount Pictures did with Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) and several successive sequels. After its last expedition however in Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) under the leadership of Patrick Stewart in the guise of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, it seemed the Starship Enterprise may have been put in permanent dry dock. So it was a surprise when director J. J. Abrams announced he was reviving the series by taking Kirk and co back to the beginning in Star Trek (2009). That film’s success was bound to spawn a followup, though it took lightyears for it to materialise. Now that it has, was it worth the wait?
The answer is definitely yes. In Star Trek Into Darkness Abrams returns to mix old and new with nods to the series starring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, whilst reinterpreting it for a new generation. Pine revisits the role of Kirk, whilst Quinto, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban and Zoe Sladana return as his crew, acting to all intents as Kirk’s ‘surrogate family’ in a narrative which highlights the humanity of even the most unexpected members of the group. Here the characters, including newcomer Alice Eve as feisty auxiliary Science Officer Carol Marcus, show their fallibility by cursing, falling in love and spending their downtime getting drunk in clubs much like any off duty soldier would. Even the film’s villain, John Harrison (brought to life by a characteristically oily Benedict Cumberbatch) has a warped sense of right behind his actions which, whilst not making them forgivable, does give a degree of understanding to his twisted reasoning.
This juxtaposition between the past and future is also reflected in the new world in which the story unfolds, with such iconic landmarks as London’s St Paul’s cathedral and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge dwarfed by gleaming skyscrapers. The depiction of the cities of tomorrow often make you despair with their post-apocalyptic grimness and crime ridden streets. Here however we have a utopia of glass and steel (given depth by 3D) which has embraced and respected the legacy of the past by incorporating it seamlessly with the future, much like the filmmakers have done with the show itself.