Imagine this. The once magnificent Enterprise, now worn out and damaged after having had her guts blown out by the sleek, fully armed USS Vengeance, floating calmly in pitch-black space awaiting her doom. One final blow from the Vengeance – now temporarily out of power thanks to it’s stow-away Scotty (Simon Pegg) – and all her passengers will be obliterated.
On the inside, it is everything but calm. The playful Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), now forced to grow up, is prepared to sacrifice himself for the safety of his ship and crew. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, I only know what I can do,” says a very determined Kirk to his first officer Spock (Zachary Quinto), who naturally objects to Kirk’s plans.
As always, the young captain ignores his Vulcan best friend and teams up with his prisoner, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) to go aboard the enemy ship. However, the plan gets waylaid as the Enterprise lacks even the power to beam the pair across, leaving them to attempt a orbital skydive through the debris filled space by “shooting” from the Enterprise to the Vengeance in only a helmet and suit.
With their navigation displays, Kirk and Harrison project towards a tiny door on the side of the combat ship, that will open once Scotty pushes a button. It seems simple enough, but director J.J. Abrams isn’t one who’ll let an action scene like this one be just that. Along the way, disaster strikes when Kirk bumps into a hunk of debris and gets his helmet cracked, rendering his navigation system useless and setting himself way off course.
At the same time, Scotty is discovered by a guard on board the Vengeance and communication with with those aboard his beloved Enterprise ceases. Panic and fear ensues as helmsman Hikaru Sulu (John Cho) counts down the seconds till his Captain and super villain Harrison either collide terribly into the surface of the opposing ship or shoot through the hanger door.
Thrilling the audience and getting blood pumping, this beautifully executed sequence manages to surpass that of Iron Man 3’s amusing “barrel of monkeys” in the sky. Abrams never fails to please with first-class special effects and action scenes as seen when the Vengeance crashes and plows through San Francisco.
However, it’s obvious where JJ Abrams draws his inspirations. In another scene, Kirk, Spock and Uhura are chased by Klingons and narrowly escape by manoeuvring their spacecraft through a horribly small gap between 2 colliding structures.
It brings to mind the asteroid chase in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, if you can imagine Kirk playing the over confident Han Solo and Spock as the ever-calculating C-3PO. The familiar disc shaped ship and the way they escape their assailants is uncanny. Or is that just to confirm that the 46-year-old director’s an apt choice to take on the seventh instalment of the Star Wars franchise due out in 2015?
The newest addition to the charming cast of Star Trek, is Benedict Cumberbatch who plays – contrary to his beloved titular character in the popular BBC series Sherlock – John Harrison, (spoiler alert!) who is in fact the ancient warrior and intergalactic terrorist Khan Noonien Singh. Voted as 1 of the top 10 greatest film villians of all time by the Online Film Critics Society, the iconic baddie does more in the film than in both Space Seed (episode one of the original television series released in 1967) and The Wrath of Khan together. This excites fans, needless to say. But casting a white actor for a role of one surnamed Singh and is suspected to be an Sikh, is a horrid throwback to the dark ages in Hollywood where Asians were portrayed by Caucasians, think Peter Sellers, Jerry Lewis and Sir John Gielgud as any number of unconvincing orientals.
Still, with a superb performance shown by the blue-eyed Briton who mixes magnificence and maleficence with his commanding voice and stately air, he successfully brings Khan back to the silver screen. Though Abrams falls slightly short trying to portray him as the cunning and all evil superhuman he is, Cumberbatch’s rich baritone voice still sends chills down the spine especially when he proclaims that he will “walk over your cold corpses”. It’s even more so when amplified through the cinema’s surround sound speakers. All throughout, Cumberbatch’s assailants seem to always be 1 step behind, bumbling about, while Khan’s a marvelous specimen of a full-on ice-cold, diabolically super nasty miscrent.
Story-wise, the sequel manages to pull off a predictable storyline of terrorism and the enemy within even their elite and noble ranks, by throwing in a few unexpected plot twists. Even the most loyal members of the crew find themselves antagonized by the changing plot. “It seems so military, I thought we were explorers!” exclaims an unsettled Scotty (Simon Pegg) when he realises the Enterprise is loading up with 72 military-grade torpedos to hunt down John Harrison and proceeds to resign.
At the esteemed admiral Pike’s funeral, Kirk quotes the Enterprise’s original mission statement: “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. It’s 5-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
And in hindsight, one will feel that using that statement in closing was cunning of Abrams, and that the film largely (with exception of the splendid first 15 minutes) didn’t “explore strange new worlds” but instead was focused on protecting good ol’ Mother Earth and her inhabitants. Thus placing Star Trek with other cliché superhero films like last year’s The Avengers. Newly explored and revealed in the film, was perhaps immense character growth. (Spoiler alert!) For one, hearing Spock explain to Uhura why he chose not to feel, and then later watching Spock lose control of his emotions to shed tears, left the audience emotional and in awe.
But, if “you can’t even break a rule, how can you be expected to break bones?” Khan asks Spock in a tone frigid enough to take aback the supposedly unfeeling Vulcan. The same can be said about Star Trek: Into Darkness. One can’t expect a fresh story with exciting new characters from the timeless sci-fi series by harping on how the film deviated so far from the original series. By taking risks and pushing the boundaries with Star Trek, by being the first to film using IMAX cameras which were then converted to 3D, audiences and critics alike await Abrams’ next fabulous film.
Release Date: May 16
Runtime: 2 hrs 12 mins
Censorship Rating: PG
Genre: Sci-fi drama / Action
Director: J. J. Abrams
Main Actors: Chris Pine, Zachery Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch