The Times – Star Trek into Darkness Review

This latest Star Trek wavers entertainingly between the silly and the Shakespearean. After a shaky, old-school start, the comedy comes at warp speed. Plus the new supervillain, in the form of England’s Benedict Cumberbatch, boldly goes where no American actor has gone before in this franchise.

Star Trek Into Darkness is the second movie in director J. J. Abrams’s coming trilogy, reviving the original 1966 Gene Roddenberry series with a lightness of touch and a fresh, hard-bodied crew in the form of Chris Pine as Captain James T. Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Mr Spock, Zoe Saldana as Lieutenant Uhura — and the saggier Simon Pegg as Scotty.

This recipe gains thespian meatiness with Cumberbatch as John Harrison, an ex-member of Starfleet who has turned to the very dark side, and comes equipped with Sherlockian intelligence and swashbuckling coats. His voice reverberates deep into the consciousness of those around, convincing even as it speaks evil.

The pre-title scenes raced by at such incomprehensible speed that I thought the projection might be on fast forward, as Kirk and co land incognito on a primitive planet where a volcano is about to erupt on the colourful tribesmen. Spock somehow doctors the volcano into submission, but Kirk is spotted rescuing him in the Starship Enterprise, “violating the Prime Directive” of keeping UFOs unidentified. Trouble ensues for Kirk, but nothing compared with what Harrison has planned.

There will be no spoilers here, but Trekkies will be pleased to know that there are subtitles in part of this film, and that the special effects are both hokey, as well as in explosively slick 3-D. Indeed, there’s a tonal discord here that comes from Abrams juggling nostalgia, jokes and action-adventure.

Suffice to say that each generation is catered for, from those who still want to see Captain Kirk in that unspeakable mustard nylon top, to those who want the latest in portable transwarp beaming devices. The mickey is appropriately taken too: Pegg, with a pantomime Scottish accent, is a riot in every scene, while Pine’s Kirk is teased for being “James Tiberius Perfect Hair”, and Spock looks like he might enter toxic shock after being kissed. Incidentally, the testy bromance between Spock and Kirk is hotting up, and may end in tears.

Aside from Lieutenant Uhura, who is struggling with her half-Vulcan, half-human boyfriend, the laydeez parts are still pretty pathetic: Alice Eve is brought in as a “scientist”, which somehow entails her stripping down within minutes to Gilly Hicks-style underwear. Perhaps by part three, Abrams will have more chicks on the bridge.

For a family film, however, this latest trip on the Starship Enterpriseis a pleasure, and many will find themselves on the side of Cumberbatch’s smiling, beguiling villain, despite the high casualty toll. “I will walk over your cold corpses,” he threatens, and he’s got your full support.