Star Trek Into Darkness
There was a great Onion headline, after the release of the first JJ Abrams Star Trek film, which said something like Trekkies bash new Star Trek film as Fun and watchable. And it was true, the Lost creators reboot had taken the 50-year-old franchise in a new direction. To start with, everyone was much younger and way better-looking. The new Kirk, Chris Pine, with his bee-stung lips, and gimlet-blue eyes represented a sexier more impetuous captain altogether. And this contributed to a intensified bromance between Kirk and Spock, the excellent Zachary Quinto, expressed in snappy backchat of a kind Star Trek was never famous for. There were also way more explosions and high-speed chase sequences than Trekkies had come to expect. If I wanted to see young attractive people doing exciting things, Id watch sports the Onion had them complaining.
With these new stars in place the scene seemed to be set for a satisfying series of movies. Now for the trek. Disappointingly, this film only offers only another small step in that direction. Instead of a real beginning its only a sequel to the prequel. Instead of the loneliness of space, the final frontier, we get kind of internal affairs drama. Benedict Cumberbatch is a disenchanted Starfleet employee who starts blowing things up, and going round crushing peoples heads between his hands llike soft-boiled eggs. Kirk and the enterprise are sent by Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller, yep, Robocop) to track him down and kill him. This seems very like using a high tech sledgehammer to crack a walnut: sending an entire starship onto the edge of Klingon air space to launch a group of drones (topical) to kill a single individual. Doesnt Starfleet have anyone better qualified for this mission? Were supposed to be explorers says Simon Peggs Scotty – and I sort of agree.
Because the feelings that Start Trek used to evoke, on a good day, were considerations of mans place in the universe, the vastness of space, and so on. The stately pace of the whole business helped up the ante. Kirk couldnt zip back to earth when things got tough. They were always long way from home and the engine core had always just failed. In fact, part of the appeal of Star Trek, to a particular demographic, was the way that it dealt with loneliness. Space travel seemed a lot like being nerd. You spend ages on your own, and when you do meet anyone, theres a pretty high probabilty that you wont understand each other and it will all end in tears. You might as well go back to your dorm and read Watchmen comics or learn Java, or whatever.
What we have here is standard blockbuster fare. There are explosions, fights and unlikely plot devices. And worse still the Starfleet plot makes the action seem almost parochial. These arent people on the edge of the universe making contact with new worlds, theyre just Google employees whove had a nasty row with their boss.
Pine and Quinto are still good. And Cumberbatch makes a decent fist of playing a young and less-intelligent-seeming Alan Rickman. I even enjoyed the shot of Alice Eve in her underwear, in fact for me that was sort of highlight. But I cant help feeling that by treating the franchise in this way Abrams is in danger, not of boldly going where no man has been before, but missing the point.
William Fowler (@notvoodoo)