Friday, 14 December 2018

Sci-fi drama drags genre into light

MANY of the past decade’s science fiction franchises — from The Matrix trilogy to George Lucas’ execrable Star Wars prequels

MANY of the past decade’s science fiction franchises — from The Matrix trilogy to George Lucas’ execrable Star Wars prequels — have been tarnished by a sense of dour self-importance. So it’s a big hurrah for the latest instalment in JJ Abrams’ reboot of Star Trek which revives the genre with a vital injection of humour, character drama and good old-fashioned action.

Launching with a thrilling pre-credits sequence to rival any James Bond film, Star Trek Into Darkness sustains a breakneck pace filled with memorable stunts and fight sequences. However, compelling performances from the entire cast ensure the constant action never becomes fatiguing. As a result, its 132-minute tale of interplanetary war and betrayal fly by at warp speed.

Proving that the devil gets all the best tunes is British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who positively shines as terrorist and former Starfleet officer John Harrison.

Cumberbatch plays the part with relish, drawing out every syllable of Harrison’s dialogue in his cut-glass accent and showing no hint of emotion as he executes his dastardly plot. His lines occasionally veer into pantomime villain territory, yet he commits himself to the role with such conviction that it’s easily overlooked.

Chris Pine plays a perfectly serviceable Kirk but the real stars of the Enterprise are his supporting cast, most of whom reprise their roles from 2009’s Star Trek.

Zachary Quinto is particularly praiseworthy as half-Vulcan officer Spock, whose inability to feel emotions sets the stage for some of the film’s most memorable exchanges. Whether it’s played for laughs or to explore wider ideas about human nature, Quinto portrays Spock’s dilemma with just the right degree of detached bafflement and understated humour.

As Hibernian chief engineer Scotty, Simon Pegg also lightens the tone in a number of key scenes. His flawless sense of timing and delivery, honed in big-screen comedies like Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz, more than compensate for his entirely unconvincing Scottish accent.

As with Abrams’ first Star Trek film, Into Darkness plays fairly loose with its source material but includes plenty of not-so-subtle nods to its origins. While the director may have felt compelled to include these references for hardcore fans, at times this feels too self-congratulatory and distracts from the action. The script also seems to paint itself into a corner, dispatching its primary villain a little too conveniently for the sake of bringing the story to a close.

Yet despite these weaknesses, Star Trek Into Darkness is a thoroughly enjoyable action romp that — ironically, given the title — drags science fiction into much lighter territory. Plot a course for this one if you can.

Star Trek Into Darkness is showing at the Regal Picturehouse cinema in Henley. Visit or ring 0871 902 5738 for timings and tickets.

Film: Star Trek Into Darkness

Certificate: (12A)

Director: JJ Abrams

Starring: Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Pine, Simon Pegg

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