Okay, I admit it. I went into “Star Trek Into Darkness” actively wanting to dislike it. After JJ Abrams’ previous soulless entry into Trek lore which presented flashiness, gimmickry and an understanding of little else beyond character names and places, I’d grown to dislike it almost as much as “Star Trek: Nemesis”. Almost. However, “Into Darkness” makes me believe Abrams was telling the truth when he said he wasn’t a Trek fan when he directed the first film but he became one during the making of it.
This time round, the story is tighter, the characters more recognisable and the lens flares are much reduced. The wider implications of the events of the ‘first’ film are fleshed out, lending much-needed credence to why this universe is so different to the one we knew and the nods and winks to established continuity (Praxis! Gorn! Section 31!) are subtle and welcome (unlike the previous film’s crass take on the Kobiyashi Maru). “Into Darkness” plays with the pieces from classic Trek’s finest film and although it flirts with parody, it ultimately pulls of a fresh and exciting homage, cheekily even directly lifting some of the dialogue (however who says what is dished out in unexpected but satisfying ways). It’s also nice to see how London has fared over the next two hundred years. Boris has been busy!
Oh, there are still a few problems such as the ridiculously long and OTT musical crescendo when we first see Benedict Cumberbatch: honestly, they’d have been more subtle with a pipe organ playing dun-dun-duuuuuuh. I also have a real problem believing in a military organisation which hands out and takes away command of starships like they were rental cars and I thought the occasional swearing unnecessary and out of place.
These are just minor quibbles, but the trouble with quibbles is they can overwhelm the good, like they did in the last film. Not this time, though. Whatever else has changed, you can still rely on the even-numbered Star Trek films to be better than their odd-numbered counterparts. It’s a rollicking, action-packed, surprisingly not too Earthbound summer blockbuster and the best Star Trek film since The Undiscovered Country. It looked great in IMAX and the 3D was top notch – first time I’ve ever reflexively blinked because I thought something was going to hit me in the eye. It’s still not the Trek I love, but it’s Trek I like a hell of a lot more now. And, if nothing else, it’s given me a new hope for Star Wars Episode VII.