Friday, 17 May 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

First of all, I must apologise sincerely. Since we're on exam leave (which is, let's face it, just a holiday) I should have been wasting my vast amounts of spare time watching film upon film, clearing my Sky+ memory as I go. Unfortunately, with my birthday having been last week, my friend Michael's birthday being this week, and an unprecedented number of 'other things to do' in between, I've only managed to fit in a couple of movies so far in the month of May, and with exams on the 20th, 22nd, 27th and 30th, it looks unlikely that I'll get to fit any more in. I can imagine June and July will be even worse, too. Never mind.

The last film I had a look at was Star Trek, JJ Abrams' 2009 contribution to the hugely popular sci-fi saga. I said there that I was watching it in preparation for this sequel that would be coming out later in the month, and which I would definitely be seeing. Well, on the 16th of May, me and my friends Vonnor and Nck decided to treat Michael to a little day off from revision for his birthday. After a lunch at The Filling Station, Star Trek Into Darkness would be the film that we went to see. We stockpiled up on Vimto drinks, Vimto chews and Vimto bonbons at Poundland before paying our way in.

As soon as the Paramount logo, introduced to the wonderful blaring brass of Michael Giacchino's soundtrack, fades away, we are thrown into a very quick-paced, spectacularly large opening sequence, which involves a chase through an alien forest, a volcanic eruption, the lava from that eruption being frozen as it spurts out, and the USS Enterprise rising from the ocean bed as a crowd of Dulux-coated humanoids watch in awe. It is an impressive start, and one that gets Chris Pine's Captain James T Kirk removed as a Starfleet captain for breaching the company's protocol. However, he is rapidly reinstated when a massive-scale terrorist attack against the organisation brings it to its knees. There begins a (surprisingly short) across-the-universe chase to find the man who has claimed responsibility for the disaster, Benedict Cumberbatch's cold, sophisticated and mysterious John Harrison.

Simon Pegg, amongst others associated with the film, have told of the plot's theme of home-grown terrorism, a brand that is often the most devastating as those on the inside often know the places that will hurt most. This message is particularly relevant today, what with the recent Boston marathon bombings and mass shootings in the United States, most of which were carried out by people born or raised in the USA. It's a terrifying prospect, but one that is very real and concerning at the moment. It may seem a bit insensitive to bring up such topics in what is essentially a Hollywood blockbuster from conception, there to make money for the studio and precious little else, but it is a testament to the intellect of JJ Abrams that he should bring up such topics when he is given the opportunity. The problem is never actually solved in the film, a metaphor for the ineffectiveness and futility of any precautions brought in anywhere that attempt to solve this problem for good.

The aforementioned terrorist John Harrison is played awesomely well by Britain's own Benedict Cumberbatch (I'll never get tired of that tremendous name). His Harrison is calculated and menacing, played with a quiet and casual intensity that makes him all the more frightening. Like Hannibal Lecter (and Cumberbatch would make a fantastic Hannibal Lecter), he has his awful plans all worked out beforehand in his head, with almost all eventualities covered, and he carries them out with precision. The well-trodden villain cliche that they are always one step ahead applies here. The moment when his secret is revealed should make a Star Trek fan quiver, and makes the rest of us gasp without fully knowing why.

I know enough about Star Trek to recognise a few of the references to famous earlier moments in the series, and they certainly add an extra layer of poignancy. Although a separate timeline was established in the first movie, there is still an element of familiarity about some plot lines, and it works. With a story of epic scale and a villain who will go up there with the best of them, Star Trek Into Darkness is a very enjoyable sequel which can more than stand its own ground.

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