Even if, like me, you weren’t a fan of the Star Trek universe, or were mostly unfamiliar with its 40-year-old legacy, you’d have to admit that JJ Abrams’ 2009 reboot was a fresh and accessible stand-alone sci-fi adventure. The sequel, Star Trek: Into Darkness, directed again by Abrams, is cut from the same cloth. So although there are plenty of in-jokes and references aimed at fanboys of the original films and TV series, the new outing is funny and thrilling and comes with a plot basic enough for franchise virgins to enjoy.
Into Darkness opens with a visually stunning chase through a blood-red forest, with Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Bones (Karl Urban) being pursued by spear-throwing aliens, while Spock (Zachary Quinto) lies stranded in an erupting volcano. It’s a great start, and the pace seldom drops from this point on. But the real story involves Kirk leading the Enterprise crew in an intergalactic manhunt for mysterious new villain John Harrison (a chilling Benedict Cumberbatch) after he makes a devastating attack on Starfleet.
Expectedly there are some thrilling set-pieces and big explosions, but the film is engaging as much for the squabbling bromance between Kirk and Spock. Abrams knows that a good blockbuster isn’t just about spectacle, but also about characters, and he confronts his protagonists with difficult questions about loyalty and death.
I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Star Trek: Into Darkness. If you’re willing to suspend disbelief, and even embrace the illogical, you’ll be rewarded with a film that doesn’t bore you even for a minute.