At the request of Paramount Pictures and the film’s publicists we’re not going to reveal any of the surprises and treats packed into J.J. Abrams’ sequel to his own 2009 hit Star Trek reboot.
We can say that Star Trek Into Darkness centres around Starfleet officer turned terrorist John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) whose plotting threatens to turn the Federation from its mission of peaceful galactic exploration and on to a war footing.
Enter Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise crew who must be prepared to sacrifice everything if they’re to preserve the Federation’s ideals…
Abrams has beefed up the action since the last instalment, Star Trek Into Darkness is louder, bigger and packs more explosions and bangs than its predecessor.
Yet in the best Trek traditions, it remains a film about people, their relationships and place in the world.
In interviews Abrams has frequently spoken about wanting to widen the franchise’s appeal, something he did to extraordinary effect with the first film.
And yet, while Into Darkness remains completely accessible, the Roberto Orci/Alex Kurtzman/Damon Lindelof script is packed with little knowing references which will tickle and delight long-term fans.
Stylistically the film also nods back to past adventures, reversioning familiar designs such as Kirk’s Admiral uniform from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
And yet it does all this while never straying from it’s alternative timeline setting – indeed, as it unfolds, the plot makes it even clearer than the 2009 film that this is a different reality.
For heroes to be plausible requires that they confront foes equally as credible, resourceful and well-rounded as themselves. Star Trek Into Darkness provides Kirk & co with such an opponent – Harrison is a man with a deep sense of morality and a genuinely held sense of injustice.
As such, the script offers Cumberbatch the opportunity to transcend the one-dimensional bad guy role which blighted the later Trek films and offer audiences possibly the franchise’s most sympathetic and multi-layered villain to date.
The returning cast remain utterly watchable, deploying familiar traits of the original characters without ever straying into caricature, with Chris Pine (Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (Spock) so assured in their roles that it’s almost possible to forget their legendary forerunners.
Into Darkness is one of the franchise’s most ambitious entries, easily overshadowing the Next Generation movies which, with the exception of First Contact, never felt like more than extended TV episodes.
Not since 1991‘s The Undiscovered Country have fans been served such an enjoyable romp through the Trek universe.
Our verdict: 4/5
Star Trek Into Darkness arrives in cinemas on May 9th.