Snippet film review: Star Trek Into Darkness

Despite being shoe-horned into the script, Benedict Cumberbatch‘s rendition of Khan is a performance to savour in Star Trek Into Darkness

I feature the image above because it typifies what J.J. Abrams captures best in his newest trek: impeccable lighting, chic cinematography, sleek mise-en-scene that condenses fifty years of futurist imagery into a single set, and heavy overtones of Kubrick’s seminal science-fiction film rounding out the design. And Cumberbatch stands alone. Giving his all to a thankless and underwritten role, Cumberbatch triumphs as the villain–despite the character being woefully underutilized in a cumbersome and bastardized blow-by-blow of Star Trek II.  It’s a pity then, with nearly half a decade at his disposal, Abrams couldn’t do more with this opportunity than to make a competent action film.

As a standalone action film Star Trek Into Darkness is thrilling, engaging, competently photographed and manufactured to move at a clip pace (if remaining uncomfortably derivative of its 2009 predecessor all the while). As anything other than a guilty pleasure though it’s problematic. Abrams guts the heart and mind out of the Enterprise and her crew to make room for warp chases, laser beams and fisticuffs. Characters and starships alike communicate only in truculent bursts; no small wonder then that the film struggles to amount to anything with all the destruction on screen. Though Abrams has made it quite clear he’s not interested in the ennobling philosophy underpinning Roddenberry‘s vision, by the time he crams in a presumably unintended homage to the climax of Speed one has to wonder where Abrams is boldly trying to go instead. Paramount’s release is notoriously dodgy to boot, with special features spread thin as multiple retailer exclusives.

Read more of my thoughts on this film, especially on the role of Khan in the script, over at my one-shot rant on the film:

And learn more about the situation with Paramount’s Blu-ray release: