When I was a kid, I used to save up my pocket money and buy myself a copy of Sky And Space magazine every few months, but not for the articles. I wanted space porn. Images of nebulas, galaxies, stars and meteor showers to stick up on my wall. I envied the Hubble Telescope for what it saw, and dreamt of seeing it for myself one day. For his sequel to Star Trek, JJ Abrams has done nothing short take every space image I ever coveted, and use them to paint a picture of magnificent beauty called Star Trek Into Darkness: the best looking sci-fi movie of our time.
Spoiler Warning: We tried to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, but you can't review a movie without giving one or two things away. We have left out a detailed plot summary and included only necessary details, but still, if you don't want the movie spoiled for you why are you reading this in the first place?
Spoiler Free Review: It's amazing, go see it.
In a way, Star Trek Into Darkness takes the effects, scenes and action from the 2009 Star Trek and doubles-down to make it incredible. There's a space battle, shuttle missions, big explosions, people being vented into space. There's even a part where Captain Kirk gets into a spacesuit and ejects himself into open space between two ships, known in the film as "space-jumping". The action tropes are the same, but the visual effects crew have squeezed everything they can out of the frame to make it a simply incredible watch.
Space-jumps now have crazy mid-space debris dodging sequences, space battles are now set against beautiful planetary backdrops, ships look fierce and menacing, shuttles are high-tech and elegant and your favourite characters are back and more approachable than ever.
Into Darkness also doubles-down on the amount of future tech we get to look at, in ships and on Earth. London is a bustling, metallic metropolis in the far-flung future, while the Starfleet Academy set against the backdrop of San Francisco is a glowing, futuristic jewel of a city bathed in gold light. Every screen you see is transparent and features glowing blue light, while everything from cars to beds hover effortlessly. It's all beautiful to look at.
I'd go as far to say that Star Trek Into Darkness is the best looking sci-fi of our time.
That's a pretty big call, especially seeing as how it has to compete against the likes of Avatar, Sunshine, The Matrix Trilogy and the slightly-before-our-time epic, Blade Runner, but I'm standing by it. It's awesome. It both looks and sounds amazing, and you really will be blown away by it whether you see it in 3D or 2D.
The visuals of Into Darkness are stunning for anyone who loves a brilliant space battle or five, but where it loses me somewhat is in the details of the plot and how it treats the audience.
It's not a completely unbelievable story, to be honest: an agent of Starfleet goes rogue in the hopes of exposing a greater plot, gets hunted by our protagonists and all of the Star Trekking ensues. Where it lets you down is in the stakes. It toys with your emotions needlessly.
I won't give anything away, but it's like the whole movie sets up life or death scenarios for our protagonists that they have no hope of fighting their way out of, until the light suddenly clicks with one of the other characters who can instantly fix the problem. That means the stakes you were biting the back of your hand over due to stress just don't matter in the end. It's like the world's longest episode of House M.D, but in space.
This is kind of a spoiler, here, but take the crashing of the Enterprise back into the Earth's atmosphere as an example. The crew resigns itself to the fact that they're all going to die. Welp. Not to worry though, someone wanders into the reactor core and literally gives it a kick to make it work again, and the Enterprise is all hunky dory. That leads to a much more frustrating episode of 'let's turn your emotions into a piniata', but not one that I'll spoil for you here. FOr the hardcore Trekkies, keep watching that moment for a nice little homage to another Star Trek film.
I'd love a universe where the actions have consequences That being said, Into Darkness raises a really important point about combat strategies and the ethical implications of pursuing terrorists. How far is too far to catch a baddie?
Star Trek Into Darkness really is one of the best looking sci-fi movies of our time. It's more spectacular, more beautiful, more action-packed than just about anything I have seen in recent memory. It was always going to be difficult to follow-up the perfectly rebooted universe of Star Trek with a sequel, but JJ Abrams has raised the table stakes once again for every director looking to make a decent sci-fi.