Star Trek Into Darkness may not beam up the US until 19 May, but the UK gets it on 9 May, meaning that the reviews are starting to roll in. So, will Benedict Cumberbatch’s villainous John Harrison sabotage Starfleet’s chances, or will JJ Abrams boldly take the crew where few sequels have gone before: to critical acclaim. Here’s a sample of what UK critics are saying…
Total Film lead the pack in praise for the high-octane action and faithful feel that made the first film so successful, calling it “Fantastic fun: a two-hours-plus blockbuster that doesn’t bog down in exposition or sag in the middle. There are reversals and rug-pulls galore, most of them executed with whiplash skill.” They do concede, however, that there might be a danger of it being too action-packed. “Trouble is,” they say, “at a certain point peril-fatigue starts to creep in, putting the story (like the overtaxed Enterprise) at the risk of burning out.”
The Guardian follows on from comparisons with the initial reboot, saying that “Abrams maintains the glistening visuals of his earlier film; Into Darkness is slathered in so much lens flare it looks like a Kylie Minogue video. And the flashes of crackling, knowing comedy have been retained, punctuating the shuddering fight scenes and chase sequences that are the very currency of the action blockbuster.” Their overall verdict, however, is that “people are unlikely to charge out of the cinema with quite the same level of glee as they did in 2009; but this is certainly an astute, exhilarating concoction.”
That sentiment of ‘it’s good, but won’t change your life’ is also echoed by Time Out’s review, which states that Star Trek Into Darkness “is a stop-gap tale that’s modest, fun and briefly amusing rather than one that breaks new ground or offers hugely memorable set pieces”, before observing that the script nearly nails its tricky balance of tone: “There are enough gags (Simon Pegg is fun again as Scottie) and wit (the tension between Kirk and Spock is winning) between darker bouts of space fighting and ship-saving to keep the mood airy and unpretentious. Only when we’re treated to a gratuitous, over-the-shoulder underwear shot of Alice Eve as the Enterprise’s new recruit does this breeziness tip into recklessness.”
Last, but certainly not least, of course, is the reaction to Cumberbatch’s long-anticipated turn as a villain. Mostly all reviews are united behind the Sherlock star but Empire’s review encapsulates his performance and appeal nicely.
“Cumberbatch’s Harrison may be dressed for a GQ cover but he is, in essence, a one-man army — watch him waste a garrison of helmeted marauders or take a vicious beating from Kirk with barely a flinch, or brutally batter some Federation flunkies. Yet, as you might expect from an actor who can comfortably portray Sherlock Holmes and Stephen Hawking, Harrison is as cerebral as he is muscular. His overall master plan may share some of the bonkers logic of Silva’s cockamamie Skyfall schemes, but Cumberbatch’s detached quality staves off hokeyness. It is a testament to the power of his performance that, although his early appearances are greeted with the most over-the-top Evil Musical Motifs imaginable, he manages to make Harrison ambiguous and chilling throughout.”
So, all in all, it looks like JJ Abrams has pulled it off yet again. Now, let’s see what he does with Star Wars… May the farce allude him.