How to revamp a long-running franchise was effectively answered with 2009’s ‘Star Trek’. Directed by J.J. Abrams, it maintained the series’ classic elements whilst wiping the continuity slate clean. This allowed for the long missing sense of danger to return. This sequel continues along this path maximising the opportunity for ongoing thrills. Sure to please Trekkers and casual fans alike, Gene Roddenberry’s creation still marvels.
When an attack on Starfleet and Earth occurs, the crew of the USS Enterprise strive for vengeance. Led by Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) who is assisted by Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto) among others, they face a formidable foe in John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). Determined to destroy everything in his path, Harrison’s evil eyes have the star-ship crew in his sights with the chances of certain death high.
Despite lacking the philosophical depth of the TV series, ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’ admirably succeeds in going full throttle into the realms of block-buster escapism. Any long running series had to adapt to survive with the new Trek the most action-orientated. While it would have been nice had a more original tale been crafted than cherry-picking elements from past adventures, the strong characterisation and pacing is a big plus. Events move briskly with some surprising twists and grand CGI creating a dazzling package.
None of this would work without its fine cast who slip effortlessly into their roles. They are well served by some new-comers such as Cumberbatch who exudes genuine menace as the mysterious anarchist. Pine and Quinto in particular anchor proceedings with enough edge showing how their characters grow into becoming true leaders. Although humour is present, it isn’t used to devalue the plot’s integrity ensuring engagement in what happens despite its fanciful notions.
Just as confident and slick as its forebear, ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’ is a fun ride. Different in tone to the sometimes overly earnest TV show, it brings new energy to a series that should last beyond current audience’s own final frontiers.
Rating out of 10: 8
Graphic novels are almost the film industry equivalent of concept drawings. With action and characters coming to life without the aid of cameras, it helps readers establish settings and personas. This is a big reason why animated books have been readily adapted by cinema recently with the technology catching up with the paper fantasy. ‘Oblivion’ takes its cue from the genre with its page origins transplanting well to the big screen.
In the late 21st century ex-marine commander Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) nears the end of his mission. Tasked with obtaining valuable resources after an alien invasion previously destroyed Earth, he looks forward to going home. With the remaining populace living in cities among the clouds, his existence is shattered when a rouge ship crashes. Its’ inhabitant, Julia (Olga Kurylenko), reveals a life-changing secret placing Jack in mortal danger.
‘Oblivion’ dazzles in its rich CGI. It’s easy seeing where its mega-budget went as the spectacular scenery almost over-whelms the story. This is perhaps where ‘Oblivion’ falters as whilst the special effects are fantastic, its tale is very familiar. Taking its cue from well-worn sci-fi genre staples, it fails to add anything new. Its plot twists are ones keen observers would see a mile-off with the lack of emotional depth creating a cold dis-connect.
Tom Cruise dons his ‘action-hero’ persona once again with ease. He knows the routine by now having starred in a slew of science fiction block-busters. His workman-like performance is agreeable and he shows genuine chemistry with Kurylenko who gives the best performance in her multi-layered role. The spectre of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ looms large in terms of tone which occasionally uncomfortably sits with the requisite explosive action scenes.
Science Fiction fanatics should enjoy ‘Oblivion’ even if it isn’t particularly memorable. More could have been done with the characters although its attempts in transporting the original novel’s animated ideas succeed with its fantastical visuals.
Rating out of 10: 6