Director: JJ Abrams
Many modern day movie franchises are based upon TV shows and characters with a long (and often convoluted) history. In his first Star Trek film, JJ Abrams cleverly had his cake and ate it by including a time travel plot that allowed him to re-boot the Star Trek universe (and rewrite the continuity of the show) without getting rid of everything that came before. In his second film, Abrams finds himself already returning to Star Trek history tying it to a story that tries to reflect real-life concerns.
After an explosion in a Federation archive, it soon becomes apparent that the Earth is under threat from a rogue Federation agent called John Harrison (Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch, who is magnificently shark-like in his villainous role). After Harrison wages an attack on Federation headquarters, he makes it personal for Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) who takes the Enterprise and his crew to bring Harrison down. But as Kirk and Spock (Zachary Quinto) struggle with the ethics of their mission, it soon becomes apparent all is not what it seems.
As ever, this is all very impressive from a technical point of view, with lots of shiny space battles and set-pieces that try and one-up each other as the film goes on. From a story point of view, it’s clearly trying to be both socially relevant (with the parallels to modern day terrorism obvious) while giving Star Trek fans a dose of an idea that will seem very familiar. It never wholly works and feels a bit flat, lacking much of a sense of humor (though some of Spock’s deadpanning provide moments of levity) and relying on the set-pieces which – while impressive – are nothing that we haven’t seen before.
This is fine blockbuster entertainment but – even as it strives to be something – lacks the bite to make it a film that’s truly memorable.