It is needlessly churlish to not give credit where it’s due. So it must be conceded that JJ Abrams, a blockbuster specialist (my favourite is the ‘smaller’, more folksy Super 8), has been spectacularly successful here with his $185 million budget.
The movie starts at a high pitch of activity, with the crew of the USS Enterprise sorting out ‘trouble at mill’ in some distant galaxy. These opening sequences are vividly coloured, but soon after, when the Enterprise’s captain is killed by the rogue time-traveller Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch), leaving Kirk (Chris Pine) to ascend to the commander’s hot-seat, standard metallic blues and greys dominate the palette. Excepting, of course, for the crew’s camp uniforms which, along with the stagey dialogue, exhibit a pleasing fidelity to the original TV show’s cultish kitsch. From this point the story resembles nothing so much as an old-fashioned western, as the posse ventures into forbidding badlands on the trail of the bad guy. As in so many CGI extravaganzas, for long stretches I found myself staring at the screen with glazed eyes, waiting for the rumble to end and the next plot point to be inserted. The effects are extraordinary, especially in 3D, but if you are not one to be gob-smacked by pyrotechnics, no matter how good, then you’ll struggle to see it through. By far the more interesting – or at least entertaining – scenes are those that highlight the relationships between the many quirky characters. Simon Pegg is foolishly miscast as Scotty, but Zachary Quinto is fab as the young Spock. Pine imperceptibly grows into the part of the blue-eyed, all-American hero and Cumberbatch, sounding like he’s channelling Alan Rickman, is deliciously over the top in his villainy. The smash-up climax, the most awesome feat of cinematic SFX that this viewer has seen, is a chilling throwback to 9/11 and the concluding oratory, reminding us that in fighting evil we risk falling into our own darkness, is a salient warning of the devil hidden in our piety.