‘Star Trek Into Darkness’: Benedict Cumberbatch Winning Raves
The first reviews of "Star Trek Into Darkness" have emerged upon the film's UK premiere today, and the good news is that it appears that J.J. Abrams and his team have done a bang-up job on following up their much-beloved, game-changing 2009 reboot. Several critics are proclaiming the "Trek" sequel as a solid piece of summer blockbuster entertainment, if not exactly a true classic in either the sci-fi action genre or the long-running "Star Trek" franchise itself.
While Abrams is receiving plenty of notices for his usual whiz-bang showmanship, it's Benedict Cumberbatch, the new kid in the "Star Trek" galaxy, who's getting the lion's share of praise for his performance as the villainous -- and maddeningly mysterious -- John Harrison.
Indeed, Dave Calhoun at Time Out London says that Cumberbatch is so good that he makes the rest of the cast seem better, as he "runs with an imperial theatrical haughtiness rather than trying to bury it" and "succeeds in showing real ice running through his veins and bringing some weight to a cast that generally offers more geniality than gravitas." Mark Adams at Screen Daily was also impressed with the "excellent and often mesmeric" Cumberbatch, with Jordan Hoffman at ScreenCrush saying he's "a terrific villain; cold and calculating with hints of the chaotic sadism bubbling just beneath the surface."
Cumberbatch's current number-one fan, however, is Kate Muir of The Times, who claims that the British actor "boldly goes where no American actor has gone before in this franchise." Sheesh!
Cumberbatch makes for a great villain in what sounds like an at least mostly-great sci-fi action extravaganza. Jordan Hoffman at ScreenCrush says the film "moves, dazzles and delights" and claims that director J.J. Abrams has "solidified his position as a master of propulsive, visceral filmmaking ... Dude knows where to put the camera, when the music should swell, when the characters should zing each another or when they should project pathos to the cheap seats." Mark Adams at Screen Daily is even more enthusiastic, praising Abrams for "delivering a film that will quite simply have audiences desperate for more."
Andrew Pulver of The Guardian says Abrams' oft-parodied trademark visual flourishes are on full display here, with the film "slathered in so much lens flare it looks like a Kylie Minogue video." He also says "the real grit is provided, as ever, by the emotional politics, always 'Star Trek''s strength" that give the film "a palpable air of world-weariness ... it's as if Abrams and his writers concluded they couldn't replicate the cockiness and bounce of the first film, and opted instead to allow their characters to grow up a little."
Perhaps the most enthusiastic review so far comes from Matthew Leyland at Total Film, who calls it "the most thrilling 'Star Trek' since 'First Contact.'" Leyland even prefers it to the 2009 "Trek," which he says was filled with "origin-story, world-building, slightly tortuous parallel-universe-establishing stuff" and that the sequel allows Abrams to "make 'Trek' viable, vibrant and cool again." It might be too much of a good thing, though, as Leland says it's a film that "doesn’t bog down in exposition or sag in the middle" though "at a certain point peril-fatigue starts to creep in, putting the story (like the overtaxed Enterprise) at the risk of burning out." Leyland also praises Chris Pine's performance, saying the actor has "a more likeable, vulnerable, humble take on Kirk" in the sequel.