Saturday, May 18, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness, a Mini Movie Review

Image from Wikipedia
On Friday, we did a rare thing. The Other Half and I not only went to a movie theater, we kept a prearranged "date" with a couple of friends to do so. This almost never happens. Particularly the cinema thing. As much as I love superhero, horror and sci-fi movies, I seem to always procrastinate until the Blu-ray comes out. I mean, even the entire phase one of Marvel Comics' massive movie blitz were all seen on our DLP TV, rather than at the movies. The "always wins" exception to that is any version of Superman, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th (yes, really) and Star Trek.

I've labeled this as a "mini" review for a reason. I've just read the Zaki's Corner review of Star Trek Into Darkness, and his writing simply puts mine to shame. Though I disagree with his C+ grade, I can't deny that he's the superior blogger. So, as Bart Simpson says, "can't win, don't even try." So, I'll just give you a little more surfacy review, and give you Zaki's link at the end.

I'll start with an observation that the commercials and other miscellany that precedes a film these days are a crashing bore. I still love the movie previews, but I'm astonished that the theater chains actually brand these "pre-shows," and act as if they've done you a favor by making you sit through them. But once the Paramount logo whooshes on the screen, and the surprisingly already familiar Star Trek (2009) theme played, I felt a little sense of glee. Also a sense of why did we have to wait FOUR YEARS for a sequel? But I digress.

Into Darkness stars with a pre-credits sequence that puts you right into the action. It's removed from the main storyline, but sets it up well. Chris Pine really evokes William Shatner to me (though maybe not as much as Zachary Quinto's Spock captures Leonard Nimoy), and his ice blue eyes really pop on that big screen. We didn't go to the 3D version, partly due to cost, and partly due to the fact that I have great difficulty seeing 3D movies. But this movie is stunning, even in 2D. We saw it on a digital DLP screen, which maybe helps.

They certainly look the part. Image from USAToday.
I can't get into the storyline much without spoilers. Suffice it to say that there is more than one villain, and their motives are a matter of perspective. If you're a longtime Star Trek fan, you'll pick up on some clues early on, and you may deduce who the main villain "really" is. There are several allusions to past Treks, one in particular. Whether these nods tickle you--or irritate you--will depend upon how meta you like your pop culture. I appreciated it to a point, and then I actually said to my self, "No. Don't say it." And then the character did. Ugh.

But I found that to be one of the only moments I didn't like. The movie is relentless in its pacing, actually making me feel a bit exhausted. In a good way. I remember years ago, the first time I saw Rutger Hauer's The Hitcher. That movie wore me the hell out, and Into Darkness did that, but with a whole lot more whiz-bang. One thing I liked about this movie was its scale. Everything is big. The starship bays. The engineering section of the ship. The cityscape of San Francisco in the 23rd century, which features in a smashing ending. Where Star Trek: The Original Series could feel claustrophobic, and even its planet-scapes felt small, this movie just feels big.

There are several plot complications, and our heroes are in lethal situations many, many times. There are perhaps a few too many familiar tropes they could have left out (especially the trite "dangling by one hand" near-death experience). And though our heroes ultimately prevail--as you knew they would--this Trek has an unusually high body count. Then again, in the previous film, the entire planet of Vulcan was wiped out, so maybe not.

The ending of this film is interesting. I don't think I'm spoiling much to say that at the end, it feels like the crew of the Enterprise is about to actually start their careers, as though it ends at the beginning of a hypothetical new Star Trek series. But, at two movies in to the new adventures, it actually feels kind of weird. Particularly since that's kind of where the previous film left us. So, if you're like Zaki, and found this to be a middling installment, you can actually ignore it, and go into Star Trek III (actually XIII) as though it followed the 2009 film!

I'm not sure if this qualifies as a spoiler alert or not. . .
Some people lament the J.J. Abrams era of Star Trek, decrying its action and flash (and lens flares!) at the expense of character development, and Roddenberry-esque themes. I don't. I still have my hundreds of hours of classic Trek. They didn't go anywhere. I find these new films to be a great addition to what came before, and they've surely breathed new life into a moribund franchise. Now, can they bring us another one before Quinto and Pine are in their forties?

My review: Highly Recommended (B+)

And here is Zaki's Corner's Review

1 comment:

  1. Wow, thanks so much for the kind words, James! Sincerely appreciate it! And while I can't say I was a big fan of this flick, I wouldn't mind re-watching it, so that's something that immediately elevates it above some of the franchise's worst...


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