Well I missed a chance to do a review season here didn’t I? In my defence, my new job doesn’t allow much chance for me to do a season without some planning ahead. The work shifts are too all over the place to be able to commit my evenings enough days in a row to watching a whole series of films. I will cover the Star Trek films someday though, likely split into original crew and Next Generation crew films, but I will get to them. Now, Star Trek Into Darkness eh? What’s it like? It’s… like… pretty damn decent. Click the link for the full review!!!
I’m going to try my best to not write up any spoilers for this. I somehow managed to go into this film having only seen what was in the trailers and not reading any concrete spoilers myself. We all saw the rumours though. Was some of it true? Yes it was. Was some of it untrue? Certainly. Has Abrams used a little bit of misdirection? Oh yes. Regardless, I went in not knowing concrete facts and came out enjoying the hell out of the film and getting quite a kick out of the reveals. I suggest you do the same.
In Star Trek Into Darkness, Kirk (Chris Pine) is charged with hunting down a treacherous Starfleet officer who is responsible for the bombing of a Starfleet hall of records in London. He has used a long range transporter to send himself to the Klingon home world of Kronos, which is naturally a bit of a problem. Kirk has been ordered to fly up to the edge of the neutral zone and fire a top secret long range Photon Torpedo equipped with stealthy features at this traitors position and then get the hell out as fast as possible. Kirk decides, with a fair amount of nudging/guilt tripping from Spock (Zachery Quinto) that this man needs to be brought in alive to stand trial. Guess that means landing on a hostile planet and potentially starting a war then. Standard Kirk practice then. So who is this man… why it’s none other than… wait for it… John Harrison. I’m assuming he’s related to Tony Harrison from The Mighty Boosh. Also, he’s played by Benedict Cumberbatch.
So I’m gonna have to admit here that talking about the plot much more than I have will result in spoilers, so lets not do that. Let us discuss the most important thing in the J.J. Abrams Star Trek universe. The special effects! And boy does Into Darkness have a lot of them. I know that it’s the norm these days for the summer blockbusters to be effects heavy but Jesus H Christ does this film have a lot. I swear to God there’s probably 5 shots in the film that don’t have some sort of digital effect going on. If there’s not giant space ships firing lasers then people are firing lasers… well, phasers. If that isn’t happening the scenery is being manipulated to provide that future look and sense of scale Abrams loves so much. And then comes the lens flair. Yes, after catching a hell of a lot of flack for it in the last Star Trek Abrams has listened to absolutely none of the hatred for it and has not only bumped up the lens flair per scene ratio but he’s given that shit depth. See, this Trek is in 3D and man does Abrams play with it. He manages to use depth and perspective well in 3D but he’s added layers of depth by rendering the lens flair and reflections between the actors at many times. This gets very distracting. The 3D is handled well but there’s so much crap littering the screen that it teeters dangerously close to sensory overload.
Cast wise the performances are about as solid as you’re going to expect. The main character focus is on Kirk and Spock admitting to each other that they love each other… no homo. I think ten minutes in we’ve had scenes to establish that both characters have a strong case of the not-gays. But that is essentially what their relationship is about. Kirk admitting to Spock that he violated the Prime Directive (a rule that says no Starfleet officer may reveal themselves to a less than warp capable species) to save his life because he cares so much, whilst Spock just has to admit that Kirk is his friend. Meanwhile Abrams has Scotty (Simon Pegg) spend the majority of the film off the Enterprise, cos he’s funniest when left in a stressful situation. Uhuru (Zoe Saldana) is having relationship issues with Spock because someone has to prove that Spock isn’t gay to the dumb masses. Dr Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) joins the crew so they can reference past Trek films and have her talk all British despite having RoboCop as her Dad. She comes across a hell of a lot like Naomi Watts in Tank Girl actually. Anyway, the cast are all doing what they do, shouting, running and being emotional in the face of danger. Special mention should go to RoboCop… I mean Peter Weller as Admiral Marcus for proving yet again that he is a damn good actor when given the chance and is way more than just RoboCop.
So far I sound like I didn’t enjoy this film, which is an unfair assessment. Over it’s 2 hour plus runtime Star Trek Into Darkness manages to be a pretty solidly paced and action filled extravaganza. It sits right alongside the tone and pacing of the previous film. I doubt it’s going to change the mind of any Trek fans that disliked Abrams previous feature but for those that, like me, came out grinning like a Muppet at how fun it was will likely have the same feel with Into Darkness. The film aims for large scale action sequences and big reveals at every chance it gets. Hell, one major reveal come midway through the film suggesting Abrams just wanted to get it out the way early to concentrate on how that shifts the dynamic. Although, it’s a dynamic that’ll only register for Trek fans.
And here-in lies a story based problem. The film is very very concerned with nods and winks. It wants to be a parallel to previous Trek adventures. It even goes as far as to mirror certain scenes. This sometimes pays off. Some of the references are blatant (“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” is said early on) some are subtle (I swear to God the USS Reliant is leaving a dock when we return to the Enterprise when it’s docked in orbit). At a few points though the references are going a little too far. One scene in particular parallels an iconic scene from an older Trek adventure but fails to be done as well. The scene in question is done well enough but it lacks the nuance of performance the original had. To add to this the film’s finale hinges on a character being taken alive when there’s a bunch of other…. I do not know how to finish this sentence without spoilers. Lets just say they didn’t need the guy.
There is a lot of good stuff that I would genuinely love to talk about with this but because I enjoyed going in a little more blind than usual I would rather you did too. The film is more of the same to be fair, but it’s a good more of the same. Abrams is a one trick pony, but he’s a mighty fine pony. Wait, that came out wrong. What he does, he does well and I can’t hate on a film that, whilst flawed in many places, managed to keep me fully engrossed in the spectacle. But now comes a conundrum. What next for Abrams’ Trek? He;s off to make a Star Wars film, which is likely gonna get in the way of making another Trek for a while. Would he even want to make more. The greatest strength of the older Star Trek films was that each one managed to have its own tone and style, yet here we have two very similar films in this new Trek. The films are big budget spectaculars now. Would they even dare to make a Star Trek that has a more sedate pace? Would it draw the same money. Is there a director who could provide a more intelligently focused Star Trek story whilst still keeping the bosses at Paramount happy with the amount of money it would bring in? Don’t say Chris Nolan. Up yours if you said Chris Nolan. Would the new fans reject such a film because they want their Star Trek to be action packed and cool now? You can’t keep churning out big dumb action flicks with this license without losing what made trek great to begin with. Kirk and his crew are in an unwinnable it seems. Question is, will the next director believe in unwinnable situations?