Thursday, 16 May 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness - Review

Star Trek Into Darkness

Directed by: J.J Abrams
Chris PineZachary QuintoZoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin

Written by: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof

Rating: 6/10

A revenge action thriller.
No, this not the follow-up to the ‘Dead Man Down’ review and I’ve accidently posted it into the wrong area; it’s a concise statement summing up the new Star Trek film. “Into The Darkness” was designed so even neophytes and recent converts could sink their teeth in, but in a bid to attract more of an audience, the film loses out. There’s the throwaway lines and nostalgic hints to older Star Trek films and episodes for the Trekkies and then there’s the tedious overexposition that allows the average movie goer to better understand the plot on top of that. Sadly, while trying to cater to two audiences, it ends up hardly pleasing either. As a regular outing for J.J. Abrams, it’s big, bold and brash. It looks stunning, the action sequences are very well woven together and the set design is next to astounding. But like many films coming out recently, it’s all flash and no spark. It looks great, but it’s certainly going to disappoint – especially after it’s predecessor.

When Abrams first got his hands onto the 2009 “Star Trek”, it was a reboot that breathed life back into the long standing series and allowed it a new lease, with possibly a new following. It was punchy, it had panache and it delivered expertly. It’s safe to say that the successor isn’t on the same level. It’s a visual feast, but at the end of the day – you don’t just want to watch a piece of art. You want it to engage you, battle with you, make you laugh and make you cry – all areas that this film falls short on. Character development pretty much never takes off, and it almost seems like the script is playing it safe.
The plot itself is relatively simple to start out with – John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) attacks Starfleet and sets out to start destroying large chunks of it. Kirk (Chris Pine) sets out to stop him and to return him to justice. He is aided by Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto), Lieutenant Sulu (John Cho), Lieutenant Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Simon Pegg as Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott. Initially, Harrison attacks an archive in London, and the chase begins with a galaxy wide manhunt. Karl Urban as Dr. “Bones” McCoy is criminally underused despite a stellar performance in just a few snappy lines. Harrison looks like he just stepped of a catwalk in London fashion week (Cumberbatch looks simply magnificent) and has many a one-man army moment where his viciousness and ruthlessness shine through. Throughout the entire film is the duality of the relationship between Spock and Kirk – Spock’s humanity is, for lack of a better term, seeping through slowly and Kirk is trying to reign himself in. Despite a touching moment, the emotional ground space needed for the take-off for this development is never given.
It’s a film, in fact, about duality; logic pitted against instinct. Chaos against order, revenge against justice, violence against peace. It’s a film that attempts to grapple with major thematic issues, especially reflecting the idea of terrorism and conspiracy, but it never quite reaches it’s own lofty goals.

The problem with the film, like so many other big blockbusters recently, is a weak script. The visual effects are stunning, if slightly cheesy at times. The acting is sublime; Simon Pegg’s send-up/reimaging of the ‘Scotty’ character is hilarious and widly entertaining. Cumberbatch plays the evil villain with military expert precision (and you will melt in your seat as you listen to his smooth baritone wash over you with every chilling line) and Pine shines again as Kirk. However, not only is the plot full of uncessary twists that literally pile on every five minutes for what appears to be little more than simple shock value to turn it away from a Trekkie plotline and into a major action movie plot, but it’s also full of cheesy one liners as well as overbearing exposition. You know, when an inlaw decides to explain how to do something incredibly simple, like turning on their oven or their T.V. Like that, but much worse. So much worse.
Perhaps the real problem is that he has three very distinct and different writers on board, as well as himself. The film tries to be many things; a lover’s tiff, a revenge thriller, a political statement, a dramatic overture about betrayal, among many others. There’s also far too many Trekkie references that were put in to please the fans of the series – which by the second hour, start to wear thin on the ice. The score, however, is pleasant and iconic, and helps ratchet the tension; it’s the plot that drags this on too far for it to be fun.
The saddening thing about the screenplay is that Roberto Orci worked on scripts like the 2009 “Watchmen”, two outings of the “Transformer” series, the 2009 reboot of “Star Trek”, and “Cowboys and Aliens”. Clearly a writer with a strong history of writing for big budget summer movies – as well as a proven track record in writing for the first film, but with no improvement on the horizon for this outing. Orci’s partner, Alex Kurtzman, also has similar credits, having worked on these films as a co-writer. They also co-created the “Fringe” series with J.J. Abrams, which was a hugely watchable series till the later seasons. The third co-writer, Damon Lindelof, has huge backing having worked with another great J.J. Abrams series, “Lost” – having written over 20 episodes and having worked on “Prometheus” as a writer. With screenplay chops this good, you’d expect something better than the mangling that occurred. This film becomes somewhat of a write-off in the end.
You won’t want your money back, but it will definitely tire you out – plot points and sequences go from “Oh this is cool” to “Oh when will this end?”. Sadly for the old notion that even numbered Trek films are usually great, this film will certainly disappoint.
It’s a film that is just enough to squeak into the summer movie parade, but not enough to stick it’s head out above the parapet.

What The Mr. Thought:
This film definitely does not go where no man has gone before; not even timidly. It retreads familiar territory and generic action movie space, peppered with what appears to be one running in-joke for Trekkies. It’s a film that’s got just enough to keep you entertained, but not enough to blow your socks off.
What The Misses Thought:
Having seen very few Star Trek episodes, and not seeing the previous movie, I went into the cinema with an open mind. The film had me torn into two. The visuals were stunning. The costumes and makeup were perfect. And Benedict don't need to say much about him! It was the story that let the film down - disappointing and empty. 
But you didn't hear it from us,
Mr & Misses

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