25 May 2013

A Brunch Review: Star Trek: Into Darkness

Star Trek: Into Darkness

Directed by JJ Abrams

Chris Pine...Kirk
Zoe Zaldana...Uhura
Zachary Quinto...Spock
Karl Urban...Bones
Simon Pegg.... Scotty
John Cho...Sulu
Benedict Cumberbacht...Khan

Only the second installment in JJ Abrams' Star Trek reboot and this cast and crew already feel a bit like home. The actors seem relaxed in their roles, the pressure of filling shoes now completely off. Abrams has brought together a group with a lot of chemistry, that can convey a great deal of character at a break-neck (almost Marvel-esque) story telling pace. 

Beyond that, I am not sure what more I can say about the film. Abrams' Trek films are not overly deep. As fast paced as they are, that would be difficult. They are beautiful to look at (I like the lens flare).  They are fun.  They are filled with utterly likable, even  interesting characters (even the villains are people you want more of) engaged in daring do. There are fast ships, running from danger, running into danger,  fascinating (looking) alien worlds. Things blow up. Oh and did I mention that those ships are gorgeous? The story, thin though it is, sufficiently supports the attendant action and implied espionage. There will be some people who demand more than a popcorn movie of their Trek films.  Not me. I don't mind a popcorn film. 

I suppose I could say that Abrams brings an ensemble approach to Trek that I feel has been particularly lacking in other big screen Trek outings. A TV series has time to flesh out its cast, to explore different characters, strange new worlds you could say, that movies often don't have.  Abrams tries to give his cast a lot more to do. Uhura is no longer just relegated to repeating the stuff we just read in the sub-titles to the Captain and Spock.  Scotty and Sulu save the day more than once. That isn't to say that the holy trinity of Kirk, Spock and Bones is diminished. It isn't.  Abrams and his writers just have more for the other characters to do. 

If I have complaints, and I suppose I do, they are these.
1. Khan probably isn't sufficiently explored.  Benedict Cumberbacht, the actor, is easily a match for the suave Ricardo Montalban (though perhaps not in the pecs department-see below).  He is more athletic  to be sure. But his Khan definitely feels a bit more hollow. Sure he has the better fight scenes and the bigger budget but its hard to really feel his anger and resentment. Montalban just oozed rage. Controlled to be sure, hemmed in by a fiery intellect, but, clearly, the man had issues. It seems like Abrams and his screenwriters might have found some of Khan's history fertile narrative ground and given a great actor more to do than spout heavy sounding one-liners. Alas, no. Khan is a cerebral guy, he shouldn't just chew through the scenery. Minus one point.
2. [Spoilers] There is a silly, stupid argument between Uhura, Spock and Kirk the subject of which is the relationship woes of Spock and Uhura. Uhura is annoyed because of Spock's seeming willingness to sacrifice himself for rules and ideals with an almost mathematical coldness, as if the people he will leave behind aren't even a variable in his emotional calculus. She may have a good point. Its not that this scene didn't have a place in the movie, its just that these characters are all too bright, and professional to have that argument at the absolute worst possible moment in the history of ever. Seriously.  Minus one point.

If you like Star Trek go see this movie. 8/10 (or, if you prefer, a fairly enthusiastic thumbs up).

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