Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

I ventured into darkness the weekend before last - Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013) to be specific.  The darkened room of the local cinema called to me for this one.  Not many can pull that off.  I suspect Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim, Zack Snyder's Superman and Neill Blomkamp's Elysium (three directors we continue to watch) will be the ones to get me out of my home and into the cinema house- well, that and the hot buttered popcorn with extra salt.  That's the place to see these films.

Star Trek: Into Darkness kicked off the summer in style. The film is indubitably the epitome of high flying, high octane summer adventure.  In this, the film is a soaring enterprising success capturing the spirit of all of those great summer films from summers past that I so thoroughly enjoyed with buttered popcorn, candy and soda.

Of course, Star Trek: Into Darkness is not my father's Star Trek: The Original Series (or mine) as the saying goes.  But, of course, having children, mine would be the first to say thank God.  I have no delusions in this nor such an expectation.  ST:TOS was then and this is now. The former will always remain special and the very best science fiction has to offer in my mind, but the latter is now, special in its own right, but for the texting generation.

In stunning fashion, director J. J. Abrams has reinterpreted, reimagined and recreated the spirit of that series in a young, slick, smart, funny, sophisticated new cast of young actors and actresses that feels very much alive breathing much required new life into Gene Rodenberry's lasting and living dream.  As visionary as the great bird of the galaxy once was, Abrams, too, has brought his own sense of imagination and style to an already pre-determined and pre-existing mythology.  Abrams is handcuffed in this as he should be, but he adds muscle and excitement, testosterone and sex appeal to a franchise that seemed nearing extinction to some - not me, but some.

Mind you, Star Trek: Into Darkness is both a reworking of the classic second film Star Trek: The Wrath Of Khan (1982) starring the Original Series cast, yet surprisingly is also original in its alternative approach to the outcomes and underpinnings of that original film and inverting aspects of the always profound relationship between James T. Kirk and Spock.  So Abrams manages a fine tightrope here of being at once original while also reinventing the wheel.  Star Trek: Into Darkness, as such, couldn't be better than this and, for what it is, is exceptional.

The very thing I worried most about going into this film was just how boldly going it would be.  Ultimately, the film is an undeniably fun film and one that I wholeheartedly embrace as the new Star Trek with characters that are (almost) as infinitely appealing and likable as that original cast.

Chris Pine and Karl Urban are spot on amazing.  Zachary Quinto is also stunningly good, but lacks some of that distinct presence offered by my beloved Leonard Nimoy.  I love Simon Pegg as an actor, but my James Doohan never had to be geek funny.  He was science cool all the way.  He was a technician that could kick your ass.  The comparisons aren't entirely fair.  It's just fun.  It's like comparing a 2013 Lotus to the 1970s James Bond model.  Both are exquisite and would have a place in my garage.  Nevertheless, this is the new Star Trek and I love Pegg's approach to the character and his minor touches in making Scotty his own. And of course, James Doohan never had an Ewok-like sidekick either.  Abrams is sure to have fun with that Star Wars franchise.

Still, these are just minor fanboy quibbles by a self-professed fan of Star Trek: The Original Series and, trust me, I do not hold any of it against what is trying to be achieved here for a new era and new generations.  You would have to be unreasonable and potentially out of your mind.  Star Trek, of course, will and should endure and this film is exactly what the franchise required for it to do so with new blood and new energy.  While, it's another interpretation in the journey of the Star Trek legacy, the film is more than that, topical in keeping with the war on terror, fresh and exciting.  It's not just any old reimagining.  Remember Tim Burton's Planet Of The Apes (2001)?  It doesn't always work.  This is something much more successful with its fresh ideas, new twists and execution.  And listen I love Star Trek. I wouldn't be writing about it if I didn't, but I'm not so stubborn that I can't step back and enjoy the ride that is this film.  How could you not enjoy this picture?  In fact, this second Abrams installment easily out performs his Star Trek (2009) reintroduction by sheer force and focus of its story delivered like a red hot cattle prod.  This one simply out pops his debut arrival on the franchise.

Star Trek: Into Darkness takes on terrorism, torture, the behavior of men and political chess between great powers and turns the mirror on our own political past, the affect of decions past and present and the impact on our future.  Star Trek: Into Darkness is a terrific morality play. It will likely be the best one of the summer next to Elysium (2013).  It's everything science fiction should be.

A young boy I know is clamoring for this particular Star Trek to become a television series as it so often has been teased.  Wouldn't that be something special?

Admittedly, I had read much about Star Trek: Into Darkness before seeing the film, so I knew the basic layout going in and I wonder how it would have played for me had I not read those spoilers.  I attended the picture with a friend - a casual, but versed, fan of Star Trek.  He let out an audible gasp, along with a small percentage of others within the theatre when the identity of actor Benedict Cumberbatch (can you believe he is the son of UFO's Wanda Ventham?) was revealed.  Much laughter followed either by those seeing the film a second time or by those like me who couldn't help themselves to read about the film.  While I saw it coming I was just as amused by the reaction of those ignorant of the facts.  One older man in front of me was audibly irked at the reveal and literally shrugged seemingly prepared to exit the theatre as if he had just been violated.

I was in the back row.  It was crowded. Do you know I've never been in the back row before.  Interesting place.  A teenage girl was sleeping and literally snoring next to me.  She woke maybe twice to take a sip of her slurpee.  She showed up midway through the film.  She had to be tired because I don't know how you could sleep through this one.  These teenagers have no stamina for movie crashing/ hopping today.

The film closes with Kirk team reassembled with a refurbished and shiny new U.S. S. Enterprise with Chris Pine reciting those famous lines from the original series about boldly going.  My hope in that final scene was that this crew would take us out at warp speed into the great unknowns and truly deliver us the promise of something surprisingly original. In fact, I read that Abrams wished he had closed his film with that opening Nibiru sequence.  In many respects, that might have worked quite well lightening things up after the dark and heavy heart of the film's overall pulse. Nevertheless, the film is assembled with near perfection and darted with good humor and character interaction throughout.

This film is splendid and as reimaginings go it's a wonderful production, but venturing into a place we've not gone before might be something to see with an incoming new creative team as Abrams relieves himself of Star Trek for Star Wars.  The promise of a new director brings with the picture a new hope and new fears.  I like that.  But listen, anyone who is a fan of The Original Series opened to new possibilities should hardly fear anything. 

I'm not threatened in the least by new Star Trek pictures.  I can't wait for them.  Star Trek: The Original Series will always be my girl, but like Alice Eve, variety is the spice of life and she and this film were welcomed new arrivals.  This trumped the first Abrams picture for me.  So this new Star Trek crew or reinterpretation of the original Star Trek crew couldn't be finer.

What if The Original Series crew finally met the Borg?  That's not only an alternate vision of one franchise but two in Star Trek television and film history combining the best of both worlds, but is that the kind of originality we want?  Ultimately, if the creators continue to put out Star Trek films of this caliber who really cares.  I'm eager to experience the adventures to come.  This group has settled in beautifully and the potential is wide open.

One final point, Abrams felt he may have been overly gratuitous by spotlighting a half naked Alice Eve in space underwear.  But really, in the time honored tradition of Star Trek women dating back to the unabashed Original Series and its handling of all manner of lovely ladies, and following a long line of endless beauties, including Jolene Blalock and Jeri Ryan, would we have it any other way?  Besides, listen, I hardly noticed.

Star Trek: Into Darkness: B+/ A-.


le0pard13 said...

Great to hear your experienced Star Trek perspective on this, SFF. Fine review for this summer blockbuster.

Franco Macabro said...

I was curious to hear your thoughts on this one since I know your such a Trekkie, great to see you loved it. It's like you say, how could you NOT like this one right? It's so entertaining, that you have to enjoy it.

As for the actress showing some skin, who the hell cares, they do that in all manner of films, didn't Uhuru show some skin in the opening sequence for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier? I didn't hear anyone complaining about that one! But whatever, I think it was so silly to have people apologizing for these scenes...it's just a movie people! And plus, it's not like there was actual nudity on this one.

I will admit, the scene is shameless though, and completely unnecessary within the context of the film, but hey, we're talking about an extremely beautiful lady here, I didn't mind!

By the way, is it just me or does that actress look a heck of a lot like Naomi Watts?

Roman J. Martel said...

Gotta say I agree with your take on this one. I ended up having a blast with it. And just like you, I couldn't resist and knew a bit about the film ahead of time.

My greatest fear was that the "darkness" of the title was going to bleed into the film and give us a Chris Nolan dreary view of "Star Trek". I though Abrams had deftly avoided that in the 2009 film, and I didn't want to see it here. Optimism and "Star Trek" go together like chocolate and peanut butter.

In the end, I think he did a great job with this storyline. I like how he combined "Space Seed" and "Wrath of Khan". I like how he kept a bit of humor in the whole film, never dragging us down too hard into the doldrums that seem to affect so many blockbusters.

The only real weak point was the big finale with Kirk. For me and my wife it just didn't have the same impact as the similar scene in "The Wrath of Khan". I think it has to do with the fact that with Spock in WOK we had grown up with the character, had so many adventures with him and now there was a real finality to that scene. In addition Meyer had structured the film in a way to lead us to that type of ending. Abrams film moves so fast that it doesn't seem to have that kind of lead in. And this version of Kirk is someone we've only spent a few hours with.

Of course I've read a lot of mentions about the Kirk finale by many youngin's and they were moved to tears. So what do I know?

Anyway, looking forward to revisiting the film and enjoying it again.

SFF said...

Loved it Michael. Thank you.

Francisco- so right. Why do people complain about a beautiful woman showing a little skin.

It just takes these politically correct nonsense to extremes. She's gorgeous and actually it's relevant within Star Trek, a world populated with Starfleet skirts.

She does look a bit like Naomi. Did you know she has one green eye and one blue eye. Stunningly beautiful.

And finally Roman, like Francisco's thoughts, I really enjoyed your reflections on the film here. It was wonderful to get your thoughts on this one as well.

I love the mind meld of Space Seed and Wrath as well.

And you beat me to the punch, but I too, would agree that those final scenes didn't resonate quite as powerfully as they did in the original because, as you said, we simply didn't have three seasons and years of programming by the likes of Nimoy and Shatner to fall in love in quite the same way.

That Original Series crew is so beloved and this cast, while fantastic and cracker jack in their respective roles, simply hasn't quite earned that affection.

Glad to see the young ones show emotion.

Like you I look forward to seeing this one again. I didn't quite feel that way about the first film and this film makes me want to see them both all over at some point in the future back to back.

All the best guys

Anonymous said...

Lots of plot holes and over-emphasis on action scenes and special effects.