Thursday, May 23, 2013

Theatrical Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

Date: May 20, 2013
Location: Clearview Cinema (Rockaway, NJ)
Time: 3:30PM
Party: 4 (mom, sister, and aunt)

Director: J.J. Abrams
Genre: Sci-Fi

Captain James T. Kirk- Chris Pine
Mr. Spock- Zachary Quinto
John Harrison- Benedict Cumberbatch
Uhura- Zoe Saldana
Dr. Bones- Karl Urban
Sulu- John Cho
Scotty- Simon Pegg
Carol- Alice Eve
Chekhov- Anton Yechlin
Admiral Christopher Pike- Bruce Greenwood

[Personal Experience]

Just to give a little background on my experience with Star Trek:

The short version: 

The long version: 
I knew of a few key characters and actors from the original series either through allusions on TV, spoof films and whatnot before seeing the previous installment of this series.
If you want to get technical, I saw it three times. 

The first time, I think I fell asleep or zoned out after the first 30-60 minutes.

The second time, we started the movie and for some godly reason, I decided we would go out kayaking in the lagoon off our shorehouse and leave the movie running so I ended up missing a huge chunk in the middle.

Again, I cannot fathom what the hell was wrong with me, why I decided to go and do that. Maybe a week before this movie came out, I finally got around to seeing it again.
Literally 90% of it felt like it was brand new, I didn't remember anything between the scene where Kirk is at a tribunal because he "cheated" to beat Spock's simulation and the scene where Kirk returns with Scotty to rejoin StarFleet.

But I already warmed up to the characters quite a bit and experiencing all of that stuff, apparently, for the first time was mind-blowing. It was just SO cool. 
All the more proof that Star Wars fans and Trekkies can exist as one-in-the-same. The same thing holds true for Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, both franchises were launched at the same time with the intention of there being a rivalry. 
And there will come a point, I'm sure, where I will watch some original Trek... 
I wouldn't be me, who has this compulsiveness to try out everything, whether its in a given genre or an actor's repetorie, if I didn't. I thrive on this stuff as a movie fan.

[Coming Attractions]

Aside from the four of us, there were maybe 7 other people in this HUGE theater. Probably the biggest theater I'd been to since I saw "The Words" last November.
But with something as gigantic as Star Trek, between the movies themselves and the phenomenon with the fans, it was a fitting setting.
I opted out of seeing it in 3D and after the fact I don't regret it. The intensity on top of the extra dimension might have been too extreme for my tastes.

Three trailers followed:
Despicable Me 2 looks absolutely hilarious. Loved the first one and we'll likely see this one too.

Then the other two trailers had us scratching our heads, just asking "why?" Why does Hollywood have this urge to release all of these dramatic, futuristic, apocalyptic films this year? 

"Elysium" and "World War Z" are in the same conversation as "After Earth," "White House Down" and "Olympus has Fallen"... 

Just why? 


As was the case with the previous Star Trek film, "Into Darkness" had a little bit of everything for everyone. The action scenes, whether it's blowing stuff up or exhaustive chases (the latter we actually open up with), pound in our bodies like excessive amounts of adrenaline. While some were exhilarating, others were actually blinding, whether the lights were too bright or there was too much for your brain to keep track of.

Afterwards, my mom kept saying how some of the action scenes proved to be overstimulating in that regard.
Kinda brings back memories of our experience with "The Hobbit," but for different reasons.

With maybe two exceptions, I use "exhilarating" to describe the action sequences.

The writing was excellent, engaging and even if you knew very little about Star Trek (as I do), you were able to keep up most of the time.
For me, the comedy element really made the movie. Even when certain lines were funny funny or they were funny in an ironic sort of way, I enjoyed the banter. When it comes to Kirk and Spock, it doesn't get any better than that.

A Word about the Cast
It was great seeing all of the different actors back in their respected roles and even nicer to see their chemistry remained intact, despite it being a long time since the previous film.

-Chris Pine, as always, is great... and just the other day, I learned from him in an interview with Ellen that his fans call themselves "Pine-Nuts"... totally love that. 
Plus it sounds a lot better than being of "Cumberbitch"... maybe it's a British thing because the actor's British, but it doesn't grab me quite the same way.

-Loved Zachary Quinto since his anti-"Hero[es]" days and again, he plays a great Spock (Trekkies, feel free to berate me for that later, but I have yet to officially have the pleasure of vintage Leonard Nimoy Spock).

-Simon Pegg, Anthon Yelchin and Karl Urban help bring some comedic relief to their respective roles as Scotty, Chekhov and Bones, whether they meant to be funny or not.
-John Cho and Zoe Saldana, more props to them for furthering their respective roles as Sulu and Uhura

-newcomer Alice Eve, who I hadn't seen since the Jay Baruchel chick-flick "she's out of my league," is Carol, a new member on the U.S.S. Enterprise, but right away, one gets the feeling that there's more to her than meets the eye.

Now Back to the Plot... After a botched mission-- not only because the Fleet did more than "observe" on their assignment on another planet, but they were seen by the natives who are so primitive they'd only just invented the wheel-- Kirk loses his Captain status and Spock is reassigned to another Fleet.

Right away, things look very grim and while we all know Kirk is destined to be Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, we're worried about how he'll make it up to the higher-ups of the organization. 
Continuing to be the father-figure he is, Pike invites Kirk to be his first commander on the Enterpise, a position he easily accepts.

Meanwhile in another location, we see another scene unfolding. A little girl is severely ill and her parents are worried for her. Her father has a conversation with Benedict Cumberbatch, who we know to be our villain. In this exchange, he gets a cure for her daughter, leaving us to wonder what his end of the bargain was.
Supposedly, as a member of Star Fleet, his end of the baragin was to blow up one of the organization's HQ, taking his own life in the process.

Our villain, John Harrison, is pinpointed right away by the rest of the organization, labeled as a rogue within Star Fleet. In a meeting of the highest officals and their first commanders (Kirk and Spock among others), they decide how to process.
Right along with Kirk, as a fan of TV shows and movies involving detective work (Castle, Psych and multiple incarnations of Sherlock Holmes), we start to wonder what his motive is, how the pieces fit together and what his next move is. 
Before anyone in the meeting can blink, they're under attack by the man himself... and we lose one of our principal characters. By process of elimination, it's pretty easy to figure out who because one way or another, Kirk is back in charge of the U.S.S. Enterprise and Spock accepts his invitation to return as his first commander.

Sooner or later, the true identity of John Harrision is revealed... 
It'd been a while since I'd made such a huge gasp at the movies and it made perfect sense.
I'd go and say that you don't necessarily have to be a Trekkie to know of this particular character in the Star Trek franchise... 
Logistically, it made perfect sense, but I couldn't help but wonder why none of the trailers even mentioned his name. You'd think that would be a HUGE selling point.

Our villain escapes to the one place he believes no one from Star Fleet would dare follow... the planet Kronos, which is deep in Clingon territory.
I'd merely heard of Clingons, but never saw one. They're a lot more humanoid than I would have guessed, but heavily tattooed. 
Even with Uhura serving as the interpreter, the Clingons are not happy to see Star Fleet in their territory... and wouldn't you know, their butts get saved by the very guy they're out to destroy? 

Kirk does the honorable thing (after failing miserably to beat the crap out of him for his previous deadly tirade) and takes him prisoner rather than kill him as dictated by his orders. 
In essence, he surrendered because Sulu (appointed Captain by Kirk while he, Spock and Uhura took a vessel to Kronos) said he had 72 proton torpodes pointed at his head.

I'll leave it to the movie to explain the details regarding the villain's back story and motive. For the most part, the dialogue explains things really well in that department.
But it's important to not that our villain isn't your average human.

I will say that the movie gave me reason to revisit Cumberbatch's series "Sherlock" because I found his performance oddly compelling in a way I couldn't quite explain. It could be the British accent, but it could also be the fact he has this tremendous air about him you can't help but respect.
I think only saw 2-3 minutes of their take on "A Scandal in Bohemia" with Irene Adler and shut the door on it because it didn't fall in line with how I perceived the characters in Guy Ritchie's version.
The only unfortunate thing is that through and through, Cumberbatch is the bad guy and no matter how much you want to, you can't trust him. 

Whether the third act of the film is perceived as a "new take/reimagining" or paying homage, Trekkies will recognize the plot from one of the "Star Trek" films. 
I only recognized the reference because it was another moment on Nostalgia Critic's top 11 "saddest moments" list... #2 in fact... the death of a significant member of the Star Trek cast that just about everyone, Trekkie or not, has heard of.

Between the dialogue, the visuals and so on, everything about the movie was executed SO well. The only negative I can derive is that the movie felt like it ran 10 minutes too long. Granted, they did finish well and fill all the remaining plot holes (aside from leaving open the possibility, in hindset, of an all-out war against the Clingons, seeing as they trespassed into their territory and all), plus we get to see Spock really take some action, an encounter not to be missed by any means... 
Personally, I was just exhausted by this point :-P

When it comes to big-budget blockbusters, often released in the summer months, theater goers come to expect certain things from movies:

-We want a well-written story with memorable performances. -We expect amazing visual and special effects, particularly ones we hadn't seen before or otherwise wouldn't expect.
-Once we see them, we can't wait to see them again.

The best ones combine some, if not all, of these things. So when we leave at the end of the showing, we're satsfied and immediately jump into hashing it out with everyone you saw the movie with afterwards.
My Trekkie aunt noted how the 3rd act recalled some "Star Trek" history and I agreed that they did it SO well... and we both more or less agreed it ran a little too long.

Grade: A

1 comment:

Arlee Bird said...

I will probably see this when it comes out on DVD if I remember. I'm a lukewarm take it or leave it Star Trek fan.

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