Chris Pine

Review: “Into Darkness” great, but further twists Star Trek lore

May 16th, 2013 at 11:31 pm by under Entertainment

“Star Trek Into Darkness” may not be as great as the 2009 movie, but director J.J. Abrams continues to prove he knows how to put on an exciting adventure movie.

"Star Trek Into Darkness" poster courtesy Paramount

“Star Trek Into Darkness” poster courtesy Paramount

(My spoiler-free review)

Strengths

“Into Darkness” is a whole new twist on “Star Trek” lore – like it or not, Abram’s franchise is paving its own cinematic history… if you thought the Spock and Uhura relationship was a change in what you know about Star Trek, this new movies takes the rebooted franchise a giant leap forward.  It caters to new and old fans, despite big twists on previous Trek plot/lines of dialogue.  Since I’m not a die hard fan of Star Trek, I was okay with the changes in the 2009 “Star Trek” movie, and these changes don’t bother me either, and although the Trekkie that screened the movie with me enjoyed it too, others may disagree.

“Into Darkness” features many of the most important foundations of an action/adventure you need to impress the modern sci-fi audience: great action, good story, good characters, great effects (actually top notch effects), great sets, good flow (cliffhanger, cliffhanger, cliffhanger) and great technology… and of course, a great villain.

The Starfleet cast new and old: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban,
Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Peter Weller, and Alice Eve all work well together with good chemistry…. but its how the mysterious character of “John Harrison”, played superbly by Benedict Cumberbatch captivates the audience as a cold and calculating terrorist and one man wrecking crew – the kind of bad guy that the Enterprise crew has never seen before.

But “Into Darkness” is missing one of the foundations of great sci-fi… more on that in a second.

It didn’t feel like 2 hours and 12 minutes long, even when you think the movie is coming to an end … there was another climatic scene.  The movie also looked great, excellent production values and special effects, including great looking tracking shots – bringing us through environment into character close-ups.

“Into Darkness” is also filled with lots of witty and comedic moments, including lots of Kirk’s jokes about Spock, Kirk telling Bones “enough with the metaphors”, and moments like Scotty calling Kirk “James Tiberius perfect hair”.  But its not all fun and games, its a growing up movie for Pine’s Kirk – learning humility with leadership, his command crew is in turmoil, and learning to earn the title of Starfleet captain.

Weaknesses

The one foundation of a good sci-fi movie missing here: being smarter than the audience.   Many plot points were predictable based on previous Star Trek and sci-fi movies before it.  The first one – “Star Trek” (2009) – was so fresh, so different, with things we hadn’t seen before.  But this second one borrowed so much from previous Star Trek movies plus visually from Star Wars and the Avengers it’s hard to like it as much as the first.

Some “chase”/”running” sequences in this one go on way too long, there a few over-the-top moments, and definitely one-too-many nods to the original series.  Its okay to be connected to the past incarnations of Star Trek, but the new movie also needs to step out on its own, like the first one did.

The first two thirds the movie are very gripping, very strong, very solid, but the last third of the movie seems to unravel a bit – taking too long on some scenes and moving too quickly and others… keeping it from being one of the best sci-fi movies.

Other points of interest

The 3-D does add some to the depth of space and CGI locations, but not a must for total enjoyment.

The movie ends with: “…5 year mission, to seek out new life, and new civilizations”, leading forward to at least one more movie, which has already been announced.

The screening I attended did not have any extra scenes in the credits.

THE BOTTOM LINE: (more…)


Review: ‘Star Trek’ is… impressive

May 7th, 2009 at 8:55 pm by under Entertainment

“Star Trek” is a flawless reboot of a dying franchise, the young enterprise crew is impressive.

Of course, I have to be upfront and honest about two things: I am a “Star Wars” fan… and while I haven’t seen a new Star Trek movie since 1991′s “The Undiscovered Country”, I did see dozens of episodes from the original series from 1966-1969, the animated series, and a majority of episodes from “The Next Generation” (1987-1994).
"Star Trek" poster courtesy Paramount Pictures

Here’s the thing: you don’t have to be a “Star Trek” fan to like this movie, because J.J. Abrams delivers a sci-fi action movie that Trekkies will love and even Star Wars fans can respect.

I’m not going to spoil the plot of the movie for you, but this movie does what other re-boots or spin-offs or backstories 0r prequels have tried and failed: it makes minor changes and directly or indirectly addresses them and it embraces what worked in the past.

All the science fiction fantasy and adventure of space is there, the tension between the good guys and bad guys, the witty barbs between Kirk and Spock, and the classic lines from Dr. McCoy and Scotty.

But here’s what this movie has that the all the “Star Trek” movies, except “The Wrath of Khan” (1982), didn’t have: an injection of youth, vigor, intensity, epic scale, genuine comic relief, a believeable out-of-this-world feeling, and real action and suspense.

“Star Trek”‘s cast features a talented group of household names and up-and-coming actors that quickly fill out this new universe: from Chris Pine who is solid as the younger  James T. Kirk, to Zachary Quinto (Sylar from NBC’s “Heroes”) who seems born to play Spock like Leonard Nimoy before him, to Eric Bana who turns in a solid turn as the villian, Romulan Capt. Nero.

The special effects, sound, and editing are great and all worthy of Oscar considerations.  The cinematography, costumes, makeup and art direction aren’t bad either.

There are some nice touches like Kirk flirting with a green-skinned alien woman, an actor from the old series and movies has a part in this movie, the traditional opening line “Space, the final frontier… to boldly go where no man has gone before” appears at the end of the movie, and the continual hints of the traditional music and sound effects.

If that’s not enough, the song “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys is in the soundtrack.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

(more…)