Star Trek Into Darkness

May 21, 2013 by  
Filed under Movies

In 2009, we were treated to another incarnation of the original “Star Trek” cast. After all, after “Nemesis” it was evident that there was no more room for the “Next Generation” cast as it seemed their film arc was all washed up. I still don’t know how that happened as they were a bright, fun cast with an introspective and classy captain. I chalk it up to unimaginative writing and stagnant directing by Jonathan Frakes, who played also played Riker.

The series was rebooted and at the helm was “Lost” creator J.J. Abrams who had done a nice job taking an ensemble cast in that show and putting them in interesting situations while growing them as characters (for the first few seasons, anyway). Abrams was hired as director for the “Star Trek” reboot even though he was admittedly not a big fan of the show. That’s not always a kiss of death, however. In some ways it can help because there’s no fanboy bias that you have to worry about. The result, too, was a smashing success, putting together a great cast of young actors to reinvigorate the roles of the original star ship Enterprise. Although the villain was a bit cartoonish and weak, the main story of Kirk and Spock becoming friends was extremely well done.

Now, four years later, we say hello again to the same cast, and it’s a real pleasure seeing them again. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto have mastered the roles of Kirk and Spock respectively; though they are friendlier, there are still some kinks to work out. When we are first introduced to them this time around, the Enterprise is on an observational mission on a small planet of natives who are about to be wiped out by a volcano. Acting against their Prime Directive, they are seen by the natives and Kirk saves Spock’s life while he is in the active volcano, trying to save the race from extinction. Though it was a noble effort, Kirk is reprimanded by not only his superiors, but also by Spock because saving his life was “illogical”. Kirk is relieved of his captain status, and Spock is reassigned to another Federation ship.

But don’t think that means we’re not going to see them work together. A bomb explodes on Earth wiping out a department in Starfleet, and the culprit is a former officer known as John Harrison who, for unexplained reasons, has gone rogue. Kirk is given First Officer status on the Enterprise and is assigned to accompany Admiral Pike (reprised by Bruce Greenwood). Before their mission is underway, however, they are attacked at Starfleet Command, and Pike is killed by Harrison. Kirk finds out at this point that this terrorist plot is related to a secret that Starfleet is keeping, one that offers a bit of a twist on John Harrison that I won’t reveal–but you will be very familiar with it if you’ve followed any of the “Star Trek” films in your life.

With Pike dead, Kirk resumes his position as captain and reinstates Spock as First Officer. Their mission is also a secret one: to take out John Harrison on the Klingon planet Kronos, in an uninhabited city. The order is given by Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller), and the Enterprise is sent into Kronos. Once on the planet, however, Kirk decides to spare Harrison’s life and capture him rather than kill him. They are greeted unexpectedly by Marcus in another Federation ship, the USS Vengeance, and Marcus insists again that Harrison be killed. Marcus’ daughter, Dr. Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) is on board the Enterprise, and when she learns that Marcus intends to destroy the Enterprise if needbe, she tries to intervene. But all Marcus does is beam her aboard, and Kirk is left in a very precarious situation.

There is a lot more going on in this film than the previous one, obviously. That should always be the case when it comes to sequels. Raise the stakes, make it more interesting, give the characters something more to work with. Abrams and Co. do this as best they can but they are somewhat hampered in this sophomore effort by a sophomoric script, co-written by former “Lost” buddy Damon Lindelof. As in “Prometheus”, Lindelof shows that he cannot seem to handle complexities in character and narrative arc, and some situations are handled more like a Sunday morning comic rather than a feature film. So expect some Deus Ex Machinas, and suspend your disbelief a little bit more than you’re used to, even in a science fiction action film like this.

It especially works against them in the character of Harrison, who is a very convincing villain played exquisitely by Benedict Cumberbatch. There is an open ending which begs for his return and I hope it does happen, because his character felt a bit rushed at times when this character deserves patient and deliberate writing to be a worthy foe for Kirk and the Enterprise.

But it is nice to see the cast again, and actors Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin, and John Cho are appealing supporting actors rounding out the splendid Enterprise crew. The only one that seems to still just “impersonate” his counterpart is Karl Urban who plays Dr. “Bones” McCoy. Every time he speaks he is trying too hard to “sound like” Bones rather than just be Bones. Other than that, the cast works perfectly.

The film delivers big laughs as well as big thrills, and although there are a few too many climaxes in third act that wears you down a bit, the ending is satisfying and it made me want to see where these characters will boldly go next.

I just hope the next script provides an equally interesting story that isn’t littered with plot holes and convenient resolutions.

My rating: :-)

Star Trek

May 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured Content, Movies

Of course we know where this review should begin. It should begin with what “Star Trek” was all about in the first place, right? That this was a re-visioning of a franchise that began over 40 years ago. That this was something that should’ve been left alone. I mean, for God’s sake, what happened in the last three movies under the cast of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”? After “First Contact”, what did we have? Does any real self-respecting Star Trek fan consider “Insurrection” and “Nemesis” a part of the real Star Trek narrative? Can any Star Trek fan call themselves self-respecting?

OK now I’m being unfair. After all, throughout my childhood, it certainly defined a part of who I am now. Spock’s logic, Kirk’s unapologetic attempts at singing “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, and Chekov’s inability to sound out his “V’s”.

But, that aside, so what about this new, *eleventh* movie in the “Star Trek” franchise? We “Star Trek” film buffs know that any odd-numbered film is going to be bad.

Can we call this the eleventh movie though? This is really, in a sense, before the *first* “Star Trek” movie. Not only that, before the actual first “Star Trek” series itself.

But I’m making this more complicated than it needs to be. The real question is, can a person save a franchise after destroying his own? (J.J., yes I am talking to you–“Lost” come to mind?). Well, the answer…my beloved readers…is…

…are you even bating your breath?

OK fine. It’s yes.

A resounding yes.

This is a fun movie. In fact, it’s half-Star Trek as much as it is half-Star Wars. Strange, isn’t it? I wonder if this means we’ve finally bridged the gap between Trekkie and Star Wars fanboy. Who knows? I mean, we’ve not solved world peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but there’s always a start.

The film takes an abridged view of James Tiberius Kirk and the beloved Spock, who have been pitted against each other because of a rogue Romulan (played intensely by Eric Bana, can we expect less?) who has changed the course of time by going back in time, destroying the planet Vulcan, and expecting to continue his wrath against any other Federation planet–one of them, of course, being Earth. Now I know all of this sounds incredibly complicated, but–

Oh, wait–it doesn’t? Sounds pretty simple, actually, right? Well, that’s okay. The screenwriters agree. In fact, forget the weak first two acts, and appreciate where this film really delivers: Act three, and chemistry.

Yes, what I believe no Trekkie can argue with–is the function of the chemistry of our beloved characters of Kirk, Spock, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, “Bones”, and Chekov. All of them are as lively and bursting they were 40 plus years ago. Special nods go out to Chris Pine (James Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (Spock)–their subtle grasp of their characters is unbelievably well done. But we get to know all of their origins, some in subtle scenes of brilliance (i.e. Scotty) and some in hit-you-over-the-head monologues (i.e. Dr. McCoy). But in the end, is that really the most important thing?

After all, this is a film of the summer. Does it deliver? Of course it does! The ghosts of some of the cast may be rolling in their graves–but that’s only because of their selfish giddiness of wanting to bring that character back themselves. No one in the original cast can look at this young, robust cast, and say that there is something missing. In fact, the casting of this film is the very essence of why this film works.

It’s not the photon torpedos. It’s not warp speed. It’s not the Star Trek-isms. It’s exactly why the show worked in the first place, and what Gene Roddenberry wanted you to understand. It’s because, in the face of all the science fiction and nerdiness, there are faces that you want to see time and time again, and you want to revisit them whenever you can. And that warm place you go, when you’re too much of a geek to understand and join real life and real people–there is the USS Enterprise. And they’re all waiting for you to join them. That hasn’t changed. No matter what century you live in.

My rating: :-)