Thursday, May 30, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Director: J.J. Abrams

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Benedict Cumberbatch, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Peter Weller, Alice Eve

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Beyond the darkness, lies greatness.

Plot: After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again? Of course.

Now that we had gotten the introductions out of the way in STAR TREK (2009), it's nice to see the cast settle into their roles with their next big adventure, and one that tops the previous.  I'm going to keep this spoiler free (I feel like I'm late to the dance having just seen this last night) but I will, without naming names, touch on some points that bugged me.  Let's get the problems out of the way.

I was really digging the direction they were going with Cumberbatch's character.  Abrams & Co. were doing something really neat with someone we all know and love from the Trek universe.  I actually thought that was terrific.  However, the tail end of his business was a bit too much.  The biggest offender for my money was that moment where he screams that one iconic word.  Didn't need that at all.  Now they're just pandering to the audience.  The other big no-no was having so-and-so make an appearance.  I understand that he motivates Spock to do what needs to be done but, again, it felt like pandering.  Didn't need that. There are any number of other ways Spock could have gotten to that same conclusion.

Now the great.  The cast feels like they've got their roles down pat.  Chris Pine impressed me the most. He's fantastic.  He's so good (as is everyone else) in this one that I really hope this cast continues to make TREK movies until the cows come home.  Cumberbatch made for a great villain. He puts the previous one to shame...but then his part was better written and there was much more for him to do.  Peter Weller brought a lot of weight to his character, too.  He's compelling in every scene he's in.  Scotty's character is much more likable and less whinny this time and his alien companion isn't annoying like he was in the first picture.  In fact, the first scene with Scotty and Kirk (the one where they disagree and Scotty does the unthinkable) was brilliant, real and tense.  There were at least three moments like that with characters that really hit home the drama and I loved every one of them.

One thing that felt strange was the amount of swearing.  I don't recall swearing in any of the other TREK pictures which makes this one stand out that much more.  I liked it but it was weird hear 'shit' a couple of times (well used, though) and 'bitch', 'damn', etc.  I thought I heard a 'fuck' once but I quickly dismissed it as something else that was said.  I'll pay more attention the next time.  Michael Giacchino's score is just as wonderful as the last but I came out only remembering the two themes (well, one theme and one motif) that he used in the previous film.  I miss the days of melodic scores with themes you want to hear over and over, long after the movie ends.  Sigh.

There's been a lot of talk that this is more of an action film than it is a TREK film and there is some merit to that.  However, Kirk doesn't 'get' the Enterprise to use for space exploration until the end of the picture and he only gets it after proving that he's worthy.  It reminded me a lot of SKYFALL (2012) and how the end of the picture sets up the next one to be a return to form.  I'm indifferent about whether or not they make the sequel less action-y and more like a talky, exploratory, science-y kind of TREK film.  The film makers are doing a great job so far and if they want to continue with more action and less heady themes then go right ahead.  They've clearly shown they can do it and still respect the TREK universe without leaving the fans of all the previous films and series completely behind in the dust.  They haven't abandoned the canon, they're just going in a new and exciting direction.