Star Trek Into Darkness

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The Master
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Star Trek Into Darkness

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Like the generally well received Star Trek reboot, series fans will notice that the philosophical heart Gene Roddenberry infused into his creation has mostly vanished with Into Darkness. It seems clear that the goal was to take the action element of the first film that was well received and give us more...lots more...of the same.

The good news is that this formula works. Into Darkness is exciting, visually spectacular, and infused with enough humor and banter between characters to keep thinks lively and fun. The plot meanders a bit with obvious cues from modern terrorism and government corruption that have been better explored on the various television series, but overall its a solid story. In the absolute worst kept secret in movie making this year (which is why I'm not spoiler tagging it), Khan makes his return to Trek as the villain. Serious fans will note that the take here plays off the original series more than the movie Khan, which makes sense because the movie storyline cannot exist without the original series encounter.

For only their second film together the cast has managed to develop a very good rapport. The focus is definitely on Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quito) with both actors turning in respectably convincing performances that both honor and expand on the characters we all know so well. Pine's Kirk is significantly more rebellious than classic Kirk, but this time out there is far less of the "frat boy" cockiness that overwhelmed the character in the first movie. This leaves Kirk more broadly likeable and sympathetic even if Pine isn't exactly the best actor in the cast. Quinto's Spock is more willing to embrace his human-side emotions than classic Spock, and its nice to see that the destruction of Vulcan had a true and lasting impact on him. These aspects come together in the growth of their friendship in a plot meaningful manner. I also enjoyed Kirk's side relationship with Christopher Pike, which was well played and emotional.

Uhura gets a more significant role over the first film. The character is better balanced, with some of the time spent on her relationship with Spock (she is perhaps a bit too much the whiny/weepy girlfriend) and the more successful portion with her as a professional Starfleet officer showing why she is an asset to the crew. I was glad to see her get a better role this time, because in the first movie I felt she was used primarily as meaningless eye candy.

The rest of the cast fall into more clearly supporting roles. Simon Pegg's take on Scotty is always fun and he gets the best of it here. He disappears for a while, but has a fair amount of well-played screen time later in the film at a plot critical juncture. Bones mostly spouts off one liner metaphor jokes and does almost nothing else. While the lines are very funny and deftly delivered, it's a serious waste of Karl Urban's talent. Sulu's part is quite small, but he makes a significant step in his character development that series fans will appreciate. Checkov spends most of his time offscreen running about and being relatively useless. Anton Yelchin would be well advised to work on a toned down Russian accent because what he is doing now is so thick its like a bad spy movie parody and is quite distracting. It also doesn't feel genuine that a prodigy genius in the 23rd century would have so much trouble speaking English, harming the suspension of disbelief.

There are numerous inside jokes and references to the original series. The more subtle ones work well, but others land like a lead balloon if only because they don't make much sense given that the Enterprise has not started her 5 year mission where the relevant encounters would happen. Its hard to go into detail here because I don't want to spoil it, but you will know them when they happen.

I saw the 3D version and it was a mixed bag. The exteriors in cities and some of the brightly lit interior shots worked well. There is one extended sequence on a catwalk inside engineering that looked pretty spectacular in 3D, but overall there doesn't seem to have been any effort to film with 3D in mind. The space based stuff mostly lacks enough on screen objects to provide visual separation. Otherwise, like many action movies, fast edits and shifting camera angles makes it hard for the 3D effects to resolve. Its not a total waste to go for the 3D ticket, but a 2D presentation will easily be just as enjoyable.

Despite its flaws, there is no denying that Into Darkness was a fun watch and a great start to the Summer blockbuster season. I give it 4/5 stars.

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Asp Zelazny
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Re: Star Trek Into Darkness

Post by Asp Zelazny »

Impossible to top that review. I also saw the movie in 3D and was favorably impressed. It was the first 3D movie I've seen in the last 10 years or so, and was impressed that the technology has improved beyond the headache-inducing R/B lenses and garish exaggeration of depth. Other than the scene that you mentioned and the asteroid field shots, the 3D effect just created some depth enhancement that felt natural. Very little use of spears-flying-at-you and the other cheezy hypereffects.

Perhaps in this age of increased cynicism, the Roddenberry philosophy is a poor fit; however, it is certainly just as easy to assume that the current ST world-view being revealed in these new movies is just providing insight into what had been going on behind the scenes at Starfleet all along. I mean, people are people (and Klingons are, um, people too) and in a mere 300-400 years are unlikely to have evolved beyond suspicion, double-dealing, politics, reactionary ideologies etc; the Original Series just chose to provide us with inspirational story-lines, leaving the Real-Politik in the background.

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