Sunday, 12 May 2013

#43 & 44 STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (9.5.13 & 13.5.13)

Hollywood's next golden boy, J.J. Abrams's geek fest starring the same crew as last time plus Benedict Cumberbatch and Eve Alice.

After four years, which is quite a long time for these type of things, J.J. has put the old band back together and returned for another go on the star ship Enterprise. This time it's a relentless chase through the galaxy on the trail of an intergalactic terrorist who's just blown up a library in London and murdered a very important parental figure in Kirk's life. So, kid gloves are off, as Kirk played once again by Chris Pine, is sent on a personal, revenge-fueled, top-secret mission to assassinate the terrorist armed with the latest, super-powerful photon torpedoes deep inside Klingon territory. Except almost no one is who they seem. Cue the following template that the film follows from beginning to end. Run, run, run, punch, punch, punch, chat, chat, chat, zap, zap, zap, run, run, run- repeat, repeat repeat.

This film starts in mid-run and just carries on running, very, very fast. Everyone in this movie runs, at full pelt, as if their very lives depended on it, even when just chatting or having a cup of tea.

There's a sequence where Scotty, played once again by Simon Pegg, runs from one end of a star ship docking bay to the other, only to stop, look at something then run all the way back. "See Scotty run, run, run, run." Then there's the bit where Kirk and Spock run through the Enterprise, "See Kirk Run. See Spock run. Run, run run." Or if you like you can watch Benedict Cumberbatch run. He runs very well, very upright and straight, very British. "Run, 'mysterious character with two names', run. Run, run." Hang on do you like watching the women's 100 meters at the Olympics? Well you get to watch Zoe Salanda and Eve Alice run. "Run Uhuru and Dr. Carol Marcus. Run, run, run." They run everywhere in the future and I don't mean a nice healthy jog. No way, not in this future! It's full-pelt or nothing! Second place is not an option!

So, there's a lot of running in this film. A lot. In fact I'm beginning to realise there's probably as much running in this review as there is in the film, almost if I'm desperately trying to avoid having to say anything bad about this film. Almost as if I'm trying to avoid admitting something. Oh my god, I  hear you say, don't tell me it's no good?

Okay, I won't tell you that. But I will tell you the following. If you've never seen the original Star Trek movies or the original Star Trek TV show then worry not, this is a great fun, fantastically entertaining, if utterly empty, action-packed, slam-blam, thank you mam flick (even if there is a little bit too much running in it.) and it gets a quantifiable...






... if like me you've seen the original Star Trek movies and in particular Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan then this film is a fucking insult, a horrible, offensive, lazy stupid insult. Not right from the start, no sir! It's great fun right off the bat and stays that way for a long time. The story unravels very fast as truths are discovered, characters revealed and agendas exposed. The villain or villains are shadowy and overall I thoroughly enjoyed it. That was right up to the third act, then the film starts to unravel and it becomes a mess.

Why couldn't Abrams just make a new Star Trek movie with, say the Klingons, as the threat? Why did he have to rehash Wrath of Khan? Why, what does it add, what's the point? Also, how does it work in this rebooted Star Trek universe where Khan and Kirk have no shared history because Kirk's not set out yet on his 5-year mission to baldly [sic] go when no man has gone before? It's as stupid as when Hollywood's last golden boy, Bryan Singer revived Superman and once again did a story about Lex Luthor on yet another real-estate con. That said, Cumberbatch makes a bloody good Khan.

There is one telegraphed plot point in this new Trek film that is so lazy it's staggering. It takes place in the med lab where Khan's blood is being annalysed and Kirk says to Bones, "Are you still experimenting with that DEAD Tribble?" The camera cuts to Bones prodding said dead Tribble and preparing to inject it with something. "Yes, I'm going to see if Khan's 'amazing blood' can revive it." Explains Bones as he reads off the major plot point from a large autocute just off camera. Gosh, I wonder whether THAT is going to be significant later on, say if someone important were to DIE.

From here on it gets annoying very fast. With the Enterprise disabled and falling through Earth's atmosphere with no power, it falls to Kirk to save the day by entering the warp core and manually re-alining the core by kicking it, which is the future equivalent of banging the top of your TV to get the picture back. So he gets to make the ultimate sacrifice, behind a glass door where Spock on the other side can do nothing but watch his friend die and shout "KHAN!!!!"

In the original film, Spock's sacrifice is a truly surprising, emotional gut punch. It comes at the end of an impressive battle between two space ships and his death scene is deeply moving. This time, it's just one more cliffhanger to overcome before the next, one more dramatic action beat and nothing more, which devalues Kirk's sacrifice and the memory of Wrath of Khan.

Likewise in the original film, it's Kirk who gets to shout out 'KHAN!' with true emotion and rage, but not at Spock's death but at the utter frustration and impotent rage he feels at his opponent who seems to have won. This time Spock does the shouting, but why does he? It's not really Khan's fault that Kirk is dead. That blame lies with the true villain behind the whole plot and he's already dead. Similarly, isn't Spock a Vulcan and aren't they just emotionless logical beings?

Finally, a modern 21st Century, summer, blockbuster movie can't end like the original with a moving, sombre funeral in space and discussion about sacrifice and friendship, no it has to end with one more running and punching fight. This time in midair cos it's exciting. Except by this point it's not. It's just too much.

I started off enjoying this film and feeling it was a satisfying 8/10, the Tribble took it down to a 7/10. Kirk's death dragged it further down to a 6/10 and Spock's Khan cry sunk it with a 5.

I watched it again today to see if I was being unfair. And I'm sorry to report I'm not.

Too much running, too much shouting, too much everything and not nearly enough Star Trek.


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