Thursday, 6 June 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness **Review**

[The post features SPOILERS for those who haven't seen the film yet.]

Well, it finally happened. After a full month plus some extra days of furiously avoiding spoilers and the temptation of downloading a shitty camera copy I finally saw Star Trek Into Darkness in the cinema. And my resolve paid off. What a great surprise the film was for me.

I can't say I was particularly happy with Khan being the main villain in this film, or with the very first trailer, so I tried to curb my enthusiasm for the much belated second reboot film as much as I could. I knew I'd still enjoy it, as long as it was Star Trek enough, because I'm someone who pretty much got hooked on the whole Trek phenomenon after seeing the Star Trek Motion Picture film at my (Trekkie) friends cottage about five years ago. Yes, Star Trek, the Motionless Picture, or, as we dubbed it Stare Trek (ever noticed how much everyone's staring in it, especially Kirk?). I'd been aware of the TOS characters and had seen a few episodes of The Next Generation & Voyager series but STMP was my first proper introduction to the world of the original crew. And even though the film was flawed (and upon rewatching it recently I also found it very out of character for many of the characters) it nevertheless sparked my interest in the universe of the franchise and episode by episode of the original series I fell in love.

So I do have a very strong connection to Star Trek as a whole, and especially to the original series crew, and especially to the Sex on Emotionless (Not Really) Stick that is Mr Spock, (whoever plays him). I was still in my forming Trekkie phase when the first reboot film with the original crew came out. I loved it. Saw it twice in the cinema (something I rarely do) and countless times on the DVD. I couldn't wait for the sequel, even though I was worried if they'd be able to come up with something as good as the first film. I was very cautious. But I don't hate easily. I rarely actively hate a film. I either finish watching a film or I don't. I can be disappointed or have suggestion to what I'd want for it to do differently but I rarely truly hate a film. Life's too short for that. So I did know I wouldn't hate this one. But I was very cautious.

I was afraid of too much action. I was worried Into Darkness would end up trying to be too much like the Avengers in the amount of action and the tempo of the film, but without Whedon and his clever one liners it would fall short. I was not enthusiastic about Khan featuring once more in a Trek film. I was worried too much of the film would take place on Earth...

And so I ended up being positively surprised by the whole thing. Only part of the film took place on Earth, Khan was OK and even though there was too much action for my taste, it was mostly really good. I don't know how I'm supposed to take the Khan being taken to the prison scene because it strongly reminded me of a similar scene in The Avengers. Was it Abrams's friendly shout-out to Whedon? Was it just a coincidence?

Anyway, all my fears died in the course of the film. Good story, neatly tied up, but with an open enough ending. It had the right amount of emotion, just like the first film (watching Spock cry devastated me, ditto Pike's death), and it had a surprising amount of references to the original Trek series and subsequent films.

Some see this particular thing as a weakness. They call this film unoriginal but even though I could have done without ever seeing Khan again I ended up enjoying how this film mirrored the second of the original Star Trek films. Because it made perfect sense. And the surprising Nimoy cameo was the final secret ingredient, which enabled all of the new and recycled elements to work seamlessly together. Now, that's how you utilise the part of your own new film series which is at the same time your sole connection to the original TV and film series. I fully expected never seeing old Mr. Spock again. If someone told me he would be here, I'd be grumpy, thinking the way we last saw him in 2009's Star Trek was the perfect send-off. But I didn't have any idea whatsoever and ended up loving this particular part of the film.

I have to disagree with anyone who's singled out Benedict Cumberbatch's Khan/George John Harrison as the stand out performance in the film. Yes, Cumberbatch is a great actor and he's shown as much range here as the character allowed him but it would be foolish to put his performance above Zachary Quinto's and Chris Pine's. The whole trinity of these actors did an equally great job. I personally would mention Simon Pegg as a stand-out among the secondary characters. The range of his ability deserves recognition. He plays in a perfect Scottish accent, he's brilliant as the comic relief of the film but he also got the chance to show his serious side in this film, and he was spot on. But all of the actors did a great job in this film, I even found Zoe Saldana's Uhura much less annoying this time around...

What would I wish for the future films: less action, more moral and philosophical dilemmas (aka the Star Trek trademark), a bit of Shakespeare. Do continue developing the Kirk and Spock dynamic but please reinstate Bones as the third part of the core of the films, Uhura and the gender politics be damned. And since it's a five year mission, try having some fun this time round. Or the next time round, at the latest.

But so far, job well done, by everyone. Dear Star Trek Into Darkness cast and crew: thank you!

Favourite quotes:

"How does it even work?" - Kirk to Uhura on lover quarells with Spock

"You know, when I dreamed about being stuck on a deserted planet with a gorgeous woman, there was no torpedo." - Bones

Pike: " Are you giving me attitude, Spock?
Spock: "I am expressing multiple attitudes simultaneously sir, to which one are you referring?"

"KHAAANNNN!" - SPOCK!!!!!!!!!