Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

Ah, space. The final frontier. Four years after the original reboot, J.J. Abrams and co. are back continuing to boldly breathe new life into the beloved franchise. Not exactly going where no one has gone before, but certainly presenting it like we've never seen it before.

So I don't give away anything that might be taken for spoilers, I'll not try and sum up the plot, but just say this: the stakes are high, as are the emotions, and Kirk and his crew set out to make everything right, pitted against the stupendous Benedict Cumberbatch as the terrorist John Harrison. Epic, action-adventure stuff ensues. Big time.

Kirk, Uhura and Spock loose the colored shirts and go full-fledged-leather-and-guns-action-hero-y on us.

The cast, if you can believe it, has actually improved from last time. Not just in additions, like the fore mentioned stupendous Cumberbatch and other newcomer Alice Eve as science officer Carol Marcus, but the returning cast shows improvements as well, and considering how impressive they were at first, that's really something. The actors found their footing in the loved characters very quickly and gave solid, wonderfully nostalgic performances in Star Trek; now, they've really settled in. Now, they own their characters, and have slightly re-molded them to fit perfectly, so the character complements the actor, who in turn complements the character, with heightened results.

I was especially impressed with Spock (Zachary Quinto) in this case. Spock's struggle with emotions is pretty much the only struggle he ever has, and therefore it can easily be overdone and I imagine could get annoying very easily. I have to imagine, because Spock's character this time around is one of those improvements I was talking about. I have never liked him more than I did in this movie, and Quinto's performance was at times, breath-taking.

"Epic Spock" is in a volcano.

The only performance more powerful than his, was that of Benedict Cumberbatch in the role of the villain. He continues to blow me away everywhere I see him. You would think I would get used to it, but no, he gets me every time. Even scene after scene he only gets more and more impressive. And I can't even begin to describe my excitement at seeing and hearing him being casually mentioned almost everywhere. I feel like a total hipster -- "I was a fan of the Cumberbatch before he landed starring roles..."

"You being all mysterious with your... cheekbones. And turning your coat collar up so you look cool." "I don't do that." "Yes you do." Oh Watson, you have no idea.

Chris Pine has found the right balance between Kirk's heroic, leading side and his more skirt-chasing, rule-breaking side. Kirk will never be a perfect, Captain America type hero, but seriously, who would like him if he was? Pine's Kirk is a great flawed hero, and a great leader for his crew and the franchise, and is another name to my list of great performances in this film. He is also undeniably amazing at getting beat up, and hanging over very long, deadly falls.

See? I love this pic. Also, this whole sequence.

Scotty (Simon Pegg) made up for not being introduced until halfway through the first movie by having a rather big role this time, and adding some seriousness to the character as well... not too much though -- he still gets the funniest bit of the movie, just as he should.

Zoe Saldana's Uhura is now officially one of the boys, er, as close as she can get. Uhura is quite the action star now, and by my reckoning has moved up a couple notches in terms of character importance. I don't want to seem like I'm complaining, because I like her, and she adds wonderfully to the film in every way -- action, humor, emotion...

But, I really wish Bones (Karl Urban) had a big a role as Uhura this time around. When there are so many characters, and only about two hours of film to put them in, it's hard for anyone (except Joss Whedon) to give everyone the time and development they deserve. Unfortunately, Karl Urban and Bones didn't get as much as I thought they deserved. His character was overshadowed by Harrison, Uhura and even Scotty a little, and was limited too much to punch lines for my taste, but maybe I'm a bit too biased; he is my favorite character currently. Still, whenever he was there, he was as good as he could be, and I was happy.

What's he doing here? Being awesome of course.

Chekov (Anton Yelchin) got the same treatment, though I suppose I really shouldn't have expected his character to get any more important. He had his moments, fleeting as they were, and I relished them. The same mostly goes John Cho and Sulu too, though I don't care as much for the character, so I didn't mind as much. He got his moment too, and boy, was it a good one.

I'm actually really surprised I found a nice promo photo of just him!

Well. That's a lot about the characters. In the end, they are absolutely my favorite feature in this movie, even though my two favorite characters never got all the screen time I was hoping they'd receive. Still, I should probably touch on a few more topics before I wrap up.

What would a Star Trek movie be, after all, without some knockout visuals? If you saw the '09 Star Trek you know what to expect, but you'll still probably get blown away by some really stunning moments. Some, they show in the trailer, but they can't show them all early; there's way too many. I was a little afraid going in that it's self-proclaimed "non-stop action" would be too relentless, but it's well-paced at one step below "overwhelmingly fast" with tons of energy distributed evenly throughout, even into the slower moments, just under the surface.

Bones: "I hate this!" Kirk: "I know you do!" Yeah, but we love it.

I may have a complaint now, or at least something that comes close to the category; this movie is a near exact replica of it predecessor. Of course it's not if you look at the details, and of course the plot is way different, but in a broad sense, many things needlessly reflect the last movie, like the opening format, the closing format, and at least one all but re-used moment. Nevertheless, it was a great opening, the ending made me smile, and before I noticed that re-used moment was re-used, it took my breath away. So really, how could I complain? It's the principle of the thing that slightly bothers me, and I can't help but enjoy the product simultaneously.

So I guess you could say J.J. Abrams has done it again (Literally). It took four years, but the wait was absolutely worth it. Star Trek Into Darkness has "summer blockbuster" written all over it; it's thrilling and stunning and smart, laugh-out-loud funny, powerful and moving, all wrapped up together in an explosive package. A dazzling contribution to what will hopefully continue along this path to be a very long-running reboot/parallel universe of a really great franchise.

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