Here are a few random thoughts on the new Star Trek film. Or perhaps the criticisms are correct and I should refer to it as the new Star Wars film.
Star Trek vs Star Wars:
I’m a fan of both, so I don’t really have a bone to pick with what Abrams and his team have done with the Star Trek franchise. Also, even though I’ve been a fan of Star Trek for years, I don’t feel these new incarnations have soiled my childhood. Nor do I think the franchise can’t evolve. The reality of a $200 million film is that it must appeal to young men and the best way to do that is have a film with action and explosions and not a film with talking and moral/philosophical dilemmas. Perhaps the correct counter to that notion is they should be making $50-$100 million dollars films instead, with more talking and moral/philosophical dilemmas, and therefore the cost-risk would be minimised.
It is a moot point and Abrams’ films are what they are. I still think they tick off the necessary elements to satisfy the expectations of the franchise. The new film is full of conflicts and dilemmas and neatly renews the “needs of the many outweighs the needs of the few” dilemma from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982). It’s hardly even Philosophy 101, but it satisfies that key dramatic core of Trek stories that pit logic against emotion.
I’m not sure where the problem lies, but I just didn’t feel much jeopardy in this film. People died, but no one important. Things just seemed to happen and then get resolved. There was never a surprise that Khan was up to no good when he and Kirk entered the dreadnought. Even their space-flight thing, which was a lot of fun and exciting, never felt really dangerous. One of the most dramatic moments for me was Scotty resigning his position: “Oh no! What are they going to do without Scotty?”
IMAX and 3D:
Frankly, it sucked that the only way to see the IMAX version of Into Darkness was to also see it in 3D. Rapid editing and “shaky-cam” are no friends of stereoscopic films. The chase scene at the start of the film had me blinking and trying to focus. It just came off as a bit blurry and juddery. I think this is exactly what James Cameron and Peter Jackson are on about. Nevertheless, seeing the full-frame IMAX image really paid off, particularly a couple of shots of the Enterprise and Zoe Saldana.
Zoe Saldana vs Alice Eve:
I guess there weren’t enough blonde white girls in the first film, but the scene with Alice Eve stripping down to her underwear was as ridiculous and blatant as the tits and ass you would find in an 80s teen comedy. That’s okay; I get it. It’s cheap and sexist and designed purely to appease boys in the audience.
The truth is I would prefer to see Zoe Saldana in a conspicuously tacked-on, superfluous underwear scene. I guess I’m not so noble, after all.
I just want to say, one of my least favourite action tropes is the moving platform/vehicle fight scene. This is supposed to provide jeopardy, just by virtue that your hero might fall off, but it never really feels that way. You always know they are not really going to fall. Meanwhile, the audience gets subjected to a volley of sweeping and craning shots over the top of the platform against digitally painted backdrops. The fight scene at the end of Into Darkness could have done with less sweeping shots and a focus on Spock’s fury and then it would have been more dramatic.
Awesome. It has been ages since I last saw him in anything, but he was the voice of Bruce Wayne/Batman in the animated films Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. He was no Kevin Conroy, but he was still pretty damn good. Just a little unfortunate that his evil turn in Into Darkness was predictable.
Speaking of Peter Weller, his death at the hands of Khan seemed right out of Blade Runner (1982), which brings me to some strange and seemingly haphazard references. When all the Starfleet brass assemble for a meeting, we get a blatant reference to the war room in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) and the attack that follows is straight out of The Godfather: Part III (1990). I don’t mind, but these references seem arbitrary and they remind me of the same thing going on in Skyfall (2012).
How fantastic is it to have Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain. No question mark there, it’s a rhetorical question. If anything, I think he’s ultimately let down by the film’s screenplay in the last act, when he seems to disappear for ages after the space battle. He was gone so long that I started to wonder if he had died in the last scene he was in and perhaps I’d already forgotten. He handles the speeches and the action with aplomb.
Speaking of arbitrary – what’s with Leonard Nimoy’s cameo in Into Darkness? I loved what they did with Spock and Spock Prime in Star Trek (2009), but in this film it seemed utterly tacked on.
All in all, Star Trek Into Darkness is a lot of fun, but never a lot more than that.