Friday, January 31, 2014

Critic's Movie Pick for 2013: Star Trek Into Darkness, AKA: My Ship Works Better When I Kick It

Interrogating Khan - image courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
2013 was unique in the sense that it was the year not one, but two pop culture film sequels actually surpassed the original in quality and plot. The first was Star Trek Into Darkness, the second being Thor: The Dark World (which you can read my review of here.)

This might seem an odd choice considering it isn't even up for Best Picture this year, and it may not be considered the “best” film of the year, but it is the one I had the best time watching. I often like to gauge the quality of films on the rewatchability factor - would I own this movie? Would I watch it more than once? More important - did I have a good time watching it?

Yes, yes, and yes - after seeing it twice in theatres, my Christmas wish (happily fulfilled) was the Special Edition DVD with steelbook packaging along with a figurine of the villain ship, the USS Vengeance. Considering it got generally good reviews and is currently rated 87 percent fresh on, I was saddened to read in The Guardian that at the annual Star Trek convention in Las Vegas held last August, it was voted the worst film in the entire canon by Trekkies. 

Really? Because I fell asleep during Nemesis despite Picard being my favorite captain (yay Patrick Stewart!). According to the article, the best film is Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan (the irony of Khan being in both the best and worst is not lost here). Look, I loved this film too, but it was nice to see Khan not look like an 80s David Bowie ripoff with a fake chest (I know it hasn't been confirmed as truly fake, but it looks pretty suspect in certain scenes – particularly if you are watching on Blu-ray).

Yes, Into Darkness has its flaws. For one, they could've come up with a better title. Two, there are inconsistencies - why does Bones make a big deal about Kirk having health issues in the beginning and then drop it? Why does the top secret new military ship have its own model in Admiral Marcus’s Starfleet office in plain sight? And why does it take so fracking long for the ship’s energy weapons to load up?
J.J. Abrams on the set. Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Here’s the thing. I can forgive these flaws because I like J.J. Abrams. You can tell by the solid writing and intricate camera work that Abrams invests a great deal of time and energy into his actors. (Read my review of another one of my Abrams favorites, Super 8, here.) He’s not out to make the a good Star Trek movie – he’s just out to make a good movie, period. I particularly enjoy a less brooding and guilt-ridden Kirk and overall, a better balance between action, character interaction, and drama. In the first installment, I felt like I was being constantly bombarded with big explosions and blockbuster movie sequences. Growing up watching Next Generation I appreciated the plot-driven episodes (which often had little or no action in them at times). Give me solid dialogue over another CGI ship exploding any day.

 I also appreciated Star Trek characters acting like Star Trek characters. Zachary Quinto as Spock is spot-on, and Chris Pine has embraced the character of Kirk wholeheartedly, continuing with William Shatner’s cocksure interpretation of the character while adding a layer of personal ethics that goes beyond the hero’s duty to “do what’s right.” It is gratifying to see the continued development of friendship and loyalty between Spock and Kirk, the ultimate odd couple. Even the supporting characters get moments in the sun – particularly when Sulu (John Cho reprising the role from the first film) gets a chance to take control of the Enterprise for a brief moment.

And Khan. I could write a book about Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan. That deliciously malicious voice combined unwavering intensity and swagger make his embodiment of the classic villain drool-worthy.  Cumberbatch’s naturally unique facial structure, enhanced by a severe haircut, plays up his otherworldly nature. I had to chuckle during one climactic scene when he stops mid-getaway to put on a trench coat just because it makes him look cool. It is a throwaway moment that many filmmakers would’ve left on the cutting room floor, and yet is endlessly amusing.

Great character development and interaction, fun plot, great pacing and balance combined with a kickass film score and a DVD chock full of special features allows me to forgive aforementioned inconsistencies. It is not the best film ever made, it is far, far from the worst.

Toby sez:  Sorry Guardian article - Star Trek Into Darkness is a solid addition to this DVD library.

No comments:

Post a Comment