Austin reviews STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS!!!

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Sorry.  I couldn’t resist having Alice Eve in her bra and panties as the featured image.  It almost has nothing to do with the film, but I think it’s kind of funny (among other things).  Anyhoo, STAR TREK!  I would consider myself a mildly casual fan of the franchise.  I know most of the basic elements but not too many of the nerdy details.  I prefer the 60’s series over all the others.  Those characters are the most appealing to me.  People went overboard with how much they loved the 2009 reboot.  I enjoyed it, but I think it’s a tad overrated.  I had some problems with some of the camerawork.  Now, JJ Abrams is back with the sequel, INTO DARKNESS.  I was sort of looking forward to it, until I read some fanboy reviews that were less than enthusiastic.  I went into this with lowered expectations.

The movie opens with the crew of the Enterprise trying to save an ancient civilization on a distant planet from an explosive volcano. Kirk and Bones are being chased by the natives (literally off a cliff) and Spock is inside the volcano trying to freeze it.  When they get back from that mission, Kirk is demoted to commander because he didn’t follow protocol (and was ratted out by Spock).  Then we’re introduced to the villain, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch).  He is a physically advanced human and is determined to destroy star command.  After a brutal attack, Harrison flees to the Klingon’s home world to hide out.  Kirk asks to be re-instated and is sent on a mission to terminate the bad guy with specific torpedos, personally assigned by Major Marcus (Peter “Robocop” Weller). Once they get to the planet, they capture Harrison, but nothing is as it seems as the prisoner gives Kirk and his crew information that may or may not be true.  I won’t say anymore about the plot as there are a few twists, though some of them haven’t been kept secret very well at all.  In fact, one of them is given away, in plain sight, on the film’s IMDB page.  But I won’t give it away here.

Maybe it’s because that I entered this movie with low expectations, but this one surprised the hell out of me.  It’s a great summer movie!  I really enjoyed it!  The movie starts right away with a pulse-pounding action scene, which lets you know that Abrams isn’t fucking around here.   It’s a fun, thrilling, and sometimes humorous sequence.  And that’s just the first 10 minutes.  The rest of the movie is just as good!

JJ assumes that you know the characters well enough that he doesn’t re-introduce them to you.  He just throws the characters right into harrowing moments along with the audience right from the get-go.  After the opening, we get some nice character building moments between Spock and Kirk.  Their friendship is definitely the core of the the film.  We also get a few nice moments between Kirk and his mentor Pike, who doesn’t feel like the young Captain is ready for the responsibility that he has given him.  And when Harrison strikes “close to home” the vengeance on Kirk’s face had this film geek wetting his pants.  The second half is when the film really hits home I think.  There’s a few great character moments that I won’t dare give away here, but they sort of parallel things that happened in some of the previous films (the old ones from the 80’s), and even switches things up a bit too.

And then the action!  Holy shit!  They really amped it up this time!  We get shootouts, Klingon battles, spaceship chases, free-falling through space, and destruction of cities just to name a few awesome things happening in this.  The pace is relentless.  Even though this is 132min. it definitely felt under 2 hours.  It really flies by.  It’s always firing on all cylinders, which could turn some people off.  It’s definitely sensory overload, but the likable characters make it all the more enjoyable.

The original cast is back.  Chris Pine fits back nicely into his Kirk character.  He’s still a snot nosed kid, but he IS learning to respect the captain’s chair.  Zachary Quinto is even better this time as Spock.  He has a great moment near the end of the film that had me cheering at the edge of my seat.  And his chemistry with Pine is perfect.  They make a great team.  Karl Urban has really found his stride as Bones, and has a few fantastic, groan-inducing one-liners.  Anton Yelchin is still good as Chekov and has a great “inside joke” for the fans.  Zoe Saldana doesn’t have a whole lot to do this time out, but is still pivotal.  John Cho probably has the least amount of screentime, but still has a memorable moment here and there.  Simon Pegg’s Scotty seems to have gotten more screentime, as he is obviously the comic relief, and succeeds tremendously.  Bruce Greenwood is even better this time as Pike.

Then there’s the new additions.  Alice Eve plays Carol, a character that is known throughout the Trek Universe.  She does an okay job, but that scene when she strips down….. probably not the most necessary scene in the movie.  What I’m saying ist that Abrams is a bit of a pervert.  I’m not complaining though.  I’m a pervert too.  It was certainly a pleasure to see Peter Weller back on the big screen.  His character has a lot more going on than one would suspect at first, and he does a great job.  I just love how intense he can recite some of his dialogue.  Then there’s Benedict Cumberbatch.  I must say, I have not been on his band wagon.  Every film I have ever seen him in, it seems like that he has a stick up his ass.  From the way he talks, and the way he walks.  His whole posture….EVERYTHING!  He always has irritated the piss out of me  and takes me out of a movie every time he appears.  However, that’s NOT the case here.  He’s terrific!  He is manically menacing as Harrison, with his almost robotic booming voice.  His physical stature is even intimidating.  His character also has  a lot of layers.  Oh yeah!  And he does something to a certain character that shocked the hell out of me!  Definitely a better villain than 2009’s Eric Bana.

Abrams is definitely a talented filmmaker.  I think he has improved since the first one, which I found a couple of the action sequences to be sloppy and had too much uncontrolled handheld work.  This time, every thing is much clearer.  Sure, there are several shots that are handheld, but they seem to be more controlled this time out.  The action is crafted in a fresh way.  Instead of just the standard shots, he holds them longer, often moving the camera around swiftly to catch something else happening before cutting.  This style definitely added to the excitement, giving the scenes a constant state of urgency.  The special effects are very CGI-heavy, but that goes without saying these days when you’re making a film mostly set in space.  I was highly impressed with the city landscapes set on the futuristic Earth.  And peopl…. JJ  employs a lot of that lens flare once again.   I really didn’t mind it.  So I guess I just have this to say to all the haters:  That’s his style!  Get over it!

The script has a lot going on, and I’m sure if you really pick it apart you will find many flaws.  But I don’t believe this was trying to be a super smart movie.  It’s so loaded with action scenes that it almost doesn’t have time for the story.  In fact, some of the exposition is being told to us during moments of action.  With how all the characters were interacting with each other and it’s fast-paced scenes, this movie reminded me a bit of Joss Whedon’s FIREFLY.  I’ve read some fanboy reviews (I’m looking at you aintitcool, but not you Harry) that complain about some nerdy Trek things and how they’re handled and how it compares with everything in the Trek Universe and BLAH BLAH BLAH!  I Say: Who fucking cares?!?  For one, this IS a reboot of the franchise so, of course it’s not going to be the exact same.  So I’m not even going to try to compare this with anything that came previously.  Sure, there’s a few winks and nods, but this is a different STAR TREK.  Does the movie work on its own?  Hell yes.  This is one entertaining movie.  Oh yeah.  Michael Giacchino, once again provides a rousing score for the flick.

I’m sure this movie will upset a few fanboys here and there, but I thought this was a terrific, crowd pleaser of a film. Loaded with action and humor, this is summer blockbuster escapism at it’s best.  Do you need to be a Trekkie to enjoy it?  No, but you probably should at least see the 2009 reboot first, just to familiarize yourself with the characters.  This is definitely the most fun I’ve had at a big budget blockbuster this year so far.  STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS is even better than its 2009 predecessor.  A wonderful surprise!  ★★★1/2 (out of ★★★★)

– Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence.

– Running time: 2hrs 12min.



Categories: Austin Kennedy, Reviews

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