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Friday, June 14, 2013

Movie review: Star Trek: Into Darkness

The crew of the enterprise goes from exploration for the federation to assassination at a dangerous location outside of regulation with dark motivation.

We start off Star Trek: Into Darkness at a classic style Enterprise mission on an alien planet where Kirk (Chris Pine) breaks rules and Spock (Zachary Quinto) cites regulation - doing their regular dance.
That's as far as the regular plot style of the original series goes. Beyond this the story ventures into a much more military based plot as they set off for the renegade Star Fleet agent, John Harrison who has been behind attacks against Star Fleet.

The main focus of Star Trek: The Original Series was almost always exploration. But it's strength laid in the crew of the Starship U.S.S. Enterprise and their interaction with each other, Kirk and Spock in particular. Outside of the short introduction sequence, Into Darkness has nothing to do with exploration, but the crew are as interesting and entertaining as ever, staying true to the core of each character despite being remakes in an alternate reality.
Aside from enjoying how similar the crew is to the old series, there are also many Easter eggs (hidden treats) from the original series spread throughout this movie. However, J.J. Abrams went overboard with it and it sometimes felt like these Easter eggs were thrown in our faces, rather than presented as fun little tidbits.
Some things introduced here are welcomed sights though - like the first view of Klingons in this new version and Carol Marcus (Alice Eve).
Mr. Spock and James T. Kirk

While the story may not be typical Star Trek and is a rather recognizable big budget blockbuster type, it does comes with clever and interesting twists and turns. The script itself very well written, especially the dialog, delivering several memorable quotes, polished and entertaining exposition, and individual speech types for each of the characters, which is more rare than one might think.
But it's not just the dialog and story that brings us such entertaining and likable characters. The acting is solid throughout the entire film. Not one actor does a bad job here.

John Harrison: Total Badass!
There is one who stands out though - Benedict Cumberbatch, as John Harrison. He gives us, despite hamming it up here and there, a very memorable performance.
The movie constantly hypes up how menacing dangerous this villain is through dialog - then demonstrates it visually. John Harrison is a physical force to be reckoned with, meticulously cunning, and ruthless - and yet, impressively, we still feel for him.

Another thing about Into Darkness that impresses are the visuals. And not just with the CGI, but with beautiful cinematography and mise-en-scène, the warp aesthetics, and how well they utilize the scenery.

Of course, no movie is without faults, and this one is no exception. In fact, there is one aspect which will possibly ruin nearly the entire experience; the ending. It's quite stupid, and goes too far with trying to tie in with the old Star Trek that it comes off as plain lazy. The ending will likely divide it's audience, and there will be two major parties:
Those who like it as a thrilling action filled conclusion - like me.
And those who can't get over the stupidity and laziness.

It also has some minor issues like the still present, but far downplayed, lens flares. These were incredibly annoying in the the 2009 film, and can be slightly distracting here. Then there's the background music. It just never quiets down. Let a scene breath every once in a while, dammit!
The movie also suffers from a couple of odd angle choices here and there. This is really nitpicking, but they honestly pulled me out of it every time it happened, which is a shame.
And then there is the action. Don't misunderstand, the action scenes by themselves are all really quite good - some better than others though, obviously. But the way they're used is very similar to how the action was in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, where it just never ends. There is action scene after action scene after action scene, until we're exhausted and are left drained too soon before end. Fortunately, unlike The Hobbit, the action does have enough variation too keep us interested, and for those who aren't repelled by the ending, the final action sequences are exciting enough to reawaken those half-asleep.

Poor, poor Enterprise
While this is overall a very well made movie, I expect the final rating from the audience will vary greatly from individual to individual because of the ending. But this particular individual loved it enough to see it a second time in the theater. Something I've only done once before.


The good:
Variation in action sequences
Characters true to their source
Great acting
Benedict Cumberbatch!
The visuals

The bad:
The ending (for some)
Overbearing background music
Overflow of Easter eggs
Weird camera angles and annoying lens flares

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