Thursday, May 2, 2013
Star Trek Into Darkness: Spoilers in space!
Through her connections as a hard-hitting entertainment reporter, my lovely wife got us free tickets for a preview screening of Star Trek Into Darkness on Monday night, so we got to see it a few weeks before most of the world. I am a Star Trek geek. She is not. We both thought it was terrific.
But it's impossible to say what is so terrific about it without giving away some fairly vital plot details, so there are two reviews here – one short and safe, the other longer and needlessly detailed.
If you have any interest in Star Trek, and are looking forward to this film, I implore you to stay away from spoilers. I stopped reading anything about the new film two months before it came out, and was successfully surprised on a number of occasions. There was one wonderful little cameo that I never saw coming, a couple of fairly surprising twists on the formula towards the end, (which were actually blatantly telegraphed in the trailers), and when one of the main characters reveals his true name, somebody in our cinema actually said “Aw hell no!” out loud. You don't want to miss out on that kind of thing.
Star Trek Into Darkness (the safe version)
* Obviously, I thought it was excellent.
* I like the fast pace of modern Trek, and the way the story barrels on, barely giving a damn if you can keep up. Plot holes are skimmed over, in favour of spectacle and bright lights, a deliberate shift that has alienated some hardcore Trek fans, but revitalised it for everybody else.
* Like the first one, this film moves at warp speed, and the characters are all constantly running, jumping, flying and falling. All that relentless motion means you miss the more retrospective moments of classic Star Trek – long, pointed conversations in crew quarters are reduced to hurried snatches of conservation along the corridor. This is the price of the pace.
* This is the second film for the lead actors, and they're all doing a fine job, nailing the characters without resorting to impersonation. Like all the best Trek films, they all get something to do, and Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto sell the eternal friendship between Kirk and Spock. But all of the actors seize the opportunities given them, with John Cho and Zoe Saldana particular stand-outs.
* Alice Eve is also fine as the latest addition to the crew, although her big dramatic moment is almost ruined by the most baffling use of lens flare in any of J J Abram's films.
* That said, lens flare in 3D is kinda awesome, especially when it looked like the people getting up to go to the bathroom were walking behind the flare.
* And Benedict Cumberbatch's character is a much better villain that Eric Bana in the first Star Trek from Bad Robot. Any more on this subject would be spoiler.
And that's about it for non-spoiler stuff. Once again, if you're interested in this kind of thing, (and if you're not, you're on the wrong blog, brother), show some freakin' willpower and go away. Come back when you've seen the film. Because it's better that way.
I'm not joking, and I usually don't give a shit about spoilers.
You've done so well to avoid things so far, it's only a matter of days now...
Star Trek Into Darkness (the super spoiley version)
* So. Yes. KHAAAAAAAN!
* Wrath of Khan has always been my favourite Star Trek movie, and after this film.... it's still my favourite. Star Trek Into Darkness is trying so hard to be the WoK in this series, and sometimes that feels forced, but it also gives the movie an epic feel, as hatred and vengeance spans universes.
* And while I think Cumberbatch was brilliant a times - the reveal of his name is a powerful moment, thanks entirely to his voice - I still like Ricardo Montalban more; mullet, bared chest and all. The modern version doesn't get his Moby Dick speech or have that fire in his voice. On the other hand, this isn't a remake of Wrath of Khan, it's a remake of Space Seed, so if Cumberbatch comes back in twenty years time for his revenge, that could be something interesting.
* Also – as a work collegue points out in this spoiler-safe review – he's playing the part of the villian as if he is a vampire in a sixties Hammer Horror melodrama, which is just awesome.
* But there are a lot of homages to the first Star Trek II, getting more and more obvious as it goes on, until one of the climactic scenes has actual dialogue from that first film. It all leads to the noble sacrifice at the end, which is fairly predictable, because it's so heavily signposted in all the trailers, and it's the sort of cross-time story inversions that these filmmakers like.
* (Although the film did do a decent fake-out in the trailer with the big spaceship crash at the end, which was very well done.)
* The death is also a bit weightless when you consider the Tribble factor – an earlier get-out-of-jail-free scene, about two-thirds of the way through the film, which gives heavy hints of how the film will end, especially when it has dialogue like this:
KIRK: What's this, Bones?
BONES: Oh, that's a completely unrelated thing I'm working on, I'm trying to bring a tribble back to life.
KIRK: That'd be useful!
* But the nice side-effect of this sacrificial switch is that it drives Spock completely mental, and scenes where the man with a billion bottled-up emotions loses his shit are always impressive, in any universe. And the part where he runs down Kahn in the streets of San Francisco was great fun.
* As good as that was, the one scene cameo from a very familiar face may have been my favourite scene in the whole film - so good I don't even want to spoil it here. I just always like it when smart and charming characters say things like “I can't help you. However...”, and the way Khan's full name is used is just perfect.
* It's also another part of that relentless pace. The information given in that scene is something Spock was always going to figure out, so why not cut straight to the chase? This happens over and over again in this film, and you don't have time to moan about the plot illogicalities, or you'll miss the next scene altogether. The film starts at the climax of another mission, and within 15 minutes there have been explosions and exposition dumps and they're off and racing again, and I feel a bit tired just thinking about it again. In a good way.
* Blinging Klingons! It's always nice to see proper angry Klingons, and even better to hear somebody talk back to them in their snarling tongue about honour and revenge.
* And there are a dozen other little moments of pure Trek perfection like that in Star Trek Into Darkness, some epic and grand, others tiny and heartfelt. It's a movie about human determination, and the triumph of compassion, and crazy science fiction bollocks, and sweet sexy uniforms, and the silent eternity of space, and vengeance, and kick-ass aliens. What more could you want from a Star Trek film?