Cinema Review: Star Trek: Into Darkness

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DIR: J.J. Abrams • WRI: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof • PRO: J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Roberto Orci • DOP: Daniel Mindel • ED: Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey • DES: Scott Chambliss • Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, Zachary Quinto

JJ Abrams’ name is swiftly becoming synonymous with a different sort of Star franchise, but for the moment it’s the Trek that occupies his, and our, time.  Finally reaching our screens after what seems a never-ending onslaught of hype, Star Trek: Into Darkness follows on from where his wildly successful 2009 entry left off.  The crew of the Enterprise are present and correct, from Kirk to Spock and all the token nods in between – and a fairly standard Star Fleet storyline means this Trek won’t be breaking a huge amount of new ground.  BUT (and it’s a pretty large ‘but’), if you enjoyed the first one, then by Vulcan will you love its sequel!

 

From the second it hits the ground (running), Into Darkness reaches for the stars in terms of narrative, acting, exposition and flow.  Largely hitting the mark on all counts, its pace is perhaps the most impressive thing about the movie.  Considering the lengthy running time – it comes in at 132 minutes – the story moves from set-piece to set-piece with a seamless energy that means the final credits leave you wanting more.  While the narrative itself may be slightly prosaic…wild despot wants to destroy everything Star Fleet holds dear, but is it all as black and white as it appears?…the villain who drives it is anything but.  Hype aside, Benedict Cumberbatch was always the one to watch in this instalment, and he does not disappoint.  He brings thespian finesse to an otherwise hammy acting ensemble – and I say that with full love for the essential, and irreplaceable, hamminess of Star Trek.  There have been fan-led suspicions about his iconic possibilities, at least one of which is confirmed in classic theatrical fashion – a moment to really set the hairs on the back of your Trekkie neck on end!

 

Chris Pine’s Jim Kirk is as vacuous as ever, though he adds a layer of emotion to his performance this time that makes you almost forgive his doe-eyed interpretation of the schmaltzy captain.  Zachary Quinto moves from impression of Leonard Nimoy to interpreting Spock in his own right – largely helped by the subtle love-story with Lieutenant Uhura (Zoe Saldana).  Simon Pegg manages the impossible as Scotty, becoming less annoying as the series continues rather than – as the first movie suggested – lazily making Scotty into an overblown caricature of himself.  He’s still remarkably irritating in full Scottish brogue, though Karl Urban has taken up the theatrical mantle with Bones, delivering catchphrases rather than lines and allowing his eyebrows to do the majority of his acting.

 

An added character to the entire movie is the 3D and IMAX experience itself.  Though the 3D has been added post production, it has little of the rough edges you might expect from this patchwork approach.  Expensive and exclusive, the IMAX does also offer an extra layer to the visuals by enclosing the audience in a full ‘cave of dreams’ experience – there are no edges to your vision, as the movie fills every available visual space.  Adding to his sparkly-space tricks from the first outing, Abrams has also gleaned some cues from Joss Whedon’s Avengers escapade – some tell-tale zooms and pans liken his direction to Whedon’s favourite way of seamlessly suturing CGI into the landscape.

 

What we have, in the end, is as good an addition to the Star Trek franchise as might be hoped.  Amid accusations of mechanical storytelling, it nonetheless stands as an able expansion – there might be formula, there might be rote, but under it all is a devotion to the beloved characters of the Federation and a motion picture event that manages to retain the Star Trek audience, whilst adding new devotees all the time.  An entertaining and visually splendid Star Trek experience rooted in one of the finest Trek-villian performances of all time…boldly going where many have gone before, but taking us willingly along for the voyage.

 

Sarah Griffin

12A (see IFCO website for details)

132 mins
Star Trek: Into Darkness is released on 9th May 2013

Star Trek: Into Darkness – Official Website

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Star Trek Party at Light House Cinema

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To celebrate the upcoming release of JJ Abrams’ brand new movie Star Trek: Into Darkness, the first of the major summer blockbusters, Light House Cinema are throwing a Star Trek themed Party on Wednesday 8th May followed by a special midnight preview screening of the film in 2D and 3D.

 

Fans of the sci-fi phenomenon will have their knowledge put to the test with a sci-fi quiz on the night, with special prizes up for best fancy dress, a Holodeck bar, a Star Trek body-paint demonstration by The International Makeup Academy and of course the opportunity to be among the first to see the brand new blockbuster on the big screen.

 

Drinks on the night include the ‘Jean-Luc Pacardi’, ‘Jim Beam Me Up Scotty’, ‘Romulan Ale’ and the ‘Kirk and Uhura Kiss’.

 

Star Trek: Into Darkness is the second of the series directed by JJ Abrams and serves as the sequel to 2009’s hugely successful Star Trek. Starring Chris Pine, Benedict Cumberbatch and Alice Eve, it sees the crew of the USS Enterprise return home to find a seemingly unstoppable force which has attacked Starfleet and left Earth in chaos. Captain Kirk and his crew set out on a deadly manhunt to bring those responsible to justice.

 

Star Trek Party

Light House Cinema

Smithfield Square, Dublin 7

Wednesday May 8th at 9pm, followed by a midnight preview screening of Star Trek: Into Darkness in 2D and 3D.

 

Party is free entry. Midnight preview tickets priced €9 / €7 concession for 2D and €10 / €8.50 for 3D.

 

For more information visit www.lighthousecinema.ie

 

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Star Trek

startrek12

DIR: J.J. Abrams • WRI: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman • PRO: J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, David Witz • DOP: Daniel Mindel • ED: Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey • DES: Scott Chambliss • CAST: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg

Through work on television and the big screen J.J. Abrams has been touted, whether accurately or not, as a Hollywood golden boy, who can market, produce and direct profitably. The announcement last year that Abrams had been handed the reigns of a new Star Trek movie was met with much caution; his decision to cast a bunch of unknowns in the primary roles and maintain a iron-clad veil of secrecy over plot details had the internet abuzz with speculation. His contention that he wanted to a make a movie for everyone, as much as hard core fans seemed to signal a wind change in the approach to the Star Trek universe. Abrams had felt the force of online criticism previously in 2002, when a script he penned for Superman was leaked and ripped apart by fans and the project never saw the light of day. Abrams work has continually mixed genres: his Superman script proposed a radical overhaul of a 60-year-old legacy. Would he take similar tack with Star Trek? Star Trek might enjoy a huge opening weekend as people satisfy their curiosity but it might however be excised from fans collective memories if it alienated its core audience for the sake of franchise.

The realisation after 127 minutes is that much of what has given Star Trek a legacy has been safe-guarded, perhaps to avoid risk of death at a comic convention. Abrams has treaded softly. The film is firmly a linear, old-school adventure, respectful of Star Trek of old. Space-set action is coupled with moral debate and personal conflicts and in the background are ideas of identity, respect for difference and growth. Familiarity is also created through recognisable names, costumes and finger-stretching greetings. And a familiar story structure is also applied. We are treated to a rite of passage tale for this generation of Starship Enterprise crew. In fact, the movie is so determined to leave us unchallenged, the question has to be asked whether Abrams’ Star Trek is a meek imitation or a worthwhile effort?

Each of the bridge crew receive respectable introductions and screen time, but the movie clearly belongs to Kirk and Spock. The main tension of the movie, with story otherwise in its shadow, is the conflict between the duo and the genesis of their friendship. The crew as familiar from the original TV show come together with startling ease. They may each be novice cadets but they excel at their jobs from the off and slip effortlessly into talking sci-fi nonsense like a seasoned crew.

Any reviewer that bothers to detail the plot is lazily looking to fill a word count as post necessary introductions the story becomes one as simple as any hour-long episode. This isn’t meant to be a strong criticism but could certainly be a ground for contention. So light-weight is the plot that sci-fi fans may be slightly affronted at the introduction of a time-travel element and a very low-brow treatment of the rules of time-travel. But this is Star Trek and at pivotal points the freedom of fiction is used to the max. While the language may be English, the order of the words will only make sense to people queuing in costumes and are especially hard to decipher when relayed through a Scottish accent.

There is a very clear use of set pieces, some necessary to the story, others not so much. The action doesn’t aim for excessive style but is still genuinely thrilling in parts and the look of the movie as a whole is excellent. Technology has been used to great effect to bring new life to Star Trek – it was never an option to not create a blockbuster-quality movie and they have succeeded.

Wide shots are used to great effect to lend scope to the Star Trek universe, which has often been limited by the budget of weekly TV output. Combat with near mute henchmen, monster chases and CGI-generated planets at times echo the weaker parts of the recent King Kong remake and more worryingly the newer Star Wars movies, however the old world charm of Star Trek, so ably maintained in this movie, grounds the film so that we can engage with it.

A huge part of this engagement is down to the almost uniformly excellent cast. Chris Pine does commendable work, playing an all-American Kirk with a broad grin and unrealised talent to match his wit and temper. Zachary Quinto is burdened with the bigger task of portraying such a distinguishable character as Spock and is excellent. The only redeeming element of TV show Heroes, his work here is measured and the weight of expectation never gets in the way of him performing and never impersonating. This review won’t discuss the worst kept secret of the movie’s plot, however an encounter in the final reel, a brave choice to make, highlights the good job Quinto does. Only Simon Pegg seems to be the Achilles heel of this re-casting exercise, his introduction and mannerisms grate badly. Eric Bana as the villain Nero is neither good nor bad. He is middling and caught up in a plot that doesn’t allow the character to ever present a true threat.

This isn’t a Batman Begins clean slate, neither is it an Exorcist: Beginnings or Hannibal: Origins cash-in; the tone, the nods to the past (or future) of these characters are respectful, humorous and still deliver a story accessible to newcomers. As for puritan Trekkies, this writer isn’t qualified enough to state with absolute certainty that they will be satisfied – Trekkies are after all the original demanding fan boy species. However, Star Trek 2009 applies only to be a quality entry in the canon of Star Trek movies and as the screen fades to black some good entertainment has been delivered which shouldn’t leave too many people feeling aggrieved. Oh, and yes, that is Winona Ryder.

William O’Keeffe
(See biog here)

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Star Trek
is released on 8th May 2009

Star Trek – Official Website

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