Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Star Trek 2 Reviewed

It's late so a few quick thoughts:

1) I'm not sold yet on J.J. Abrams as a film director.  In particular his framing and staging of action leaves a lot to be desired.  There is a foot chase between Spock and Benedict Cumberbatch's character through futuristic San Francisco where the entire sequence of shots could be jumbled up and randomized, and the scene would have the same coherence as it plays in the final cut.  Similarly there's a a shootout on a dark and dingy planet that reminded me of that Chronicles of Riddick movie that all of me and seventeen others saw, from a decade ago that was cut to hell to obtain a PG-13 rating.  Here it's clear that Abrams and crew were going for a PG-13, which doesn't prelude a filmmaker from orchestrating visceral gunplay, but here all we get is a series of sparks and hooded minions falling backwards.

The introductory scene largely harkens back to Spielberg's Raiders intro, but here we get none of the buildup or anticipation prior to Indy grabbing the idol that made that sequence crackle.  If Abrams is going to engage me in the future he's going to need to become fluent in action and adventure filmmaking, not just copy and paste from other sources.  

Abrams at this point really seems like more of a corporate steward or fiduciary of some set of intellectual property rights in trust.  After Disney acquired Star Wars and the rights to Star Wars, he was announced as the director and producer of the next Star Wars film.  Here and in the first Trek film he seems so desperate to widen Star Trek's base by appealing to the Transformers demo, but all the while towing the aging Trekkers behind him with extended cameos from Leonard Nimoy and entire story lines that are lifted from past films.  

2) I'm so tired of seemingly every big ticket film since "The Dark Knight" relying on some variation of the bad guy intentionally getting caught by the heroes, but with his escape preplanned so that then, and only then, he gets to reveal his true plan.  See The Avengers, Skyfall, etc.  So lazy.

3) Aren't all of the scenes in the film's first third at Star Fleet's headquarters the same type of futuristic council boilerplate scenes that George Lucas got crucified for in his Star Wars prequels?  

4) That's not to say this is a stillborn film.  The cast, as it was in the first film, is dynamic and almost makes you forget the mediocre writing and set pieces.  Chris Pine should be a movie star by now, and Quinto brings new dimensions to what easily could have been an impersonation of Nimoy's iconic Spock.  


  1. Just saw it last night in a theater packed with tweens; they laughed hysterically at absolutely every little quip and even guffawed at lines that weren't supposed to be funny. I'm starting to think that Hollywood should have little indicators in the bottom right hand corner of their movies to show when it is okay for the audience to react out loud to something on screen. That being said, what a dumb franchise this is turning out to be. It is basically Fast and the Furious: Outer Space.

    Just curious about your thoughts on the parallel between Into Darkness and Wrath of Khan. Also, it's hard to really get into a fight scene or final battle when you know that all of the characters involved live....and even a pale Englishman grows into old age as a buff Ricardo Montelban.

  2. *Spoilers*

    It has been ages since I saw "Wrath of Khan", but the plot thread from the original film whereby Spock restores the warp drive but is poisoned in the process is lifted directly for "Into Darkness." In "Khan" Spock dies, but isn't resurrected until the end of the next movie in the series. Here, Kirk is revived after ten minutes or so. The dichotomy between the movies is illustrative of these modern fanboy series whereby nothing happens that carries any stakes or dramatic weight. You can't risk messing something up as valuable as a Star Trek series by having anything genuinely surprising happen. Did anyone actually think Kirk was going to die and that the next film wouldn't star Chris Pine?

  3. Ah, so then why do you go to these types of movies when you know that you won't see anything that you don't already expect? Also, a little game I like to play right after the movie is to guess how long I thought the movie was (I don't know why, but I've always done this). I thought that Into Darkness was like 2 hours and 40 minutes long when in fact it is much, much shorter. I've come to realize that movies that tend to be more enjoyable to me feel like they were shorter in duration, I'm sure somehow relating to "time flies when you're having fun". That said, there were like 4 instances when I thought Into Darkness was over but it just keep dragging on.

  4. I wasn't saying that I need to be surprised by a film's story in order to enjoy it. It's just that the Kirk getting irradiated in the core storyline was just a cheap compromised version of what happened in the "Wrath of Khan", and that I really didn't expect anything more from Abrams and his ilk who are more concerned with carrying water for studios so that future installments are assured rather that telling a compelling story.