Saturday, June 1, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

2013. 132 min. PG-13, violence, one mild bit of language, no sex
IMDB says... After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.

The 73rd Virgin says... Well, now it’s a TV show again. Treading water.

The Star Trek reboot from 2009 was one of the more pleasant theater-going surprises of the past few years. It was a just about perfect blend of sops to old-time fans and modern movie audiences and the story mostly rocketed along. And hey, it wasn’t Star Wars.

Mystifyingly, this movie reboots again by sending Captain Kirk back to the dog house for some violation of the ridiculous prime directive. Which means we have to drag Captain Pike out again to have yet another heart-to-heart with Kirk, and we have to establish that Spock and Uhura are fussing and fighting. And Spock rides a rock through a hot lava flow creating all manner of unpleasant mental cross-links with Revenge of the Sith.

Then it resurrects the character of Khan from the 60s TV show and one of the better 70s movies. So - in a sequel to a very good movie, you understand - we have to re-establish Kirk as a bad boy, then we have to get him fathered up again, and then we have to wait roughly 40 minutes to get any real story progress. And that story is roughly 50 years old. And what should have been an admirably disciplined 2 hour 3 minute action movie feels rushed and short-hand at the end.

Briefly, Khan is a kind of super-human specially bred for soldiering. He and his fellow warriors were put into cryosleep a few hundred years ago. Now a higher-up at Starfleet has a wicked plan to resurrect them and get ready for inevitable war with the Klingons. Khan is perhaps nuts, and very protective of his sleeping crew. The character compares favorably with Blade Runner's Roy Batty.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan is the best reason to see the movie. He is always interesting and now has a rumbling kind of command presence about him. He has put on some weight and combs his hair and calls to mind Richard Burton. Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock seem callow in comparison. Zoe Saldana as Uhura is ill-served by the script and her false eyelashes. Karl Urban is delightful as Bones, but he’s restricted to just imitating a TV character actor who has been dead for 14 years.

So the story lurches along. Find the only new fairly well-known actor who is in a position to be the mystery bad guy and he will be. Oh, and some incredibly lazy screenwriters come up with an attractive female crew member who is - wait for it - the daughter of an admiral. I guess the president’s daughter was booked.

And there you have it. The special effects are fine but they are used for standard-issue stuff, like Spock engaging in another ridiculous jumping-from-airship-to-airship fist fight with Khan - creating even more unpleasant cross-links with Star Wars – and just when the franchise toughens up and shows crew members violently sucked out into space, in the next scene Kirk and Spock are jaw-jawing on another deck that looks as sterile as The Next Generation set, and crew members stroll by as if the gaping hole in the other side of the ship is no particular cause for alarm.

There is bonus ham-fisted moralizing about the war on terror, some very abrupt medical miracle-working by Bones, and then yet another launch of The Enterprise on a new mission – which is kinda what I hoped THIS movie would be. It held my attention, and was notably not over-long, but was otherwise a disappointment.

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