Tag Archives: star trek: into darkness

Star Trek: Into Darkness Movie Review

One of my recent movie reviews for The WOD Magazine:

Star Trek: Into Darkness 

Movie Review By Michael Bradley 

Recently it was pointed out to me by a fellow columnist that I am a movie critic while they are a movie reviewer.  Having given some thought to the distinction I would have to agree.  In an era where the focus is on advertising and trailers, I believe movie studios should be held to a higher standard when spending tens or hundreds of millions to produce a roughly ninety minute entertainment.  That is why I am glad for once to be able to wholly endorse a film – Star Trek: Into Darkness. 

star trek

Canon is important to me, even in a movie line which has been “reset” into an alternative timeline.  What made the original Star Trek TV series such a phenomenon was not big budgets or special effects.  It was the great characters, interaction and vision of humans with the same foibles and attributes as now, cast into the future.  The characters are well known – Captain Kirk, the brash, egotistical womanizer, whether with human or alien women, always ready to fire phasers but fiercely loyal to friends and stupidly brave.  Spock, the stoic, emotionless logical being struggling with his human half.  Bones, the wry, cynical doctor.  Uhura, the modern successful woman officer.  Scotty, Chekov, and Sulu along with all the other characters overly defined by national accents and quirky personalities. 

The new Star Trek movies capture those characters and that spirit of human interaction under futuristic alien conditions better than I had ever hoped possible as a long time fan.  The casting is simply perfection.  Chris Pine nails Captain Kirk as the lucky but arrogant leader that you cheer for even though you know they deserve to get in trouble.  Zachary Quinto was born to play Spock.  Zoe Saldana recreates Uhura with an appropriately strong modern take on the role.  Karl Urban plays Dr. McCoy so well I swear I see DeForest Kelley on the screen.  Simon Pegg brings the perfect humor to scenes without being campy or foolish.  No offense intended, but I actually prefer Pegg’s portrayal to Doohan’s original.  The interaction among them all brings pure pleasure to my fanboy senses. 

You might wonder why I am at paragraph four and have not mentioned the plot.  That is the beauty of a well written and directed Star Trek feature.  You don’t even care what the plot is, you just enjoy watching it happen.  The plot is great though as well.  For die-hard fans you will recall that Captain Christopher Pike was the original USS Enterprise Captain in the series pilot, and later was returned to the scene of that episode.  In this time line, things happen differently.  Pike is the father figure for Kirk who lost his father at the beginning of the last film.  The search for family, friends and belonging while growing into responsibility are foremost to the new Kirk.  This is the theme shared by other crew members as well as they chafe on each other while clinging together for friendship and belonging. 

star-trek-2-into-darkness-poster

Benedict Cumberpatch of Sherlock fame plays the villain.  His updated portrayal of Khan loses all the 1970s campiness of the earlier version played so over-the-top by Ricardo Montalban.  The movie is modern, edgy and has great visual effects.  However, it is the personal drama that makes it so enjoyable.  

The film has geo-political overtones about what people are willing to do to get an edge on their potential enemies and where lines should be drawn, including a “drone strike-like assassination” versus “arrest and trial” decision for a terrorist.  It was good that unlike other recent fare that have come off as preachy or even as propaganda for particular partisan beliefs, this one leaves the questions more to the viewer without giving definitive answers.  Kirk makes calls which are illegal, but you are not always sure they are right or wrong. 

As a Star Trek fan, I grew weary of the long line of mediocre films that preceded the last two.  It is great to see that the new reboots were able to capture that original sense of wonder, fascinating characters, sense of family with all the squabbles, and a great plot with little unnecessary diversion.  The very end was not as I would have made it, with the final confrontation with an Admiral seemingly too willing to be fully evil.  That character sticks out all the more because all the others are so complex. 

Alice Eve joins the cast as Dr. Carol Marcus, a new romantic interest for Kirk.  In the original timeline Kirk and Marcus produce a child during a tryst unknown to Kirk.  The grown child meets Kirk and is then slain.  Who knows what will happen in this timeline?  The good news is that Alice Eve was able to be strong and feisty enough to hold her own in screen time with Chris Pine, though the relationship between Spock and Uhura is by far more interesting, as you will see when you enjoy this outstanding film.

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The Peculiar Case of Bilbo and Khan

I have been watching season one of Sherlock, a modern version of Sherlock Holmes.  I must admit to a bit of a Sherlock Holmes addiction.  I have read the complete works, watched the horrible old films, watched the great Jeremy Brett series twice, watched the cool new movies, watch Elementary regularly, have seen Young Sherlock Holmes, read the 7 percent solution and watched the movie – now Sherlock!  I still love the Jeremy Brett series best, even better than the original books.

sherlock

However, I had the strangest moment in watching Sherlock.  First, the lead, Benedict Cumberpatch, who plays Sherlock is now the one who plays Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness.  He does a pretty awesome job acting in both.  The strangest part is that Dr. Watson is played by Martin Freeman, who also plays Bilbo Baggins in the new Hobbit movie series.  Again, he does an awesome job in both.  Now I loved Star Trek: Into Darkness without any reservations, but The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey was an overlong indulgence in making one third of a book into the length of two movies.  It should have been called The Hobbit: No scenes were deleted or cut even though they should have been.

One can debate whether Cumberpatch or Freeman got the better parts to play.  Khan is a cooler character but Bilbo gets at least a three movie deal.  The funniest part was watching Sherlock, and I kid you not, Freeman has to fight a Golem.  Now a golem is a mythical enforcer type, originally created in Jewish stories about a rabbi that makes a giant clay creature come to life to avenge his people.  In the TV show Sherlock, the Golem is a very scary hitman, played I believe, by the same person that played the creepy chained up monster in 300 that cuts Leonidas helmet.  But Golem and Gollum are pronounced the same.

watson fights golem

Dr. Watson fights Golem – Sherlock

Imagine my wonder and delight at seeing Bilbo (as Watson) yelling at Golem, “Hey Golem, stop or I’ll shoot you!” Then duking it out.  I really want to know if at the time of this first season in 2010, they all knew that Freeman would be playing Bilbo and put this whole thing is as an hilarious insider gag.  Does anyone know?  I would love to find out for sure.  Kudos in any event, it was very funny.

bilbo and gollum

Bilbo Baggins and Gollum

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