DIRECTOR: J.J. Abrams
Not to much has changed since my review back in May, but its second viewing did improve it somewhat. Unfortunately, it DIDN’T improve the plot which at several points crosses the border into ludicrousness, but I did find it more enjoyable, certainly as a blockbuster rather than a genre Star Trek film.
It does not fail as a Star Trek movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it doesn’t succeed either. It is filled with solid, entertaining and faithful nods to classic Trek, in everything from tone, dialogue, casting, characterisation and sound design.
Some of its failings are in the its very average score, which while I understand the logic behind building up to the memorable theme, feel that they left it too late, and seemed to be afraid of reminding the audience that they were watching Star Trek.
The set design was also confusing in parts and left me wondering where we were and how the interiors corresponded to the exteriors of the Enterprise.
On a plus note, the pacing was very good, for an action adventure film, and the sound design was first rate, now I’ve heard it on a real system and not the broken down and poorly calibrated sound system at the cinema.
Overall, I feel that on its second viewing I will up my rating to 3 and half stars, and though I would actually love to go higher as I really enjoyed it, even the first time, it was enjoyable, I feel that there is still too much wrong with it to justify a higher rating.
CINEMA REVIEW (MAY 2009)
Star Trek: It had been over 7 years since the last, somewhat underrated outing, and it was clear that Star Trek as we’d known it was a dying franchise. At 36 years old in 2002, it had clearly done well and done more than its bit for Sci Fi and Television over that time.
But, in a time of re-makes and reimagineings, Star Trek needed a reboot if it was going to continue. One of the main reasons attributed to Star Trek: Enterprise’s premature cancellation was the fact that it had become bogged down in over a decade of Star Trek lore and its own back story etc.
I was certainly not against the idea of taking this massive universe and re-thinking it, taking the elements of back story and themes into a new and concise vision. Like comic books, TV series build up their characters back stories week by week and James Kirk, for example, had his constructed in the same way.
This in turn meant that you have to either be a fan boy or follow every episode to understand where these characters came from.
Battlestar Galactica’s reboot was nothing short of brilliant, but like many, I felt that Star Trek didn’t need such an extreme rethinking, and for a long while, it would seem that J.J. Abrams agreed.
Now, I understand that setting a 2009 blockbuster in the cardboard sets of 1966 TV land would have been a little ambitious, but the new look of this film fell very short of what you would expect as serious movie to do in my opinion.
Now, the film:
****************** SPOILERS ********************
Well, to start with, the highlights of the casting were Karl Urban’s Dr. McCoy and Simon Pegg’s Scotty. Urban’s McCoy was authentic in both tone and expression. The character was down as well as the inflections. This is a stark contrast to Pegg’s Scotty, who was more Simon Pegg than anything else but did bring a great energy and comic relief to the film. He, as was Urban, were a pleasure to watch.
Chris Pine’s Jim Kirk on the other hand was a worthy performance and I felt that he did carry enough weight to take to the lead role in the film, but didn’t embody the character enough. He was very watchable and fun, but I didn’t feel the commanding confidence was there. Now, I do accept that this was meant to be a young Kirk who will grow into the James T. Kirk we all know, but still, I felt that was missing.
Zachary Quinto’s Spock was very admirable interpretation of Leonard Nimoy’s creation, but I felt that it was lacking something else. It lacked the actor’s own presence and when he did veer from the like for like impression he seemed to end up doing a great Sylar, from his other TV show, Heroes.
Zoe Saldana’s Uhura was a completely different interpretation than Nichelle Nichols, but I felt was a superior one. She has a lot about her and the role seemed to simply role off effortlessly.
Checov & Sulu’s performances were okay, with Sulu leaving me with a sense, whatever, he’ll do, and Checov with a feeling that his accent was completely over done. Shame really.
The sets left me cold at best, appalled at worst. ‘The iBridge’ with its endless lens flares was just sickening to me. Utter gloss over substance, white is not the way to go in my opinion, though the sound design was very good.
The Engine Room and other sets just seemed to be cobbled together, and lacked any sense of cohesion, certainly not what I’d expect from a state of the art starship of 300 years in the future.
And the Water-tubes sequence which culminated with the ‘The Big Red Hatch’ conceit! This was poor, poor, poor writing and to me sums up the theme of his film. It lacks respect for the audience, who no doubt flocked to see The Dark Knight last year, a film which many hailed as a masterpiece, and in small way due to its complex characters and plotting.
As for the music, its new Hero Theme was second rate at best. Michael Giacchino is not one of the best names out there for film scores by half, in fact in even my rudimentary musically knowledge has picked up a four note hook often used by the massively superior Hans Zimmer.
Michael Giacchino is nothing short of a hack and his days of scoring anything for the big screen should be ended right now! Also, the decision to copy Casino Royale’s choice to not use the iconic Bond theme till the very end, until James Bond had become the Bond we knew was poor. In the case of Star Trek though, this didn’t strike me as plot conceit, as more a lack of confidence.
It was more a case in my opinion that the mainstream audience would have been put off by the iconic Star Trek theme, so include it at the end and it’s to late! They’ve been ensnared because the audience is apparently too stupid don’t forget, to know that they’ve spent the last 2 hour watching Star Trek!
And then there’s J.J. Abrams. This man is the most overrated Director/Producer I have ever seen. He has noting to his name worthy of praise as far as I’m concerned besides Mission: Impossible III. The never ending perfume commercial which is Lost is hardly an endorsement and is in fact a savage indictment, and the less said about Fringe, the better!
One of the biggest issues I had with this movie was its pacing. It had a good sense of pace which I certainly liked, but in this case it was trying to introduce too much too fast and wouldn’t pause for breath or to take in details when needed.
The new look Enterprise was okay, but again, I’m not too sure why they felt the need to change it that much.
The Kobiashi Maru sequence was entertaining but vacuous. Reprogramming the test was one of Star Trek lore’s most important plot points, certainly regarding Kirk, but it just seemed to be overly simple and left me cold.
Now, the Delta Vaga/Vulcan plot conceit was one of the most LUDICROUS things I have seen! Forget about the fanboy point that Delta Vega was supposed to be on outer reaches of the galaxy, but if you open a black hole inside a planet, thereby destroying said planet, thereby replacing the planet with a black hole, wouldn’t Delta Vega have been affected or destroyed too?
Don’t forget, Vulcan was bigger than the Earth’s moon in Delta Vega’s sky, so that would mean that Vulcan and D. Vega were about as far apart! This is ridiculous and was unnecessarily written into the film. Sloppy, isn’t the word.
In summary, some great and good performances, great special effects and a sense of fun make this film very watchable, but it has certainly lost touch with its cerebral roots. It was way to stylised, and not even in a good way, for its own good. And the direction and scoring were amateurish and naive.
We may have hoped for something on par with The Dark Knight or on the other side of the coin, Spiderman and got something more a kin to The Fantastic Four!
N.B. Originally posted 22nd November 2009, revised from the review from May 2009. Star Trek Into Darkness is out in U.K. Cinemas today!