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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Film Review: Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Red Star 1
Star Trek Into Darkness

The last time that I'd felt angry at myself after watching a film was roughly ten years ago, shortly after I’d watched Michael Bay’s Bad Boys 2 (2003). It wasn’t my fault that the film was terrible, and so I quickly forgave myself for watching it and began feeling anger (and sorrow) towards Michael Bay, who, arguably, had directed only two good films, so far in his career.

Having watched J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness (STID from now on), that angry feeling has resurfaced and I don’t like it. I don’t like feeling it because it’s unnatural to feel that way towards films.

STID is one of the most incompetently shot and written films I’d seen in many years, and that says a lot. And before I go on: no, I’m not a Trekkie. I had to ask my friend (who sat beside me during the film) what a Tribble was.

The film opens with Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) defying one of Starfleet’s prime directives in order to save Spock (Zachary Quinto), who’d decided to, potentially, sacrifice himself in order to save an indigenous alien race. Kirk is reprimanded for disobeying direct orders, because he’s decided to use his heart instead of his head, and is demoted yet again (because this also happened in the previous film). But after a terrorist known as John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) attacks Starfleet head on and kills Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) in the process, Kirk becomes the captain of the USS Enterprise. Again. Just like in the previous film. Many things that had happened in the previous film happen again here.

This time, taking orders from one Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller), Kirk and Co. are ordered to follow Harrison to Qo'onS (sounds like Cronus), the Klingon's homeworld, and drop a payload of photon torpedoes on him from above. Kirk decides to complete the task on foot, disobeying orders again, and captures Harrison, who goes along willingly. Why did Admiral Marcus send them to Qo'onS and tell them to drop bombs on “Klingon territory”? Why did Harrison come willingly? And why haven’t any of the characters been developed yet?

These questions won’t appear on anyone’s radar until after the film is over, when one has to question essentially everything that’s happened throughout the film. But when an answer appears on the horizon it only complicates another matter and more questions arise.

There’s the screenplay. It’s awful. Take out the dialogue, which is mostly comprised of tiny jokes and the occasional silly bout of innuendo, and take out the constant barrage of expository dialogue and you have literally nothing. The film’s true antagonist isn’t Harrison but also isn’t developed at all. He delivers just enough exposition in order to propel the story into its action packed third act and then is forgotten entirely. By that rationale, Harrison, technically, doesn’t even need to be in this film. If you take him out of the screenplay and focus the story on its true antagonist and his possible “attack on Klingons”, which could potentially incite a war between their race and Starfleet then you have a really good, exciting, thought-provoking film. But like my other Trekkie friend said to me: “Then the producers wouldn't make any money because this film wouldn't be a shiny, remarkably dumb, action-filled special effects extravaganza”. And I cringe at that statement.

How does this make any sense? He loves and breathes Star Trek on a daily basis yet still claims that even if most of my points are valid then this is still a good Star Trek film because it's fun. Well, I was bored. There are very few action sequences during the 132 minute runtime; they come and go in small spurts. The dialogue is consistently clich├ęd, the jokes and in-jokes constantly jab at the audience’s ribs, the Enterprise is still a gigantic flying version of the Apple Store (which I still don’t much care for), and aside from Kirk and Spock, none of the characters are developed.

In the previous film, Kirk acted with his guts and not with his head. He was shown as a terribly inconsiderate and reckless person. And Spock leaned towards his human side more than he should have. In this film, Kirk thinks with his head and as a result, fails miserably, and then eventually claims that he’s entirely clueless as to what he really needs to do in order to win said situation(s), which is very human of him; but he eventually learns about the value of being selfless. And Spock goes from being selfless to muting his human side simply because he doesn’t like it and that he finds it superfluous. It takes just over four hours for the only two developed characters in Abram’s Star Trek universe to simply do a complete 180. On second thought, I wouldn't really call that character development.

STID is also a grossly incompetently shot film; conversations are shot almost entirely in close-up and either feature jokes or expository dialogue, and the action sequences are composed in medium to medium-close-up shots through pointlessly shaky cameras and erratic edits, as is normal and expected nowadays from Hollywood actioners. J.J. Abrams loves to move the camera around and when it does, it moves in sweeping motions that are also pointless and jarring because the scenes in which they’re depicted don’t contain dramatic elements that are heavy enough to constitute such operatic motions. And when the camera is still it depicts annoying handheld motions that simulate as if the film was shot on one of the Earth’s oceans.

Aside from Benedict Cumberbatch, who can’t deliver a bad performance, I don’t like anything about this film. I don’t like the screenplay, which is terrible anyway; the soundtrack is entirely forgetful and I find the film’s repetitious theme song terribly annoying; I still don’t like the look of the Enterprise; none of the characters are developed including the antagonist, who desperately needed developing; the action was consistently, incompetently shot; every few minutes some character said something so utterly stupid that I was shaking my head; and for some reason almost every film that I’d watched in the theatres throughout the past few years was mostly out of focus. That’s just what digital projection looks like, though. During STID, whenever the camera moved I almost felt nauseous. But that’s a different matter altogether.

I cannot recommend this film to either Trekkies or to anyone else. It’s mind-numbingly dumb, doesn’t make sense, and those darn lens flares are at it again! But they have subsided since the previous film, I’ll admit that. I just hope that J.J. Abrams decides to pull the camera back when shooting action scenes from now on or, even better, not direct films anymore.

Imagine what would have happened if Brad Bird had directed this film… The first thing that he would do would be to burn the screenplay and immediately start working on a new one. Then he’d shoot really amazing looking scenes, one after another, more than competent action sequences, and have all or most of the special effects be in the background where they belong.

4 comments:

  1. 1 star? But it was in colour and had English speaking actors. That deserves at least one and a half.

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  2. lol Nice try. It was in colour, yes. But a lot of it was out of focus (whenever the camera moved) and language isn't important. It could have been a silent film. So, 1 star is good enough. I'm being generous because every time that I think about this movie I get angry. No movie's ever done that to me before...

    But thanks for commenting! And feel free to comment more often. :O)

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  3. Although I agree with a lot of your criticisms I still thought the film was generally a lot of fun. I hated the whole "Khan" redux though and wonder why they hadda go back to the well in just the 2nd installment of the new franchise? It smacks of desperation to me...

    But I'd still rate it (At the very least) a 3. It might not have been logical but it wasn't boring either.

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  4. 3/4? That's a high rating. But that's where we differ, my friend, for I was bored throughout the second half of the film. And you, who found IRON MAN 3 mostly uninteresting I found fascinating and exciting, except when there was action on screen. That's where subjectivity and objectivity clash. I find STID objectively, technically and logically incompetent and subjectively empty, dumb, and boring. A complete failure on every level.

    And I say to you what I say to everyone else: I'm, honestly glad that you weren't bored. At least you had fun. :O)

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