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Star Trek Into Darkness 3D – film review

May 10, 2013

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS 3D

That’s more like it! A reboot redeemed.

Reviewed on Thursday 9th May 2013

star trek into darkness enterprise

Directed by J.J. Abrams. Written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof. Based on the television series Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry. Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin,   Simon Pegg and Benedict Cumberbatch. Running time: 132 mins.

Please note: there are positvely NO SPOILERS in this review.

Although I would never say I was ever a fan of the original 1960’s television series (well, apart from when I was a kid), I can say I enjoyed the original characters as they appeared in a few of the early movies; particularly the self-contained story arc which comprises The Wrath Of Khan, The Search For Spock and The Voyage Home.

Into Darkness is a vast improvement over the previous film (simply titled Star Trek), which I always felt was trying too hard to be The Wrath Of Khan and not its own story – ironic considering the amount of fanboy speculation there has been over the role of Benedict Cumberbatch in this latest installment. And Cumberbatch does indeed make a formidable villian; with a menacing voice and screen presence not seen in a Trek film since Wrath Of Khan. Following Karl Urban’s lead in the previous movie; the rest of the cast make more of an effort here to appear closer to the original characters they are portraying. Simon Pegg (as Scotty) in particular shows great improvement – being less like Simon Pegg and more like James Doohan. But it is really Chris Pine who shines in this film. Unlike the previous outing, he absolutely nails Kirk in this – incorporating many of William Shatner’s nuanced idiosyncrasies into his performance. The triumvirate of Kirk, Spock and McCoy really was the hub of the original Star Trek universe and the characteristic banter between these characters – which was sorely lacking in the previous film, which was a major dynamic integral to the earlier series – is thankfully very much in evidence here.

Co-writer Damon Lindelof – so despised by fanboys last year for his perceived ruining of Prometheus – goes some way here to redeem his own reputation. Or perhaps he had less actual imput into this movie’s screenplay. While returning writers Orci and Kurtzman (the scribes responsible for such dire drek as the Transformers franchise) manage to steer clear of the illogical twists and plot holes which so badly undermined the integrity of their previous effort.

Abrams is clearly adept at staging coherent action set pieces – as demonstrated by his handling of the mining drill sequence in the previous film – however (and it could be just a fault with the 3D conversion) – many of the action scenes here seem to lack the sense of geography which made that sequence work so well. When I heard he was set to helm the next Star Wars picture, I must say I had my reservations – I wasn’t entirely convinced he was up to the challenge. However, after seeing this, his latest entry in the space opera sweepstakes, I am beginning to feel more at ease – so long as he lays off the lens flares – enough with those damn lens flares already!

The visual effects by Industrial Light And Magic (under the supervision of Roger Guyett) are spectacular and seamlessly integrated with the live action. The opening pre-title sequence on a planet with red foliage and the final show-down atop a flying scow over San Francisco are particular highlights.

Trek fans familiar with The Wrath Of Khan, The Search For Spock and The Voyage Home (arguably the best of the original movies) will find many subtle (and not so subtle) references to these particular entries littered throughout Into Darkness. And much like Wrath Of Khan – which itself was a reboot, rather than a direct continuation of Star Trek: The Motion PictureInto Darkness can be appreciated on its own, without having to see the previous installment.

As with last week’s release of Iron Man Three, Star Trek Into Darkness has also been given a distracting and ineffective 3D conversion (made even worse here by Abram’s obssession with lens flares). By all means, do see it on the big screen, but don’t waste your money on the 3D version – there is nothing to be gained by seeing it       in 3D.

With the promise of future installments taking place over the course of the classic series’ five year mission, I eagerly look forward to seeing this rebooted crew of the Enterprise explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations and boldly go where no-one has gone before …

4 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4  – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Viewed in 3D V-Max at the Event Cinemas Marion, Adelaide, May 9th 2013.

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos   and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies.

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15 Comments
  1. I like how you made your rating system. 5 in particular because that is just another great way of putting it: I call mine near-perfect and must own.
    moseleyofaaronj.wordpress.com

    • gregory moss permalink

      Thanks! Yeah, I much prefer the ‘out of five stars’ rating system to the ‘out of ten’ one. Much simpler. And I can always resort to ‘half stars’ if I need to. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Haha – we’ll see TC, we’ll see. Remember, the future is never set. 🙂

  3. Seems you enjoyed it more than I did!

    Overblown, under thought springs to my mind regards the movie. Just like the 2009 movie, I suspect the film will be reappraised when the Blu-ray comes out.

    • Yeah, I know what you mean by ‘overblown’. But that’s something I guess we have to expect from Hollywood these days. I did go in expecting it to be as awful as the last one, which is perhaps why I was pleasantly surprised this time round. And I do think it’s a step in the right direction as far as the characters are concerned. It’s just that it would be nice to see some more accomplished writers on board next time – writers with an appreciation and understanding of verisimilitude.

      • Well, that scene from Wrath of Khan earned its emotional value because of all the years the characters have spent together. Redoing it here was crass and typically ill-thought. Kirk and Spock hardly know each other, its before the 5-year mission, they haven’t got the bond yet and haven’t earned the emotions, its pointless. Worse, its exploiting the characters, the franchise, in order to further the careers of the young Turks making it (well, writing it anyway). Think about it. Its an appalling and exploitive movie.

      • SPOILERS! – Yeah Ian, that scene at the end with Kirk and Spock was perhaps a tad premature (in terms of what little we have seen of the characters’ interactions over two movies) – although we did see Kirk disregard the prime directive and risk his career in order to save Spock at the beginning of this insatllment. The mirroring of Spock’s death scene from Wrath Of Khan didn’t really rankle me all that much and I did enjoy the little character moments between the various principals this time round. At least we got a sense of bonding amongst the crew which wasn’t there last time. And I’m not entirely certain Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci would be happy being referred to as ‘young turks’ – as they have been writing produced material since Hercules:The Legendary Journeys in 1997. Perhaps the term ‘hack writers’ might be more appropriate? At least they’re consistent – to the point where whenever I see their names attached to an upcoming release; I know exactly what I’m in for and can brace myself for the awfulness to follow – and don’t get me started on Damon Lindelof. 🙂

  4. Good review. 🙂 I agree that the characters are much better this time around than in the first one. They seemed to have more of a connection with each other this time (although, yeah – as was mentioned in the comment above it was a bit premature re-doing that scene as the history isn’t there between Kirk & Spock like in The Wrath Of Khan. It’s not going to have the same emotional impact). And I don’t know what a lens flare is but everyone (and my hubby) is complaining about that in this. And I’m not going to be as picky about a Star Trek movie but I’ll be VERY upset if he doesn’t handle Star Wars correctly.

    • I absolutely agree with this comment – I too am REALLY concerned about the new Star Wars movies having seen how this Star Trek reboot has gone. I really hoped that this second film might have fixed those problems the 2009 film had. Instead it seemed to have gone the other way. For instance, think about this – just WHY is the Enterprise underwater at the beginning, other than an excuse for another ‘wow’ effects shot? Surely it would have kept a lower profile safe in orbit beaming people down/using a shuttle. The whole film insults our intelligence. Hope Star Wars fares better.

      • As with Lucas, I don’t think Abrams has any particular capacity for recognizing good or bad storytelling. So I don’t blame Abrams for the lapses in internal logic. It really is the fault of the screenwriters. Kurtzman and Orci are the culprits here – in the same way Lindelof was the culprit with Prometheus. Why these three overrated hacks continue to find work is way beyond me. Perhaps audiences these days are less discerning when it comes to logic and coherence in storytelling. Looking on the bright side – neither Lindelof, Orci or Kurtzman have anything to do with the next Star Wars – so we can at least breathe easy for now. 🙂

      • I honestly think he’ll do a horrible job with Star Wars. But I certainly didn’t like the prequels too much – luckily they somehow didn’t taint the original trilogy for me. I just kind of pretend they don’t exist – I’m sure I can do that with further films. 🙂 I agree there are some very silly moments in Into Darkness. I liked it much more than you did, though – gave it a positive review because I did find it very entertaining. I’m sure I’d be FAR more picky if I was a huge fan of Star Trek in the first place. Not sure how I’d feel about the Spock/Kirk role reversal at the end! Can see why some die hard fans aren’t happy. And, okay, it made no sense whatsoever to have the Enterprise underwater. It just looked cool. 😉

    • Thanks table9! Yeah, the lens flares were still an issue for me in this, although not nearly as much as the previous one. Like everything, lens flares are fine in moderation – but should really only be deliberately added to effects shots in order to provide a sense of realism (as with Douglas Trumbull’s FX shots in Blade Runner and Close Encounters). Abrams tends to use them in pretty much every second shot with all the giddy enthusiasm of a neophyte filmmaker. I hope he is instructed to leave his lens flares at home when he next tackles Episode VII. The reason why Lucas chose Richard Marquand to direct Jedi was the fact that Marquand didn’t have any particular visual aesthetic which was idiosyncratic. This was the reason why David Lynch and Paul Verhoeven (although originally considered) – were ultimately passed on for the directing gig on Jedi. And so it should be with the next three Star Wars pictures. Abrams will need to tone down his visual style considerably in order to fit in with the aesthetic already established in the series.

      Phew – that was a long-winded response, huh? 🙂

      • Lol! I’m still not sure what a lens flare is but hoping the hubby never actually points one out to me because once I know what it is, it’s probably ALL I would ever notice again! I kind of like knowing nothing whatsoever about filmmaking. 😉 It must make it harder to enjoy movies sometimes? Were those two really considered for Jedi?! Either would have made one weird-ass Star Wars movie!

      • Yeah, knowing how films are made can be a bit of a burden at times – in terms of just letting go and enjoying them as a punter. But it can also be incredibly rewarding when seeing something which is so well made that the seams no longer show. And yeah, it is true Lynch and Verhoeven were considered for Jedi. It was Spielberg who suggested Verhoeven to Lucas after seeing The Soldier Of Orange. Lucas was keen to sign him up based on that particular movie, but changed his mind when he finally got to see Verhoeven’s The Fourth Man. Lynch was up for consideration based on his handling of The Elephant Man, but decided against accepting the gig. As you say – their versions certainly would have been weird-ass. 🙂

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