Movie Review: Star Trek Into Darkness by Kamran Jawaid

The following review was not published at Dawn.com

Entertainment Page Blurb: Space’s Final Frontier is still a film away in “Star Trek Into Darkness”, a ripping spree of familiarity in a new package.

Star Trek Into Darkness-Blog

To Boldly Go, Where they Went (Twice) Before!

By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid

Here’s the thing about blockbusters. When they click, people want more – and they want it fast – and this leads to more pop-corn and less story, and opening title clinchers.

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The one particular to Star Trek Into Darkness, the continuation restarted by J.J. Abrams, has Kirk (Chris Pine) and Bones McCoy (Karl Urban), skedaddling from white-skinned, still-evolving, aliens through a thick and fickle forest of bright red, as Spock (Zachray Quinto) tries to smother an angry inferno.

These clinchers are an indispensible tool in sequels for two reasons: one) they re-introduce characters, often times in pre-amped timed-to-blow-up sequences, that instinctively lead to reason number two) the pre-amp often headlines the general tone of the movie. After all, the big question following every successful part 1 is: where do we go from here? That’s a viable question, especially for Mr. Abram’s rebooted, parallel-universe set version of Captain’s Kirk’s early Star Trek days – a time before those first three seasons and five year mission in space’s final frontier where man had yet “to seek new life and new civilizations”, and “to boldly go where no man has gone before” (especially in regards to inter-specie romance William Shatner’s Kirk is intergalactically nefarious for).

Nope, the era of Into Darkness is less evolved. Squeaky clean skyscrapers fight for elbow room, as terrorist bomb government buildings. Sounds like the 21st century is still living in the 20th century, doesn’t it?!

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There’s a dilemma about Into Darkness; the critic has to be shrewd about giving particulars, because the film is a landmine of spoilers planted millimeters away from one another. The safest outline to tip-toe away from giving up too much would be this:

Starfleet headquarters gets attacked by a former officer with a grudge whose file name reads John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). A recently demoted Kirk and the still rookie crew of the enterprise are set on a vengeance mission to track Harrison down in enemy territory and destroy him with a newly designed Photon torpedo (I can Trekkers going “oooh” at the reference right now); And then there’s a couple of double reversals and new additions – they are: Peter Weller as the Starfleet Admiral sanctioning Kirk’s mission, and a stowaway science officer named Carol is played by Alice Eve, whose significance and full name has “spoiler alert!” stamped all over.

Now, holding back the geek in me for a paragraph or two: Into Darkness is (apologies for the pun), a big enterprise that’s strategically masked by a string of action elements tenting-up a three act story structure, where actions, consequences, reactions array and systematize a very weak reveal by the anticlimax. The information we eventually get is already over-used – twice (once in the 60’s and then in a movie) – and apathetic.

Does this make the screenplay by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof and the direction by Mr. Abram’s short of roaring pageantry and shiny lens flares, deliberately muted (and effective) space sequences and near-death issues by the ship’s reactor?

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Not in the least. Into Darkness is, in actuality, structured liked one of the film’s photon torpedoes: a breakneck projectile of dizzying pomp whose only real enemy is its own proclivity for the disease called “sequelitis” – a stressful infliction that mandates that the follow-up should be bigger, more pompous than the preceding part.

Apart from fluctuating bromances (and a smite of romance) – and lest I forget, superfluity of trivia – some apparent (like the Tribble from the episode Trouble with Tribbles), others disguised under misleading pseudonyms (in particular to two characters). There’s too little character growth amidst constant perils, and that too gets muddled in the interim (two scenes, if I recall, talk about events from the last Star Trek).

One movie down, however, the actors know their parts. Mr. Pine is a natural to Mr. Shatner’s Kirk, with perhaps a bit more resolved bent on being reckless; at one point, one can easily identify Mr. Pine’s expression showing a fleeting glimpse of Mr. Shatner’s self-styled cocky persona. Mr. Quinto is about fine as Spock, and Mr. Urban’s Bones McCoy – though unjustifiably in the background – is a perfect DeForest Kelley; this is a complement, not a contradiction to Mr. Urban’s acting talent – and the same applies Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin and Simon Pegg. Everyone has pockets of performances to fill-up in a story that’s little about them in the first place.

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Directed by J. J. Abrams; Produced by Mr. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Damon Lindelof, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci; Written by Mr Orci, Mr. Kurtzman, Mr. Lindelof, based on the characters and series by Gene Roddenberry; with Music by Michael Giacchino (reprising in part his remarkably grand new theme), Cinematography by Dan Mindel, Editing by Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey.

The film stars: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch, Karl Urban, John Cho, Alice Eve, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Peter Weller and Anton Yelchin.

Released by Paramount and Footprint Entertainment, “Star Trek Into Darkeness” is due for release early June. The movie is rated PG-13. There’s blink and you’ll miss sensuality (one with Ms. Eve and the other with a pair of Siamese half-humanoid felines), a few epilepsy-inducing lensflares (depends, of course, if you like Mr. Abram’s lens-flares) and lotsa edge of your seat oomph.

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