Day: May 21, 2013

Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

Three years ago JJ Abrams took on possibly the bravest undertaking of his meteoric rise to prominence by agreeing to direct the Star Trek reboot / reimagining / re….whatever you want to call it. Fan boys and geeks everywhere went into meltdown and feared the worst. However, what followed was ludicrously good fun.

Few would deny that 2009’s Star Trek was exactly what a summer blockbuster should be. It was exciting, loud, brash and unashamedly geeky. It wasn’t without its faults of course, most notably a gaping plot hole that we still can’t quite understand how it escaped everyone’s notice. (If Nero had traveled back in time why didn’t he just go and warn Romulus before it was destroyed instead of waiting 30 years for Spock?) That aside, though it was a joy.

For the most part Abrams steered clear of shoehorning in references to the original series or the films, which we think was hugely to his credit. It allowed viewers who may not have previously been fans to access this Star Trek universe without needing any knowledge of Shatner, Nimoy et al.

And it’s here that Into Darkness really falls down. There are just too many references and overt nods to both the series and the films. So much so that my companion was left feeling completely alienated by the in jokes and references to what has gone before. We assumed that after cleverly creating an alternate universe in the first film that we would avoid this, sadly not. A lot of the time we caught ourselves thinking  “Really? Did they need to do that? Is this just a reboot of another of the films? That makes no sense.” And finally “WHAT!!!!! YOU CAN’T SAY THAT……THAT’S NOT EVEN YOUR LINE”.

Abrams also seems to struggle to know what to do with any of his female characters. For the most part they are just used as exposition or are just shown in their underwear.

The film itself delivers plenty of bang for your buck in the effects and wow factor stakes. There are a couple of scenes that are draw droppingly good, especially the opening. We are reintroduced to the crew of the Enterprise as they are chased by a primitive tribe on a faraway planet as they try to avoid breaking the prime directive, (you can’t interfere with the development of another species – I’m not sure that Kirk’s libido got that memo in the original series though) with limited success almost resulting in one crew members death.

Meanwhile back on earth we meet the film’s big bad – JOHN HARRISON. Hardly a name that strikes fear into your heart. As it turns out he is formerly of Star Fleet and has turned terrorist against his former employers. Benedict Cumberbatch is clearly having a whale of a time, he chews his way through scenery while still sounding like he has plums in his mouth. (Steady) He commits an act of horror against the Star Fleet big wigs and then promptly scarpers to Kronos, (the Klingon home world) where he cannot be followed. We get to see some of the old Cornish Pasty faced warriors as they get their arses handed to them by Sherlock himself.

We won’t go into too much detail after that as it would be difficult to do so without giving away vital plot points. Needless to say the brown stuff hits the fan and Kirk and Co are thrust into a variety of perilous situations. These just seemed to be a procession of fights and chases which seemed to go on, and on, and on ad nauseam.

We were left feeling a little short changed by Into Darkness. Yes the villain was an improvement from the first film and yes it looks great, particularly if you like lens flare, but like many Vulcans it lacked emotion.

One real positive however is Zachary Quinto as Spock. He is the beating heart of this franchise. Although others perform admirably, (even with the dodgy accent, Simon Pegg is again on good form) it is he who performs the films heavy lifting. Kirk feels strangely redundant in this film and Cumberbatch although good is woefully underused.

The 12 year old in me enjoyed the explosions but the adult in me just couldn’t help but feel like they could have done much, much better. It’s a shame that they couldn’t capitalise on the start they made three years ago, this feels like a step in the wrong direction.

This was less Wrath of Kahn and more Trouble with Tribbles. Let’s hope he does a better job with Star Wars.

I Give It A Year (2013)

Nowadays, romantic comedies are the junk food of cinema. Like horror films, they are routinely packaged up for the lowest common denominator and sent out to the local multiplex, where they will invariably make their money back in the opening weekend before disappearing into obscurity. The main issue is they are so formulaic that we guess what’s going to happen to Katherine Higl and Gerard Butler before they’ve even walked onto the screen. So, the concept behind Dan Mazer’s I Give It A Year is intriguing enough to warrant some interest.

After a whirlwind seven month romance, Nat and Josh (played by Rose Byrne and Rafe Spall) have gotten married much to chagrin of their friend and family, who believe they are rushing into things and give them a year before it all ends. Did you see what they did there? Did you see?

Several months into their marriage, our protagonists find themselves drifting apart due to a desire for different things in life. Byrne is trying to maintain her marketing/PR/never really fleshed out career, whilst Spall is struggling to start his second novel, haven got too caught up in what he should cal the main character. Unable to understand each other’s problems and realising that they don’t have that much in common, they begin to find themselves drawn to other people. Namely, Byrne’s flashy client (Simon Baker) and Spall’s ex-girlfriend (Anna Faris).

Whilst there are some great comedic moments in I Give It A Year (namely Stephen Mechant’s excruciating best man speech and a cock-up with an electronic photo frame), its desire to do something drastically different fails ultimately because there is no one to root for here. Everybody is as shallow as a puddle with twice the personality. If you thought Richard Curtis wrote one-dimensional characters, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Faris is a floppy haired, free-spirited American that appears to have fallen out of a pixie’s nose, whilst Baker is a money shitting, high roller American with the personality of I Spit on Your Grave. And yet, they’re the ones you end up feeling sorry for in this whole sorry mess.

On top of that, there is a heavy vein of misogynistic fat that makes a Jason Segal script look forward thinking. Whilst both Spall and Byrne are painted as arseholes, it’s Byrne who seems to have been painted with the larger brush. It’s the woman who hides her marriage from the wooing client. It is the woman who initiates sex with people other than her husband. It is the woman who wants nothing more out of life than fine clothes and money. Meanwhile, Jason Segal, sorry, Rafe Spall shares tender moments with Faris and is the first to acknowledge there’s problems with his marriage. Dare we say it, he almost comes across as the hero, which, in Mazer’s defence, we don’t think was mean to be the idea.

I Give It A Year may not end the way you were expecting and, in a way it should be applauded or trying something new. However, ultimately, it’s an icky film that feels like a 90 minute set up to a mildly amusing 5 minute sketch.