Star Trek: Into Darkness

There will be a spoiler, so consider yourself warned.

Let me just start out by saying this:

YES.

Any questions?

OK, OK, I’ve probably got a thing or three more to say about Star Trek: Into Darkness, but I want to make it perfectly clear that I heart this movie with an unrepentant passion and will probably be the nerd at the video store at midnight buying it as soon as it’s released on Blu-Ray.  And then I’ll stay up all night watching it on my big-ass TV because this.

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.

When JJ Abrams & Co. released the first movie of the new Star Trek franchise in 2009,  they presented their viewers with a parallel universe.  The characters Trekkies have come to know and love take a slightly different tack as they zip about in space dodging time-traveling, revenge-hungry Romulans.  In Into Darkness, there’s still a revenge-hungry antagonist, though they pulled out the big guns for antagonist two.  In this movie, the crew of the Enterprise is up against (OK, here’s my spoiler) none other than the genetically engineered, hate-fueled killing machine, Khan Noonien Singh.

Yes, this clip is from 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khanthe progenitor of Into Darkness.  If you’re unfamiliar with the 1982 movie, please enjoy this clip–and by all means, watch the entire thing–for its incredibly tasty cheese.  You don’t get William Shatner howling like that for just anything.

Khan, one of Star Trek‘s legendary, hate-that-you-love-him villains, was originally immortalized by the leather-and-mullet-sporting Ricardo Montalban (seen in the above YouTube clip), so casting the proper villain for movie #2 was, I am sure, not for the weak.  Happily, Khan v.2013 was played with gleeful, finger-licking, ruthless abandon by latest British It-boy, Benedict Cumberbatch, who rocks the small screen as a modern version of Sherlock Holmes on BBC.  (He’s such an It-Boy he’s even managed to edge out David Beckham as Britain’s hunkiest dude in a Sun UK newspaper poll.)  (Yes, way.)

…even if he does at times bear a striking resemblance to an otter.

Khan, you look so...wet...and covered in thick, waterproof fur...

Oh Khan, you so covered in thick, waterproof fur.
Photo from cheezburger.com

But I digress.

So, listen.  I’m not going to get crazy with a plot synopsis.  Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) are in space, cause volcano-stopping mayhem and get into a galaxy-sized heap o’ trouble.  They’re double-crossed and then double-crossed again.  Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) comes off as a latter-day love child of General Patton and The Great Santini to wonderful effect, though I couldn’t help wondering if Peter Weller just has a crappy dentist in real life or if the costume department designed a dental bridge that made him look like a bulldog.  Uhura (Zoe Saldana) proves herself to be a total badass linguistics officer (take that, Noam Chomsky!) by standing up to an entire squadron of Klingons.  Scotty (Simon Pegg) pontificates about the trouble brewing when you don’t know the fuel source for your photon torpedoes while storming off in a huff with his bizarre, oyster-faced sidekick whose backstory I hope gets explained in a future movie installment.  As for McCoy (Karl Urban)…ummmmm…errrrrrr…

They really need to develop Dr. McCoy a little more successfully, don’t they?  He’s currently holding court as the hackneyed comic relief, but oh, Karl Urban.  You could do so much more.

There’s lots of shoot-em-up and disabled ships and the Enterprise succumbing to the effects of gravity as the crew frantically tries to restart the engines.  Don’t piffle with me about the science of whether-or-not: whether or not Kirk could kick that thing back into position, whether or not the crew could have run along the walls while the ship’s gravity stabilizers were failing.  Blah blah wonks, I don’t care.  The truth is, I don’t ask a whole lot of the plot in a movie like this.  Things were blowing up in space, I got to see a planet that looked like it was the primary galactic source for red vines candy, and by the end of the movie Kirk was walking on to the deck with that characteristic swagger that preserves his status as the universe’s top pimp.  It was all grand fun.   I’ll be less willing to suspend my disbelief when the Enterprise is in front of me and I can finally go work for the Federation.

I saw it in 2D, not 3D, because 2D was the next showing the night I went and I didn’t want to hang around the movie theater for an hour.  I thought the 2D was fantastic; one friend said 3D was worth the extra price of admission, another said the light flares were distracting.  Do with that what you will.  But go see it!  Kick off your summer blockbuster movie season the right way.

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What I’m Watching: Unstoppable

Unstoppable

They really missed the opportunity to use “Crazy Train” as part of the soundtrack for this movie, which I think is somewhat remiss, though I’m now in favor of that song being put to (entirely reasonable) use as the campaign theme song for Michelle Bachmann’s presidential campaign.

Anyway.  Two guys.  Two trains, one of them a half-mile long and unmanned (if those guys had split forces and been one on each train…no movie), loaded with gnarly chemicals, and headed for a population center in southern Pennsylvania.  Apparently, this is based on an event that happened in 2001 in Ohio.  Still, even though this movie is an example of art imitating life and more than two people appear on screen throughout the entirety of the movie, it’s really about two guys (Denzel Washington and Chris Pine) who are forced together, dislike each other intensely, and eventually forge the bonds of unbreakable friendship in the face of life-threatening adversity.

‘s OK.  Sort of.  But not really.

The characters were fairly uniformly one-dimensional, though Denzel did his best with the flat script and flaccid directing.  I felt bad for Rosario Dawson, who played the yard boss responsible for coordinating the recovery efforts.  She was in a good deal of the movie but is sorely underused, and seemingly only said things like, “Get Galvin on the phone!” or “What’s its speed now?  Oh, no!  It’s closing in on Stanton!”  I expected more from Tony Scott, who directed “Top Gun” and “True Romance” and whether you care for those movies or not, they had great pace and were able to draw you in.  Of course, Tony Scott also directed Denzel Washington in the remake of “The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3” (not linking to it, you’re welcome), generally chewed up by the critics, and this only makes me wonder if Denzel owes him money.  The storyline was riddled with contrived pseudo-made-you-jump moments involving characters the viewer doesn’t get a chance to know or really care about, and if you go to a movie for lots of boom-clang-rat-a-tat, then it’s the movie for you.  Otherwise, all the glass breaking and derailers exploding and things flying up at Chris Pine when he’s trying to couple the cars is the cinematic equivalent of sound and fury signifying nothing.

This may sound weird, but the thing I really enjoyed about this movie?  Is how well it portrayed the weird, sort of leaden quality possessed by Pennsylvania’s industrial towns.  The train blows through all these small PA rail towns, and—I noticed this when I moved here—even after a good rain, there’s still a dinginess that clings to the buildings, as though after years of exposure to train smoke (or, depending on your region, coal dust, or factory exhaust) these towns have finally integrated the grime into their atmospheres.  You see a little of that in the beginning of “Kingpin”, too, but the scenery in that movie is quickly eclipsed by the horrific landlady.  If you’ve seen it…you know what I mean.   And I digress.

Watch this movie if:

  • You’re a trainspotter.
  • You like clangy-smashy-boomy movies.
  • You like watching underutilized actors.
  • You want to feast your eyes upon Chris Pine/Denzel Washington/Rosario Dawson.
  • You like looking at gritty little towns.
  • Your alternative activity options are all illegal.  (New slogan for the movie: “Watch “Unstoppable”!  It beats breaking the law.”)

Skip this movie if:

  • Train talk bores you.
  • You find noisy movies jarring.
  • You demand three-dimensional characters, salient plot movement, and decent directing.
  • Nickelodeon is running a “The Nanny” marathon.
  • You’ve been meaning to find the time to bust out the home-candling kit and take care of that nasty earwax buildup.

I just watched the trailer again…it’s pretty exciting, and you pretty much see everything you need to know in 2:28.  Enjoy!

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