Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Steaming Pile of Fan Service -- Reflections on "Star Trek Into Darkness" (2013)

"You are aware this film is a great big con, right?"
I was a huge fan of Abrams’ reboot of Star Trek in 2009, finding it original, inventive, and true to the spirit of Rodenberry’s franchise. This sequel, though, is lacking in all three of those areas. It is visually stimulating, but thematically limp. In this film, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is faced with a superhuman Rip Van Winkle nemesis (Benedict Cumberbatch) who does lots of crazy terrorist things that defy logic until the plot requires a convenient explanation. Along the way, Abrams and his crack team of talented writers (including one of my favorites, LOST scribe Damon Lindelof) fill up screen time with characters acting out of character, unclear motivations, and cutesy fan service moments that felt fresh in 2009, but feel distracting and eye rolling in 2013.

Most of the problem with the film is its climax, which is an inverted callback to a scene in a previous Star Trek film. In its original incarnation, the scene was an emotional powerhouse that still resonates; here it is flimsy, contrived, and caused me to make a jack-off gesture during my screening. While I imagine Abrams and his flare lens crew were handing out the Kleenex on the set, I think they were giving them for the wrong fluids.

The actors are game in this film, but the convoluted plot makes what were probably fairly nuanced performances seem flat. Cumberbatch, a fine actor, is the best of the bunch here, but even he feels about as lifelike as Robert Patrick in T2: Judgment Day.

I really wanted to like this movie, and for most of its first act, I gave it the benefit of the doubt. But as the contrivances kept piling and the lame winking jokes mounting, I lost interest.

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