Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013) *
Dir. J.J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Bruce Greenwood, Peter Weller, Karl Urban
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Star Trek: Into Darkness is the worst film J.J. Abrams has made since Mission Impossible III.
That said, I must admit I have little use for J.J. Abrams, at least not within the arena of feature films and since I don't watch TV where, apparently, his purported strengths lie anyway - I can, at least to all the fanboys who don't know better, be forgiven for my dismissive attitude.
Here's the deal: His wretched first feature MI: III, appalled me beyond belief. The movie was dull, noisy and jam-packed with one action set piece after another that displayed all the directorial prowess of a career bricklayer who'd inexplicably been hired to direct the back end of a film franchise that in previous helpings boasted such true masters of cinematic grammar as Brian De Palma and John Woo.
While I wouldn't call Abrams's Star Trek reboot a complete disaster - his insights into younger versions of Kirk, Spock and the rest of the gang were not without merit - he proved once again that he had absolutely no talent for action, suspense and cinematic grammar beyond the rudimentary. All encounters of the kick-butt variety were cacophonous, sloppily edited and rife with poorly composed and mostly too-close shots.
Seeing as both of the aforementioned eschewed elements such as theme and character for action, a director unable to shoot action is pretty much a liability. Super 8 was not without a few good performances and a somewhat more competent handling of basic dialogue scenes, but both the period detail and action were abysmal.
As for Star Trek: Into Darkness, I haven't been as bored and tired out by a brainless summer blockbuster in quite some time, though I'll admit that the presence of the excellent actor Benedict Cumberbatch enlivened the proceedings for me on occasion. There's also the welcome, albeit too brief appearance from the original Robocop himself Peter Weller and a cameo from Leonard Nimoy that only serves to remind one of how great the original Gene Roddenberry TV series was.
Otherwise, what we get here is a dopey retread of Nicholas Meyer's masterpiece of a feature, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and the great "Space Seed" episode from the series. It's not only dopey, but it lacks all the heart of the originals and places far to much emphasis on action - which, as we have determined - Abrams is not able to direct. Alas, this spindly tale of Kirk on a rampage against the evil Khan is strictly by-the-numbers stuff.
Here, of course, instead of Spock dying at the end of the movie as in the great Meyer picture, Kirk is the one who dies. The big farewell scene has none of the power of the original Trek II and worse, foists a totally convenient and unconvincing happy ending wherein Kirk lives.
When Spock died at the end of Trek II, the packed cinemas were pierced by the sounds of grown men wailing and sobbing. No kidding. It was genuinely and profoundly movie - not just for fans of the original series, but for pretty much anyone who watched it.
And, of course, while Cumberbatch is a genuinely great actor, he's absolutely no match for Ricardo Montalban. In fact, he seems like a nasty little prissy boy compared to Montalban's ultra-evil man's man.
Abrams, as far as I'm concerned, is still a hack and this entire reboot feels like some lame parody of the original series and movies. Do yourself a favour. If you've not seen the originals, skip this lame, poorly directed slag heap and dive into the perfection of the real thing.
I, for one, will continue to be curious how many more movies Abrams will make that will fool critics who should know better and draw in audiences to boot. He might be more mediocre a talent than director Arthur Hiller and that takes some real doing. Besides, as soulless as Hiller was, he had his craft down pat. Abrams proves, once again, that he never will.
He's got tin eyes.
He might as well be blind.
After press time, I got a terrific note in the comments section from film critic Anne Billson who noted:
Shouldn't they be going "Whoopee!" and hunting down more Khan/Tribble blood so they can inject it into all the terminally ill people? And why wasn't the resuscitated Tribble reproducing, eh? Bah.And my response was thus:
Dear Anne: Thank you so kindly for mentioning what I was too lazy, depressed and angry to mention in my review. "The Trouble With Tribbles", it seems, is that Abrams might actually have a head full of the little bastards - reproducing like all get out and squeezing what little brain matter is perched within his cranium until it oozes out his ears, blocking them like a mega-build-up of earwax and explaining why virtually EVERY picture-edit is driven by sound of the most cacophonous kind instead of visual dramatic beats (which a real filmmaker should be doing save for no-talent hacks like J.J. Abrams). I just learned he's supposed to be directing the new "Star Wars". I never much cared about "Star Wars", but even still - Lucas directed the pants off of many a director with his fine classical style. And he also gave us one of the best SF classics of all time, "THX-1138".
"Star Trek: Into Darkness" is currently in wide release from Paramount Pictures.