Sunday, May 12, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

I remember watching Star Trek on the first weekend of its release and forgetting most of it by the second weekend. I liked the movie quite a lot and IMDb tells me my 18 year old self gave it a rating of 9 -- something which happens very rarely these days. I never even got around to giving it a second viewing. Four years later, keeping alive the new Hollywood fad of using the word 'Dark' in a film's title, J.J. Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness beams into Indian screens an entire week before its American release.

One of the nicest things about Into Darkness is how there aren't any bad guys per se. The ones who are are either covering up for their past mistakes or are driven by love. For most parts, I even found myself rooting for Cumberbatch's Khan, who is more an ally and less an adversary. My non-Trekkie self, oblivious to Khan's reputation, wished for things to forever remain peaceful; which might explain why I felt Khan's evil turn forced and sudden. The film itself had to rely on Spock Prime to spell it out to us why Khan mustn't be trusted and why he's the "Supervillain" of this film. That's just lazy, man. All the Sherlock fans out there weren't given enough reasons to snap their allegiance to Benny.

While throwing a character in harm's way at every available opportunity, the film almost never builds enough tension to put us in a spot. Even as we look at Spock and Kirk stuck in places where death is certain, we are seldom convinced that it has the guts/balls to bang in the last nail. How can they expect us to fear for their lives when everyone knows that you simply do not kill off a leading male character in the second instalment of a trilogy? I'm just kidding. It wasn't as bad as I might be indicating but I wish it was more tense. You just roll your eyes and move on.

Help me understand this: if the purpose of Enterprise is to go where no man has gone before, how will they do that if they keep getting called back to Earth? Should we be concerned by how this new series has spent so much time on Earth? At a time when Abrams is jumping ship to helm the new Star Wars movie, I find it a bit weird that the third installment of this apparent trilogy will have all the characters at their personal best. The long gestating five year mission appears to have finally cleared all checks and the prospect of reaching out to the unknown worlds and civilizations excites me very much. I just learnt that the film is filled with esoteric references to older Trek works which fans are likely to devour. Or loath. One can never tell. 

Delving deeper into the Kirk-Spock bromance, Into Darkness has Kirk maturing from a cocky hotshot Captain to someone feeling unsure whether he's cut out for the job and Spock trying to stop being uptight about protocols, learning to go with the gut-feeling and developing an instinct to leap without looking. Their clearly etched out arcs progress neatly, but no matter how much it tries, the emotions only run skin deep on almost all the occasions. Set within a very small span of time, the film does just about enough to develop Uhura and Spock's relationship, while hinting at a possible romantic interest for Kirk in the future. Also, the film isn't even half as intellectually simulating as its immediate predecessor, which at least had a subplot going on about alternate timelines. While its 'not-so-intelligent' plot doesn't hurt it much, I wish it had packed something to work my brain more.

A word on the presentation- I loved the 3D in Into Darkness. I am starting to believe it all comes down to where one watches a film, but the technology was put to a good effect yielding a surprisingly unobtrusive and passably immersive results. If you are still not convinced, let me assure you that the dark glasses will protect your eyes from Abrams' lens flares. Into Darkness isn't as dark as it tries to convince us of but helped by Cumberbatch's performance and gratuitous amount of action, it offers adequate Summer entertainment.