Star Trek: Into Darkness

Star Trek: Into Darkness is very aptly titled. The title makes you wonder: is this flick going to be grim and challenging? Are difficult things going to test the mettle of our heroes? Or maybe the villain leads the entire universe into darkness.

Is it going to be as grim as The Dark Knight Rises?

The title might also be referring to the final scene as the crew set forth on a historical journey.

What is so splendid about Star Trek: Into Darkness is that it is very intelligently made, and the multi-layered title is simply a symptom of the delightful disease we call ‘smart and polished film-making.’

I loved this movie. You will too.

Here’s a trailer (as if you haven’t already seen every trailer for this flick):

The deets:

Released May 16, 2013

Written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof. Based on the original TV show by Gene Roddenberry

Directed by J.J. Abrams

Starring Zoe Saldana, Alice Eve, Nazneen Contractor, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Peter Weller, Noel Clarke, and Benedict Cumberbatch

Rated: PG-13

*     *     *     *     *

Story

Kirk (Pine) and his crew on the Enterprise, Starfleet’s flagship vessel, have been out on missions for some time since the last time we caught up with him. Into Darkness opens with Kirk fleeing some natives of a distant planet, accompanied by Bones (Urban). They are trying to lure the natives out of the kill zone of an exploding volcano, but at the same time they must not violate the Prime Directive, which is to remain unseen and not alter the course of a society’s evolution.

Meanwhile, Spock (Quinto) is going to descend into the volcano with a high-tech fusion device that will stop the volcano from erupting. Piloting his shuttle is Sulu (Cho) and helping him prepare is his love interest, Uhura (Saldana).

They succeed, of course, in their mission, which it turns out was totally in violation of rules. Now Kirk is demoted and becomes first officer to his mentor, Pike (Greenwood). But there’s a bad guy named John Harrison (Cumberbatch) who seems to have it in for Starfleet, and Admiral Marcus (Weller) specifically. After Harrison commits some dastardly deeds, Kirk and his crew are sent to deal out retribution. But things are complicated, and Scotty (Pegg) finds he has to take a stand against some questionable technology– whereupon he resigns his post on the Enterprise, and Chekhov (Yelchin) must take his place.

As the quest to get Harrison begins, a new science officer shows up without being asked for. She is Carol (Eve) and she might know more about the questionable technology and John Harrison than she should.

A series of events take place, through which Kirk becomes uncertain of himself and where his loyalty really ought to be. Uhura has to face down some Klingons, and the crew of the Enterprise becomes stuck between two massively powerful enemies and they have to somehow stop the bad guys while saving lives.

And that’s all I can say without spoilers. But believe me when I say this is an intricate plot that surprises and delights.

Critique 

Star Trek: Into Darkness is not as fresh as the first one in this rebooted franchise. It’s not an origin story, but is instead a story about a bunch of people who have to reassess who they are and come to a greater understanding of what is important to them. It also handily positions the Enterprise and her crew for the next film in which they hopefully are doing actual exploration– as is their mission.

The script is nearly flawless, with the exception of two problems, both of which center on Carol. First is the idiotic underwear scene. Alice Eve is a beautiful woman and this scene is dumb. Second is her British accent, which is totally unexplained by the script. For a professionally trained linguist, this is irritating.

Other than those issues, the script takes the time to set up conflict, try-fail cycles, character development, and solid resolutions that satisfy. It’s an intricate plot that Kirk and his crew have to uncover and stop, but it all makes sense at the end.

One interesting tidbit is that some people will take issue with a Spock who is not quite as alien and dispassionate as he was played by Nimoy. This is true, but this is a different Spock in a different timeline who lost his ENTIRE PLANET. Get a grip, people.

The acting is great, with more being asked of Pine than to be a rogue and a brash hero. His scene after the devastating attack on the Starfleet Council is just excellent. Cumberbatch is wonderfully larger than life and is truly awesome in his iconic role. Simon Pegg gets to do a lot in this film as well, with his truly excellent Scotty being an unsung hero throughout the story. Karl Urban, again, is a surprisingly good Bones. Saldana adds some very nice, tough layers to Uhura that we only started seeing toward the end of the original Star Trek TV show’s run. Quinto is also a very good Spock.

The fact that these films have focused on the relationships, particularly the legendary friendship between Kirk and Spock is wonderful, and the actors have a great chemistry. This is an ensemble film and you might be surprised at how much is asked of characters who are not Kirk and Spock.

Now. There are a lot of explosions. Lots and lots. There’s a lot of physical conflict in this film. These explosions and this conflict are appropriate for a film that is about war and terrorism. This stuff isn’t glorified; it’s shown as ugly and devastating. Listen for the screams and confusion.

That said, the punches sound like thunderclaps, which will never stop irritating me.

You will laugh, cheer, and possibly even cry as you watch Star Trek: Into Darkness. It’s one of the best movies of 2013 and is a fitting sequel to the first one.

Content warnings: Some salty language and a bit of skin and sensuality. Plenty of scifi violence.

Writing: 5          Acting: 5          Overall: 5

Trek into your social networks and share this review! I know, I know, you’re a doctor, not a blogger. Do it anyway.

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Dredd

Dredd is a surprisingly good time. This is most likely because Karl Urban, whose face we never see, is great as the lead and Lena Headey is not a stupid big baddie. She’s vicious and smart and nearly impossible to beat.

It’s also a very well realized world that adds specific difficulty to our heroes’ conflict.

Here’s a trailer:

The deets:

Released September 21, 2012

Written by John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra, and Alex Garland

Directed by Pete Travis

Starring Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey, Karl Urban, and Rakie Ayola

Rated: R

*     *     *     *     *

Story

The world has gone to hell. Much of the USA is now a mess, with a huge city called Mega City that extends from the old Boston to the old D.C. containing millions of people. Slums are vertical buildings, some 200 stories high, mini-cities of their own.

Violent, brutal crime is rampant and it would seem that in Mega City, your chances of dying young are incredibly high. Life in this world really is mean, nasty, brutish, and short.

The only hope for the city is the Hall of Justice. From the Hall sally forth hundreds of Judges– law enforcement personnel who are charged as judges, juries, and executioners. Dredd (Urban) is one of the best of those judges. On this day, he is showing a rookie the ropes. This rookie, Anderson (Thirlby), has some heightened psychic abilities due to radiation-based mutation.

They respond to a brutal crime and find that they might have a line on the controller and distributor of a new drug called Slo-Mo. This is a chemical that makes its users feel as if every second is drawn out and slowed down. It is highly addictive and incredibly dangerous, in that people using it become dangers to those around them.

Now Dredd and Anderson enter a high-rise slum to take down Ma-Ma (Headey), a truly vicious woman with ambitions to control the city. But for now, she controls every inch of the massive high-rise and can see into pretty much every cranny of the building. And she traps Dredd and Anderson in the building so she can hunt them down. This means that the only way out for Dredd and Anderson is through Ma-Ma.

So Dredd becomes a chase, escape, and blow-everything-up film that storms forward with the stolid determination of the lead, Dredd himself. The film wastes no time with backstory for Dredd, simply letting the audience learn about this guy as the story unfolds. He is smart and tough and has to use everything he has to catch up to Ma-Ma and survive her intelligent and terrifying plans.

Critique

Dredd is violent, explosive, mostly joyless, and very entertaining. It’s grim and means business, just like its lead, and if you are the type that likes stolid heroes who will not rest or give up, along with all kinds of creative ways to do harm to people, you will like this movie. The writing is straightforward and the characters make choices that are totally in keeping with who they are– and the plot events stem from each of those choices.

Urban is particularly good, mostly because he sets any ego aside and disappears behind the  helmet and then expresses himself with righteous violence. Any attempts at humanizing this character would have weakened it. Thirlby does a nice job, as she should since she is the character with an arc. She starts out hesitating and questioning and ends up confident and powerful. Headey is also a joy.

Action film buffs will get a kick out of this explosive film and will particularly enjoy the creative filming and solid production value.

Content warnings: Very strong language and graphic violence.

Writing: 4.5          Acting: 4.5          Overall: 4.5

Don’t ‘dredd’ the clicking; simply share this review with everyone you know. If you don’t, the judges will find you.

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