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The Last Contrarian
 
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STAR TREK - Into Darkness - Reviewed by The Contrarian

17 May 2013, 07:17

I feel my linguistic skills alone are somewhat inadequate at producing the kind of review that the new Star Trek - Into Darkness film deserves, for so much of what makes it special requires some intimate experience with the Star Trek universe. Nonetheless, I still think I can do a much better and more thorough job of reviewing this movie than the stunted entertainment journalists that pass for movie reviewers these days!

Only someone with an academic-level of understanding about the history, culture, and conflict that has followed the Star Trek franchise can do this review justice… and by Jupiter, I am that someone!

A Much-Needed Backstory

For those who do not know about the enormously passionate aficionado worlds that exist behind Star Trek and Star Wars, I feel the following brief explanation will suffice to bring you up to speed so you can really feel the gravity of this new Star Trek film.

I’ve always been more of a Star Wars fan than a Star Trek fan. This has earned me enemies I was not even aware of until a few years ago when I explored the nether regions of internet forums dedicated to sci-fi fandom. I became aware of a cultural subgroup called ‘Trekkies’ (Star Trek fans) who become possessed with revulsion at the mere sight of a Star Wars fan!

Trekkies maintain that Star Wars is a space opera, not proper science fiction, and, therefore, cannot be called the greatest space sci-fi franchise in history (yes, both Trekkies and Star Wars fans care about such accolades). On the other side of the extreme are Star Wars fans (they have slightly fewer virgins amongst their ranks), who opine that Star Trek takes itself too serious and is too bland and boring to be considered the best sci-fi franchise ever (something that would automatically pass the coveted title to Star Wars).

To give you an idea how radical Trekkies are, Klingon is a fully fleshed out language and quite a few Trekkies speak it. You think I am joking? Well, be enlightened: http://www.kli.org/. I trust that shows who are the greater nerds of the two groups…

Admittedly, with the undeniable, irreversible existence of the prequel trilogy, Star Wars is too childish to be taken seriously as science-fiction; I will admit that. But I must sustain that the old Star Trek movies are too nerdishly austere and bland to be the epitome of sci-fi entertainment, either. But the new movies may give Star Trek the edge it needs to settle this decades-old score.

In a spark of genius, the director of Star Trek The Next Generation aimed and succeeded at bringing the ‘fun’ of the old Star Wars movies to the, well, next generation of Star Trek movies. This caused the Trekkie community to have a collective stroke! The whole lot bitterly complained that, finally, there was a Star Trek movie that was entertaining to watch! Oh the horror!

The Trekkies could even articulate what was wong with Star Trek The Next Generation. “The director used the same elements that made Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope entertaining to watch! It was a story about a simple farmer boy who through conflict is forced to take a role he is not fit for, but ironically the best man for. Running on raw talent and confusion, he rises to the challenge, saves the day, and becomes a hero!”

Trekkies want 3-hour long movies filled with extensive intergalactic space politics, drawn-out discussions on sentient morality, chess-style debates between logisticians, and emotionless confrontations where the villain is always the guy who looks like a twitching psychotic lunatic from the first glance!

At the core of their ire is the alternate universe in which the new Star Trek movies play off in.

You see, these new Star Trek movies work without retroactive continuity (retcon for short) because the alter universe that Abrams created for these films allows him to pay homage to the classic history of Star Trek while, at the same time, doing something fresh and original with the new movies.

Needless to say, these new Star Trek movies have left Trekkies disillusioned while they ponder what had happened to all those drawn-out and boring discussions about cross-species breeding programs. Watching such demotivating scenes is like watching a William Shatner performance… oh, I am sorry, that horror, too, is also part of Star Trek history! Well good riddance to both!

With this bit of history and subculture out of the way, let us get down to brass tacks!

The Review

Interjection: I absolutely have to say that this film looks much better in IMAX 3D than that blue movie called Avatar. Rarely do I tell a prospective audience to spend the extra for a few thousand more pixels, an extra dimension, and a few meters more on the viewing screen, but this is definitely the way to see this movie the first time.

It is Star Trek, so expectedly we again see the Starship Enterprise and her crew boldly going where no man has gone before. Well, that is the plan, at least, but the plan is interrupted by an act of terrorism in London that scrambles the command structure of the Starfleet into a hasty meeting to deliberate on how to investigate the incident and bring the perpetrator to justice.

Captain Kirk is none the wiser or any less hotheaded in his approach to erect his middle finger at authority and protocol, a character flaw that forces him take an unintentional step back. Will he learn the lesson of maturity that sometimes we have to take a step back to take two forward? Regardless of his reluctance to conform, he is still the best man for the job according to the decimated Starfleet command structure that wants a quick, quiet, and absolute solution to the problem caused by the terrorist.

But of even greater threat than a rogue human terrorism is the result of humankind’s relentless penetration into space, a venture that has forced them onto the brink of all-out war with the Klingons. Ironically, to chase down the person responsible for the London bombing, captain Kirk and his crew must make a risky intrusion on the Klingon home world to finish their target!

The audience is soon thrown into heart-pumping, phazer-discharging action that helps to define the character of the heroes and the villains as well as reveal the deception behind and consequences of their confrontation.

The original Spock again makes a cameo in this film, but far less grand and much less involved than in the previous film (the man is getting old, people).

After I left the cinema and made my way back home in a cab, I realised something subliminal about this movie: It had perfect pacing! None of the scenes dragged, and neither did any scenes flash by as if they weren’t even supposed to be seen on screen.  Not once did I feel bored watching Star Trek - - Into Darkness. Not once was I taken out of the movie because the director made some epic screw-up with the plot or something fundamental to the canonical legacy of the franchise – like how in Iron Man 3, the fact that Tony Stark’s suit is powered by the Arc-reactor in his chest got completely ignored to add artificial emergency to the story.  I have no time for such flippancy and oversights, none!

JJ Abrams, if not a true Star Trek fan, definitely has the ability to see the movie from the perspective of a fan. Hardcore Trekkies will disagree with me, but then again, we have not even been able to reach a diplomatic agreement between our two peoples… let alone agree how Star Trek should be appreciated.

If you faintly remember something about the villains of the old Star Trek movies, then I won’t spoil a lovely revelation for when you lean who the villain of Star Trek - Into Darkness actually is; however, for serious Star Trek fans, it will be obvious once a certain detail about his discovery is blurted out.

Speaking of the villain, he is masterfully portrayed by the British actor Benedict Cumberbatch. Before this film, I had not a clue who he is, but has risen to the top of my villain-actor list with his impeccable acting and mesmerizing voice performance. Benedict breathes power and composure into his character, and despite not having Herculean musculature, a metal suit, an array of godly weapons, and otherworldly powers, the character he plays is a certifiable badass and makes the villains seen in action movies of, oh, say the last decade, look like steroid-addicted punks!

Simply put, this movie makes these Marvel Comics-inspired action movies released lately look like they were made for hyperactive children with learning disabilities!

I dare say that JJ Abrams is such a visionary genius that we will live to see great things from the coming Star Wars and Star Trek films. The man is shaping up to be the best thing ever to happen to these two behemoths of space sci-fi franchises, both of which were nearly jettisoned by their original creators into the cold, dark void to suffocate and die.

My faith in Hollywood directorship has been restored - even if it is just for the sci-fi genre!

Summary

I have long maintained that sci-fi has no value if does not to help us realise and confront, in advance, the troubles and tribulations that come from being a technologically active species. While free from deep philosophical concepts and abstract morality conundrums, Star Trek - Into Darkness hit all the right buttons with me and left me speechless, entertained, and inspired. It is movies like this one that made me a hard-core sci-fi fan! Well done JJ Abrams and crew. Live long and prosper!  \\//_

Final Score

9.8/10 – Star Trek - Into Darkness is a modern masterpiece based on an old franchise, and I have no doubt it will inspire a new generation of sci-fi fans while it goes down in history as a classic! If you don’t have the money to buy an IMAX 3D ticket to see this movie, steal it and make sure you see this Star Trek - Into Darkness at its best!

Tip: By the way, if you want to die by the hands of a Trekkie, just ask one what Sulu found in the lavatory of the Starship Enteprise… when the Trekkie gives up (after two hours of analyzing the rich history of Star Trek for this scene), simply reply… the captain’s log!

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