Movie review – Abrams makes it so

2013-06-02 14:00

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With the perfect balance of retro and space-age, the cast and crew of the USS Enterprise boldly take the franchise into new territory, writes Gayle Edmunds

Director JJ Abrams, who couldn’t extract a bunch of crash survivors off a creepy island in Lost, has found his niche, beaming the crew of the Starship Enterprise into deep space.

The director has respect for Trekkie history and the flair to take this well-loved franchise boldly beyond what any of us fans could have imagined.

Abrams’ 2009 reboot of the franchise was a revelation. This one isn’t a sequel, it’s too good to be called that. Rather, it’s a standalone space adventure that develops the stories of each member of the crew.

It begins with a set piece that pays homage to the original series in its styling. On a strange planet where red is the dominant colour, not green, and the people aren’t friendly, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) makes a decision to save his friend Spock (Zachary Quinto) from certain death.

Spock, in his trademark Vulcan way, doesn’t thank him for it and the report he files back on Earth gets Kirk demoted and the crew separated.

In keeping with our new millennium experiences, a terror attack on Star Fleet sets in motion a military action that takes Kirk and his crew, who are explorers not soldiers, to hostile territory – Qo’noS, the Klingon home world.

There’s been much talk about the gorgeous Benedict Cumberbatch (who plays Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series) joining the cast for this film and he’s simply superb as the charismatic and deadly Khan – an adversary Trekkies know well from the original series. He takes the baddie to new depths of depravity.

With the very best in 3D technology and fancy IMAX cameras, Abrams creates whizz-bang special effects, including a couple of truly spectacular spaceship chases in warp speed. But most importantly, he remains ever true to creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision.

The 1960s beehives aren’t in evidence, but he manages to get the micro-minis in without them looking decades out of date, and the hair and make-up is masterfully done to capture the essence of the original but be totally 23rd century too.

The production designer, Scott Chambliss, says the industrial designs of Pierre Cardin were his touchstone for creating the Enterprise, giving a real sense of the ship and ensuring somewhere to shoot the next film (due out in 2015).

Cardin’s work, characterised by geometric shapes, mirrors and bold colours, also dates back to the same period as the original series. So it is simultaneously retro and space-age.

There is so much attention to detail here and so much reverence for Roddenberry’s hopefulness for the future of humans and space travel. It’s quite a relief to see a sci-fi film without an apocalyptic vision of a decimated Earth and only hostile aliens to contend with.

One of the comforting things about Star Trek was that it was always about exploration, not confrontation, and it follows that Roddenberry believed in an evolution of the human condition.

As the universe’s most famous Vulcan would say, this franchise must live long and prosper.

»? Star Trek Into Darkness opens Friday

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