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"I. Am. Better."
That's the conversation Benedict Cumberbatch's villain has with Chris Pine's Kirk in the trailers for this new J.J. Abrams Trek outing Star Trek: Into Darkness. And, you know what? This movie could have easily had the exact same conversation with the first Star Trek reboot.
Yes, it is, indeed, better. At everything.
As the title suggests, Into Darkness is darker (duh!) but it's also bigger and more fun. Which is not to say it's perfect, no Star Trek movie is, but it sets out to be a superior sequel and achieves just that. This time around, more emphasis is placed on the film's villain and, considering how forgettable Eric Bana's bitter future Romulan was in the first movie, this is certainly a good move. Especially since Benedict Cumberbatch's John Harrisson is such a good villain, the Sherlock actor stealing the show in almost every scene he's in. Reminiscent of Javier Bardem's chilling turn in Skyfall, he's another one of those villains who seem to have planned the entire movie from the start and anticipated what every single character would do in every situation. This never works 100%. Hell, even The Joker's plan in The Dark Knight was a bit shaky in places, but overall, that villain's creepy and badass enough to keep his story gripping and worthwhile throughout.
The plot of the movie itself sees Kirk once again get in trouble due to his reckless behaviour as Captain of the Enterprise but after several terrorist attacks courtesy of the mysterious John Harrison, it soon turns into a weird revenge mission where Kirk is sent out by RoboCop himself (Peter Weller in a very welcome comeback role) to not only find but torpedo Harrison's ass into oblivion. Of course, there's more to this mission than meets the eye and Kirk and co. start piecing everything together little by little as they encounter some classic enemies and uncover Harrison's overall plan. It takes a little bit of time for the Enterprise to get going but the film opens on a thrilling action scene (particularly enjoyable in 3D) and the build-up to the starship's mission is never boring. After that, director J.J. Abrams juggles some of the most thrilling and impressive sequences in Star Trek movie history, a particular one involves an in-warp space battle that's tons of fun. Actually, the whole second half is pretty much one kickass action scene after another, then the movie pauses briefly near the end before hitting you with a couple more.
The cast does very well, especially Chris Pine, who once again nails his character completely and manages to be strong, childish, heroic and charming all at the same time. Without blatantly imitating good old Bill Shatner. Zachary Quinto is slightly less convincing as Spock but his performance feels more fitting this time around and he his given many more "Spock moments" to sink his teeth into. An attempt is made at developing that controversial Spock/Uhura affair and although it's nice to see it explored a bit more, it is given up on pretty quickly and in the end it still feels about as useless as it did the first time around. Karl Urban and Simon Pegg get increasingly cartoonish as McCoy and Scotty respectively and they come off as a bit hit-and-miss (more hit than miss, though), some jokes/lines working really well, others not so much. As for John Cho's Sulu, he is given ONE cool moment but still feels about as charismatic as his shoes do, he would certainly need to bring out some of that suave Takei charm we're used to in future films, I think. All in all, it's a strong cast and they do a good job, each character gets their chance to shine once again.
Visually the film is beautiful: every action sequence, every shot is handled with care and eclipses the original's already very slick look by miles. Yes, the infamous lens flares remain but they are toned down and not distracting at all this time. Plot-wise, the film does have its share of minor inconsistencies and mini plot holes which do add up but depending on how much you're enjoying the movie otherwise, it shouldn't annoy you too much. The ending, I would say, is slightly rushed and underwhelming but with a second act/early third act this strong, it didn't really bother me personally. Trekkies familiar with some of the old Star Trek movies will see a lot of it coming a mile away, making the film somewhat predictable but it's more about the thrill-ride than it is about the details: broad-strokes work as long as they're done well, which I think they are here. It's one of those movies you can nitpick to death if you want to (see The Dark Knight Rises and Prometheus) but if you just want to sit there and enjoy a very entertaining, amazing-looking Star Trek flick for what it is, then chances are Into Darkness will make your day.
Overall, far better than its predecessor, Star Trek: Into Darkness is a huge spectacle and a loving homage that should please fans and the uninitiated alike, though the latter will certainly not "get" several key references to past Trek lore. Just go see it with a Trekkie. Hell, just become a Trekkie then go see it!
An epic, crazy-entertaining visual treat.
Rebooting/continuing the Star Trek franchise was never going to be easy.
What were they supposed to do? Make a movie based on the flop series Enterprise? Invent a brand new Star Trek crew, give them their own movie and hope for the best? Give one of the old crews their weight in gold to stick around and continue making Star Trek movies?
With J.J. Abrams onboard, in the end the goal became to restart the franchise with the Original Series crew, except with a brand new, younger cast, tons of action, state of the art special effects and try to somehow create a parallel timeline within the film itself in order to keep things fresh and avoid remaking the old show and the old movies shot-for-shot.
Probably the only logical approach, but still pretty risky.
The result was an epic, expensive blockbuster with enough action to keep even the most reluctant viewers entertained. An origins story, we got to see Kirk and co.'s pre-Enterprise days and their earliest of missions which apparently involved time-travel, Spock's planet exploding, an Eric Bana Romulan and a pretty intense Spock/Kirk rivalry. The characters we all know and love are portrayed by a young cast which does extremely well to portray the iconic crew without going for obvious impressions. Chris Pine impressively nails Shatner's Kirk without imitating Shatner, capturing the essence of the character while adding his own unique take. Zachary Quinto is much less convincing as Spock in that he's probably more angry and evil-looking than he probably should be. Besides, why would you let Sylar run your ship? That's just goofy. Simon Pegg attempts a cartoon Scottish accent as Scotty and tries a little too hard, his accent occasionally falling back into English, his jokes a little too broad and his alien sidekick/lover completely pointless. Karl Urban's McCoy is fun, Anton Yelchin's Chekov also, John Cho's Sulu is not bad and Zoe Saldana makes a decent Uhura but is given a controversial relationship with Spock which Trekkies will either hate or REALLY hate.
That's the thing, the film tries super hard to create a new timeline and change what we know about the early days of the crew as much as possible but also makes a point of trying to convince us that this story really does fit in with the old stuff, which honestly it mostly doesn't. This is actually what was always annoying about this movie: its premise feels too much like a two-dimensional gimmick to reboot the franchise and that's just distracting. Remember Star Trek: Generations? Yeah, that was another gimmicky one. You spend way too much time, as a viewer, trying to make everything fit rather than focusing on the new story at hand. The plot in question is the film's big problem: it's not really involving and although you stay relatively interested throughout because you're curious to see how they're going to make it work in the end, chances are you'll lose interest. Bana's villain is also far from memorable, even Star Trek: Nemesis' Picard clone was a far better rival! That said, the action sequences are enjoyable, the film is visually stunning, the cast does a surprisingly good job, there's a cool Leonard Nimoy cameo, and J.J. Abrams gives the whole thing enough charm to make it work.
While not the best Star Trek film around, this Star Trek is decent enough movie. It'll piss off Trekkies a little in places but if you're just in it to see a fun sci-fi flick then you'll enjoy it. You do feel like there's an amazing Trek film in there somewhere but it just needs a better plot to bring it out.
Overall, not bad, certainly worth a watch: it's an entertaining, great-looking, if slightly underwhelming movie. It won't blow your mind but you'll have fun.
A decent enough restart.
The last of the "old school" Star Trek movies, Star Trek: Nemesis had the misfortune of following the least liked film of that franchise so it was either going to confirm that Insurrection was no accident and the Picard crew had really gone as far as they could or completely the opposite.
And although critics and audiences had nothing too positive to say about Nemesis and the film ended the Star Trek franchise promptly, never even giving the Voyager, Deep Space Nine or Enterprise crews a chance to make it on the big screen, for me Nemesis did exactly what it set out to do and delivered something as good as First Contact, if not better. Now I won't pretend that Nemesis doesn't have its problems, every Star Trek movie does. For one thing, Tom Hardy's villain, a young Romulan-made Picard clone, is a bit more cartoonish than he probably should be and looks nothing like Patrick Stewart. He's not bad, it's a decent, very entertaining performance, it's just that making him a Picard clone feels a bit too random and is a bit too distracting to truly have an impact. Also, this movie looks about as low budget as Insurrection did, not quite matching First Contact's great-looking visuals. Weird filters are used to make us feel like we're in an alien location at one point but they're not fooling anyone, the CGI really does stand out as much less impressive than it should be or used to be.
Be that as it may, I would say that Nemesis is actually one of the most underrated Star Trek films out there.
Because effort, that's why.
Whereas Insurrection seemed a little too comfortable with itself and therefore didn't really seem like it was genuinely trying, Nemesis makes a noticeable effort to do something different, darker, more in the spirit of First Contact but still unique. Nemesis looks like it has learned from predecessors' mistakes and is trying to do better. For one thing, Data's subplot actually matters, not only that but Data himself matters this time around! In fact, Nemesis contains the single most badass Data moment in any of the movies. In order to save Picard's life, Data not only goes to his rescue but jumps out of the Enterprise and flies through space from one ship to another and it is simply awesome. Picard finally stops being morally and politically grey and crashes the Enterprise into an enemy ship, another kickass moment. And in the end you do feel for these characters and although its mini-twist can be seen a mile away, it still somehow works! Kinda like that villain reveal in The Undiscovered Country. The film leaves you with a feeling that, indeed, these characters do care for each other and have come a long way.
Overall, Nemesis surpasses Insurrection in that real effort went into it and although it's not quite as slick as First Contact, it has a little more heart and is a little bit more memorable. What it lacks in production values it makes up for in drive.
Lots of action, lots of cool stuff: not perfect but well worth checking out.
And then things took a weird turn...
Star Trek: Insurrection, the ninth film of the franchise, is quite probably the least respected of all Star Trek films, and although it's much more watchable than most would give it credit for, it's easy to see why it is often last on people's Top 10 Star Trek Movies lists.
Look out for mine on here very soon, by the way.
First Contact gave the Picard team solid ground to build on with a respectable outing full of action, gross leathery Borgs and time-travel. With Insurrection, the idea was to go for more of a Voyage Home vibe: a lighter, more one-setting based, more personal story. Problem is, Shatner and co. could indulge in such a holiday flick after three iconic, more serious efforts but The Next Generation peeps only had the vastly uneven Generations behind them and First Contact, their first decent movie. No time to go on holiday, surely! Time to nip it in the bud, I would say. Alas, right off the bat, Insurrection feels more like an episode of the TV series than a full-blown movie. Star Trek: The Motion Picture gets a lot of crap but as Original Series-like as its plot was, it still felt like a big, full-scaled movie.
Insurrection's plot revolves around a peace planet where a bunch of boring people live and where you can actually get younger/healthier just by staying there. When a bunch of stretchy-faced, youth-obsessed members of the Federation learn of the planet's healing properties, they decide to somehow move the people living there somewhere else to use it for their own gain. Of course, Picard rebels and goes head-to-head with the Federation. Meanwhile, we're treated to some truly perplexing subplots: Picard getting laid, Data befriending a small boy and learning the art of playing (not even kidding), Riker shaving his beard (still not kidding) and Worf undergoing puberty (I wish I was kidding...). Pretty hard to take the rather political plot of this movie seriously when all this goofy nonsense is going on in the background! Besides, it's not like Picard's mission is really one to get behind 100%, it's so inconsistent and morally debatable that whatever his plan is feels less heroic and important than it does forced. Plus the movie's villains are mostly forgettable.
I'll give the movie that, though: it has its moments.
Insurrection suffers from a truly snooze-worthy second act but you'll find yourself staying awake just to see what more crazy stuff the Enterprise crew can throw at you. Whether it's Picard dancing the mambo, psycho Data singing or 300 year-old people almost drowning because they've never bothered to learn how to swim, Insurrection keeps throwing the lols and ridiculous OTT moments at you so, like Star Trek V, it ends up being a pretty entertaining watch. For that reason, I can never hate Insurrection. As flawed and disappointingly cheap-looking as it is, it still managed to be unique in its own way and remain relatively enjoyable so I can't fault it too much.
Overall, yes Insurrection is quite possibly the least inspired outing for any of the Star Trek folks but even that one has its charm and its share of irresistible randomness so if the movie doesn't anger you, chances are it'll amuse you or... put you to sleep.
A partly-fun, partly-boring mess.
Finally free from the clutches of the iconic Original Series, Picard and co. finally got their own movie to play with and delivered this much better, much darker, much less gimmicky outing.
This time, we're introduced to the Borgs, a race of soulless, zombie-like drones capable of assimilating people completely. A popular race of bad guys in the series, their Hellraiser-style S&M look certainly begged for a movie! First Contact opens with Picard having a nightmare about the time he almost became a Borg forever and little by little, as the current Borg threat increases, he starts to crack up, feeling a responsibility to sort that problem out himself as he still has a slight connection to them but also wanting a kind of revenge, closure if you will, for what they did to him the first time around. The plot sees the crew of the Enterprise witness the Earth get completely assimilated by the Borgs so they go back in time before Earth made its "first contact" with alien life to make sure it goes smoothly and eventually save the Earth. Meanwhile, Data and, later, Picard get kidnapped by the Borg Queen, who tries to tempt both of them with that weird leather-wearing, half-robot lifestyle of hers.
There's a lot going on in this movie and most of it is pretty involving, which is certainly an improvement on Generations. The Earth-based stuff is a little unimaginative and feels somewhat more like a TV-worthy subplot than something that belongs on a full-blown movie. All the other stuff, however, is a lot of fun. Yes the Borgs can look pretty silly at times but after years and years of Klingons, Romulans, more Klingons, it's actually quite good to see a different bunch of intergalactic douchebags take center stage. There are some random, kinda awesome moments in this movie: you've got Data getting laid (gross), having skin grafted onto him (also gross), Picard going nuts in the holodeck (loltastic) and... as ever, Riker is about as useful as a two-headed giraffe.
Not much more to say about this one, really. It's just a solid, great-looking, very entertaining Star Trek movie and probably the best Next Generation outing to date. Though I have a slight preference for Nemesis these days... don't ask.
Resistance is futile.
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