Movie review: “Star Trek Into Darkness”

star trek into darkness ii


I was nine years old and in the fifth grade when the first “Star Trek” series began on TV. It was a bit late – ten o’clock, I think – but, for some reason, my parents allowed me watch it. I was hypnotized. I remember especially the “Cat’s Paw” episode, with Korob and Sylvia, which first aired just before Halloween 1967:

I’ve never been  the same since.

I’ve seen most of the various TV series, and most of the movies. I didn’t care much for “Next Generation,” but I did love “Deep Space Nine.” “Voyager” I flirted with, but we never fell in love. “Enterprise” I didn’t connect with at all, though I think Scott Bakula is very hot.

The movies have mostly been disappointments. The first one was much looked forward to – I remember yelling “Beam me up!” in the theater lobby, which everyone thought was very funny – but it was really pretty terrible. “Wrath of Khan” was a good movie, as was the one with the whales – what was it? – “The Voyage Home.” Most of the “Next Generation” movies were completely forgettable. The movie before this one, “Star Trek” with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, was pretty good, although it seemed to indicate that we were moving  into, ahem, an alternate timeline, in which things didn’t happen the way they did in the original TV show or the first few movies.

Anyway: so here we are, on our second movie! Chris Pine (Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (Spock) are still both very cute. (The director likes to let the camera dwell on Chris’s pretty eyes for minutes at a time. I admit that his eyes are very special.) Spock is still in a relationship with Uhura (Zoe Saldana), and they’re spatting this time around, which is also cute. Scotty (Simon Pegg), Sulu (John Cho) and McCoy (Karl Urban) create a solid old-fashioned connection to the original series, funny and serious at the same time, and all three of them give terrific performances.

But, unfortunately, all of the above excellent performers are saddled with a sub-standard plot.

Benedict Cumberbatch is the villain, and he’s very good at being a villain, because he has that voice, and that slightly-inhuman face. But the plot is all things blowing up, and maybe the Klingons will attack us, and maybe there are bad guys within StarFleet!

Yeah, mm-hmm. We’ve done this before. About a million times.

There is a ton of stuff in this movie for the fans (which non-fans will not even notice): tribbles, a mention of Harry Mudd, the appearance of Carol Marcus. The producers made a big deal of not revealing the movie’s plot in advance, and I’ll play along. I will say this: Cumberbatch is playing a villain named John Harrison, but John Harrison is not his real name.

I went to this film as a Star Trek fan always does, hoping for a really good movie.

I came away thinking: “Oh, well. Chris Pine is cute, so it wasn’t a total loss.”

Well, anyway, I have high hopes for next weekend’s “Man of Steel.”

And if it turns out to be terrible: well, at least Henry Cavill’s very cute.


Movie review: “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”

Mission-impossible-ghost-protocol-preview

Partner and I trundled off to the Lincoln Cinemaworld yesterday to see the new Mission: Impossible movie.  Normally I do not rush right out to see Tom Cruise movies; his personal life creeps me out, and I’m always afraid that Scientology is suddenly going to erupt out of his head and kill everyone in the vicinity.  But the previews looked entertaining, so –

Well, it’s a lot of fun, actually.  It never slows down for a moment.  There really aren’t any extraneous scenes; everything is plot-driven, and I never had any trouble figuring out what was happening, even when people were wrestling in the dark or chasing one another through a blinding sandstorm.

Partner pointed out that Tom (who’s also listed as producer) really doesn’t get mixed up with mediocre projects.  Tom takes care of his own image and products pretty scrupulously (with a few memorable clunkers thrown in; remember “Vanilla Sky”?)  The movie is beautifully directed by Brad Bird, who has mostly done animated films up to now, and who brings a beautiful floating quality to the cinematography.  The acting – well, Tom is mostly doing stunt work in this one.  His acting here appears to be mostly based on Mark Harmon’s character in “NCIS,” who registers most of his emotions by squinting cryptically off to one side of the camera.  (Harmon usually purses his lips as he does this; Cruise parts his lips in a sort of incredulous smile.  At least it’s different.)  Simon Pegg, of whom I am very fond, plays Comedy Relief; he overdoes it a little, but in a movie with this much going on, I suppose you need a maximum dose of everythingJeremy Renner, whom you will recall from “The Hurt Locker” and “The Town,” with his off-kilter good looks and nice dramatic intensity (and massively developed forearms, which I assume he built up while playing Hawkeye in the upcoming “Avengers” movie), adds most of the dramatic interest.  And Tom Wilkinson, of whom I am very fond, has a (sadly) brief role.

The movie made me nostalgic.  It reminded me of staying up late when I was a kid to watch the original “Mission: Impossible” on TV, with Peter Graves and Martin Landau and Barbara Bain.  It had a lot of the same improbable gimmicks: the clocks ticking down to zero while our heroes are trying to rewire the bomb, the disguises, the unheard-of gadgetry, the elaborate deceptions foiled just because someone arrives at the hotel ten minutes earlier than planned.  There’s a James Bond element too: the international espionage thing, the breathless scampering around the world (Budapest! Moscow! Dubai! Mumbai!).

And there’s a joke running through this movie that I sort of enjoyed: the equipment keeps breaking down.  The magical mask-making machine short-circuits; the communications network drops their calls; even the thing that’s supposed to self-destruct in five seconds needs a bop on the head from Tom.

The theater wasn’t very full yesterday: apparently everyone was watching that new exorcism thing.  But “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” is a romp, and a perfectly acceptable way to spend the afternoon. 

(Note: as the movie ended, we heard a woman behind us sobbing.  My goodness!  Some people take their movies so seriously!)

 

Don’t worry, Movie Lady. Tom will be back in another Mission Impossible movie.

 

 

guarantee it.



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