Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Star Trek 2: Into Darkness

An action packed sci-fi thriller, it is fast-paced and furious.  I will not compare Star Trek 2 to The Wrath of Khan(1982) although the plots are somewhat similar, for the simple reason that the former presents a new era in cinematography with focus on non-stop, edge-of-the-seat tension rather than the psychological battle of wits of the older movie. As usual, the IMAX 3D effects are superlative. BUT, the writing leaves a lot to be desired. The movie has a thin storyline of a warped (pun intended) Starfleet commander using genetically engineered superhumans to build an arsenal to wage war against Klingons.  To what end escapes me.

James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) still has to prove himself as a competent captain of the Starship Enterprise.  He has this unfortunate tendency of not following orders and following his gut instincts which 
compromises the safety of his crew and the ship. His actions are more or less guided by sentiment.  The character appears an overgrown teenager not much wiser at the end of the movie. We also see more of the human side of Spock (Zachary Quinto) in his “bromance” with Kirk and the odd tender scene with Uhura (Zoe Saldana).  The old Spock is so dissociated from the new Spock that the latter seems a totally different character!!  And the younger one is so insecure that he has to dial the older Spock’s number for advice?  Has Nimoy become the futuristic soothsayer and has the present audience been sucked into the black hole of recycled themes of the original universe? The character of Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) is not allowed to develop into a mega evil one because of the focus on action.  He does not stand out as any special villain. I think he came in a little too early in the series; the screen writers did not wait for the development of a deep relationship to build between Kirk and Spock which is the crux of the old episode.  Of course, the new generation knows nothing about the old Khan but shouldn’t the writers be writing new stories?

 And what’s with the long leather trench coats?  That seems to be a new symbol of evil in movies. And as some reviewer (Nordling) pointed out why bother Khan for platelets or whatever when there is a shipload of cryonicised superhuman members with super healing powers right there? And why is Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) in the movie—she is irrelevant to the storyline and seems to be inept even as a hostage.  Her underwear scene is totally ridiculous.

The Enterprise team really solidifies under Kirk's leadership.  Scotty (Simon Pegg) bears special mention as the strong, humorous, principled character who reminds Kirk that their mission is exploration of the universe not extracting revenge by hurling torpedoes against Klingons.  It all ends well for the Enterprise but one mustn’t dwell too deeply on the grey areas of revenge, disobedience and rebellion.  The object of the movie is entertainment which prevalent in abundance.
The movie has no groundbreaking issues to deal with like its predecessors did; in that sense it is a disappointing venture.  It offers no thought provoking elements, nothing to place it in the context of the twenty-first century other than the graphics.  It is not so bold, after all, to go where no man has gone before.

Release dateMay 17, 2013 (USA)
DirectorJ.J. Abrams
PrequelStar Trek
Production companyBad Robot Productions
GenresAction film, Science Fiction, Adventure film
Stars: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 is a reminder of what happens when power gets to evil hands.  Power here is the new technology extremis which can regenerate lost limbs in human beings, but can also go horribly wrong when it can make people explode. It is unclear what the evil Mandarin hopes to do with this power, but he definitely means to kill the President of the United States, who is unfortunately never very well protected in movies. The President suffers a few humiliating moments when he is made to hang in an Iron Man suit several feet above a shipyard while Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Rhodes (Don Cheadle) and an army of Iron Man suits attempt to rescue him  and Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) from exploding extremis beneficiaries. The focus of the movie is the gadgetry, and the miracles of modern science which is a good thing, because the few attempts at sentimentality were a hopeless failure.  The movie’s best feature was, of course, Ben Kingsley, the substitute Mandarin, who deteriorates from a grand panjandrum to a two-bit lecherous actor in the space of a few minutes. The young boy Harley, I think is thrown in as an attempt at sentimentality which I already remarked was a hopeless failure.  The movie is a visual treat in 3D and quite gripping in parts especially when the suit tries to rescue passengers who are sucked out of Airforce One (one really has to be willing to suspend disbelief!).  There is nothing Stark cannot escape from.  He can lay hands on tools, equipment, and cars 24/7 and, like Rumpelstiltskin of yore, spin junk into homing fragments of metal armor. In any case, his super-hero status is derived not from his inventions, but from a deep sense of personal responsibility in the fight against evil. He is human after all, with human anxieties.  Thankfully, the movie does not dwell on that aspect.  Thoroughly entertaining! 

Release Date: May 3, 2013 (USA) 
Director: Shane Black 
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce 
Running time: 130 minutes 
Producer: Kevin Feige 
Production companies: Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures

Rating: 3 out of 5