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Star Trek, Into Darkness, Oldly Going…

It is ironic that Benedict Cumberbatch’s recent London Theater experience would be Frankenstein since he is now spotlighted in the latest Star Trek, Into Darkness, a patch job of better, more coherent films that appears cobbled together with less skill and heart than Mary Shelley’s creation. The second Star Trek does have its fun moments, but as a whole it feels unnecessary.

The film starts on a high point with a set piece so striking that Akira Kurosawa could have shot it. Director JJ Abrams fills the screen with bright red-vine trees contrasting with the primitive inhabitants covered in white chalk. It is dazzling mise-en-scene that culminates in an explosive volcano with red lava pulsating, endangering a beloved character’s life. The rest of the film does not live up to that great opening.

John Harrison, a former member of the Starfleet (Cumberbatch) has launched a terrorist attack against his own people in futuristic London. Captain Jim Kirk (Chris Pine), his first officer, Mr Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the crew of the Enterprise travel warp speed to a deserted region of the enemy Klingon world to bring the fugitive back to justice. But nothing is what it seems.

EXCEPT IT IS. Star Trek is an endless line of clichés and obvious directions that — even when attempting to be clever — is two steps behind the audience at all times. The script, by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof suffers from dialogue that wants to pay homage to the past TV show and movie without feeling organic. It drags due to story lines that go nowhere, like a character’s demotion that is reversed in 10 minutes and an argument amongst lovers that could have been three sentences but instead lasts for 5 pointless minutes. Also for the creators of such dynamic heroines as Alias’ Sydney Bristow, Lost’s Kate Austin and Fringe’s Olivia Dunham have written here a heroine with nothing to do but run around screaming like a tramp in a slasher film. The film climax has been lifted from Poseidon Adventure with faceless crew members falling to their deaths as our heroes hang upside down for dear life.

The film has none of the confidence or wit of the 2009 reboot. None of the cast embodies their characters, but throws out catchphrases like human fortune cookies. Only Cumberbatch, dry and calculating, entrances the audience with his robot-like determination. He is a fitting villain but one who needs a hero to battle. Pine and Quinto, so tight in the original film, have no chemistry and are distracted.

Abrams misuses tracking shots and zooms, and it appears the camera was loaded on a rollercoaster car and let loose. The editing holds scenes much longer than necessary. Other than the opening scene, none of the sequences are fresh.

When JJ Abrams rebooted Star Trek, he added that flair and sensibility that has made his television shows MUST-SEE TV. His sequel feels more like a contractual obligation than the team’s usual acts of passion. Grade: C

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