Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
It may not be as innovative or complex as its predecessor. Yet, Star Trek Into Darkness bursts forth with a renewed source of ambition and on the shoulders of the Enterprise’s crew, successfully tackles nostalgia with a fresh, brooding twist. Capturing the wonder of space, jaw-dropping action sequences, and spectacular performances from the entire cast. Abrams and company follow up 2009′s franchise resurrection with another inconceivably epic entry into the Star Trek universe. Playing out the mystery and anticipation to full effect, Star Trek Into Darkness is bigger, louder, and surprisingly more heartfelt. Blending the perfect amount of sentiment, hilarity, and bone-snapping (reference) hand-to-hand combat, Star Trek Into Darkness doesn’t miss a beat. If the time since 2009′s smash hit has left a bit of a void in your life. Star Trek Into Darkness is sure to satisfy your Trekkie addiction, die-hard enthusiast or not.
Upon returning from a mission, the crew of the Enterprise isn’t allowed much time to rest as rogue Starfleet agent turned terrorist, John Harrison (Cumberbatch) bombs a Starfleet base in London. When Harrison flees Earth and retreats to a distant planet, Kirk (Pine) and the Enterprise are commissioned to hunt him down using any means necessary. Eventually finding Harrison on a abandoned planet, the Enterprise and its crew is attacked. Barely escaping with their lives, the crew is soon face to face with Harrison and a slew of difficult decisions that Kirk and company struggle to make.
While the primary goal of 2009′s Star Trek was to reintroduce this timeless sci-fi tale to the modern viewer, by and large. Nonetheless, the reboot was more of a rebirthing for the exceedingly long-running saga (not that I am complaining). Now, with Into Darkness, Abrams is definitely paying more of an homage to the original series that seems to set its sights on appeasing the fans of old, like myself. Coincidentally, Star Trek Into Darkness deals with more mature content as its predecessor felt more directed into pleasing a wider variety of viewers. To the dismay of Trekkies all over the world, Abrams decided to keep the villain’s identity heavily under wraps. If you happened to watch any publicity for the film, such as late night talk shows, you’d know that this secret was as vigilantly guarded as some nuclear missile silos. That being said, I fully agree with the decision as it significantly affects the storyline.
Regardless of the fact that Into Darkness isn’t as encompassing to the rules and regulations of physics and space, particularly bending them as 2009′s entry so brilliantly did. Into Darkness fixates more on the universe created by the original series and exploiting our fascination with it, as lovingly as one can. Now, dealing with these facets is sure to alienate those unfamiliar with their origin. However, it should initiate a sense of eagerness to explore Star Trek’s storied history for those who don’t have the knowledge and gives a chance for those who do an excuse to revisit.
Perhaps the most outstanding aspect of Into Darkness is the story’s growth even though there has been a four year absence. When the film begins, the audience becomes aware. We are somewhere down the road now, we’ve missed something and there is this yearning to catch up. To see the empire that is Star Trek move forward and evolve is refreshingly reassuring. J. J. Abrams singles out each member of the Enterprise’s crew, giving more scree time to each individual and digging deeper into the emotions and heart that drives them, even Cumberbatch’s character.
In addition to the original crew that consists of Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, and Simon Pegg. Into Darkness adds Alice Eve, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Peter Weller to StarFleet…Even though each actor brings their own charisma, motivations, and vulnerability to their individual roles, there is no denying that there is only three leads amongst them, Pine, Cumberbatch, and Quinto. That being said, like any good starship, Into Darkness would be rendered useless without its crew, and this crew substantially upped their game.
Cho, Saldana, and Pegg are all fortunate recipients of increased screen time and added emotional character depth. Cho grows into a firm and steady stance, earning respect and parting ways with his comical errors from 2009′s Star Trek. Pegg and Saldana’s roles, or lack there of in Star Trek has been dealt with. Taking full advantage of the emotional intensity in their roles to showcase their diverse talents. While Greenwood’s role is somewhat diminished, he arguably gives a stronger performance. Yelchin and Urban’s importance remain unchanged except for the addition of a plethora of one liners you can’t help but laugh at. As for the new recruits, Eve and Weller make for interesting and formidable additions. Eve’s role, ripe with potent sexiness and cute arguments with Spock, is so much more. Playing the sweet, intelligent love interest of Kirk, Eve takes no nonsense. Finally, Weller’s objective remained a mirage throughout Into Darkness’s publicity, but storms in with chaotic indifference. As brash and toxic as ever, Weller is quite the surprise.
As masterful, endearing, and exhilarating the supporting casts performances may be. Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Pine, and Zachary Quinto are light-years ahead. Let’s star with Pine, who’s face now permanently comes to mind when anyone mentions the name Kirk. Undoubtedly, Into Darkness contains Pine’s most involved, mature, heavy-hearted, and overall best performance to date. I can think of no one better to have taken over the chair. Quinto is quite the anomaly. He so elegantly, actually perfectly captures the essence that is Spock. His heartless, emotionless, and vastly superior intellect are mere surface qualities and Quinto knows this well, diving so deep into his soul that it leaves his exterior vacant. Now, where to begin with the immaculate Benedict Cumberbatch. I don’t think it is possibly for this man to do any wrong. With every role, he completely immerses himself and disappears into his characters skin, Into Darkness is no exception. Exuding every emotion necessary with pin-point precision, Cumberbatch gives one of the best villain performances in cinematic history.
Flawlessly acted, impeccably directed, and visually spectacular. The sheer immensity and heart of Star Trek Into Darkness is enough to give you shivers.
Star Trek Into Darkness: 9 out of 10.
Starter For 10 (2006)
The first film I’ve chosen to review is one that many people have never heard of, Starter For 10. This romantic-comedy Directed by Tom Vaughan, remains relatively unknown despite its stellar cast of current stars such as James McAvoy (X-Men First Class), Rebecca Hall (The Prestige), Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock), Alice Eve (She’s Out of My League) and Dominic Cooper (The Devil’s Double). Starter For 10 follows Brian Jackson (McAvoy), a scholarship student at Bristol University in 1985. Brian is extremely intelligent and grew up watching “University Challenge” with his father. During the semester, Brian meets the activist Rebecca Epstein (Hall) and while trying out for Bristol’s “University Challenge” team he succumbs to the charm and beauty of Alice Harbinson (Eve). The three get tangled in a love triangle with severe consequences. To make matters worse, the “University Challenge” captain Patrick Watts (Cumberbatch) who is overly dramatic challenges Brian at every opportunity. Can Brian qualify for the “University Challenge” team? Will he be able to escape the love triangle without harming Alice, Rebecca, or his friends?
Make no mistake about it, this was and is McAvoy’s emergence. Don’t get me wrong, Hall, Eve, and Cooper are extremely effective and are no less than perfect in any of their performances. Benedict Cumberbatch steals every scene he is in and sets the stage for his shot to stardom with this hidden gem. However, McAvoy flexes his acting chops in all forms and executes flawlessly, enough to break your heart with compassion. Without giving too much away, Starter For 10 is essentially the structure all romantic comedies are based upon with a twist that separates it from the pack, that twist being intelligence. The writing is clever and nothing short of spectacular and is what really divides Starter For 10 from the cluttered trash known as the current romantic comedy standard. Starter For 10 invests in each character which ultimately leads to the audience investing in the characters, making the viewing and understanding experience much more rewarding. With the overwhelming romanticism, subtle humour, and the classic, favourable character you consistently root for, Starter For 10 exceeds expectations and fulfills the criteria that makes every good romantic comedy worth watching while adding the intelligence factor that sends it over the top.
Starter For 10: 8 out of 10.
Hopefully later this week I can get my Oscar predictions posted with a separate list with the films and actors I think should have been nominated and won.