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Star Trek Into Darkness Movie Review

I watched Star Trek: Into Darkness on my Birthday and really enjoyed the experience as did everyone who watched it with me. The core actors really have the bit in their teeth and do an even better job at delivering these well-known characters than they did before which is good because Into Darkness invites comparisons. In some cases they are Chris Pine and Zachery Quinto are delivering the same lines previously spoken by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, but always with a twist. Star Trek: Into Darkness is an ‘alternate reality’ Trek following the new time-line established in Star Trek (2009), so it continues to explore the idea of change and consequence a la the Next Generation‘s episode Tapestry. It’s the same yet different, and we see how the characters differing experiences affect them, shaping their characters and sending their lives in new directions.

star trek into darkness enterprise

Primarily Into Darkness is an action movie; it moves from one fast-paced scene to the next with nary a pause, but they keep it fresh by changing the location and type of action. The scenery and special effects are just beautiful; often very colourful I’m sure they are borrowing from the 1960’s Original Series colour palette. It’s a refreshing change from the often all-too-grey movies we are seeing nowadays and gives it its own unmistakable style. Nicely done!

However, the fact that I liked the film isn’t going to prevent me from ripping it a new one! There’s much to praise but there’s also much to criticise. Into Darkness is an exciting, visceral experience but beneath the action, special effects and lens flares it has more holes than a wheel of swiss cheese.

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Movie Review: JJ Abrams’ Star Trek

I watched JJ Abrams’ Star Trek on my Birthday. I’d read some positive reviews – unprecedented given Treks usual reception – but I was still anxious. Resurrecting this mostly-dead franchise could have been no easy task. Failure would have been the final nail in the coffin – Star Trek rest in peace. But could it be reborn, be popular even, without sacrificing everything that made Star Trek special? The answer is “Yes.”

star-trek-2009

Now, this film is by no means perfect. Indeed I could nit-pick it to pieces, but if that ruined our enjoyment of Star Trek we’d have been on a bad trip since ‘The Cage.’ Continuity errors and implausible science almost make it feel more genuine!

In respect to all that has come before this Star Trek is not a clean reset; Leonard Nimoy’s Spock appears to pass the torch onto this new cast and crew. The plot incorporates Trek lore accurately and appropriately. I had the impression that the creators had not only watched every episode in existence, but read the books as well. I recognised elements from Diane Carey’s ‘Best Destiny’ – a novel about Kirk’s tearaway youth and his relationship with his father. On further investigation (namely Wikipedia) I discovered this, and others, had indeed been an influence. It’s rewarding to see all that wonderful material put to good use.

Yesterdays Enterprise’ stylē the plot involves changes in the timeline creating an alternate reality. (It was cool then; it’s cool now). This neatly explains why the characters are a little different from the originals and injects a sense of danger that would otherwise be lacking. We can’t sit comfortably, safe in the knowledge that Kirk dies on Veridian III and Scotty spends 75 years in a transporter. The future is uncertain. Some, like Tasha Yar, might get the chance to live again whilst others have their lives cut short…

Kirk regrets taunting Spock with "your Mom!"

Kirk regrets taunting Spock with “Your Mom!”

The interior design is probably the most jarring thing for Trekkies. Unlike the Enterprise exterior – which seems like a ‘best bits’ version – it borrows very little from its progenitors. It has a sleek, touch-screen, Macintosh feel to it that’s hard to relate to the 1966 design. It looks futuristic, but not distinctive. Personally I’m a bit bored of monochrome sci-fi look. I’d have loved to see some bold primaries in there.

The actors do a great job, especially the leads, and are believable younger versions (though Yelchin’s Chekov is too close to Wesley Crusher for comfort)! The youthful element sets a different tone than we are used too. This film is exciting and entertaining with more humour than there’s been in the last four Trek moves put together. It’s a clear, self-contained story for Trek virgins with plenty of background details and in-jokes that die-hard fans will appreciate. I really enjoyed watching it – it doesn’t suck.

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Web-Series Review: Star Trek Phase II

stp2bfAs all Trekkies will know, the original Star Trek ran for only 3 seasons before getting axed. What isn’t commonly known is that in 1977 Paramount Pictures planned to restart the franchise as a television series called Star Trek Phase II. Nearly all the original actors were signed up, scripts were written, sets designed – but it never happened. Star Trek: The Motion Picture was made instead.

The fan made Phase II (formerly known as New Voyages) is an effort to create what could have been and continue the Enterprises 5 year mission. It is filmed in a very retro style to make the production feel just like the original. The set is an exact replica of the original starship right down to the multicoloured lighting, in fact it was borrowed by Paramount to film episodes of ENTERPRISE!

The great thing about this series is the dedication of its creators and supporters. There are so many people who love Star Trek and want Phase II to be the best it can be. These include past actors like Walter Koenig and George Takai who reprise their roles as older versions of the characters in To Serve All My Days and World Enough & Time. The scripts, by respected Trek writers like DC Fontana and David Gerrold, really shine. Some were written specifically for the series, others adapted from unused Trek scripts.

The thing that has let the series down so far is inconsistent acting. This is probably due to the main financial contributors grabbing the big roles. James Cawley, an Elvis impersonator, comes across more as the King than Kirk in the pilot Come What May. However, episode by episode, he is improving; the Shatner School of Acting (otherwise know as re-watching Star Trek again and again) is clearly paying off. Cawley doesn’t quite fit the big chair yet, but he’s growing into it.

There are others I can’t see ever fitting their roles. John Kelley as McCoy and Charles Root as Scotty are painful to watch. Though visually convincing Kelley makes no attempt at the accent or mannerisms associated with his character, whilst conversely Root tries too hard! If you can listen to his ‘scottish’ accent without wincing you are made of stern stuff my friend.

Far and away above the rest is Andy Bray who plays Chekov. He looks just like Walter Koenig and clearly benefited from working with him in To Serve All My Days. His accent and mannerisms are perfect. Likewise Spock, despite repeated recasting, has been played by convincing actors. First there was Jeffery Quinn – who looked nothing like Nimoy – and lately there’s been Ben Tolpin – the full package if ever there was one. Brandon Stacey, who doubles as Spock in JJ Abrams’ movie, is taking up the mantle next.

Each new episode of Phase II has been better than the one before. I’m itching to see part 2 of the latest episode Blood & Fire. I make no pretence about it: I’m a Trekkie. Perhaps that’s why I’m so excited about this and get tingly feelings when I hear the opening score. What am I saying? Of course that’s why! Phase II has captured something of what I love and given me the chance to experience it anew. It’s not all it can be, but I have a feeling that in the future it will be.