Star Trek: Into Darkness - A Short Review

I saw Star Trek: Into Darkness last night in 3D at the IMAX in Waterloo. I am going to have to separate this into a review into two parts, a review of the film and a review of the viewing experience. I am not completely happy with how the film experience is changed by the 3D and the super big screen and I will try to explain what I mean.

First the film. I will keep this brief because I don’t really want to give up too many spoilers. I think it is pretty obvious from the trailer that this film is an amalgamation of The Wrath Of Kahn and The Search Of Spock, but much like the mirror universe episodes of the TV series – and because these films have spun off another strand of the Trek universe – there is a lot of fun to be had in detecting the inversions from the two classic Trek films. If you’ve never seen those old films it does not matter, the film goes into warp from the first reel and benefits greatly from squeezing the plots of two films (okay, one and a half) into one.

The usual rules apply of in that all laws of physics are suspended in service of keeping things crunching along and most of the action sequences are effectively geared to keeping you distracted from the fact that all they are trying to do is press a button. This is my only gripe with the actual film: it tries to hard to appease the members of the audience who are not sci-fi fans. While producing crash-bang-wallop Star Trek films is great for getting your friends into the cinema with you to see it, it would be nice if there were something in the plot that had a deeper meaning or required us to stretch our imagination or get our heads around something. Perhaps we will get that next time.

In terms of the acting, it’s really well done and shows that the casting is spot on. It was quite staggering how much like William Shatner Chris Pine looks, and the same goes for Bones, Spock and Uhura. There is less similarity with Simon Pegg as Scotty, but I cannot really imagine anyone else doing it so well and getting the scenes that are played for laughs so completely spot on. I also thought that Benedict Cumberbatch was immense as the villain John Harrison.

Now for the 3D. For me it was a complete buzzkill. I did not get a headache or feel sick but I can imagine that some people could. My eyes did get tired though and I regularly took the glasses off and just watched the fuzzy screen for a bit to rest them. I think the cinematography required of true 3D films is so different to that required of a 2D film, that a good 2D cinematographer is not necessarily a good 3D cinematographer. Most of the 3D effects in the film struck me as just being parallax effects (when I could actually take it all in), that is layers of action sliding over each other. For the most part, it’s glassy and unreal – to the extent that a two-dimensional version would be more credible to my eyes.

Another problem is that Star Trek is originally a TV show. While both of these films have done a lot to rescue the action from dingily lit rooms and plant it in exotic locations suffused in lens flare, there is still a lot of action that involves people talking to each other. In IMAX 3D these scenes mean GIANT heads looming out of the screen at you and a GIANT out of focus head just in front of you. It just doesn’t feel right.

Finally on the 3D bitching, it seems that no one has worked out how to effectively cut from scene to scene in an effective way yet. This is actually a crucial element of film making and in 3D it looks clumsy and amateurish right now. I have no doubt that clever people will work out how to cut between scenes properly eventually – they have to if the format isn’t just going to die. In the meantime you get these horrible fades of one scene into another that take too long because they have to be careful with the depth of the 3D effect.

So overall it is a decent film that builds on the excellent casting and aesthetics of the first one, but I am not convinced that 3D adds enough to the experience to be worth it. I look forward to another Star Trek but hopefully one that’s a bit more hardcore Sci-Fi, though it’s probably a bit much to expect a reboot of The Voyage Home isn’t it?!

Tribble count: 1 (for now).

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