Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

A viewer’s enjoyment of this movie will depend on how big a fan they are of the Star Trek franchise: Die-hard Trekkies will hate it; those who’ve never heard of a Klingon will love it.

As an action film, Star Trek Into Darkness succeeds wonderfully. It has great special effects, lots of shoot-outs, and gets the audience rooting for the ‘good guys’ to triumph over the ‘bad guys.’ Whatever other criteria you want to set up for a ‘pure’ action movie, this film has it.

But this isn’t supposed to be just another action movie – there are plenty of those already, and I’m sure there are about 20,000 scripts sitting in Hollywood wastepaper baskets that could do it again.

This is Star Trek, and Star Trek isn’t just another action flick. Not to sound like an aging hippie, but Star Trek is supposed to be about something. Characters on the TV shows are presented with ethical dilemmas just like we are, and we see them struggle with those dilemmas just like we struggle. Most episodes on the TV show, in fact, don’t have any action at all – it’s just the crew of the Enterprise using their brains to solve a problem.

Into Darkness has a few moments where it almost goes in that direction. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by using the example of Kirk and Spock’s argument over whether to kill or arrest a violent fugitive. But these are throwaways. They have no real bearing on the plot and are forgotten 2 minutes after being raised.

One more complaint: there are too many plot elements that just don’t make sense: you can’t stop a volcano from erupting by freezing the top layer of lava – it does nothing to relieve the pressure beneath the volcano; lava in a volcano doesn’t boil; government buildings have security to prevent terrorist attacks; I assume that federation starships will also have security; when an object moves towards another (inanimate) object at a constant speed, that speed necessitates that the two will meet within a certain amount of time; why would you hide a starship from a primitive civilization in the water rather than in space?

Anyways…

Grade: B-

Oblivion (2013) Review

I had a lot of hope for this movie going in, despite what friends and family were saying. I like Science Fiction, Morgan Freeman, Tom Cruise, and that girl from Quantum of Solace, so I thought this would be right up my alley.

Alas, I was wrong. The action scenes in this movie are few, short, and far between. The movie seems much longer than the listed 2 hours (all the clocks I saw coming out of the movie, including on my phone, indicated that only 2 hours had past, but I remain skeptical and am not willing to completely rule out an international conspiracy among the Scientologists), especially since most of the film consists of slow dialogue between the characters rather than the action sequences I was hoping for.

Tom Cruise never seems to grasp the gravity of what’s going on, at one point deciding to take basically take a day off at his hideaway in the middle of the movie’s climax. Morgan Freeman only appears on screen for about 5 minutes of the whole movie, and thus can’t save it, even though his is the one character you really enjoy seeing.

On maybe a more important note, when are we going to see a really classic ‘Aliens Invade Earth’ movie? As far as I can tell, the title so far goes to The Thing (1982). Some will argue for The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), but I always thought this was over-rated. Anyway…

Grade: C-