Film Review – STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013)

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013, USA, 132m, 12) ***½
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
dist. Paramount Pictures; pr co. Paramount Pictures / Skydance Productions / Bad Robot; d. J.J. Abrams; w. Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof (based on the television series Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry); pr. J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Roberto Orci; ph. Daniel Mindel (DeLuxe | 2.39:1); m. Michael Giacchino; ed. Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey; pd. Scott Chambliss, Amelia Brooke; ad. Ramsey Avery.
cast: Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Zoe Saldana (Uhura), Karl Urban (Bones), Simon Pegg (Scotty), John Cho (Sulu), Benedict Cumberbatch (Khan), Anton Yelchin (Chekov), Bruce Greenwood (Pike), Peter Weller (Marcus), Alice Eve (Carol Marcus), Noel Clarke (Thomas Harewood), Leonard Nimoy (Spock Prime), Nazneen Contractor (Rima Harewood), Amanda Foreman (Ensign Brackett), Jay Scully (Lieutenant Chapin), Jonathan Dixon (Ensign Froman), Aisha Hinds (Navigation Officer Darwin), Joseph Gatt (Science Officer 0718), Jeremy Raymond (Lead Nibiran).
Action-packed and effects-driven follow-up to 2009’s STAR TREK reboot coasts on the familiar character interaction of the lead cast to overcome its story shortcomings. This time the crew of the Starship Enterprise returns home after an act of terrorism within its own organization destroys most of Starfleet and what it represents, leaving Earth in a state of crisis. With a personal score to settle, Captain James T. Kirk (Pine) leads his people crew on a mission to capture a one-man weapon of mass destruction, thereby propelling all of them into an epic game of life and death. Rehashing elements of 1982’s STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, this film cannot recreate the tension generated in that earlier model. Abrams tends to go for broke on the visual effects and mass destruction, stifling the story and blunting the characters’ motivations. The cast gives game performances and the visuals are sensational, but the action is too often overblown and lacking in credibility – notably during the protracted climax. There is still much fun to be had though, and this largely comes via the familiar character interactions. Pine, Quinto and Urban have captured the camaraderie seen in the original series characters and their interpretations are spot on. Followed by STAR TREK BEYOND (2016).
AAN: Best Achievement in Visual Effects (Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann, Burt Dalton).

Film Review – SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME (2021)

SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME (2021, USA/Iceland, 148m, 12) ***½
Action, Adventure
dist. Columbia Pictures; pr co. Columbia Pictures / Pascal Pictures / Marvel Studios / Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE); d. Jon Watts; w. Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers (based on the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko); pr. Kevin Feige, Amy Pascal; ph. Mauro Fiore (Colour | 2.39:1); m. Michael Giacchino; ed. Leigh Folsom Boyd, Jeffrey Ford; pd. Darren Gilford; ad. David Scott.
cast: Tom Holland (Peter Parker / Spider-Man), Zendaya (MJ), Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange), Jacob Batalon (Ned Leeds), Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan), Jamie Foxx (Max Dillon / Electro), Willem Dafoe (Norman Osborn / Green Goblin), Alfred Molina (Dr. Otto Octavius / Doc Ock), Benedict Wong (Wong), Tony Revolori (Flash Thompson), Marisa Tomei (May Parker), Andrew Garfield (Peter Parker / Spider-Man), Tobey Maguire (Peter Parker / Spider-Man), Angourie Rice (Betty Brant), Arian Moayed (Agent Cleary), Paula Newsome (MIT Assistant Vice Chancellor), Hannibal Buress (Coach Wilson), Martin Starr (Mr. Harrington), Haroon Khan (Apprentice), J.B. Smoove (Mr. Dell).
Entertaining, if self-indulgent, third outing for Holland as our favourite web-slinger. Picking up where SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME left off with Spider-Man’s identity revealed, Peter asks Doctor Strange (Cumberbatch) for help. When a spell goes wrong, dangerous foes from other worlds start to appear, forcing Peter to discover what it truly means to be Spider-Man. Watts directs the action with pace but does not neglect attention to character as Holland comes to examine more closely the pros and cons of being a super-hero. The dialogue is witty and ironic without becoming overly annoying. The action scenes are often spectacular, aggressive, and technically superbly realised with expert use of CGI. It’s good to see old villains returning and there are other surprises along the way too. Fans will lap it up, but casual audiences may get left behind.